Milk study improves understanding of disease

A NEW study on UHT milk is helping scientists improve treatments for age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and type 2 diabetes.

The study improves understanding of these age-related diseases that affect about 500 million people worldwide and cause millions of deaths each year.

Co-lead researcher, ANU Professor John Carver, says that two unrelated proteins aggregate in UHT milk over a period of months to form clusters called amyloid fibrils, which cause the milk to transform from a liquid into a gel.

He says the same type of protein clusters are found in plaque deposits in cases of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

“Parkinson’s, dementia and type 2 diabetes are big problems for the ageing population in Australia and many other countries around the world,” said Professor Carver from the ANU Research School of Chemistry,” says Professor Carver.

“Our interest in milk proteins led to a discovery of the reason for this gelling phenomenon occurring in aged UHT milk.

“The research does not suggest UHT milk can cause these age-related diseases.”

Professor Carver says milk proteins changed structurally when heated briefly to around 140 degrees to produce UHT milk, causing the gelling phenomenon with long-term storage.

He says normal pasteurised milk did not form amyloid fibrils.

ANU worked with CSIRO, University of Wollongong and international researchers on the study, which is published in the journal “Small“.

Further information via video interview 

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