North Carolina-based start-up BIOMILQ recently announced that it has successfully created cell-cultured human milk from mammary cells, in a laboratory.
In the age of Impossible Burgers and 3D-printed meatless steaks, human breast milk made in the lab instead of inside a womanâs breast really doesnât seem that strange, honestly. The breakthrough announced by BIOMILK earlier this month really has the potential to disrupt the infant and baby industry as well as impact the environment, as over 10 percent of dairy today goes towards making baby formula. How the world reacts to lab-make breastmilk, on the other hand, is another matter.
Doctors often use the phrase âbreast is bestâ when referring to infant feeding, and the World Health Organization recommends that mother exclusively breastfeed their babies until the age of six months, and incorporateÂ breast milkÂ in their diet until the age of two. The health benefits for the babies are invaluable, but sadly, sometimes breastfeeding isnât an option.
It is estimated that only a quarter of American mothers exclusively breastfeed for the six months recommended, for a variety of reasons, including latching issues, inadequate milk supply, pain and discomfort. For them, formula is a convenient and flexible alternative that has helped billions of parents ever since it was invented, in 1865. But now, a North Carolina-based startup aptly named BIOMILQ claims to have come up with an even better alternative: lab-made human milk.
âI told anyone who would talk to me about BIOMILQ that I was doing this for mothers and babies,â biologist Leila Strickland, co-founder and CSO, said. âInformed by my personal experience with breastfeeding failure and by a relentless hunch about the biology of milk biosynthesis, I believed that if someone would just give me a chance to do this thing, it might actually work.â
While the mere though of lab-made breast milk is intriguing, the people at BIOMILQ stress that their product is not bio-identical to real breast milk, and theyâre not confident it will ever be.
âHormonal changes, babyâs cues, skin-to-skin contact and environment all affect the dynamic complexity of breast milk,â Strickland toldÂ Food Navigator, adding that their product also lacked antibodies, although it would still âsupport immune development, microbiome population, intestinal maturation and brain development in ways that bovine-based infant formula fundamentally cannotâ.
While not perfect, BIOMILQâs lab-made human milk seems more sustainable of a product than lab-grown meat, as the company doesnât have to constantly grow new cells. In fact, in a company statement, BIOMILQ mentions that âsome of the cells weâve looked at can produce milk for months and monthsâ.
BIOMILQ homes to have a product ready for commercialization in about a year, and plans to spend that time talking to regulators about how their human milk is going to be categorized.
âIs this an infant nutrition product, is this a milk product? Itâs an interesting and challenging question that I donât think we have a perfect answer for yet,â BIOMILQâs Leila Strickland said.
Meanwhile, mothers dealing with breastfeeding issues can turn to super-producing moms, like this Oregon woman whoÂ donated 2.5 tons of her breast milkÂ to families in need.
Follow Us on Instagram