A Possible Cure for Lactose Intolerance


By Sahaj Kaur

Dust, pollen, eggs, nuts or indeed milk… Most of us have experienced some sort of allergy. Those who have can understand the pain of it! Science claims that genetic modification may be the way forward to overcome allergies, which can be serious obstacles, affecting everyday life.

Lactose intolerance is very common; 33% of adults and 3% of newborns are unable to consume dairy products without insufferable reactions that may consist of nausea, diarrhoea or severe abdominal pain. Yes, this means that they can’t eat ice cream or have chocolate, which to me, seems even more unbearable than the pain itself!

There may, however, be a silver lining on the horizon for these sufferers in the form of medicine advances, continuously hoping to improve quality of life. Lots of us will have studied, or will come on to study Genetic Modification and this just proves how important it is to our daily lives!

Scientists are able to interfere with the DNA of an unborn calf using a technique called RNA interference which changes its genetic make-up. The transgenic calf was born (having had this RNA interference) with the inability to produce beta-lacto-globulin (a major milk allergen). This milk could be used for adults and as a substitute for cow’s milk for babies who are no longer on their mothers’ feed that are intolerant to beta-lacto-globulin.

However, this solution is currently unlikely to change anything for those with allergies due to the ongoing debate on the ethical stigma attached to genetic modification. Scientists say that it is perfectly safe (arguing that the calf would be dead otherwise), but anti-GM campaigners are going to be quick to pick up on the fact that the calf was actually born without a tail (although milk production and tail presence aren’t connected in the slightest!). GM still has a long way to go. Although its benefits can be seen, the process still needs development before it can be widely accepted and the public unease about ‘altering animals’ can die down.

Photography by maraker on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

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