Researchers in the US have produced the first transgenic cows that are resistant to disease. Other animals, such as sheep and chicken, have
previously been succesful in having similar alterations. The cows have a bacterial gene inserted into them that allows them to produce a protein that
confers resistance to a bacterium that lowers milk prodcution.
Technological advances that make it possible to collect more milk also make mastitis harder to contain. "We've increased their yield with the milking
machine, which spreads infections from cow to cow," explains Andrew Biggs an expert on mastitis at the Vale Veterinary Centre in Tiverton, Devon,
One bacterium that commonly causes mastitis, Staphylococcus aureus, is notoriously resistant to treatment: only 15% of infections are cleared up by
antibiotics. The medications often fail to fully penetrate the mammary glands, leaving the surviving bacteria to wreak havoc yet again.
To solve this problem, a team of US researchers turned to genetic engineering. They introduced a gene from the related bacterium S. simulans into the
DNA of Jersey cows. This allows them to produce a protein, normally created by S. simulans, that kills S. aureus.
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The US is still leading the way in genetic research I suppose, but how long before restrictions on equipotent cells catches up to the US?
This article was intersting in many obvious ways, but also because it shows how the market motivation results in scientific progress and the
betterment of the population. Milk is a great food source. Some have said that the US dominated the olympics in the early years simply because it had
a large population where things like milk meat and vitamins were widely, cheaply, and consistently available. Now this genetic engineering can
potentially allow more milk to be collected and thus can drive down the prices of milk, not just in the US but in any country that is able to do this
work. Some might caution that they'd have to pay for the techonology, however, this is, in a sense, ground breaking technology, and science,
generally, operates at its best in an open access sort of medium. Even if this technique was patented, the basic research has been done and other
scientists can build upon it.
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