Could a genetically engineered cow help babies with milk allergies? Show Notes

Wednesday, October 10, 2012 Host(s): Dr. Bill Maier
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Is your baby allergic to milk? A genetically engineered cow from New Zealand may be here to help.

According to CBS, scientists at a government-owned research facility have bred a cow that does not produce a protein known to cause milk allergies in many children.

Dr. Stefan Wagner, a scientist at AgResearch in New Zealand, says

"We were successful in greatly reducing the amount of BLG, a milk whey protein which can cause allergic reactions,"

2-3% percent of infants are allergic to cow's milk, and BLG allergies make up a large part of that percentage."

Dr. Wagner hopes the research could lead to other genetically modified livestock, such as animals with better disease resistance.

While the milk may help many infants and children, it only addresses allergies due to BLG protein, which many children grow out of by the time they turn 3. The milk also won't help anyone with lactose intolerance, since that is caused by lacking an enzyme that breaks down the sugar in milk.

It’s also too early to even know if the milk is safe for human consumption.

AgResearch says the process of producing the cows is expensive, so while it is "feasible" to engineer dairy cattle without BLG, initial research will only be limited to a few animals.

Several scientists expressed caution over the application of the new findings.

Dr. R. Michael Roberts at the University of Missouri-Columbia told, "There would be a long way to go from having a cow on the ground to produce this desirable milk, getting it approved, and having it accepted by the population as a substitute for regular cow's milk.”

I’m Bill Maier for WBCL.

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