Parents could soon have another option when feeding their babies, because the world’s first human ‘breast milk’ has been formulated in a lab.
A female-led start-up, Biomilq, has successfully created milk from human mammary cells (female breast cells). The company says their milk is the closest ever match to the “macronutrient profile” of the real deal, with the same types of proteins, carbohydrates, fatty acids and bioactive lipids.
The product does lack the antibodies in breast milk straight from the mother, but the company’s co-founder and chief science officer, Dr Leila Strickland, told Forbes: “Even without antibodies, the nutritional and bioactive composition of our product will be much closer to that of breast milk than to bovine-based infant formula... our product will support immune development, microbiome population, intestinal maturation, and brain development in ways that bovine-based infant formula fundamentally cannot.”
They’ve called their product the “world’s first cell-cultured human milk outside of the breast” and say it will be available to buy within the next three years.
Dr Strickland, an experienced cell biologist, started the company due to her own experience struggling to breastfeed when her son was born early and wouldn’t latch on. She began growing mammary cells in a lab in 2013 and teamed up with food scientist Michelle Egger to launch the start-up in 2019.
The founders say their aim isn’t to eradicate breastfeeding, or to demonise formula milk. Instead they simply wish to give mothers more nutritious and sustainable options.
“As a team that includes mothers and parents, we believe strongly that there is no one right way to care for a child, and every family must make decisions that are best for them,” a mission statement reads on their site.
“Infant feeding isn’t one size fits all. We’re providing more options, adaptable to your lifestyle, if that’s what you choose.”