Cockroach milk, a food of the future?

Many people have a phobia of cockroaches, probably because of their appearance, but maybe also because of the fact that they can get stuck anywhere. Even though they have always been considered pests, cockroaches are said to have a virtue that many still ignore.

According to scientists, some cockroaches are an important source of protein. These insects could thus help solve the global problem of food production which has become more and more worrying over the years. credits

A study carried out about ten years ago found that a species of cockroach known by the scientific name Diploptera punctata had some pretty special milk protein crystals in his stomach.

A species that is out of the ordinary

D. punctata is a species of viviparous cockroach. Unlike other cockroaches that lay eggs, she gives birth to small live cockroaches. To feed them, she gives them a kind of milk, just as mammals do with their offspring.

The “milk” of D. punctata is made up of crystals that contain a huge amount of protein. It is estimated that a single crystal contains three times as much energy as the same mass of cow’s milk.

A method for mass production

Given the size of cockroaches, harvesting the milk protein crystals would be a lot of work. This is the reason why researchers have developed a less demanding and less expensive method to exploit this potential.

A new study published in the journal International Union of Crystallography last July shows how researchers succeeded in sequencing the genes responsible for the production of protein crystals in cockroaches. According to the report, it is thus possible to produce the crystals in vitro, paving the way for eventual mass production.

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Sanchari Banerjee, one of the study’s authors, said the crystals were like a whole food. They contain both proteins, fats and sugars. By analyzing the protein sequences, the scientists found that all the essential amino acids were present in the crystals.

The researchers plan to use a yeast system to mass produce the protein crystals. However, they are not yet considering making it into a commercial product.