The search for ways to promote growth of farm animals without adding antibiotics to feed has led scientists in Taiwan to an advance toward genetically engineering animals that produce higher levels of a natural growth-promoting protein in their milk.
Winston T. K. Cheng and colleagues point out that the protein, lactoferrin (LF), has anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory actions and may serve as an alternative to antibiotics in agriculture. The researchers genetically engineered laboratory mice to produce milk enriched in pig LF, and studied the growth of 10 generations of mice pups fed on the milk. Mice fed LF-enriched milk grew 10-15 per cent faster than those fed on ordinary milk.
In animal husbandry, it is thought that supplementing the diet of neonatal pigs with porcine LF may decrease mortality rates of piglets due to diarrhea and anemia by rendering them more resistant to common infectious agents, the report states. Transgenic animals expressing the LF protein in the mammary gland and secreting high levels of LF in the milk may be generated to produce a whole new herd of diarrhea- and anemia-resistant piglets with better growth performance and commercial value.
This study is scheduled for publication in the June 13 issue of ACS's Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. The article is entitled "Recombinant Porcine Lactoferrin Expressed in the Milk of Transgenic Mice Enhances Offspring Growth Performance."
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