Friday, 1 June 2012

Human Milk

Human Milk
As we know, the concept of breastfeeding is vital to a child’s physical and mental development as it contains nutrients which no artificial formula can provide. Infants that are breastfed have a smaller chance of being diagnosed with illnesses (Queensland Health 2011) So the importance of breast milk can be seen, however these benefits are not just for infants. Breast milk is comparatively healthier and more nutritious for adults then bovine(cow) milk. As breast milk is not readily available for consumption, scientists in china have been able to 'genetically modify cows to produce human milk'.(Gray 2011)

To create cows that are able to produce 'human milk,' scientists cloned human genetics which where then added specifically into the DNA of Holstein dairy cows using a process called electrotransformation.(Yang 2011) Once these embryo's had been genetically modified with human genes, they were placed into surrogate cows. Once the genetically modified cows where born it was found that their milk contained lysozymes, lactoferrin and alpha-lactalbumin, which are all proteins that are found in human milk and have numerous health benefits.(Gray 2011)
Lysozymes is a positively charged protein which contains a single polypeptide of 130 amino acid residues in its structure. 'Lysozymes have the ability to protect humans from bacterial infections as they are a type of glucanhyrdolase which allow it to hyrdolyse bacterial cells walls.' It also strengthens the immune system making humans more tolerant to diseases. Both human and bovine(Cow) milk contain lysozymes, however there is a large difference of how much is present. In human milk there is 3-3000 mg/ml present whilst there is 0.05-0.22mg/ml of lysozymes present in cow milk. Apart from a large difference in how much lysozymes is present, 'the activity of lysozymes in cow milk is one tenth the activity in human milk.' So it can be seen that Lysozymes are able to kill bacteria and strengthen the immune system.
(Yang 2011)

Lactoferrin was also found in the milk and is a protein which consists of a single stranded amino acid. 'The number of immune cells in a humans body is increased by this protein'. A lack of lactoferrin has also been found to cause health problems. Like lysozymes, lactoferin can also be found in human and cow milk, however the concentration in cow milk is considerably less. It can be seen that Lactoferrin has numerous health benefits. (Kwait n.d.)

Alpha-lactalbumin is also found in human milk which provides a large percentage of whey protein found in human milk. Whey protein is also found in cow milk however that is provided by beta-lactoglobulin which is believed to cause allergic reactions in children. Alpha-lactalbumin has many health benefits such as aiding in mineral absorption as well as providing protection from dangerous bacteria. (Wyeth n.d.)

Human milk may provide health benefits that cannot be found in cow milk however the basic nutritional values are quite similar. As seen in figure 2, The researchers compared the human milk to normal cow milk and found that there was little difference in the fat, protein, lactose and solids in the milk. (Yang 2011)

So it can be seen that genetically modifying cow milk is a breakthrough which has numerous health effects . Human milk contains proteins such as Lysozymes, Lactoferrinand Alpha-lactalbumin which all have specific functions which have positive affects on human health. So by genetically modifying cows to produce human milk, a healthier milk can be consumed.

Reference List
1. Gray, R 2011, Genetically modified cows produce 'human' milk,
The Telegraph,
viewed 15 March 2012,
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2. Kwait, G n.d., Lactoferrin Nature's Premier Immune-Boosting Protein,
Viewed 17 March 2012,
< >

3. Queensland Health 2011,
Importance of breast feeding,
viewed 15 March 2012,
< >.

4.Wyeth n.d., What is alpha-protein: The Right Composition,
Viewed 18 March 2012,
<$$Alpha-lactalbumin.html?menu_id=215&menu_item_id=10 >

5.Yang, B 2011, 'Characterization of Bioactive Recombinant Human Lysozyme Expressed in Milk of Cloned Transgenic Cattle',
vol. 6, no. 3, viewed 17 March 2012,

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