Why would you milk a Rabbit? Research-based biotech company from Netherlands, Pharming, says “to save lives“. The company seems to have been milking rabbits for sometime and have found a drug called Rhucin from the rabbit milk-derived C1 inhibitor protein.The drug can be used to treat people with low levels of C1 inhibitor that results in angioedema.
A drug made from the protein can be used to treat people with hereditary angioedema. People with this condition have naturally low levels of C1 inhibitor, which can result in episodes of severe swelling, similar to an allergic reaction.
Untreated, angioedema can cause painful cramps and potentially fatal suffocation.
Unlike drugs that can be made synthetically in the lab, therapeutic proteins need to be made by biological processes, making transgenic animals a popular option.
A rabbit, for instance, can produce an average of 120 milliliters of milk a day. In the modified rabbits, each liter contains 12 grams of human C1 inhibitor, according to Pharming spokesperson Marjolein van Helmond.
“Human C1 inhibitor can be obtained from donor blood, but our … product can be produced in unlimited quantities from a scaleable and stable production system, and there are no safety issues in terms of [blood] viruses,” van Helmond said.
Rhucin has been applied for approval by the European Medicines Agency, the European Union body that evaluates drug safety. It has not been applied for approval in United states.
Once approved, the CEO of Pharming, Sijmen de Vries, said that the company would start milking a herd of about a thousand rabbits.
The rabbits are milked using mini pumping machines that attach to the female rabbits’ teats. The method “can roughly be compared to cow milking, but of course on a smaller scale,” de Vries said.
And like dairy cows, the rabbits stay relaxed and appear to suffer no discomfort during milking.
Researchers then extract the protein in the lab. Due to strict laws governing transgenic products, the rest of the rabbit milk has to be destroyed.Source: news.nationalgeographic.com
This is not the first time animals have been milked for human health.
A farm in Russia, for example, recently milked mice to produce the human breast milk protein lactoferrin, and the Russian researchers hope to scale up to milking the protein from goats.Source: news.nationalgeographic.com
All I can say is – “Poor Rabbits!” What do you think?