Scientists at the Univesidad de Granada in Spain and the technology center at Azti-Tecnalia have designed an easier-to-digest lactose protein which they believe lowers the allergic reaction to milk. The alteration does not change the functional properties of milk and is done without genetic modification, but by using a pulsed light.

The protein, called lactoglobulin, is responsible for about ten percent of milk allergies. The Spanish research team modified the protein to a more digestible form using pulsed light to break up the complex and compact structure of the lactose. The trick was to break it up enough to make it more easily digested by those with an intolerance yet keep it intact enough that it doesn’t lose its functional properties in holding the milk together.

“We have used a type of lactose protein modified by means of a treatment with pulsed light, a method of bacterial inactivation which is widely used in the food industry, but never before used to modify proteins,” said Julia Maldonado-Valderrama from the Universidad de Grenada.

This process, now patented by the team at the Azti-Tecnalia technology center, degrades the structure of the protein by increasing the amount of light pulses.

Researchers plan to test treatment on other proteins

To test the pulsed light treatment and its results for digestive properties, the Spanish research team built a device to simulate the digestive process of a protein in a drop of emulsion. The team plans to test the pulsed light treatment on other complex proteins that are known to cause food allergic reactions.

The study can be found in Soft Matter and its abstract is available here.

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