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Israeli scientists developing first ‘cultured breast milk’

CM 02/05/2021

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An Israeli company is vying to be the first in the world to supply babies with cultured breast milk instead of the human milk substitutes available on the market today from animal or plant sources. 

If BioMilk succeeds in producing cultured breast milk that contains the ingredients that exist almost exclusively in the real thing, it will be a fundamental change to the infant formula market specifically and the dairy industry in general. It will also play a key role in producing a next generation of healthier adults. 
According to all studies, breast milk is the healthiest for babies. 
Last week, the company announced that it had received approval from the Helsinki Committee to launch new research in collaboration with Rabin Medical Center’s Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Fertility. Some 50 postpartum volunteers will donate about 50 ml. of breast milk, which will be transferred to the company to separate the cells that produce breast milk and use them to produce the main breast milk components.
“Our groundbreaking research with Beilinson Hospital is for us a significant sign of the revolution and the changes we intend to make in the dairy industry in Israel and around the world,” said company CEO Tomer Eisen. “I anticipate that the results of the research that may be obtained may be the ‘next thing’ regarding the milk substitute market, which will allow any mother who cannot or does not choose to breastfeed to provide her baby with the same nutritional values that comes from traditional breast milk.”
BioMilk’s technology was developed by Hebrew University Prof. Nurit Argov-Argaman, who has been working for more than a decade on the process of producing cultured milk from mammary gland cells without milking them. This includes cows, sheep, goats and other mammals. 
She said that the driver behind her work is better nutrition.

“There is a huge difference between the composition of breast milk and the current commercial formulas on the market,” she told The Jerusalem Post.  “There is a huge lack of ability to really mimic breast milk, and the health consequences have become well known.”
She said that babies who drink formula as their soul nutrition in the first six months of life are more likely than breastfed babies to develop diarrhea and inflammation in the short term and asthma, metabolic syndromes, blood pressure disease and even stroke in the long run. 
“This could be very important for the public health of society,” Argov-Argaman said. 
Currently, the only way for mothers who do not breastfeed to provide their children with breast milk is through breast milk banks, which are generally not regulated except for those that are providing milk to neonatal intensive care units and the like. This safe milk is very expensive and therefore inaccessible to the average parent. 
If the study goes well, the goal is to begin commercializing in the next three years, according to the company’s vice president of business development, Nathaniel Benchemhoun.
There are two potential paths for BioMilk. The company could first produce the additional ingredients that exist in breast milk, but are lacking in infant formulas, and combine them into the existing formulas, thereby improving the quality of existing milk substitutes on the market.
They could also license their technology to milk producers and enable them to produce the components on their own. 
In addition, Argov-Argaman said that beyond human milk, the same technology could be used to leverage the healthiest components of goat and cow milk, making milk that is better for menopausal women or young children with allergies, for example.
“I want to make milk,” she said. “I want to make super milk… with a much higher, positive impact on our health.”

Source: Jerusalem Post

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