The chicken and egg problem has been given a new twist as researchers have found something special in the eggs of genetically modified chicken in the UK.
Researchers from the University of Edinburgh found that these eggs contain two proteins in significant amounts that can be used to treat many diseases including cancer.
The research involved splicing a human gene into the genome of the chicken which consequently produced this super useful phenotype, which the researchers say are more cost effective than current methods of protein production.
Lissa Herron, one of the researchers told BBC that the cost can plummet down 10 to 100 times than the existing method and are looking to lower the production costs at least by 10 times.
The 2 proteins in question – IFNalpha2a and macrophage-CSF are proteins that are naturally occurring in the human body which plays an integral part in the proper functioning of the immune system.
Doctors regularly prescribe drugs containing these proteins to augment the immune system in their fight against foreign bodies however artificially producing them in the lab is cumbersome and expensive.
Their study published in the journal BMC Biotechnology elucidated the method by which they were able to coax chicken DNA into producing these proteins. They inserted the human gene that encodes for these proteins into the genome of the chicken, specifically in the part which is responsible for the production of the white in its eggs.
When they then tested the egg whites laid by these genetically modified chickens, they were able to find these proteins in substantial amounts in 3 of the eggs.
Herron also says this procedure where an egg is laid through a recombinant DNA inside the chicken is pretty innocuous and doesn’t affect the health of the chicken in any way whatsoever.
Though the preliminary results look promising, they have a long way to go before they get approval from regulatory bodies for use in humans any drugs that are essentially a product of genetic modification however they could serve a purpose until then.
Researcher Helen Sang told BBC that though they are not developing medicines for people with this method, it can be shown that it’s a commercially viable option for producing proteins and could have other applications in biotechnology.