The cockroach has always been hated, but would you like to love and milk it now? You'd better learn to, as its milk has been found to be a superfood.
Meanwhile, the cockroach itself might want to be hated rather than eaten, but then, no one will care for that for a while---or maybe ever.
International researchers including the Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine (inStem) in Bengaluru discovered that those milk-like protein crystals are created by Diploptera punctata cockroaches. These provide calories and nutritional food.
Called the Pacific beetle cockroach, this is the only species that bears live young cockroaches, while the mother insect produces protein crystals to nurture her embryos in the brood sac.
Scientists have studied even its genes for the milk protein that can be reproduced in a lab. "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," researcher Sanchari Banerjee said.
Just one crystal has been found to contain "more than three times the energy of an equivalent mass of dairy (buffalo) milk."
It will take a lot of PR talk to convince people, though. Listen to scientist Subramanian Ramaswamy and see if you get convinced: "If you need food that is calorifically high, that is time released and food that is complete, this is it." Ramaswamy envisions the crystals being used as a protein supplement.
"They're very stable. They can be a fantastic protein supplement," said Ramaswamy.
The research, at least, seems to be an impressive list. Scientists from the international team included National Centre for Advancing Translational Sciences, National Institutes of Health in the US, Structural Biology Research Centre, High Energy Accelerator Research Organisation in Japan, Centre for Cellular and Molecular Platforms (C-CAMP) in India, Department of Cell and Systems Biology, University of Toronto in Canada, University of Iowa in the US and Experimental Division, Synchrotron SOLEIL in France.
The researchers published a study on the findings, titled "Structure of a heterogeneous, glycosylated, lipid-bound, in vivo-grown protein crystal at atomic resolution from the viviparous cockroach Diploptera punctata," in the International Union of Crystallography journal this month.