China breeds calf to produce low-lactose milk

Chinese scientists claimed to have bred the world's first genetically-modified calf that would produce low-lactose milk in two years, state media said on Monday.

The calf, named 'Lakes', was born on 24 April at a lab of Inner Mongolia Agricultural University. ‘It is healthy and strong,’ lab professor Zhang Li said.

In May 2011, Zhang and his research team extracted fetus fibroblasts from a Holstein cow that was 45 days pregnant and genetically engineered the fetus by transplanting an lactose dissolution enzyme into the cell, Xinhau news agency reported.

The engineered fetus was then transplanted into the womb of a cow in July, and Lakes was born about nine months later, Zhang said.

‘The enzyme can dissolve lactose - the main sugar found in dairy products - into galactose or glucose to ease digestive disorders among the lactose-intolerant people,’ he said.

Lakes may, therefore, produce safer milk for lactose- intolerant people, who account for nearly 60 per cent of Chinese.

Symptoms of the allergy range from rashes to diarrhoea and other digestive disorders.

‘Lakes, the calf, is a blessing for these people,’ Zhang said adding that it will produce low-lactose milk after 25 months. The same test was done on 14 heads of dairy cattle last year and five calves were born in April.

Only three of them carried the lactose dissolution enzyme but Lakes was the only one that has survived, said Zhou Huanmin, leader of the research team. ‘The other two died within 24 hours after birth,’ he said.
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