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Monday 25th June 2018

GM hens fight cancer

15th January 2007

01052006_birdflu1.jpgUK scientists have cloned genetically modified chickens capable of fighting human cancers.

10 years after Dolly the sheep was created, scientists at the same centre (The Roslin Institute, near Edinburgh) say they have produced five generations of chickens that can lay eggs containing the proteins needed to make cancer-fighting drugs. By injecting small amounts of proteins into the whites of first generation eggs, the institute has been able to rear subsequent generations of birds that can now produce useful levels of life-saving proteins in egg whites.  The Institute has bred over 500 modified birds during its 15-year research programme.

Other scientists have already made a range of therapeutic proteins such as insulin in the milk of genetically modified sheep, goats, cows and rabbits - the work at Roslin shows it is now also possible to use chickens as "bio-factories".  Some of the birds have been engineered to lay eggs that contain miR24, a type of antibody with potential for treating malignant melanoma, a form of skin cancer. Others produce human interferon b-1a, which can be used to stop viruses replicating in cells.

The scientists hope their work will lead to the production drugs that are cheaper and easier to make.  A spokesperson for The Roslin Institute said, "One of the characteristics of lots of medical treatments these days is that they're very expensive.  The idea of producing the proteins involved in treatments in flocks of laying hens means they can produce in bulk, they can produce cheaply and indeed the raw material for this production system is quite literally chicken feed."



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