Researchers in Scotland say chickens could offer a cost effective way of producing drugs – by laying eggs filled with medicine.
Scientists at the University of Edinburgh have genetically modified their birds to produce human proteins in their eggs that boost the immune system. Mostly importantly, the chickens are laying eggs containing cancer-killing drugs.
“In the past, making these transgenic animals has been very inefficient, very expensive, and difficult. What we’ve done is found a method that makes it a lot faster a lot more efficient,” Professor Helen Sang said.
Scientists say the egg white contains the treasure – large quantities of medically important proteins which they can purify and package as medicines to treat arthritis and some cancers.
“If you want to have more eggs, you just need more birds. That’s why we have in this pen a cockerel… he can produce a lot of children in a short time,” Dr. Lissa Herron of Roslin Technologies explained.
Eggs are already used for growing viruses used in vaccines such as the annual flu shot.
Scientists say making medicine with eggs is up to 100 times cheaper than producing them in a factory. Currently they can extract one dose of a drug from three eggs.
Hens can lay up to 300 eggs a year. Researchers believe they can eventually breed enough chicks to produce medicine for patients commercially.