SCIENTISTS at the University of Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute have produced GM chickens that make human proteins in their eggs, offering a more cost-effective method of producing certain types of drugs.
The study published in BMC Biotechnology initially focused on producing high quality proteins for use in scientific research and later found the drugs work at least as well as the same proteins produced using existing methods.
According to a press statement on the university website, the scientists say 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.
The team genetically modified hens to produce the human protein IFNalpha2a, which has powerful anti-viral and anti-cancer effects.
The animals were also made to con Macrophage-CSF makes up part of the immune system and is being investigated as a therapy that stimulates damaged tissue to repair itself. tain human and pig versions of the protein macrophage-CSF.
Professor Helen Sang, in the statement said: “We are not yet producing medicines for people yet, but this study shows that chickens are commercially viable for producing proteins suitable for drug discovery studies and other applications in biotechnology.
Protein-based drugs, which include antibody therapies such as Avastin and Herceptin, are widely used for treating cancer and other diseases.
For some of these proteins, the only way to produce them with sufficient quality involves mammalian cell culture techniques, which are expensive and have low yields. Other methods require complex purification systems and additional processing techniques, which raise costs.
The scientists said eggs are already used for growing viruses that are used as vaccines, such as the flu jab, but his new approach is different because the therapeutic proteins are encoded in the chicken’s DNA and produced as part of the egg white.
Just three eggs were enough to produce a clinically relevant dose of the drug. As chickens can lay up to 300 eggs per year, the team says their approach could be more cost-effective than other production methods for some important drugs.
Research have previously shown that genetically modified goats, rabbits and chickens can be used to produce protein therapies in their milk or eggs. The researchers say their new approach is more efficient, produces better yields and is more cost-effective than these previous attempts.
The study was carried out at the University of Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute and Roslin Technologies, a company set up to commercialise research at The Roslin Institute.
Dr Lissa Herron, Head of the Avian Biopharming Business Unit at Roslin Technologies, said:
“We are excited to develop this technology to its full potential, not just for human therapeutics in the future but also in the fields of research and animal health.”