Scientists create GM cow to cut milk allergies in children

Calf was cloned with extra genetic material that 'switches off' the protein allergen

Scientists have created a genetically modified (GM) cow that produces milk with low levels of a protein known to cause allergic reactions in a significant proportion of children. The researchers believe it could one day lead to the sale of "hypoallergenic" milk from herds of GM cows.

The calf had been cloned and genetically engineered with an extra piece of genetic material that switched off its natural gene for producing a milk protein called beta-lactoglobulin, which is not present in human milk and causes allergies in some young children.

Tests on the cow's milk showed that it contained less than 2 per cent of normal levels of beta-lactoglobulin and was far richer than usual in other kinds of milk proteins, such as the caseins used in cheese-making. The researchers also believe the GM cow's milk will also contain higher concentrations of calcium than ordinary milk.

The cow, however, was born without a tail which is a rare congenital abnormality. The scientists believe this was a result of the cloning process, similar to that used to create Dolly the cloned sheep, rather than the GM technique used to eliminate the milk protein.

The dairy industry produces hypoallergenic milk formulas by removing certain bovine proteins with the help of digestive enzymes but the industrial-scale processing is expensive, causes the milk to taste bitter and does not always remove the offending allergens, the scientists said.

In developed countries, between 2 per cent and 3 per cent of infants are allergic to the proteins found in cows' milk so there is a demand to find ways of making milk that is safer for them, the researchers said.

A person who is allergic to milk proteins can suffer a range of symptoms, which can occur within minutes of drinking milk or some hours later. They include vomiting and gastrointestinal upsets, skin rashes and breathing difficulties.

A team, led by Goetz Laible from the University of Waikato in Hamilton, New Zealand, used a revolutionary technique called RNA interference (RNAi) for "knocking out" the cow's gene for beta-lactoglobulin. The RNAi technique uses a natural method for switching off genes without the need to generate DNA mutations within the genes.

The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is one of the first examples of the RNAi technique being used to create farm livestock with novel traits. Other scientists are working on ways of using RNAi to create new strains of domestic animals that have a natural immunity to viruses and infections.

Bruce Whitelaw, Professor of animal biotechnology at the University of Edinburgh, who was not involved in the research, said the study demonstrates the power of the RNAi technique. But he added: "Whether this is commercially viable depends on how it would compare against other methods. RNAi has a long history of successful application in diverse species from plants to worms. This is the first report for livestock… Time will tell how widely applicable RNAi will be in GM livestock.

"This reduction in the level of one milk protein was accompanied by an increase in others, namely the caseins. This is notable since it represents one of the few RNAi success stories in mammals and offers a good example of how these technologies can be used," he added.

News
Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal
peopleThreats follows actress' speech on feminism and equality at the UN
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
Life and Style
tech
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
tech
Life and Style
Alan Turing, who was convicted of gross indecency in 1952, was granted a royal pardon last year
life
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
News
i100
Life and Style
life
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Graduate Pricing Analyst - 6 months / 1 year analytical experience

£20000 - £25000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Head of Department - English

Negotiable: Randstad Education Bristol: Head of Department for English. Wiltsh...

Trainee Helpdesk Analyst / 1st Line Application Support Analyst

£18000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Senior Management Accountant

£40000 - £46000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: Global publishing and digital bu...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits