Cows cloned to produce medicines
SIOUX CENTER, Iowa -- Four cloned calves genetically engineered with human DNA and currently grazing in Iowa could hold the key to creating herds of identical cows that produce medicines in their milk and blood.
"Cows are ideal factories," said James Robl, president of Hematech LLC, which hopes to profit from drug-producing bovines. "Cows are big and have a lot of blood and produce a lot of milk."
Hematech of Sioux Falls, S.D., and its partner on the project, Kirin Brewing Co., aim to harvest groups of disease-fighting human proteins -- called "immunoglobulins" -- in cows.
The protein groups are produced daily when the body comes under attack from foreign agents, and they're typically tailor-made to attack each invader.
The immunoglobulins hold great promise as medicines to treat a whole range of invaders from anthrax to earache-causing viruses in infants. Doctors already use them to treat such maladies as tetanus, rabies and even some cases of infertility.
Hematech and its Japanese research partner hope to coax their cloned creations to produce multi-protein products to attack a number of ailments.
Robl is a co-author of a research paper to be published next month by the monthly science journal Nature Biotechnology announcing the cloned calves' births and explaining their promise.