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Goats Engineered to Produce Near-Human Breast Milk Could Help Kids



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(Sacramento, CA)
Thursday, December 20, 2012

To make this special goat that produces near-human breast milk, UC Davis biologist Elizabeth Maga says they used a piece of human DNA that makes a key antimicrobial protein in breast milk. Then they combined it with a piece of cow DNA to help activate during lactation.

MAGA: "And then we did a procedure called pronuclear micro injection; where we took a one cell fertilized embryo from a goat, and a really fine needle full of our DNA solution and we injected the DNA into the embryo."

So the resulting goat has human and cow DNA, all to make this super milk that could help fight human diseases. 

And they're bringing in a fourth species: "So we're using the pig as a model for human health, because pigs have a similar digestive tract to humans." 

Maga and colleagues have been testing these transgenic goats and their milk for more than a decade now. They've found their milk does boost immune response, and that the goats themselves are normal and healthy.

Out by the milking barn, Maga points to multi-colored does munching some feed.  They the descendants of that original transgenic goat. 

1220KM_GOATS-eliz

Maga says pigs that drink the transgenic goat milk recover more quickly  from E. Coli infections. Not only that, but these pigs have healthier intestines.

MAGA: "So the structure of the intestine has changed, so it's better able to absorb nutrients.  We also  changed the types of immune cells that are there.

Both those improvements are key for kid's health, especially children who may not get enough nourishment.

And that's why Brazil is interested in this research, and is partnering with UC Davis.   Ultimately the country hopes to make the milk available to needy families. 

Before that can happen, researchers want to know if the milk has these same benefits for malnourished kids.  That's why they're starting a test on underfed pigs:

MAGA: "So in the malnourished state, the intestine is even further damaged, which makes it more susceptible to infections by bacteria." 

Maga says they should have results from the pig trials in several months, and could begin testing on humans in Brazil in two to 4 years.

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