Thursday, December 23, 2010

Biopharming with human milk proteins

Fields of rice growing in the heartland of the USA. Just rice? Or genetically engineered rice with human milk proteins to create a better infant formula, oral rehydration solutions, foods for adults, or antibiotics?
Don't believe it? Yeah, who would believe that standing in the farmer's field is our distant relative, call her, HuRice or HuBarley or HuMilkie or HuBucks($$$$). Ventria Bioscience is a company that believes in the science of creation. As the magician can pull a rabbit out of his hat, Ventria will pull human milk proteins from rice or barley or wheat or oats or rye or corn or millet or triticale or sorghum (all mentioned in their patents as possibilities). For now its just rice, growing in Kansas. The NIH (National Institute of Health) awarded Ventria a Phase II SBIR competitive grant of $724,628. Kansas Bioscience kicked in $144,744 as a partial match for the federal funding. I guess this is one way of our government supporting human milk feeding, just a little sarcasm. In reading government documents from about 10-20 years ago, one understands that US governmental research on human milk was driven by the idea of creating an infant formula as good as breastmilk or better than breastmilk. How would this be done? Genetic engineering.
There was alot of faith in our new science back then. That faith has became institutionalized and heaven forbid anyone question the safety of genetic engineering. Heaven help the scientist who shows that genetic engineering creates health problems in animals and ultimately with humans. Those scientists have lost their jobs, and the cone of silence descends on their work and their names.

Onward soldiers of fortune. Some women don't want to breastfeed. Don't ask why. Some women can't breastfeed. many really can't physically produce milk? C-section rates are approaching 50-75% in some hospitals. We modern women are losing our biological ability to birth naturally. Can't birth without medical intervention and can't breastfeed either. So we must develop an infant formula as good or better than human milk. How do you do that? Well, genetic engineering. We can recreate human milk proteins, and in this case the creation is in rice (some are creating those proteins in yeast cells, and some through transgenics of cows, goats, rabbits, mice).

Ventria's patent is called, "Expression of human milk proteins in transgenic plants," #7718851 with inventors: Ning Huang, Raymond L. Rodriguez, and Frank E. Hagie. The patent discusses various human milk proteins. One is lysozyme, which is a human milk protein and an enzyme. Just a reminder this enzyme would be inactivated in the pasteurization of donor human milk.

"Lysozyme also exhibits antiviral activity, as exemplified by the significant reduction in recurrent occurrences of genital and labial herpes after oral treatment of patients with lysozyme (Jolles, 1996). More recently, lysozyme from chicken egg whites, human milk and human neutrophils has been shown to inhibit the growth of HIV-1 in an in vitro assay (Lee-Huang et al., 1999). In addition, an anti-fungal activity has been demonstrated for lysozymes using oral isolates of Candida albicans (the most common fungal causative agent of oropharyngeal infection in humans; (Samaranayake et al., 1997). In this capacity, lysozyme can function as a broad spectrum antimicrobial agent. "

Hm, again we see a human milk component patent that "inhibits" (some patents say inactivates) hiv. Yet, we have no questions regarding Department of Health regulations that coerce hiv positive women to bottle feed their babies. Most of those babies will be African American babies. Interesting how an infectious disease impacts mostly one race. Doesn't make sense to me. One would think that an infectious disease would spread throughout various races and not be mostly confined to one race or another.

According to this patent, lysozyme is the most abundant protein in human milk. The patent also states that, "... lactoferrin and lysozyme are present in relatively high amounts in human milk but in only low or trace amounts in cow's milk." Ventria manufactures Lactiva(TM) and Lysomin(TM), both recombinants of the human milk components lactoferrin and lysozyme respectively. Dr. Bo Lonnerdal states in an article in Redorbit News, "Ventria's Lactiva and Lysomin have been shown to have identical functional and biological activity as their breast milk counterparts." According to Redorbit News, Bo Lonnerdal, PhD was presenting his paper on this at the Nestle Nutrition Workshop Series in Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam in November 2005. Dr. Bo Lonnerdal is part of "Our Network" for Ventria Bioscience. He is among other Ventria Network scientists such as: Dr. Roger Beachy, member of US National Academy of Sciences, President of Donald Danforth Plant Science Center [Monsanto-funded institution], Dr. Eric Conn, member of National Academy of Sciences, Dr. Gurdev Khush, member of the US National Academy, Dr. Ray Rodriguez, patent owner and founder of Ventria, NIH postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Herbert Boyer, and Dr. Diter von Wettstein, also member of US National Academy of Sciences.

"The idea of improving oral electrolyte therapy with the addition of proteins naturally found in breast milk is a novel and important concept and is potentially a major advancement in this therapy, which impacts the health of children globally."
Ron Kleinman, MD, Acting Chief of Pediatrics and Chief of Pediatric Gastroenterology, MassGeneral Hospital for Children, January 2007

Who wouldn't want to support a therapy that would save lives? But how many of the dehydrated children are dehydrated because they are being formula-fed? Genetic engineering may try to imitate our genetic blueprint but can we manufacture an identical substance to human milk components? I believe it is a recognized fact that genetic engineering does not duplicate identically. What about mixing human genes with rice? We are opening up the species barrier between humans and plants What are the ramifications? What pathogens that only infects plants will now be able to cross over the broken barrier to infect humans? Where is common sense? Yes, common sense went into the stock market never to be found again.
Copyright 2010 Valerie W. McClain

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