Lactation is the process of milk secretion by mammary glands. This characteristic is unique to mammalian females after giving birth, including humans. However, there are many reasons due to which women cannot breastfeed e.g. lack of milk production or contraindication due to the medication they are taking, and instead, they have to turn to manufactured formula milk.
Research has shown that breastmilk can carry the mother’s antibodies to the baby, making its immune system strong. It also changes composition according to the baby’s needs and as it grows older. Formula milk, while convenient, is nowhere near as nutritious as breastmilk.
Well, parents may soon have another option to use in lieu of breastmilk. Enter North Carolina-based company called BIOMILQ that claims to have found a way to make milk in a lab.
What is BIOMILQ?
The process involves growing mammary epithelial cells in a culture unit. Once the culture sample is dense enough, the scientists supply it with prolactin hormone, which stimulates milk production.
According to the company, this process imbues BIOMILQ with nutrients that are not present in formula. It contains polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) which are anti-inflammatory and human milk oligosaccharides, which strengthen a baby’s immune response. Another advantage is that BIOMILQ will not contain toxins or medications which can transfer to babies through breastmilk.
However, the company is clear about the fact that they are not making real breastmilk. Their product cannot compensate for its “dynamic complexity”.
“We have no intention to replace chestfeeding, so we’re comfortable with the differences between our product and breastmilk. Instead, we intend to offer parents another supplemental feeding option to nourish healthier babies, empower parents through choice, and contribute to a healthier planet.”
Michelle Egger, Co-Founder, and CEO
The company is now looking forward to scaling up its production in order to bring its product into the market. They also plan to make different types of BIOMILQ like for vegetarians or even personalized to parents using their own breast cells. According to Co-Founder and Chief Science Officer Dr. Leila Strickland, “You can even collect cells from men, we think they will respond well to the hormones in the same way [as women’s cells would].”
Now that’s interesting!