BOSTON (CBS) – Researchers in Scotland say they have found a way to have chickens lay eggs filled with medicine. It’s a method that could make some drugs much more affordable.
Scientists at The University of Edinburgh have genetically modified the birds to produce human proteins in their eggs that boost the immune system. Now, the chickens are laying eggs containing cancer-killing drugs.
“In the past, making these transgenic animals has been very inefficient very expensive and difficult,” says Professor Helen Sang of the Roslin Institute at The University of Edinburgh, “And what we’ve done is found a method that makes it a lot faster a lot more efficient.”
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,” explains Roslin Technologies’ Dr. Lissa Herron. “And that’s why we have in this pen a cockerel and he can produce a lot of children in a short time,” she adds.
Eggs are already used for growing viruses used in vaccines such as the flu shot.
Scientists say making medicine with eggs is up to 100-times cheaper than producing it in a factory. Currently, they can extract one dose of a drug from three eggs and hens can lay up to 300 eggs a year.
Researchers believe they can eventually breed enough chicks to produce medicine for patients commercially but say it will take 10 to 20 years to go through the regulatory process to make these types of medicines available for patients.