The United Kingdom reported that widespread pain is more common among clinic patients of Asian origin. One possible explanation for chronic widespread pain is vitamin D insufficiency, which is contributed by lack of milk consumption (Macfarlane et al., 2005). Another study conducted in the United Kingdom found that people of Asian origin are at higher risk of hypovitaminosis D and osteomalacia than people of European origin (Finch et al., 1992).
This could be explained by lactose intolerance prevalence in respect to ethnic groups. According to the National Institutes of Health Consensus, lactose intolerance, lactose malabsorption, and lactase nonpersistence are with the lowest reported occurrence in Europeans and higher occurrence in Asian Americans (Suchy et al.,2010). Lactose intolerance is the inability to produce lactase and digest lactose. More than 70% of the adult population were reported to suffer from intestinal disorders after milk ingestion (Jost et al., 1998). Because of the high lactose content in milk products, people with lactose intolerance would avoid dairy products, decreasing their recommended intake of vitamin D, calcium, and other nutrients found in them. Lactose-free milk products and lactase supplements are offered to consumers, but they are more expensive than standard milk products with lactose and are mainly available in the United States. To make low-lactose or lactose-free milk more available and affordable, cows should be genetically modified to produce milk with less lactose.
By creating a hybrid gene from the appropriation of the intestinal lactase-phlorizin hydrolase cDNA under the control of the mammary-specific alpha-lactalbumin promoter, cows will be able to produce milk with lactase to decrease the concentration of lactose. To conduct this transgenesis, embryonic stem cells would be isolated from a cow and the intestinal lactase-phlorizin hydrolase cDNA would be extracted. The cDNA would be inserted into the murine mammary-specific alpha-lactalbuminpromoter, where it will encode the precursor of intestinal LPH. These stem cells would then be injected into another cow’s embryo, creating a transgenic cow that can pass the hybrid gene to its offspring. According to an experiment conducted on mice, transgenic females with the hybrid gene were able to secrete active lactase into milk during lactation, effectively hydrolyzing lactose (Jostet al., 1998). Beta-galactosidase,also known as lactase, can transform lactose into two digestible monosaccharides: glucose and galactose (Chen et al., 2002).Like the contents of the mice’s milk, the transgenic cows’ milk will also be expected to contain a significantly higher amount of glucose and galactose, but consumers of this milk will still develop normally with no known negative effects on health.
The purpose of this altered species of cows is to produce affordable low-lactose milk that could be sold worldwide. It would benefit society by allowing people with lactose intolerance to consume the vitamins, nutrients, and proteins milk produces without having gastrointestinal problems. In the long run, benefits such as decreased prevalence of hypovitaminosis D and osteomalacia and increased physical health in people are expected. Potential harms like environmental runoff and medical risk would most likely not happen because the cows are only enhanced to produce lactase, which is medical safe, in their milk. However, economic hardship may come to farmers with “normal” cows and companies creating lactase supplements if the transgenic cows and their low-lactose milk become the new standard in grocery stores. Companies that invested in the genetic engineering project to create the hybrid genes in vitro can legally patent them for a maximum of twenty years, then they should make them public for research. The enhanced cows can reproduce and pass down the hybrid gene to offspring, then sold to different countries to make low-lactose milk worldwide. The normal cows may be less favored and killed off, potentially rising an ethical issue regarding favoritism of genetically modified animals.
In conclusion, creating transgenic cows with the hybrid gene synthesized by adding the intestinal lactose-phlorizin hydrolase cDNA to the mammary-specificalpha-lactalbumin promoter will result in producing affordable low-lactose milk for consumers with lactose intolerance. The benefits of these cows in society,like adding more vitamins and nutrients to people’s diets, will outweigh any potential harm they may cause, like economic hardship to owners of milk with lactose.An ethical issue may arise if farmers decide to reproduce the enhanced cows and killing off normal cows for beef. For future researches, scientists should find a way to knockout and deactivate alpha-lactalbumin, which regulates the production of lactose, so that the milk the cows produce can be completely lactose-free.
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