Babies with milk allergies may get some relief from a genetically engineered cow. Researchers in New Zealand have created a cow that doesn’t produce beta-lactoglobulin, a protein known to cause skin and digestive problems in infants.
“Daisy” the cow
The cow, named Daisy, produces milk that is higher in calcium, richer than milk used to make cheese and has less than 2 percent beta-lactoglobulin.
Daisy was also born without a tail, which is a rare defect in cows. Researchers believe this was a side effect of the engineering process and plan to look into the problem in future studies.
While Daisy’s 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 years old.
“We were successful in greatly reducing the amount of beta-lactoglobulin (BLG), a milk whey protein which is not in human breast milk and which can cause allergic reactions,” study author Dr Stefan Wagner, a scientist at AgResearch said in a press release.
“Two to three percent of infants are allergic to cow’s milk, and BLG allergies make up a large part of that percentage.”
More work to be done
Currently, there is a process to remove beta-lactoglobulin from milk, but it’s expensive. While Daisy could solve the problem, there is much work to be done before more cows like Daisy pop up on farms.
“There would be a long way to go from having a cow on the ground to producing this desirable milk, and getting it approved, and having it accepted by the population as a
substitute for regular cow’s milk,” Dr. R. Michael Roberts, professor of animal science and biochemistry at the University of Missouri-Columbia. “However, it does offer new insights into what is possible.”