April 12, 2024 at 12:22 pm

Scientists Have Hacked Cow Genes So They Can Produce High Levels Of Human Insulin In Their Milk

by Jen Sako

Millions of people with type 1 diabetes face challenges getting insulin. But now, scientists have a unique solution: gene-edited cows that produce human insulin in their milk.

These cows, created by researchers from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and the Universidade de São Paulo in Brazil, could help.

“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.”

Source: Free Range Stock

According to their paper, the scientists inserted a segment of human DNA coding for the precursor of active insulin called proinsulin into the cell nuclei of ten cow embryos.

Consequently, one gene-edited calf was born in Brazil. When the cow matured, she was impregnated and stimulated to lactate using hormones.

Surprisingly, the cow not only produced proinsulin, but even insulin in her milk.

Source: Free Range Live

“Our goal was to make proinsulin, purify it out to insulin, and go from there,” Wheeler explained. “But the cow basically processed it herself.”

The cow produced a significant amount of insulin, much more than needed for doses. “That means each gram is equivalent to 28,818 units of insulin,” Wheeler pointed out. With potential for large-scale production, Wheeler believes they could supply the world’s insulin needs.

Source: Rawpixel

But there are hurdles. They need FDA approval and facilities for collecting and purifying the insulin.

Wheeler remains optimistic: “I could see a future where a 100-head herd could produce all the insulin needed for the country. And a larger herd? You could make the whole world’s supply in a year.”

With these gene-edited cows, insulin production might soon be as easy as milking a cow—albeit a very special one. So, next time you’re enjoying a glass of milk, remember, it might just be the future of diabetes treatment.

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