Thursday, January 10, 2008

formula for brain development


There is a patent application, #20080003330, called "Infant formulas for early brain development." The owner of the patent is Ross/Abbott, an infant formula company. I am fascinated by the direction the infant formula industry is taking, when it feels the obligation to create a substance to make our babies smarter. Perhaps, that may backfire on them? Are they taking responsibility for those children who were fed infant formulas that did not help develop the brain? Could a teenager who scores poorly on the SATs, blame the poor scores on the fact that he was fed that formula that didn't have the components that increased early brain development? Or better yet, could a teenager put the blame on his/her not being breastfed, as a cause for a poor score? Could he/she sue and win in court? Would we hear, "I could have been a nuclear physicist but my mom gave me infant formula, and so I did poorly in school." or "I could have been a doctor or a lawyer but my mom choose the wrong infant formula." Simplistic thinking, but in a world of reductionist science & law it might happen. Maybe not.
The reason I found myself fascinated by this patent application is because of the following statements:
"...commercial infant formulas are still not identical, in either composition or function, to human milk. Almost 200 different compounds have been identified in human milk, over 100 of which are still not typically found in significant amounts, or at all, in commercial formulas...Many of these materials are unique to human milk or are otherwise present in only minor concentrations in cow's milk or other protein sources used in preparing a commercial infant formula."
This patent application would add the human milk components (gangliosides, phospholipids, sialic acid) to create the infant formulas that would promote brain development. Of course we are not talking about the real components, we are talking genetic engineering of the components. How this makes it equivalent to the real thing is beyond my imagination.

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