Genetically-modified chicken sperm key to creating cancer-fighting eggs
The team of scientists from the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) in the Kansai region of Japan used genome-editing on chicken DNA by introducing genes that produce interferon beta into the precursors of chicken sperm.
Interferon beta is a type of protein used in treatments for a multitude of diseases including multiple sclerosis (MS), certain types of cancer and even hepatitis.
“This is a result that we hope leads to the development of cheap drugs,” Professor Hironobu Hojo at Osaka University said, as cited by The Yomiuri Shimbun.
For reference, just a few micrograms of interferon beta can cost up to 100,000 yen ($888), but the team eventually hopes to harvest up to 100 milligrams from just one egg.
“In the future, it will be necessary to closely examine the characteristics of the agents contained in the eggs and determine their safety as pharmaceutical products,” Hojo added.
At present, the scientists have a total of three hens which produce these ‘weaponized’ eggs on an almost daily basis.
The researchers plan to sell the interferon beta to pharmaceutical companies, which will reportedly cut their research and development overheads in half. This in turn, theoretically at least, could soon provide major savings to patients and hospitals around the world once the next generation of anticancer drugs pass medical trials.
The team hopes the breakthrough will eventually drive down the cost of Interferon Beta to approximately 10 percent of its current cost.
Japanese consumers will have to wait, however, as the country has extremely strict regulatory processes in place when it comes to the development of new pharmaceutical drugs.