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Gems from the 2012 IMGC Symposium

    Written by: Danielle G. Lemay, PhD | Issue # 8 | 2012

    Prof. Johan van Arendonk and his local organizing team from Wageningen University assembled a record 28 presenters to speak over two and a half days, as well as a poster session and dinner at a castle. At risk of offending all of the speakers, here are years of their work compressed into a couple of minutes of yours:

    1) The Dutch, French, Swedes, and Danes continue to relentlessly genotype and phenotype their favorite breeds of dairy animals to discover genetic sources of economically important milk traits (Boichard, Larsen, Jensen, Bouwman, Duchemin, Krag, Visker, Eskildsen, Lu, Sundekilde).

    2) Like sign posts on the DNA, epigenetic marks help milk cells remember how much milk protein to produce (Devinoy).

    3) The nutritive advantages of milk are so substantial that human mutants who can drink it into adulthood have been spreading offspring like fire in a dry forest (Thomas).

    4) The milk of all mammals contains tiny, tiny RNAs (microRNAs); some common, some species-specific (Lefevre).

    5) The secret to managing allergies and asthma lies in raw milk, if only there was a way to circumvent those occasional pesky life-threatening infections (von Mutius, German).

    people looking at conference posters

    Wageningen 2012 – Poster Session

    6) If you’re a woman or a pig, but not a mouse, the mating of estrogen and prolactin produces beautiful mammary glands (Schennink).

    7) Fat mice have another reason to spite their thin friends: they have greater difficulty producing milk. Why? Fat mice have increased inflammation and aberrant endocrinology (Hadsell).

    8) Whether from the rumen of dairy cows or our own innards, microbes quietly rule the world. We had better learn their language (German, Morgavi, Kleerebezem).

    9) How do milk-producing cells move lipid droplets from inside the cell into the milk? Three proteins—one in the cytosol, one in plasma membrane, and one on the outside of the lipid droplet—work together to get the job done (McManaman).

    people looking at conference posters

    Wageningen 2012 – Poster Session

    10) Weird Australian animals provide a platform for discovery. How do wallaby mammary glands know whether they’re feeding a newborn or a juvenile? Signals from the goo around the milk-secreting cells (Wanyonyi). Echidnas and platypuses (platypi?) produce large amounts of a novel anti-microbial protein in their milk (Bisana).

    11) The RNAs of a few milk proteins dominate the total pool like political ads just before an election (Beck, Lemay).

    12) Human milk is self-digesting. Imagine you ordered a steak for dinner that cut itself up into tiny bites for you. Milk is that nice (Dallas).

    Whew! Got all that? A serious technical review of this year’s symposium, as well as an analysis of potential commercial opportunities, will be available to paying sponsors of the IMGC in December. So if you want to know more, pay up.

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