Human-like milk from cows could be a viable alternative to regular ol' infant formula in the not too distant future.
Chinese scientists genetically engineered 300 dairy cows to produce milk that contains nutrients found in human breast milk. Among the nutrients is lysozyme, a bacteria-fighting substance that improves infants' immune systems early in life.
Scientists were able to do this by introducing genes that express these human milk properties to the embryos of Holstein cattle. These embryos were then implanted into surrogate cows that then produced milk containing human lysozyme and two other proteins in human milk, according to the Telegraph.
Infant formula made from cow's milk doesn't have as many of the nutritious, infection-fighting, immune-boosting elements as human breast milk. Breast milk is also easier for babies to digest than cow's milk.
However, cow's milk infant formula is able to support healthy babies with normal diet needs. Mothers may also choose to combine both breastfeeding and infant formula-feeding if the baby is not receiving the hydration or nutrition he or she needs.
Scientists, who published their work in March in the journal PLoS One, told the Telegraph that they hope to commercialize this milk research sometime in the next three years, though it will probably take longer before the actual genetically modified milk hits grocery store shelves.
"For the 'human-like milk,' 10 years or maybe more time will be required to finally pour this enhanced milk into the consumer’s cup," study researcher Ning Li, director of the State Key Laboratories for AgroBiotechnology at China Agricultural University, told the Telegraph.
The milk still has to undergo safety tests before it can be sold, but farm workers who have tried the milk say it tastes sweeter and stronger than regular cow's milk, according to the United Kingdom's Sky News. "It's good," worker Jiang Yao told Sky News. "It's better for you because it's genetically modified."