A company from the US has announced the production of the first human cell-cultured breast milk, which they claim is far more nutritious than current formula options. BIOMILQ, a new company based in North Carolina, believe they have finally cracked the intensely difficult problem of human breast milk synthesis outside the breast, which has previously been too complex to replicate.
“Human milk is tremendously complex in both composition and structure which has made it impossible to replicate outside of the lactating parent,” says BIOMILQ Technical Advisor Dr Jennifer Smilowitz, in a statement.
However, using human mammary cells to generate the milk enables the production of an abundance of beneficial macronutrients that are not present in formula options – and, according to BIOMILQ, is a production process far better for the environment than alternatives.
“Our latest work demonstrates that much of the complexity of milk can be achieved by replicating the intricate relationship between the cells that produce it and the conditions they experience inside the body during lactation.” said Co-Founder Dr Leila Strickland.
While the milk is created using human cells, it isn’t exactly the same. BIOMILQ closely matches the macronutrients within normal breastmilk, containing important human milk oligosaccharides and other active ingredients not found in formula.
However, breast milk is a unique cocktail of nutrients, antibodies and proteins that the mother produces throughout lactation, and it differs between each individual. No matter how hard they try, formula and lab-grown milk will likely never replicate this. The company are open about this fact, and state their milk is a brilliant alternative to people who are unable to breastfeed as opposed to being a replacement.
The milk may also carry benefits that breast milk doesn’t necessarily have, including a complete lack of environmental toxins or prescription medication that may be present in normal breast milk.
Confident in their new process, the team are now turning their attention to the strict regulations the milk must pass before it enters supermarket shelves, alongside scaling their production to meet the inevitable huge demand the product would have if safety and efficacy are verified. It should also be noted that the announcement comes from the company itself, and no study of the process or product has been released at this time.
Following a wave of innovation in the area, the 2020s may truly be the decade of cultured nutrition. Lab-grown meat has been thrust into the media, with new products and large-scale factories making the cruelty-free and more eco-friendly alternatives a real possibility for the near future. Whether the public will accept them remains a debated issue, but it won’t be long before cultured food items will be in stores across the globe.
[H/T: Interesting Engineering]