Hens that lay human proteins in eggs offer future therapy hope

28/01/2019

Chickens that are genetically modified to produce human proteins in their eggs can offer a cost-effective method of producing certain types of drugs, research suggests.

The research was carried out at The University of Edinburgh’s The Roslin Institute, which receives strategic funding from UKRI’s Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.

The study - which has initially focused on producing high quality proteins for use in scientific research - found the drugs work at least as well as the same proteins produced using existing methods.

High quantities of the proteins can be recovered from each egg using a simple purification system and there are no adverse effects on the chickens themselves, which lay eggs as normal.

Researchers say the findings provide sound evidence for using chickens as a cheap method of producing high quality drugs for use in research studies and, potentially one day, in patients.

Eggs are already used for growing viruses that are used as vaccines, such as the flu jab. This new approach is different because the therapeutic proteins are encoded in the chicken’s DNA and produced as part of the egg white.

Professor Helen Sang, of The University of Edinburgh’s The Roslin Institute, said: “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.”

The research is published in BMC Biotechnology.

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