Genetically Engineered Cow Produces Allergy-Free Milk

The cow's milk has less of the protein that causes allergic reactions

Could this be the future of dairy milk — allergy-free milk? Researchers in New Zealand say they have been able to genetically engineer a cow that produces allergy-free milk, spurring on hopes that the same can be done for other livestock. 

What the researchers did, Reuters reports, is interfere with the RNA, or gene code, to reduce the amount of a certain protein in cow milk. The protein, beta-lactoglobulin or BLG, is what's known to cause allergic reactions. But this new and improved cow's milk has a 96 percent reduction in BLG. 

The research is notable for a long list of reasons: it's the first time that RNA interference has worked in livestock; before, it only worked in plants and worms. Researchers hope to use the same process in livestock to better defend them against infection. Plus, other processes to make allergy-free milk have been costly and produced a more bitter liquid. Said professor of animal biotechnology Peter Whitelaw to Reuters, "Time will tell how widely applicable RNA interference will be in GM livestock. But this is certainly a milestone study in this field." 

And of course, it's good news for anyone with a milk allergy — especially infants. A reduced rate of breast-feeding has made cow's milk more popular for feeding, but about 3 percent of all babies develop a milk allergy before their first birthdays.