The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Scientists of Dolly fame breed anti-cancer eggs

Thanks to U.K. scientists, eggs are now available sunny-side-up, scrambled or anti-cancerous. Researchers from the Roslin Institute, the research center that cloned the sheep, Dolly, have genetically engineered chickens that lay eggs containing proteins used in the production of anti-cancer drugs.

The proteins are contained in the chickens’ egg whites, which can be easily produced by chickens doing what they do best. The massive amounts of protein that can be obtained could potentially make future cancer-fighting drugs cheaper and more easily accessible to lower-income patients around the world.

“The idea of producing the proteins involved in treatments in flocks of laying hens means they can produce in bulk,” said Professor Harry Griffin, director of the Roslin Institute to the BBC. “They can produce cheaply and indeed the raw material for this production system is quite literally chicken feed.”

The cloning of Dolly was undertaken for similar reasons. According to the BBC, cloning was originally meant to replicate large farm mammals, to be used to “pharm” them as “biofactories,” carrying proteins that are pharmaceutically useful in their milk.

The “pharming” of larger mammals has been broadly successful but pharming chickens could be even more effective and much, much cheaper.

“You can breed up hundreds of birds from one cockerel,” said Dr. Helen Sang, leader of the project. “They can be bred with hundreds of hens and you can collect an egg a day and have hundreds of chicks in no time.”

Genetic engineering is a topic that has always engendered controversy, and the use of animals as “biofactories” is no different. Many fear for the animals’ well-being.

“The use of animals in scientific research has been necessary, but I’m not convinced that this is one of those instances,” said sophomore biology major and animal-rights activist Shaina Machlus. “But it would take a cold-hearted person to place animals above humans. I’d like to see further research done. The drug created by this protein has so many negative side effects. It is important that people don’t think it’s a cancer cure-all.”

The medicine created from the specific protein being bred into these chickens would be used to make drugs that are specifically designed to treat malignant skin cancer. Although, according to the BBC, three other protein strands useful in pharmaceuticals are also being studied.

“The use of animals in research is always a difficult question, and there is no easy answer,” said assistant professor of biology, Michele Malotky. “There are always two camps – one that says it’s always wrong and one that says the ends can justify the means. They have to look at ultimate benefits. Do the benefits outweigh the means?”

“They engineered the chickens so that the necessary protein only appears in the egg whites; no harm has to be done to the chickens in the extraction process,” Malotky added. “I look at the benefits of this research more in terms of the procedure than the specific drugs being manufactured. It could be that any protein-based drugs could be produced in this manner.”

The Roslin Institute’s initial batch has turned out about 500 genetically modified chickens. But the actual legalization and development of anti-cancer drugs gleaned from these proteins could take up to 10 years.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

The Guilfordian intends for this area to be used to foster healthy, thought-provoking discussion. Comments are expected to adhere to our standards and to be respectful and constructive. As such, we do not permit the use of profanity, foul language, personal attacks, or the use of language that might be interpreted as libelous. Comments are reviewed and must be approved by a moderator to ensure that they meet these standards. The Guilfordian does not allow anonymous comments, and requires a valid email address. The email address will not be displayed but will be used to confirm your comments.
All The Guilfordian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *