Researchers at the University of Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute have genetically modified chickens so they lay eggs containing human proteins, which could then be used as drugs.

This new approach for drug production is said to be cheaper compared to manufacturing in factories.

During the research, the team observed that the new type of drugs worked similarly to the same proteins produced using existing methods.

The researchers noted that high quantities of the proteins can be recovered from each egg using a simple purification system. The researchers hope that the drugs could potentially be used in patients in the future.

Roslin Institute professor Helen Sang 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.”

Eggs have been used previously for growing viruses that are used as vaccines.However, the new method involves genetic modification of a chicken to encode therapeutic proteins in its DNA. The drugs are produced as part of the egg white.

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“This study shows that chickens are commercially viable for producing proteins suitable for drug discovery studies and other applications in biotechnology.”

Previously, it was demonstrated that genetically modified goats, rabbits and chickens can be used to produce protein therapies in their milk or eggs. Researchers claim that their new approach is more efficient and produces better yield compared to techniques used previously.

According to the researchers, three eggs were sufficient to produce a clinically relevant dose of the drug, and chickens can lay up to 300 eggs per year.

With enough chickens, the new approach is expected to be more cost-effective than other production methods for certain drugs.

The researchers initially focused on two proteins, IFNalpha2a and macrophage-CSF, which are considered essential to the immune system.

IFNalpha2a has antiviral and anti-cancer effects, while macrophage-CSF is being developed as a therapy that triggers damaged tissues to self-repair.

Protein-based drugs are commonly used for the treatment of cancer, but require production techniques that are expensive and have low yields. The new approach could offer a cheaper alternative with better yields.

The research was funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, and carried out in alliance with Roslin Technologies.