WELLINGTON, March 9 (Xinhua) -- Genetically modified goat milk has been used to create a new biotechnology process that promises cheaper anti-cancer drugs, New Zealand scientists said Wednesday.
Milking goats have been used to produce mono-clonal antibodies (MCA) in their milk, which are specifically used as human anti-cancer treatments, in a process developed by the government's AgResearch institute.
MCA helped the fight against cancer in several ways, said University of Auckland scientists who will test the process this year.
The antibodies made cancer cells more visible to the immune system, prevented growth signals from getting through to cancer cells, helped to deliver radiation and drugs to cancer cells, and stopped new blood cells from forming, thus slowing the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the cancer cells.
The new process was expected to be cheaper and more effective than those currently used to produce commonly-used drugs.
"Once a drug comes off patent, anyone can produce it, but the price is ultimately regulated by the cost of production and these drugs are typically very expensive," Professor Peter Shepherd, leader of the University of Auckland team, said in a statement.
The very low production cost of the new system was achieved by producing large amounts of the drug in the goat milk.
When a goat embryo was produced, the antibody was inserted into its DNA.
The goat developed with the gene and when the transgenic goats matured and lactated, they produced the drug as an extra protein in their milk.
"The aim is to greatly lower the cost of the drug for practical purposes and eventually build an industry based on this in New Zealand," he said.
Few countries in the world had the equivalent of New Zealand's huge expertise in animal production and milk production and all the systems that it would take to make this successful, head of the team at AgResearch Dr Goetz Laible said.
"New Zealand is extremely well placed to do this and has some fantastic animal scientists who have all the skills to do this type of work," said Laible.