Taiwanese scientists are developing protein-enriched milk that they hope might reduce the need for antibiotics in animal feed.
Winston Cheng at National Taiwan University and colleagues at National Chung Hsing University said their search for ways to promote growth of farm animals without adding antibiotics to feed has led them to an advance toward genetically engineering animals that produce higher levels of a natural growth-promoting protein in their milk.
Cheng's team notes the protein lactoferrin, or LF, has anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory qualities and might serve as an alternative to antibiotics in agriculture. The researchers genetically engineered laboratory mice to produce milk enriched in pig LF and then studied the growth of 10 generations of mice pups fed on the milk. Mice fed LF-enriched milk grew 10 percent to 15 percent faster than those fed on ordinary milk.
The scientists said transgenic animals expressing the LF protein in their mammary glands and secreting high levels of LF in their milk might be generated to produce a whole new herd of diarrhea- and anemia-resistant piglets with better growth performance and commercial value.
The research is reported in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.