Article| Volume 80, ISSUE 9, P2225-2232, September 1997

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Toward Altering Milk Composition by Genetic Manipulation: Current Status and Challenges

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      The implementation of large-scale genome mapping and sequencing has improved the understanding of animal genetics. A large number of gene sequences are now available to serve as regulatory elements or genes of interest. Although the central thrust of this work is focused on understanding disease states, the manipulation of normal metabolic processes is feasible. To date, the genetic manipulation of livestock has been limited to the permanent addition of genes of clinical interest. This study explores the utility of genetically engineered cattle as a means of altering milk composition to improve the functional properties of milk, increasing marketability. Improvements would include increasing the concentration of valuable components in milk (e.g., casein), removing undesirable components (e.g., lactose), or altering composition to resemble that of human milk as a means of improving human neonatal nutrition. The protracted time lines of genetically modifying dairy cattle has prompted the development of animal models. A model for dwarf goats is discussed in terms of circumventing the lengthy time lines involved in generating transgenic cattle and allowing for an accelerated expansion of research in molecular genetics of dairy animals. Thus, the genetic manipulation of dairy cattle is feasible and could have significant impacts on milk quality, attributes of novel dairy products, and human health.

      Key words

      Abbreviation Key:

      BELE (breed early, lactate early), ES (embryonic stem), hLF (human lactoferrin)


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