Omics tools to study donkey’s biodiversity and to characterize milk quality profile for possible use in human health and nutrition

Thematic objective: A.2 Support to education, research, technological development and innovation
Priority: Priority A.2.1 Support technological transfer and commercialisation of research results, strengthening the linkages between research, industry and other private sector actors
Brief description of the project: Study of donkey biodiversity at genomic level, characterization of milk quality profile, estimation of genetic, nutritional, physiological and environmental factors, to obtain milk and fermented derivatives useful for human consumption. Donkeys milk (DM) shows the closest similarity to human one but within species milk composition is influenced by several factors. DM could be a good nutritional source for infants when breast milk in not available. Usually, hydrolysed and pure amino-acid formulas are used but they could contain cow’s milk proteins that are potential allergens, and present poor palatability. Despite the low fat content, the better quality of lipids, make DM a better substrate to produce formulas. This formula just requires a slight increase of DHA, EPA and AA acids, whose roles in development of neonatal brain and retina, and inflammatory response pathways are known. DM fatty acid profile could be modified with dietary supplementation with vegetable or marine oils.
Main objectives – issues to be addressed: To study donkeys biodiversity in several breeds at genomic level sequencing different breed genomes, identifying simple and complex genomic variants which could affect milk quality traits. To characterize milk quality profile mainly at protein and fat levels (in particular the fatty acids composition) with different approaches: proteomics and analytical determinations. To obtain a modified/better donkey milk profile to produce a complete nutritional source for infants and elderly consumers.
Expected results: Estimation of genetic, nutritional, physiological and environmental factors which influence donkey milk quality and composition, to obtain milk and fermented derivatives useful for human consumption. Moreover, the wider use of donkey milk could provide an economic justification for breeding donkeys and preserving their natural environment, i.e. marginal and hilly areas, with positive effects on animal biodiversity, helping to protect donkey breeds from extinction in industrialised countries.
Partners already involved: Department of Agricultural and Forest Sciences, University of Palermo; Istituto Sperimentale Zootecnico per la Sicilia; Sicilian donkey farms.
Partners searched: Entrepreneurs and any food technology industry interested in the subject.
Total estimated budget: N/A
First name: Maria Teresa
Last name: Sardina
Name of the organisation: Dipartimento di Scienze Agrarie, Alimentari e Forestali, University of Palermo
Type of organisation: University/research centre
City: Palermo
Country: Italy
Phone number: +00
Skype contact: