Allergy free milk produced by cloned cow

Allergy free milk could soon become a reality after New Zealand scientists successfully produced hypoallergenic milk by using a genetically modified cow.

In a world-first breakthrough, New Zealand’s largest research institute AgResearch has bred the first cow in the world able to produce high-protein milk with reduced amounts of beta-lactoglobulin (BLG), a whey component known to cause allergic reactions.

"It's a very significant result," the institute's research director Dr Warren McNabb said.

Further studies on the milk is needed before it can be tasted by humans, but McNabb said it could eventually be produced commercially and marketed as a low allergy substitute.

"If this milk is to be hypoallergenic, as we suspect it will be, then we've got to get over the hurdle of social acceptance of this type of technology before you can then apply it in the national herd.”

"It's going to come down to what this country decides. It's more of a social issue than a scientific one."

The researchers from the University of Waikato and AgResearch in Hamilton have been working on the project since 2006 and first found success using mice. They then produced Daisy using a technique called ‘RNA interference’ which basically inhibits the expression of the BLG protein.

Next steps for the project include breeding from Daisy and producing more cows like her to see if the same results can be reached.

However GE Free New Zealand has slammed the research calling it a ' "frightening development not a breakthrough".

"This is a depraved macabre experiment that is the worst type of animal cruelty," GE Free New Zealand president Claire Bleakley said.

Bleakley called on the New Zealand Ethics Board to shut down the research "immediately".

"AgResearch after 12 years of failure and hundreds of dead embryos has developed one calf, expressing less [BLG] than normal milk cows.

''BLG is an essential part of milk. It lowers blood pressure … It is essential for healthy digestion, immune system function and the formation of healthy bones skin, teeth and muscle development."

Work to reduce the allergens in milk and other products is also underway in Australia with research at the University of New South Whales aimed at altering the properties of the allergenic proteins.

As Food Magazine reported in May, the food allergy research group at UNSW, led by Dr Alice Lee, is working towards developing nano-sensors that can better detect allergens in food and indentify how these allergens change after harvest during food processing, and eventually result in an adverse reaction when consumed by humans.

“Food allergy has been an emerging food safety concern especially in developed countries,” Lee, a senior lecturer in Food Science and Technology, said.

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