Startup laboratory devoted to cultivating breastmilkCari Cooney | November 23, 2021
A complicated substance, breastmilk is a long way from being perfectly synthesized. However, U.S.-based Biomilq, among a few other laboratories globally, are working to crack the code. Breastfeeding continues to be a hardship for new mothers; scientists inspired by their own motherhood and breastfeeding experiences want to help create a solution that offers more than current infant formula choices on supermarket shelves. This also gives options to adoptive parents and those in the LGBTQ communities who seek products beyond cow-based formula for their infants.
Like cultured meat production, breastmilk cultivation starts with donor milk. Cells multiply while stored in lab glass before integrating into a bioreactor. More nutrients are introduced into the growing formula, which is now housed in a vessel likened to mammary ducts. Prolactin, a hormone released from the pituitary gland after childbirth, is added to further nutrient absorption. Stem cells, antibodies and helpful bacteria can be introduced to maximize nutrition as well.
Quality control in synthesized breastmilk
Screenings for safety are important when the final product is going into little bodies. There is a large market for formula in the United States, as only a quarter of babies are exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life. Premature babies or those with special needs and allergies cannot often tolerate formula. Milk sharing has been a popular option, but only four percent of lactating women participate in the donation process. There are also risks for bacteria growth due to poor storage. Many of these sources are coming from social media groups and are unregulated and lack the sterile environment to pass safety standards.
Biomilq’s fundraising for their startup lab has totaled 21 million dollars to date. This women-owned and science-driven team of scientists says they have no intentions of replacing breastfeeding. Their mission states they want to offer solutions to those who are not able to produce milk to feed their children, while shifting the demand away from the dairy industry, offering sustainable options and closing the nutritional gaps in infant feeding.
For more information, visit: https://www.biomilq.com/