Health

Breast Milk Therapies for Adults 


The first round of milk-derived drugs are aimed at infants and children. But such compounds could soon also be aiding grown-ups—especially those whose populations of internal microbes have been compromised.

By Florence WilliamsJun 20, 2012 12:00 AM

Newsletter

Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news
 

CD14  A cell surface protein abundant in human milk, is present when the immune system learns to fight pathogens in the intestines. Nestlé researchers think the protein could turn out to help adult patients suffering from the immune responses that cause Crohn’s disease.

Lactoferrin  A human-milk protein that binds iron, helps the body fight Shigella, Salmonella, E. coli, and other microbes that feed on iron. A supplement called Lactoferrin Gold 1.8, marketed by Nikken in Japan, is made from the milk of transgenic cows manipulated to have a human lactoferrin gene. The current process for producing lactoferrin is so inefficient that it requires nearly a gallon of cow’s milk to create just one capsule of the stuff. Yet the treatment may be worth it for the most vulnerable. Already shown to work in pigs, whose immune systems are much like ours, lactoferrin could provide a boost for those with compromised immune systems such as infants, the elderly, and the chronically ill.

Lysozyme  An enzyme found in low levels in human milk, has been shown to kill E. coli in mice and pigs; it could soon find medical applications. To boost production of the enzyme in animals, U.C. Davis scientists have transferred the human gene for the enzyme into dairy goats. Although regulations prevent the transgenic milk product from being sold, the researchers are working with the Brazilian government to test it in the northeastern part of the country, where childhood diarrhea is common and some areas have infant mortality rates up to 10 percent. 

See the related feature, "The Impressive Power of Breast Milk."

1 free article left
Want More? Get unlimited access for as low as $1.99/month
Already a subscriber? Log In or Register
1 free articleSubscribe
Want unlimited access?

Subscribe today and save 70%

Subscribe

Already a subscriber? Log In or Register
More From Discover
Recommendations From Our Store
Shop Now
Stay Curious
Join
Our List

Sign up for our weekly science updates.

 
Subscribe
To The Magazine

Save up to 70% off the cover price when you subscribe to Discover magazine.

Copyright © 2021 Kalmbach Media Co.