Bringing science and development together through news and analysis

  • GM cow milk 'could provide treatment for blood disease'

[RECIFE] Researchers in Brazil are attempting to create genetically modified cows whose milk could be used to produce drugs to treat blood disorders such as haemophilia, an inherited disease which results in blood not clotting properly. If successful, these would be the first transgenic animals with medical applications to have been created in Brazil.

The scientists expect their first transgenic cow to be born within three years. It will carry a human gene for a protein that encourages blood clotting. This protein will then be extracted from the cow's milk for use in drug development, a process that could take five years.

"It's much easier to extract this type of material from milk," says project coordinator Rodolfo Rumpf.

The entire process consists of three stages: embryo production, genetic modification of embryo cells, and transfer of modified embryos into cows that will act as 'surrogate mothers'. Rumpf says he expects to obtain the transgenic embryos this year and transfer them to cows some time next year.

According to José Manuel Cabral Dias, head of biotechnology and genetic resources at Embrapa, the ministry of agriculture's research institution, the programme began eight months ago and is currently at the stage of producing embryos. The Embrapa scientists also have plans to produce genetically modified goats and sheep.