Milk produced by a cow with human genes contains high levels of human hormones

None

NEGATIVE
Image by Getty / Futurism GeneticsMillions of people living with type 1 diabetes around the world don’t have reliable access to insulin.
Due to their bodies’ inability to produce the hormone, they have to inject it to ensure that glucose can enter cells to produce energy.
But finding an affordable and reliable source of insulin has remained difficult in many parts of the world.
Now, a team of scientists from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and the Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil, have found a radical new way to produce the stuff: a gene-edited cow that produces human insulin in its milk.
“Mother Nature designed the mammary gland as a factory to make protein really, really efficiently,” said University of Illinois animal sciences professor Matt Wheeler, lead author of a new paper published in the Biotechnology Journal, in a statement.
“We can take advantage of that system to produce a protein that can help hundreds of millions of people worldwide.”
As detailed in their paper, the researchers inserted a segment of human DNA coding for the precursor of active insulin called proinsulin into the cell nuclei of ten cow embryos.
Out of the ten embryos, one gene-edited calf was born in Brazil.
Once matured, the cow was impregnated and stimulated to lactate using hormones.
To their surprise, the cow not only produced proinsulin, but even insulin in her milk.
“Our goal was to make proinsulin, purify it out to insulin, and go from there,” Wheeler said in the statement.
“But the cow basically processed it herself.
She makes about three to one biologically active insulin to proinsulin.”
“The mammary gland is a magical thing,” he added.
The gene-edited cow produced the equivalent of a gram per liter — a significant quantity, since you only need a fraction of a milligram per dose.
“That means each gram is equivalent to 28,818 units of insulin,” Wheeler explained.
“And that’s just one liter; Holstein [cows] can produce 50 liters per day.
You can do the math.”
The team is already looking to try again and have the resulting gene-edited cow go through full lactation cycles for even better results.
A transgenic bull could even allow them to grow an insulin-expressing herd.
At that scale, Wheeler argues that other methods to produce insulin, including gene-edited yeast and bacteria, could soon be outcompeted by specialized dairy cattle.
But to build out a full supply chain, you’d need a way to collect and purify the insulin.
Such a facility would also need the sign-off from the Food and Drug Administration.
According to Wheeler, though, those are obstacles that are easy enough to overcome.
“I could see a future where a 100-head herd, equivalent to a small Illinois or Wisconsin dairy, could produce all the insulin needed for the country,” he said in the statement.
“And a larger herd?
You could make the whole world’s supply in a year.”
More on insulin: Biohackers Are Attempting to Make Their Own Insulin

/ Futurism Genetics / Getty image.

Insulin is unreliable for millions of people worldwide who have type 1 diabetes. They must administer the hormone intravenously in order for glucose to enter cells and be converted into energy because their bodies are unable to produce it.

Nevertheless, in many regions of the world, it is still challenging to locate an inexpensive and trustworthy source of insulin.

Scientists from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil, have discovered a novel approach to synthesizing the substance: a cow that has undergone gene editing to produce human insulin in its milk.

Lead author of a recent study that was published in the Biotechnology Journal, University of Illinois animal sciences professor Matt Wheeler, said in a statement that “Mother Nature designed the mammary gland as a factory to make protein really, really efficiently.”. “We can use that system to generate a protein that will benefit hundreds of millions of people globally. “.

Ten cow embryos’ cell nuclei were treated with a segment of human DNA that codes for proinsulin, the precursor to active insulin, as described in the researchers’ publication.

One calf that had its DNA altered was born in Brazil out of the ten embryos. The cow was artificially instigated to lactate after reaching maturity and then impregnated.

They were shocked to find that the cow’s milk contained both insulin and proinsulin.

In the statement, Wheeler stated, “Our objective was to produce proinsulin, purify it into insulin, and proceed from there.”. The cow, however, handled it essentially on her own. Her ratio of proinsulin to physiologically active insulin is roughly three to one. “.

He went on, “The mammary gland is a magical thing.”.

With a fraction of a milligram required for each dose, the gene-edited cow yielded the equivalent of a gram per liter, a noteworthy amount.

Wheeler clarified, “That means each gram is equivalent to 28,818 units of insulin.”. “And that’s only one liter—Holstein cows are capable of producing fifty liters a day.”. You’re math-savvy. “.”.

In an effort to get even better results, the team is already planning to try again with a gene-edited cow that has undergone full lactation cycles. They might even be able to raise a herd that expresses insulin thanks to a transgenic bull.

According to Wheeler, at that size, specialized dairy cattle may soon surpass other ways to make insulin, such as using bacteria and yeast that have had their genes altered.

But you’d need a method for gathering and purifying the insulin in order to establish a complete supply chain. The approval of the Food and Drug Administration is also required for such a facility.

But those are challenges that are manageable, in Wheeler’s opinion.

He stated in the statement, “I could see a future where a 100-head herd, equivalent to a small Illinois or Wisconsin dairy, could produce all the insulin needed for the country.”. “And a bigger herd? In a year, you could produce enough for the entire world. ****.

Read more about insulin at Biohackers Are Trying to Produce Their Own Insulin.

scroll to top