Saturday, August 05, 2006

Diarrhea forever vs. The Techno-Goat

You may recognize the phrase 'diarrhea forever?!?' from the movie Mrs. Doubtfire. For two million people each year, diarrhea forever means the end of the line. That's the number of persons, mostly children, who die annually due to dehydration from intestinal infections.

Nursing infants are protected by enzymes in breast milk from the bacterial dysentery. Specifically, the protein lysozyme rips open the walls of E coli causing their germy little guts to leak out. While human milk is rich in lysozyme, animal milk is not. Once children are weaned, therefore, they are much more vulnerable to toxic bacterium and the terminal runs.

Scientists at the University of California have discovered a way to inject human lysozyme-producing genes into the milk-producing instructional DNA packet located in goat mammary glands. As a result, the transgenic goats' milk has much higher levels of the enzyme and has been proven to decrease the bacterial load in the guts of baby pigs.

Lead investigator Dr. Jim Murray hopes that the milk will someday boost the immune systems of children at-risk.

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