Scientists have created genetically modified cattle that produce “human” milk in a bid to make cows’ milk more nutritious.
They have successfully introduced human genes into 300 dairy cows to produce milk with the same properties as human breast milk.
Human milk contains high quantities of key nutrients that can help to boost the immune system of babies and reduce the risk of infections, reports the journal Public Library of Science One.
The scientists behind the research believe milk from herds of genetically modified cows could provide an alternative to human breast milk and formula milk for babies, which is often criticised as being an inferior substitute, according to the Telegraph.
But Professor Ning Li, the scientist who led the research and director of the State Key Laboratories for AgroBiotechnology at the China Agricultural University, insisted that the GM milk would be as safe to drink as milk from ordinary dairy cows.
He said: “The milk tastes stronger than normal milk.”
“We aim to commercialise some research in this area in the coming three years. For the human-like milk, 10 years or maybe more time will be required to finally pour this enhanced milk into the consumer’s cup.”
China is now leading the way in research on genetically modified food and the rules on the technology are more relaxed than those in place in Europe.
The researchers used cloning technology to introduce human genes into the DNA of Holstein dairy cows before the genetically modified embryos were implanted into surrogate cows.
Researchers said they were able to create cows that produced milk containing a human protein called lysozyme.
Lysozyme is an antimicrobial protein naturally found in large quantities in human breast milk. It helps to protect infants from bacterial infections during their early days of life.
They created cows that produce another protein from human milk called lactoferrin, which helps to boost the numbers of immune cells in babies. A third human milk protein called alpha-lactalbumin was also produced by the cows.