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Tiny Teats Produce Important Proteins

Posted January 13, 2010 5:00 AM by Sharkles

Humans are always striving to improve things, including matters pertaining to health. At one time, PETA wanted us to consider the advantages of using human breast milk. Now, scientists in Russia and the Netherlands are hoping to use transgenic proteins from the milk of rabbits and mice for what they claim are potentially lifesaving drugs for humans.

Transgenic Organisms: A Primer

Transgenic organisms and animals are considered to be a subset of genetically-modified organisms (GMOs). These terms refer to organisms that are inserted with DNA that originated in a different species. Transgenic animals are often used for biomedical research in regards to creating human drugs or hormones, such as insulin.

Mice and Lactoferrin

In Russia, an experimental farm is working with mice to produce the human breast milk protein, lactoferrin. This particular protein protects babies from viruses and bacteria while their immune systems are still developing.

Typically, breastfeeding mothers produce 4 to 5 grams (0.1 to 0.2 ounces) of lactoferrin per liter of milk. Mouse milk is naturally rich in protein. So, when used transgenically, it can translate into high concentrations of lactoferrin – up to 160 grams (6 oz) per liter.

To milk such small creatures, a team of researchers had to anesthetize the mice and use specially-adapted pumps that were created to fit their tiny teats. Patrick van Berkel, a senior director at Danish biotech company, Genmab, believes that commercially producing mouse milk would be a "logistic and technical nightmare." "Larger animals such as rabbits, goats, or cows are required for commercial application," he said.

Rabbits and C1 Inhibitor Protein

Rabbits are also being eyed as a useful transgenic animal. Researchers at Pharming, a Dutch biotechnology firm, say they're ready to begin commercially milking rabbits, pending authorization from European authorities.

Pharming has been experimenting with milking rabbits for years. They've outfitted the animals with a human gene that produces the protein known as C1 inhibitor. C1 inhibitor deficiency is associated with hereditary angioedema, which causes swelling due to leakage of fluid from blood vessels into connective body tissue. Human C1 inhibitor proteins can also be obtained through blood donations, but Pharming claims that their method is best, as there would be no safety issues in terms of blood viruses.

According to a Pharming spokesperson, Marjolein can Helmond, rabbits can average up to 120 millimeters of milk a day. When modified with the protein, the rabbits' milk contains up to 12 grams of C1 inhibitor per liter. The rabbits, like the rats, are milked with miniature pumping machines that attach to the female's teats.

From their research, Pharming has developed a drug called Rhucin from the rabbit-milk produced C1 inhibitor protein. In September 2009, the company submitted Rhucin for market approval to the European Medicines Agency, which evaluates drug safety. Pending approval, Pharming would begin milking a herd of about a thousand rabbits.

Thoughts

I've covered different aspects of genetics in this blog for some time now, but sometimes I'm not sure where to stand. While using transgenic animals to help humans is good, I can't help but think that our species has survived long enough without these seemingly-drastic measures. Or, are we surviving longer because of methods like this – ones that are common now, but may have been objectionable at first? I'm interested in what the CR4 community thinks, so please share your thoughts in the comments section.

Resources:

https://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2009/06/090602-mice-milk-baby-formula.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C1-inhibitor

https://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2009/12/091201-rabbits-milk-human-protein-drug.html

Related Posts:

Human Breast Milk in Your Ice Cream

Human-Animal Hybrids

Designer Lifestyles and Genetic Engineering

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Guru

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#1

Re: Tiny Teats Produce Important Proteins

01/13/2010 10:32 AM

I am a softy for cute animals (pokemon FTW!) and when you think about it, it is borderline animal cruelty but if the proteins or enzymes can be used in medicines then I'm all for it.

I found this article from a 1947 Mechanix Illustrated about mice milking at Columbia University but their biggest problem was producing enough of it.

I'll take a glass of the bunny milk please.

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#2

Re: Tiny Teats Produce Important Proteins

01/13/2010 11:55 PM

At the risk of being branded a religious nut, I am going to go out on a limb and offer a Biblical reference (the earliest known historical reference of which I am aware) to genetic engineering, and the apparent approval of such processes by the God of Abraham (who indicated his approval, apparently, by instructing Jacob in the procedure). Genesis 30.37. Some may argue that the procedure differs significantly from current genetic engineering practices, but the result is the same- interfering with the natural reproductive process of a species to alter the outcome. And, if it is good enough to please the God of Abraham (who may have descended from the God of Zarathustra, and who has morphed into both the God of Christians and Jews and Allah), then it is good enough for me...

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#4
In reply to #2

Re: Tiny Teats Produce Important Proteins

01/14/2010 5:14 AM

"God of Abraham (who may have descended from the God of Zarathustra, and who has morphed into both the God of Christians and Jews and Allah)"

Hi cwarner,

you are absolutely right, but I would put it into a slightly different order:

1.Zarathustra (known first monotheistic religion),

2.Abraham ? not known what was his religion, but very likely a mixture of these days brutal cults. Who would sacrifice their own children? Known from the Phoenicians, so very likely elsewhere nearby to Byblos and Tyros. Biblical tales are not likely to be correct on this.

3. Egypt's Echnaton

4. Israelites out of Egypt bringing monotheism to Sinai and Holy Land. "Moses" is an Egyptian name not an Israelitic one!

