baby feeding

Laboratory breast milk: controversy or medical innovation?

Une maman en train de nourrir son bébé au lait maternel.

The Australian startup Me& unveils its very first laboratory breast milk: enriched with prolactin and made from breast cells. A product that shakes up social ethics, but an unexpected alternative to infant formulas that are too often in short supply? Reviews are mixed.

Food breast milk to deal with a shortage?

In a recent press release in Melbourne, Me& announced the development of its first breastmilk of laboratory. Although this news sounds like an exclusive, the Australian startup is not the first to have designed such a product. In 2021, an American company in Carolina developed breast milk under a microscope. This project had received the full support of Bill Gates.

Even if it is a controversial subject, this food innovation would make it possible to meet a demand for breast milk which continues to grow all over the world. In the United States, it is increasingly popular as an alternative to childcare products. The country has been facing a major shortage of infant formula since the spring of 2022. And in France, nearly 55,000 premature babies are born each year. They need breast milk to survive during their first months of life. However, the country’s milk banks and the SOS préma associations have lacked stock since the post-covid recovery in 2022.

A laboratory product with medical properties?

Breast milk designed in a test tube has received significant attention following the opening of a research institute in October 2022, in California. This one is devoted in particular to the identification of the possible benefits of this controversial product. The objective is to find scientific evidence of its medical usefulness for the treatment of chronic diseases (heart infections, breast cancer, etc.).

This initiative is based on the principle that “original” breast milk, rich in essential fatty acids, calcium and proteins, undoubtedly has multiple benefits for the baby: prevention of allergies in newborns, prevention of infections, colds and gastroenteritis in infants. In his version of laboratorythe institute will then try to determine its medical interest for adults.

An elixir derived from cell culture and enriched with prolactin

Even if this mother’s milk for baby is badly perceived on the societal level, it causes a craze in the scientific universe. Last November, an article published in the journal The Conversation (by Ruth Purcell and Bianca Le from the University of Melbourne) explained in detail the development process of this milk product.

In addition, it is derived from a culture of mammary gland cells (derived from breast milk) fed with nutrients. From there, we obtain breast tissue to be placed in a bioreactor to give a structure similar to the breast duct. Then, we inject prolactin (hormone of milk secretion) to obtain the famous laboratory breast milk. Eventually, some beneficial and nutritional components present in the “original” breast milk are added. This concerns antibodies, good bacteria, stem cells or immune cells.

Alternative to infant formulas: studies are multiplying

Startups working on the development of this food product are beginning to be legion. And each has their own manufacturing process. For example, the TurtleTree Labs and Better Milk brands focus on cells mammaries extracted from cow to create their artificial cellular powder formula. Does this refer to a breast milk reproduction app? That remains to be seen.

For many researchers, this ethically delicate subject remains a path of development taken very seriously. The chapter of this cellular innovation is just beginning and is not ready to close.

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With ETX Daily Up

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