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Disease-fighting milk

Dairy cows in a barnMilk can do more than build strong bones—it could potentially reduce the risk of disease in humans, with help from new technology developed at the University of Guelph.

High Immune Response (HIR) technology, developed by professor Bonnie Mallard in the Ontario Veterinary College’s Department of Pathobiology, is a management and breeding tool created for producers to identify cows with inherently superior immunity and disease resistance.

HIR cows have stronger immune systems than average- and low-responder cows. HIR cows also respond better to vaccination and have better quality colostrum and milk. Healthier cows not only mean less disease, but also less money spent on treatment.

Now, researchers at the Mallard Lab are using HIR technology cows to improve human health as well. 

Dr. Heba Atalla from the department of pathobiology is looking at microRNA (also called miRNA, small RNA molecules regulate proteins) found in cows’ milk and colostrum. These miRNAs have a crucial role in the development of the immune system and intestinal health.

“This research has many downstream applications,” Atalla says. “We can produce milk from HIR cows with natural value-added health benefits to humans, or disease-specific milk products tailored for individuals who are at risk for allergy, cancer or other chronic illness. It will also lead to economic benefits for the agricultural and health sectors in Canada.”

Read the entire story on the Ontario Agri-Food Innovation Alliance website.