Scientists succeed in making the first human breast milk in the laboratory
BIOMILQ has announced that it has successfully made the world's first cell-cultured human milk from breast cells outside the breast. The product, BIOMILQ, is the world's first in vitro breast milk. Its founders now say they have proven that BIOMILQ's nutrition profile matches the hundreds of proteins, complex carbohydrates, fatty acids, and other fats present in abundance in breast milk as closely as possible. The company says BIOMILQ is more than just a combination of breast milk ingredients.
Laila Strickland, co-founder and chief of science said, our core hypothesis has always been that milk is greater than the sum of its parts, which all work together as a dynamic system. Our recent work shows that much of the complexity of milk can be achieved by replicating the complex relationship between the cells that produce it and the conditions they experience within the body during lactation.
Two scientists launched this in vitro breast milk startup in 2019. BIOMILQ grew out of a personal pain point. Leila’s son was born prematurely and had a constipation problem, and Leila, a cell biologist, struggled to stimulate enough milk. She ended up pumping constantly and was overwhelmed by the messages that if breastfeeding didn't come easy, she should just work harder.
She started culturing mammalian cells in a lab in 2013, and in 2019 teamed up with food scientist Michele Egger to launch the startup BIOMILQ. And in February 2020, the two scientists announced that lab-grown breast cells made the two main components of breast milk: lactose and casein, a pivotal step in the production of cultured breast milk that is nutritiously equivalent to real milk.
Then, in June 2020, the duo announced that they had received $3.5 million from investors, including Breakthrough Energy Ventures, a subsidiary of Bill Gates Fund. Egger told Business Insider that the team expects to launch a breast milk product in just over three years, once they learn more about the best way for cells to thrive outside the body, and get approval from regulators.
Iger said, BIOMILQ will look similar to milk, and the team is strategizing how to reduce costs so the product is not too expensive. We look forward to offering a product that overcomes the financial, geographic, and time barriers that would limit access to another infant feeding option.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life. Extensive research links breastfeeding to a range of physical and mental health benefits for both mother and baby during birth, including protection against childhood leukemia and mother-infant bonding.
According to pediatrician Dr. Kelly Fradin, while lab breast milk formula is safe, relatively affordable, carefully designed, rigorously tested, and constantly improving. It can't replicate all of these benefits because it's not man-made.
The formula may be difficult for the baby to digest and not adapt to his changing needs such as breast milk. The founders of BIOMILQ do not claim that their product is identical to breast milk in every way, it does not adapt to a child's specific needs, provide the same protections for a child's immune system, or reflect the mother's diet.
Iger said, we have no intention of replacing breastfeeding, so we are comfortable with the differences between our product and breast milk. Instead, we intend to offer parents another option of complementary feeding for healthier children, empowering parents to choose, and contributing to a healthier planet.