Amongst the many problems that our species is expected to face as time goes on, one of the bigger ones is how to feed a burgeoning population in the face of potential famine and transportation interruption. Many novel concepts have been explored, including growing animal-less meat in a vat, but a new idea, using cockroach milk to nourish the hungry, has been put forward by the Institute of Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine in India.
The researchers, fascinated with the high nutritional density of a milk-like substance produced by a particular species of cockroach, Diploptera punctate, sequenced the bug’s gene that was responsible for the production of the fluid, to see if it could be replicated in the lab. With roughly four times the caloric density of cow’s milk, and also being a quite nutrient dense, the researchers are hopeful that this substance can be a useful source of nourishment for hungry populations.
"The crystals are like a complete food – they have proteins, fats and sugars. If you look into the protein sequences, they have all the essential amino acids," explains researcher Sanchari Banerjee. "It’s time-released food," continues project lead Subramanian Ramaswamy. "if you need food that is calorifically high, that is time released and food that is complete. This is it."
Needless to say, milking herds of giant cockroaches for their milk isn’t the researcher’s aim, but rather they hope to be able to alter a strain of yeast to produce the substance in large quantities instead.