A startup is working on creating “milk human“ for children and hopes to create new breakthroughs in infant nutrition in order to reduce parental dependence on artificial milk. Breast milk is the perfect food for babies, but not all mothers are able to breastfeed, and with adoption or surrogacy, parents just do not have this option.
Breast milk, research
The idea first came to the co-founder and chief science officer Leila Strickland in 2013, after hearing about the world’s first laboratory-grown hamburger. Strickland wondered if similar technology could be used for agriculture “cells that produce breast milk“, he told CNN Business. Strickland had struggled to produce enough breast milk for his first child. “Many women struggle with this“, he said. Worldwide, only one in three babies gets the amount of breast milk that experts recommend in the first six months, the World Health Organization said. The infant formula, on the other hand, was worth more than $ 52 billion by 2021, according to market research provider “Euromonitor International“.
A startup working to create “human milk” for babies hopes to create new breakthroughs in infant nutrition and reduce parents’ dependence on infant formula. https://t.co/B9bxdlFI8R
– CNN International (@cnni) May 3, 2022
Often made from powdered cow’s milk, infant formula is “able to satisfy many of the nutritional needs“Strickland explained, but he can not answer “the complexity of breast milk“. According to Strickland, the BIOMILQ product by comparison matches the nutritional profile of breast milk better than artificial, with more equal proportions of proteins, carbohydrates and fats. The BIOMILQ team then creates its product from cells taken from human breast tissue and milk, donated by women from the local community, who receive a kind of gift card in exchange. BIOMILQ grows cells in bottles, feeds them with nutrients and then incubates them in a bioreactor that mimics the environment of a breast. Here the cells absorb more nutrients and excrete milk components.
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BIOMILQ still has 3 to 5 years to bring a product to market. First, startups need to grow breast cells on a much larger scale and at a lower cost. BIOMILQ must also convince regulators that the product is “safe for children“a particularly challenging task for a new category of foods such as laboratory-grown dairy products. “There really is no legal framework“Strickland pointed out.
Natural breast milk coming from a bioreactor “it will not have exactly the same health benefits as milk from a breast“, said Natalie Shenker, a colleague at Imperial College London and co-founder of the Human Milk Foundation, which helps donate milk to families in need. Fatty acids that help the brain develop and grow, and hormones such as cortisol – which help develop the baby’s sleep cycle – come from “mother’s blood“.
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Breastfeeding consultant Courtney Miller, who advocates for breastfeeding mothers, agreed that cell culture milk is not a “breast milk substitute“. But it could offer parents “another choice“especially when adoption or surrogacy is involved. It can be difficult to access donor milk. In the United States, feeding a baby breast milk from a milk bank can cost up to $ 100 a day. Finding a donor online is often cheaper, but it can lead to security issues. Miller stressed, however, that BIOMILQ may favor the scientific study of breast milk.