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Tobacco-Like Plant Engineered to Mimic Human Breast Milk Components

11 recognized human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs), encompassing all three key categories of these essential nutrients, may be produced by genetically engineered plants

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley have made a ground-breaking discovery: they have genetically altered Nicotiana benthamiana, a plant that is closely related to tobacco, to produce nutrients that are present in human breast milk components. Because human milk oligosaccharides (HMOs) are essential for infant health, this groundbreaking research could transform infant formula.

Breast Milk Components
Image Source: MDPI

HMOs are complex carbohydrates that have major immune system advantages and are essential for the growth of good gut bacteria. Up until now, these vital ingredients have either been absent from or present in extremely small amounts in the majority of baby formulations. The ability of plants to make these sugars could result in more economical and healthier formula solutions for infants all across the world.

Genetic Engineering and Breast Milk Components: A Nutritional Breakthrough

11 recognized HMOs, encompassing all three key categories of these essential nutrients, may be produced by genetically engineered plants. In addition to being a scientific achievement, this development could improve the nutritional content of adult non-dairy plant milk.

The study, which was published on June 13 in Nature Food, shows how the plant’s sugar-producing apparatus can be reprogrammed to generate a wide variety of HMOs. In the first six months of life, infant formula is consumed by around 75% of babies worldwide, either exclusively or in addition to breastfeeding. The potential to add HMOs to these formulas could have a big impact on how well babies are fed.

Given the recent shortages and supply chain problems that have impacted the availability of infant formula, this discovery is especially significant. Scientists hope to address the nutritional demands of infants worldwide by developing scalable and sustainable solutions through the application of genetic engineering.

As science develops, fresh possibilities for addressing nutritional issues and enhancing health outcomes from childhood to adulthood become available.

There are various possible dangers associated with the use of genetically modified plants in infant formula.

Allergenicity: There’s a worry that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) could create new allergens or make people more susceptible to allergic reactions, especially young children who are more susceptible to allergies.

Antibiotic Resistance: Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) can carry markers that impart antibiotic resistance, which may play a role in drug-resistant infections.

Exposure to Herbicides: Certain herbicides, like as glyphosate, are frequently used to treat GMO crops. These herbicides can have harmful consequences and may find their way into the formula.

You might also be interested in – Government urged to increase tobacco taxes to curb health crisis

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