Israeli Firm Makes Breakthrough in ‘Milkless Mother’s Milk’

Wilk, which creates cultured milk from breast cells, aims to improve the quality of infant formula alternatives

Yoram Gabison
Yoram Gabison
Tomer Aizen is the CEO of Wilk, a firm that is developing cultured milk based on mammary epithelial cells grown in the lab, whose source comes from cows or from donations of breast cells from women
Tomer Aizen is the CEO of Wilk, a firm that is developing cultured milk based on mammary epithelial cells grown in the lab, whose source comes from cows or from donations of breast cells from womenCredit: Eyal Toueg
Yoram Gabison
Yoram Gabison

Wilk Technologies, formerly known as BioMilk, reported major technological progress that could improve the bio-food tech firm’s chances of presenting an alternative to mother’s milk – and dairy products based on cow’s milk.

Wilk is developing cultured milk based on mammary epithelial cells grown in the lab, whose source comes from cows or from donations of breast cells from women who have undergone breast reduction surgery. These cells are transferred to large vessels known as bioreactors where they are exposed to a cocktail of chemicals that cause them to differentiate once again and create milk – instead of reproducing themselves.

Tomer Aizen is the CEO of Wilk, which has developed a method to control the expression of the genes involved in cell reproduction and enable them to reproduce without limits. The company has succeeded in introducing genes into the mammary gland cells that increase the rate of cell reproduction and their survivability.

Wilk says this success will be the basis for expanding its manufacturing capacity and making it much more efficient, including making the main cost factor in its production much cheaper – the cost of the materials that nourish the mammary gland cells in the bioreactors. Reducing the cost of production will make Wilk much more competitive compared to the other products it is trying to replace: Plant-based mother’s milk replacements and dairy products such as cheese and yogurts. In addition, Wilk is the only company that offers a milk alternative based on ingredients manufactured from mammary gland tissue – and not plant-based products.

Wilk reported positive results from its labs at the end of December 2021, as part of its joint research with Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv for the development of cultured mother’s milk. The positive results concern the ability of human breast cells grown in cultures to create milk fat. As part of the trial, growth conditions were studied that encourage the manufacturing and accumulation of triglyceride fats, which constitute about 95 percent of the fat in mother’s milk.

The fat from mother’s milk is one of the essential elements in infant development, and affects the proper development of the digestive and immunological systems – as well as cognitive development. Most mother’s milk replacements in the market today provide these fat components from plant-based sources, whose effects and effectiveness are not the same as that of the fats in mother’s milk.

Wilk says the findings of the trial opens the possibility of producing milk fat from the mammary gland cells and to use it in infant formula alternatives – and improve the quality and effect of these alternatives and make them much more like mother’s milk.

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