The next battle in the fight against cancer is not being waged in a factory. It’s going on inside genetically-modified chickens. Researchers at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland are producing chickens that can manufacture a particular protein that may eventually lead to cancer-fighting drugs for humans. The researchers have successfully encoded human proteins into chicken DNA, which then become accessible in their egg whites. One protein has anti-cancer properties, while another spurs tissue repair. “Production from chickens can cost anywhere from 10 to 100 times less than the factories," said a biochemist on the project.
Laying eggs to fight cancer:
- Only three eggs are needed to produce one medicinal dose, the researchers explained. Protein-based drugs used to treat diseases can be expensive to produce using more traditional methods.
- Drugs derived from genetically-modified animals have been approved by the FDA in the past. Approval for a blood thinner made from altered goat’s milk, for example, was green-lighted in 2009.
- The chickens in the research were modified over "several generations" to ensure their safety. Strict guidelines ensure that the birds will never enter the food supply, the university said.