5. 1200 years later: Jesus

6. 600 years later: Mohamed

Irrespective if you believe or not: the name is not important.

The "laws" are very similar.

The "fundamentalists" will destroy everything including themselves.

The "paradise" is a fairy-tale.

A "Paradise" is a garden with nearly dry land around, with walls protected from grazing herds, with a spring and trees for fruit and shadow.

And the garden in "Eden" of the bible is resulting from Ed-Din, the steppe of early herders.

All this is the result of early nomadic life. But we have changed a bit our habits and living. Wait and see what happens.

RHABE

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#8
In reply to #4

Re: Tiny Teats Produce Important Proteins

01/14/2010 12:32 PM

... don't forget to survey this theory in this context:

The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Mystery of the Copper Scroll

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#3

Re: Tiny Teats Produce Important Proteins

01/13/2010 11:59 PM

"Fat Tony!!! I said dog or higher!!!"

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#5

Re: Tiny Teats Produce Important Proteins

01/14/2010 8:58 AM

The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality.

Quote: Albert Einstein

To fear the unknown is to retreat in oblivion . . . grasping the understanding in all the minute detail is a special gift . . . to Fail to pursue knowledge and understanding is Failure of the worst kind.

Thus it becomes required. Mouse milk to venmous creatures of the sea . . . we must seek the unknown for it is not only the human kind that we seek to benefit but all of the creatures of our earth.

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#6

Re: Tiny Teats Produce Important Proteins

01/14/2010 10:51 AM

I'm all for experimentation for improved or new technology & health advances as long as ethical, humane and don't lead to the devaluation of respect for life. I can also understand how initially it may be difficult to "get our heads around" new and unusual sources that will be ingesting. You have to appreciate the courage (physically and psychologically) of the first one to drink cow's milk.

In reference to all of the many advantages cited in the past thread "using human breast milk", I believe we may have missed the most important one.....it comes in more attractive containers!

All humor aside, history indicates we need to be extremely cautious and fully understand any possible long term effects before implementing this or anything on a large scale. Regulatory control and trust is another issue best left to another thread. Science is usually pure.....government is often corrupt.

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#7

Re: Tiny Teats Produce Important Proteins

01/14/2010 11:03 AM

If we look from an evolutionary point of view, nothing we do will have a long lasting negative effect. If any permanent change happens it will be because it is beneficial in some way. This is natural selection.

On the other hand, our experiments are usually focused on helping natural variations that would not be natural selected for (disease and poor functioning). With nearly 7 billion people on the planet now, why do we try to fix the undesirable traits instead of letting them die out naturally.

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#11
In reply to #7

Re: Tiny Teats Produce Important Proteins

01/14/2010 5:28 PM

With nearly 7 billion people on the planet now, why do we try to fix the undesirable traits instead of letting them die out naturally.

It is what makes humans different from any other species on the planet. The way we think, act, our emotions... we are trained to move forward as a whole. It is not just the nature of humans to eliminate the weakest link of a chain because it is the weakest. Humans nature is figure out a way to make the link stronger so that we can all move forward.

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#12
In reply to #11

Re: Tiny Teats Produce Important Proteins

01/15/2010 2:23 PM

Caring for these weaker links is a huge drain on society and we as a species would be better off spending our efforts advancing the best of us insead of helping the others keep up.

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#13
In reply to #12

Re: Tiny Teats Produce Important Proteins

01/15/2010 3:43 PM

While I can't refute the scientific validity of your reply, I wonder if you would have the same perspective if you were one of the "others"?

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#14
In reply to #12

Re: Tiny Teats Produce Important Proteins

01/15/2010 6:09 PM

The problem is not the drain on society, or of helping others keep up. It is about introducing and promoting genetics into the gene pool that, instead of being beneficial, are detrimental to future generations.

Left alone genetic changes either survive because they are found beneficial or pleasing or die out because they are not wanted or needed. By artificially manipulating genetics we are interfering with who knows how many generations of who knows what living organisms.

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#9

Re: Tiny Teats Produce Important Proteins

01/14/2010 12:38 PM

Find one instance in the animal kingdom that drinks mother's milk throughout it's life. It has been shown that breast-feeding seems to improve the immunity of the offspring (both animals an humans) but should not be required all through life. Weakened immune systems are due to many other factors of modern life. THIS is what should be addressed -- not researching components of mother's milk to make up for other deficiencies and transgressions.

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#15
In reply to #9

Re: Tiny Teats Produce Important Proteins

06/17/2010 5:01 PM

I have seen in the fields calves and lambs that won't stop nursing if allowed to do so.

There have been times where a full grown bull was seen nursing off its mother 3 or 4 generations after he was born.

The only way to stop them was to isolate them for the rest of their lives.

Most of these animals seem to have developmental problems and now that I think on it a little harder, maybe they were suffering from a deficiency of some sort that their instinct told them their mothers milk was the answer.

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#10

Re: Tiny Teats Produce Important Proteins

01/14/2010 3:53 PM

Our race has survived well enough without antibiotics, vaccination, or disinfectants.

Shall we decide that perhaps these technologies are going too far? Where do we set the stop line for our medical technology? Are you willing to accept the consequences for yourself or a loved one?

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