Low-Lactose Dairy Calf Bred in China

CHINA - Scientists at a north China university say they have bred the world's first genetically-modified calf that will produce low-lactose milk in two years.
calendar icon 12 June 2012
clock icon 2 minute read

The calf, named "Lakes," was born on April 24 at a lab of Inner Mongolia Agricultural University. She is healthy and strong, lab professor Zhang Li said.

In May 2011, Professor Li and his research team extracted fetus fibroblasts from a Holstein cow that was 45 days pregnant and genetically engineered the fetus by transplanting an lactose dissolution enzyme into the cell.

The engineered fetus was then transplanted into the womb of a cow in July, and Lakes was born about nine months later, said Mr Li.

"The enzyme can dissolve lactose -- the main sugar found in dairy products -- into galactose or glucose to ease digestive disorders among the lactose-intolerant people," he said.

Lakes may therefore produce safer milk for lactose-intolerant people, who account for nearly 60 per cent of Chinese. Symptoms of the allergy range from rashes to diarrhea and other digestive disorders.

"Lakes, the calf, is a blessing for these people," said Mr Li. "She will produce low-lactose milk after she has delivered her first calf, hopefully at 25 months old."

The same test was done on 14 heads of dairy cattle last year and five calves were born in April.

Only three of them carried the lactose dissolution enzyme but Lakes was the only one that has survived, said Professor Zhou Huanmin, leader of the research team. "The other two died within 24 hours after birth."

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