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Scientists Create Frankencows to Produce Hypoallergenic Milk

Genetically engineered cows?
Genetically engineered cows?
Flickr/Spigoo

In what some might see as a disturbing moove move in the whole Frankenfood trend, cows in New Zealand have been genetically engineered to produce hypoallergenic milk. The target consumer is the 1.3 million children with milk allergies (which apparently includes nauseous young Justin Bieber).

(What kids would really like to see: Cows genetically engineered to produce chocolate milk.)

Researchers at the University of Waikato messed with cows' RNA (the acid that passes DNA's genetic instructions to proteins) to select for genes that would decrease the cows' output of BLG, a protein to which 2-3% of humans are allergic, according to the study.

But by eliminating one allergen, the process increases another, researchers not involved with the study say. The RNA tweaking resulted in a 98% BLG "gene knockdown," but casein proteins -- which are naturally found in cows' milk -- increased. Many humans are allergic to multiple milk proteins, especially casein, Dr. Scott Sicherer, a professor and researcher at the Jaffe Food Allergy Institute at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York, told ABC News.

"Casein, actually, is the major milk protein that we believe causes most of the severe milk allergies," he said. According to the good doctor, 13-76% of those with milk allergies react to BLG, compared to 92-100% who react to caseins.

"Creating a milk enriched with casein proteins would seem problematic given what we know about milk allergy," he concluded. "Problematic" meaning "really dumb."

Clearly, this supposedly hypoallergenic milk is not the whey way to go.


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