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First transgenic kids with the human lactoferrin gene

Human beings consume lactoferrin with breast milk since the very birth. Lactoferrin protects the baby from bacteria and viruses until the infant’s own immunological protection mechanism is formed. Since not all mothers have milk nowadays, human lactoferrin addition into the artificial feeding mixtures will assist in health care of new-born children. Their enteric infection death-rate will decrease by several times. Besides, lactoferrin possesses multiple other extremely useful properties, including the ability to suppress anticancer activity.

Unfortunately, a woman’s organism produces only 4-5 grams of lactoferrin per liter of milk, besides, donor milk can be infected by HIV or other dangerous viruses. So, it is impossible to fully rely on female donor milk. As the researchers failed to get lactoferrin with the help of transgenic microorganisms (the main manner of production of multiple protein drugs), there is an opportunity to make a transgenic animal which produces human lactoferrin with its own milk.

“The idea of getting lactoferrin from the milk of transgenic animals awoke our interest about ten years ago. We started our experiments with genetic construction, made great progress, after which we received transgenic mice. As a result of lengthy and laborious efforts with more than 5,000 transgenic mice, it was ascertained that the transgene was inherited by posterity, and the lactoferrin concentration is several times higher than that in the feminine breast milk. The “record-holder” mice produced up to 40 grams of human lactoferrin per liter of their milk. At that, human lactoferrin obtained from the mouse milk has turned out to be absolutely identical to the natural protein of feminine milk. Drugs and medical cosmetics based on human lactoferrin will be developed jointly with colleagues from other organizations,” says the initiator of the work I.L. Goldman, Director of Transgenebank, Institute of Biology of Gene, Russian Academy of Sciences.

Human lactoferrin industrial production is planned to be based on transgenic she-goats. A good she-goat produces as much milk as a bad cow – 1,000 liters per lactation. That is why successful efforts on creation of transgenic goats are being undertaken all over the world, their milk containing certain useful proteins. “Experiments on she-goats are limited by three circumstances: the goat is a seasonal animal in terms of the type of reproduction, the pregnancy period lasts for almost half a year. Besides, dairy goat-faming in Russia and Belarus is absent as a stock-raising branch,” says E.R.Sadchikova, Head of Transgenosis Laboratory, Institute of Biology of Gene, Russian Academy of Sciences.

The researchers from the Institute of Biology of Gene, Russian Academy of Sciences, have for the long time strived to obtain funding of this work from the Government of the Russian Federation, however, they failed. Instead, they have managed to establish a special BelRosTransgene program of the Federal State of Russia and Belarus. In 2003, the Biotechnological Center was set up in the scope of this program at the farm of the Scientific and Practical Center of the National Academy of Sciences for stock-raising in the town of Zhodino. Within four years of operation, the Belarus and Russian researchers jointly carried out a large number of experiments on creation of transgenic she-goats via “implantation” of the human lactoferrin gene into them. In the beginning, a lot of failures occurred. Finally, in late autumn of 2007, first transgenic kids were born at the biotechnological farm in the town of Zhodino, the lids were called Luck 1 and Luck 2.

“Unfortunately, since January 1, 2007, when the term of BelRosTransgene program funding expired, the Scientific and Practical Center for stock-raising of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus had to undertake further financing of work to support the goat flock. It is assumed that when he-goats come into the “virile strength”, the first posterity will be received from them,” says Alexander Budevich, head of laboratory of the Center.

Now, the researchers are preparing a new BelRosTransgene-2 program of the Federal State of Russia and Belarus to ensure financial support for the work in the next ten years. The goats should be fed, kept warm, guarded, and the lactoferrin drugs should be developed and tested, their patents should be protected. Only after these obstacles have been overcome, it can be assumed that she-goats, which provide milk with the unique human protein, will be able to start earning their living, and that the next break-through of the native science will also turn out to be the break-through in high-technologies business of the 21st century.

Nadezda Markina | alfa
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