Advancements in Insulin Production: Harnessing Transgenic Cows
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By The Smartencyclopedia Staff *

In a groundbreaking development, researchers from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and the Universidade de São Paulo have achieved a significant milestone in biotechnology. An unassuming brown bovine from the south of Brazil has become the world’s first transgenic cow capable of producing human insulin in her milk. This advancement holds immense promise for addressing drug scarcity and the high costs associated with diabetes treatment globally.

Professor Matt Wheeler, leading the research team, underscores the potential of utilizing the mammary gland’s efficiency to produce insulin. Through strategic genetic engineering, the team inserted a segment of human DNA encoding proinsulin into cow embryos, targeting expression specifically in mammary tissue. This precise approach ensures that the produced insulin remains isolated within the milk, eliminating concerns about contamination in other bodily tissues.

Despite initial challenges with lactation induction and milk volume, the transgenic cow successfully produced detectable levels of human proinsulin and insulin. The team’s conservative estimates suggest that a single liter of milk could yield a substantial quantity of insulin, surpassing conventional production methods using yeast and bacteria.

Looking ahead, the researchers plan to refine their techniques and establish a purpose-built herd of transgenic cattle. With specialized facilities and FDA approval, transgenic cows could revolutionize insulin production on a large scale, offering a sustainable and cost-effective solution to meet global demand.

Professor Wheeler envisions a future where even a modest-sized herd could supply insulin for an entire country, highlighting the transformative potential of this technology. As research progresses and regulatory hurdles are addressed, the day when transgenic cows provide a reliable source of insulin for diabetics worldwide draws nearer.

The successful development of the insulin-producing cow marks a significant step forward in biotechnology, offering hope for millions of individuals living with diabetes and heralding a new era in healthcare innovation.

Story Source:

Materials provided by University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences. Original written by Lauren Quinn. 

Journal Reference:

  1. Paulo S. Monzani, Juliano R. Sangalli, Rafael V. Sampaio, Samuel Guemra, Renato Zanin, Paulo R. Adona, Maria A. Berlingieri, Luiz F. C. Cunha‐Filho, Irma Y. Mora‐ Ocampo, Carlos P. Pirovani, Flávio V. Meirelles, Matthew B. Wheeler, Otavio M. Ohashi. Human proinsulin production in the milk of transgenic cattleBiotechnology Journal, 2024; 19 (3) DOI: 10.1002/biot.202300307
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