Milk is the elixir of life, it forms and shapes our body, it has all the basic components we need for the formation, growth and maintenance of our organism: carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, minerals and just to begin with.
But one of its main characteristics is that it cannot be replaced. That’s why we get up in arms every time someone dares to say “vegetable milk” For heaven’s sake, there is no such thing! Milk can only be produced in the womb of a mammalian mother… until now.
Cellular milk provides all the health benefits that until today only traditionally produced milk could provide, because it is milk, it comes from the same place: from a mammalian mother’s womb.
But what for?
The global demand for milk and dairy ingredients is ever increasing, and conventional production methods are meeting with a lot of resistance, previously leveraged on animal welfare issues, and today with more emphasis on climate, varying the discourse depending on what they manage to move the public of the day.
But the most incredible thing is that, when I say “it comes from the same place: from a mammal’s womb”, this includes humans. Cellular milk is secreted by epithelial cells, which are found in the mammary glands of both humans and animals: cellular milk production can generate human breast milk.
The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months, however not all babies can be breastfed. In addition, premature infants especially require breast milk and its availability is limited, when infant formulas are nutritionally inferior.
And how is this achieved?
Tissue is collected from the mammary gland, whether human or animal, and isolated from other cells; it is cultured in a bioreactor creating an ideal and controlled environment, and the milk, absolutely sterile, begins to flow.
It mimics the process that happens during pregnancy when mammary gland cells begin to proliferate, and once a certain number of cells are obtained, they are stimulated to stop dividing and start producing milk.
Unlike laboratory meat, where the cells themselves are the final product, in milk the mammary gland cells are small milk-producing factories that remain operational, so the final product does not need to grow, it does not need a support like cell cultured meat.
It can be used for breastfeeding babies, daily consumption of children, youth and adults, healthy diets, elaboration of derivatives and even its nutritional components can be used in the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industry. It is legitimate milk, 100%.
But the production of cellular milk, as well as traditional milk, represents a business, which must be profitable and accessible so that consumers can buy it. Cellular milk has to be priced competitively with traditionally produced milk in order to be sold.
We still can’t buy it anywhere. It could be several years before that happens. Fengru Lin, CEO and co-founder of biotech startup Turtle Tree says they have yet to perfect the process of extracting high-value dairy bioactives, such as lactoferrin, in a cost-effective way, and they are still a long, long way from that.
Market prices can range from several hundred dollars to $2,000 for a kg of bovine lactoferrin.
There are several companies trying to produce cellular milk in addition to Turtle Tree, which originated in Singapore and is now continuing its development in California, USA; among them an Israeli company, Wilk Technologies, which went public and has received $2 million in funding from Coca-Cola, as well as BIOMILQ which is developing technology to produce 100% human milk to offer families a new feeding option for their children in North Carolina, USA.
Of course, nothing can replace legitimate milk and a laboratory is not a dairy farm, but the future is here, and the technology is as fascinating as nature. Have you had your glass of milk today?
Consuming dairy is good for you.
Valeria Guzmán Hamann