One of the more intriguing applications for cell cultured food is human breastmilk. Breastfeeding doesn’t come easy for every mother for a variety of biological, societal and economic reasons, so the ability to give a child replicated human breastmilk rather than formula derived from cow’s milk could provide more optimal nutrition for growing babies.
One company working on cultured breastmilk is Biomilq, which earlier this year announced that it had successfully produced human casein and lactose, the predominant components found in breastmilk.
Biomilq’s initial plan is as eye-catching as the product itself: they are going to produce customised breast milk for early adopters, grown from the customer’s own cells. “Moms would go through a fine needle biopsy procedure during their pregnancy,” Strickland explains. “That cell sample would be sent to us so we could start growing it up and producing milk. And then when she’s ready, we can start shipping it to her.”
This type of customization certainly sounds next-level in terms of cell cultured food. You aren’t just getting generic breastmilk from a lab, you’re getting specific breastmilk tailored to you for your baby.
While that is kind of mindblowing, as Biomilq admits to The Guardian, this customization will be very expensive at first. It also has the potential to reinforce inequalities where only those who can afford it will receive any potential advantages from this breakthrough technology. But Biomilq also points out this type of customized breastmilk is less a go-to market business model and more of a way to demonstrate the benefits of its product.
Wresting over ethical issues around cultured human breastmilk is not something we’ll have to deal with in the near term, however. Before we even get to the new set of ethical issues around cultured breastmilk, there are still many regulatory hurdles to overcome before it becomes something available for purchase.