GM Chickens Lay Eggs Containing Drugs
Feb 19 2019 Read 1281 Times
The words ‘genetically modified’ have negative connotations for a lot of people. However, the results can also be highly beneficial in a number of ways. One example of this is came recently when scientists genetically modified chickens to create drugs when they lay eggs. The modification didn’t affect the chickens’ health and could massively help sufferers of conditions like arthritis and some cancers. Read on as we look at the ground-breaking research.
A huge number of human diseases occur because the body simply does not produce enough of a certain chemical or protein naturally. These disorders or illnesses can be maintained and even treated using drugs that contain the protein the body is deficient in. To find out more about the identification of specific chemicals, check out the article ‘Characterising Unknowns: Behind the Scenes of Chemical Investigation’.
But what if those chemicals or proteins could still be made naturally? Dr Herron and her team of researchers inserted a human gene, which typically produces the necessary protein in humans, into part of the chicken’s DNA that produces the white part of eggs.
The chicken is not harmed during the modification and continues to lay eggs as normal, with no impact on their health. Once the eggs had been laid and cracked open, Dr Herron and her team discovered that the egg whites contained relatively large quantities of the required protein.
The drugs produced using genetically modified chickens are around 100 times cheaper to produce than when manufactured in laboratories or factories. Chicken sheds are much cheaper to build and maintain than a factory, especially with reduced need for highly sterile environments.
Dr Herron and her team focused on two main proteins that are vital for the human immune system: IFNalpha2a, which has powerful antiviral and anti-cancer effects, and macrophage-CSF, which is currently being developed to stimulate damaged tissue to repair itself.
To produce one dose of the drug, scientists will need three eggs, and the chickens can lay up to 300 eggs per year. With enough chickens, Dr Herron and her team believe that they will be able to produce drugs in commercial quantities. They are hopeful that the development of the drugs for human consumption will take around 10-20 years.
In the meantime, they believe the eggs will be able to be used to develop drugs for animal health. “For example, we could use (the drugs) in regenerating the liver or the kidneys or a pet that has suffered damage to these organs”, explained Dr Herron. By offering a cheaper, readily-available medicine alternative, there is hope to treat and cure more pets of potentially fatal illnesses.
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