Genetically Modified Rabbit Milk Saves Lives

    The BBC recently reported that an experiment using genetically-modified rabbits successfully treated a rare, but fatal, disease. The disease is called Pompe’s disease and is a muscular disorder caused by the lack of an enzyme. Children who are born with the disease usually die before their first birthday, as they have difficulties breathing and the heart and other muscles begin to give out.

    Researchers at Sophia Children’s Hospital in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, first genetically modified rabbits by giving them a human gene that caused the rabbits to express the missing enzyme in their milk. The milk was then fed to four babies suffering from Pompe’s. The results were amazing. Most Pompe’s disease infants have trouble doing such basic things as rolling over, but one infant in the study was able to stand up by the time he was 1 year old. Two other babies who had almost completely lost muscle functioning and had to be placed on respirators halfway through the study had improved enough to leave the hospital on an outpatient basis.

    The researchers noted that larger studies would need to be done to corroborate the initial findings and see if there are any other long-term impacts (aside from keeping infants alive past 1 year and restoring muscle function).

    But as researcher Ans van der Ploeg told the BBC, “For the first time, there is a treatment for Pompe’s disease with clearly beneficial effects.”

    This is an exciting time to be alive, unless you’re one of the activists bound and determined to make sure that exploration of these sorts of treatments gets stopped before they can save lives.


Rabbit milks saves babies. The BBC, July 28, 2000.

Dr. Spock, AntiDairy Coalition take aim at milk

In the latest (posthumous) edition
of Benjamin Spock’s Baby and Child Care, the famous pediatrician
attacks meat and milk arguing that, “children can get plenty of protein
and iron from vegetables, beans and other plant foods that avoid the fat
and cholesterol that are in animal products.” Meanwhile a newly formed
group called the AntiDairy Coalition made its debut in June decrying “the
health and nutritional risks of consuming dairy products.”

What’s going on here? I tend
to agree with one of Spock’s friends, pediatrician T. Berry Brazelton,
who described Spock’s recommendations as “absolutely insane.”
Much the same applies to the AntiDairy Coalition.

Lets tackle Spock first. According
to Spock’s co-author, Steven J. Parker (who also believes Spock’s
dietary advice is too extreme), the famous pediatrician believed his conversion
to vegetarianism helped extend his life. But Spock didn’t become
a vegetarian until he was 87 years old. Clearly his meat and dairy eating
did not interfere with his longevity in any meaningful way.

Second, as Brazelton told the New
York Times
, “Meat is an excellent source of the iron and protein
children need, and to take away milk from children, I think that’s
really dangerous. Milk is needed for calcium and vitamin D.”

As junk science debunker Steve Milloy noted, after becoming
a vegetarian Spock lost 50 pounds (a phenomenon which most vegetarians
claim to be a beneficial result from a vegetarian diet), but for children
the most important dietary need is ensuring steady weight gain.

Besides, ever try to get a toddler
to eat kale?

As for the AntiDairy Coalition,
this group merely repeated the same old unsubstantiated conjectures about
milk that have become articles of faith among animal rights activists.

For example, take the AntiDairy
Coalition’s claims about milk’s ability to cause allergies.
According to the Coalition, since milk is full of protein and proteins
can trigger allergies, the large increase in asthma over the last 20 years
or so must be caused by protein in milk. Can someone say post hoc?

Similarly the Coalition notes that women in the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway and Sweden both a) consume
lots of milk and b) have high rates of breast cancer. Milk consumption, therefore,
must cause breast cancer. Again, this is classic post hoc reasoning that
is unsupported by any evidence. Readers should want and expect the ADC
to present serious epidemiological studies documenting these effect.

Certainly a diet excessively high
in dairy products may be harmful and some people do suffer from lactose
intolerance. In its attempts at scare mongering, however, the ADC vastly
exaggerates the problem — moderate milk and dairy consumption can be
part of a healthy lifestyle.