Animal Genetic Engineering

Improving food security (milk production)

How can we make better milk?

mice alpha-casein
Body size of mice nursed with [+/+] and without [-/-] α-casein (Kolb et al. 2011)

Mammals are defined by their ability to produce milk, which is perhaps one of the most complete foods in terms of nutrition. With global sales reaching $494 billion in 2015 and over 83% of world population consuming milk or milk products every day, dairy production has a huge impact on any country’s economy. Thus, improvements in the form of high yield livestock are desirable for improved food security. The composition of milk itself varies from species to species and is mostly composed of proteins, carbohydrates (eg. lactose), fats, minerals and water. Of the proteins, caseins form about 80% and our previous work shows how inactivating α-casein can significantly reduce body size in the offspring. Currently, in collaboration with CCMB (India), we are investigating the effect of altered genotypes of the casein locus on lactation (which can influence litter viability). Additionally, we are investigating the molecular mechanism of α-lactalbumin the lactose biosynthesis gene, whose expression levels correlate with litter sizes and survival in pigs.

Paper: Genetically engineering milk