Scientists in New Zealand have created a genetically modified cow designed to produce milk without an allergy-causing protein.
Up to 3% of infants are allergic to cows’ milk, with allergies to the protein beta-lactoglobulin (BGL) making up a large percentage of these cases.
However, AgResearch scientists from Ruakura, Waikato, successfully engineered a calf – called Daisy – to produce milk that doesn’t contain the BGL protein by using a technique called RNA interference to prevent the manufacture of BLG.
The result was Daisy, who was born without a tail – although it is not yet known why this happened. To avoid milk production delay researchers hormonally induced Daisy to lactate earlier.
Milk samples taken not only showed no detectable level of BLG protein, but milk also contained double the normal level of casein proteins.
“The difficulty of course is if it headlined as GM will it put people off drinking it? GM is seen as something quite dangerous in this country, so if it is take in the wrong way it could be an issue.”
David Cotton, RABDF
The scientists now want to breed from Daisy and determine the milk composition and yield from a natural lactation.
One scientist, Malaghan Institute director Graham le Gros, has labelled the study as an “outstanding breakthrough” due to its potential to reduce milk allergies. But it has been met by mixed reactions within the dairy industry.
David Cotton, Royal Association of British Dairy Farmers (RABDF) chairman, said it should be viewed as a positive move if it encouraged people with milk allergies to drink dairy.
“We are genetically improving breeds all time for milk production, whether it be for milk production, fat and protein or milk structure.
“The difficulty of course is if it headlined as GM will it put people off drinking it? GM is seen as something quite dangerous in this country, so if it is take in the wrong way it could be an issue,” he added.