These chickens were genetically modified by Scottish researchers, who say that this method is 100 times cheaper than producing the drugs in factories
We already knew about presence of genetically modified ingredients in our food and also that animals were being gene-edited feed, but now animals too are being altered for human benefit. Researchers have modified the gene of chickens so as to make them lay eggs that will have drugs to treat patients with cancer and arthritis, find researchers from the Roslin Institute at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.
Lissa Herron of Roslin Technologies in Edinburgh says the chickens, which were experimented on, were not mistreated rather they were pampered. “We are excited to develop this technology to its full potential, not just for human therapeutics in the future but also in the fields of research and animal health,” says Herron.
The study offers a cost-effective method to produce certain types of drugs. High quantities of proteins can be recovered from each egg using a simple purification system. The researchers have ensured the egg whites have two proteins that are essential to the immune system and have therapeutic potential —IFNalpha2a, which has powerful antiviral and anti-cancer effects and macrophage-CSF, which is being developed as a therapy that stimulates damaged tissues to repair themselves.
The research, published in the journal BMC Biotechnology, says the global market for protein drugs has the highest compound annual growth rate of any pharmaceutical class but what it lacks is the availability. The high cost of manufacture and validation of these drugs compared to traditional chemical drugs makes it difficult for them to be produced in large quantities and be supplied everywhere.
“Our work optimizes and validates a transgenic chicken system for the cost-effective production of pure, high quality, biologically active protein for therapeutics and other applications,” say the researchers.
Also, the Edinburgh researchers found that this method is expected to be 100 times cheaper than producing the drugs in factories and chickens are best suited to produce the drug. “Interest in developing the laying hen as a bioreactor is based on the high protein synthetic capacity of the hen: an average 60 grams egg contains nearly 3.5 g of protein in the egg white and each hen may lay over 300 eggs per year. Also, chickens are relatively inexpensive to keep,” says the study. “Chickens have closely-related glycosylation patterns to humans, which may result in reduced immunogenicity of biologics from egg white, as well as improving functionality of proteins where glycosylation is required for activity,” it adds.
The researchers believe that it would take them decades to get regulatory approvals to ensure this drug reaches people. “We are not yet producing medicines for people, but this study shows that chickens are commercially viable for producing proteins suitable for drug discovery studies and other applications in biotechnology,” says Helen Sang from The Roslin Institute.
We are a voice to you; you have been a support to us. Together we build journalism that is independent, credible and fearless. You can further help us by making a donation. This will mean a lot for our ability to bring you news, perspectives and analysis from the ground so that we can make change together.
Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.