Gene-editing to stop the spread of bird flu in chickens

Bird flu
Copyright: iStock/burroblando

Researchers have edited the genes of lab grown chicken cells in order stop the spread of the bird flu virus.

As one of the largest global threats to farmed chickens, highly contagious bird flu can kill an entire flock of birds. With certain strains even killing humans, it is important for scientist to develop a way of stopping the spread of bird flu and eventually eradicating the disease.

Due to the gene-editing techniques used by researchers, they could possible create a modified bird flu resistant chicken.

“This is an important advance that suggests we may be able to use gene-editing techniques to produce chickens that are resistant to bird flu. We haven’t produced any birds yet and we need to check if the DNA change has any other effects on the bird cells before we can take this next step.” Dr Mike McGrew, Group Leader, Roslin Institute

The ANP34A molecule inside chicken cells allows flu viruses to replicate themselves aiding the scread of the disease. By removing the section of the DNA that produces ANP34A, scientist were able to stop the virus from being able to grow inside the chicken’s cell. This is a huge success for the poultry research group, Cobb-Vantress. However, Chickens possessing the DNA alteration have yet to be produced which will be the next step in the research.

“We have long known that chickens are a reservoir for flu viruses that might spark the next pandemic. In this research, we have identified the smallest possible genetic change we can make to chickens that can help to stop the virus taking hold. This has the potential to stop the next flu pandemic at its source.” Professor Wendy Barclay, Chair in Influenza Virology, Imperial College London

“Avian influenza resistance in broiler production is of global significance and this research is an important step toward that goal. It is exciting for Cobb to be a part of exploring new technologies that could be used to advance poultry breeding in the future.” Rachel Hawken, Senior Director of Genomics and Quantitative Genetics, Cobb-Vantress


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