Typically, if you catch sight of a cockroach scuttling around your home, it's cause for panic. Exterminators are called, tensions are high, and nobody wants to be in the general vicinity of the creature — unless, of course, you happen to be a scientist.
Somehow, a team of researchers from the Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine (inStem) in Bengaluru, India, not only got close enough to the critters to examine them — they milked them too (so to speak).
For today’s dose of exciting and also repugnant news, it has been revealed that the structure of milk protein crystals in the gut of a cockroach species called Diploptera punctata contains more than three times the energy of an equivalent mass of dairy (buffalo) milk.
Sanchari Banerjee, one of the main authors of the paper published in July in the journal from the International Union of Crystallography, told The Times of India: "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."
"They’re very stable," said Prof. Ramaswamy S. of the research group. "They can be a fantastic protein supplement."
“It’s time-released food,” he added, explaining that “if you need food that is calorifically high, that is time released and food that is complete. This is it.”
Ramaswamy and several colleagues are planning to use a yeast system that will eventually generate the crystals en masse, now that they have discovered the gene sequences for the milk proteins from the roaches.
Luckily, for those of you who are intrigued by the nutritional benefits of the milk but can’t get past the unsavory idea of downing cockroach-fluid, Ramaswamy and his team have your back. According to him, the scientists are planning to create synthetic crystals that are not directly extracted from roaches.
“That’s more for a psychological reason,” Ramaswamy told The TeCake. "Nobody will eat anything from roaches. Also, now we can actually recreate these things."
I've personally sampled cashew, almond, coconut, soy and hemp milk varieties, though I have yet to taste the elusive pea milk now for sale. With the alternative-milk market so oversaturated, it’s hard to predict whether the public will be swayed to give a cockroach-based product a chance. But at least now we know that we can.