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Study points to medicinal value of Vechur cow milk

The Vechur cow, acknowledged by the Guinness Book of World Records as the smallest in the world (90 cm in height), is in the news again after a scientific analysis of its milk confirmed medicinal properties. It is an indigenous breed of Kerala

The study by a Kochi-based institute was published in the International Journal of Functional and Evolutionary Genomics (GENE) on December 30, 2011.

The study by the SCMS Institute of Bioscience and Biotechnology Research & Development focused on the anti-bacterial property in the protein component of the cow's milk.

“It is for the first time that a report on the milk protein of the Vechur cow confirmed its medicinal property with solid molecular evidence,” director of the institute C. Mohan Kumar told The Hindu.

The finding could provide a boost to the rearing of Vechur cows, which had been categorised by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations as a critical breed, implying that it was rare and facing extinction.

“Even though the medicinal property of the Vechur cow's milk had been accepted traditionally by Ayurveda, we had no scientific evidence to substantiate our traditional knowledge at the genomic level,” Mr. Kumar said. The study was conducted by the institute, in coordination with associate scientists Salini Bhasker and Anisha S.

The Lactoferrin gene of the cow was sequenced and expressed for the first time. The gene sequence analysis showed mutations.

“The three-dimensional structure analysis of the protein confirmed the ‘Arginine' position. Arginine is an amino acid with specific therapeutic functions like wound healing, cell proliferation, cell signalling, and management of cardio-vascular diseases,” Mr. Kumar said.

“Based on recent reports on the nutritional therapies of ‘Arginine' supplementation for wound healing and for cardiovascular diseases, the higher level of ‘Arginine' in the Lactoferrin protein of Vechur cow milk provides enormous scope for further therapeutic studies,” the journal, which reported the finding, said in its website.

“Vechur cow is a unique breed of extremely small-size, less-fodder intake breed, which is highly adaptable. Lactoferrin (Lf) is a glycoprotein. The full coding region of Lf gene of the cow was cloned and sequenced. Antibacterial activity of the recombinant Lf showed suppression of bacterial growth. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first time that the full coding region of Lf gene of the Vechur breed is sequenced, successfully expressed, and characterised,” the website said.

The former managing director of the Ernakulam region of Milma K.R. Jayarajan said that only about 200 cows of the variety existed in Kerala. Though the smaller size of the cow and the lower expenses on feeding it were advantageous factors for small households, the quantity of milk produced was less and hence not preferred by most people in the dairy sector. The variety is mostly found in central Kerala.