I think I've heard everything now..
Altered Hens Lay Eggs With Immune-Boosting Proteins (Update1)
By Demian McLean
Jan. 15 (Bloomberg) -- Genetically modified hens can make eggs containing a protein that's key to human immune systems, raising the possibility of lower-cost drugs to treat multiple sclerosis and cancer, according to a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
While biologists have used egg whites for at least three decades to create vaccines, modifying hens to create transgenic, or human, proteins is a new approach, according to the research team including Helen Sang U.K.-based Roslin Institute.
The protein, interferon beta 1-a, is traditionally produced in stainless-steel bioreactors in a lengthy and expensive process, said Doug Calder, a spokesman for Plantation, Florida- based Viragen Inc., which has partially funded Sang's research.
The hens might eventually serve as a sort of factory for monoclonal antibody therapies, the best-known of which is Herceptin, the cancer-fighting drug from Genentech Inc., the world's second-biggest biotechnology company, said Sang. She spoke from San Diego, California.
The European Union last year approved the first animal- produced transgenic protein for use in humans. ATryn, an anti- clotting agent, is extracted from the milk of goats that have had the human antithrombin gene inserted. Framingham, Massachusetts- based GTC Biotherapeutics Inc. makes the drug.
Sang and colleagues created transgenic hens by inserting the genes for the human proteins into the hen's gene for ovalbumin, which makes up about half of egg whites.
The team discovered that the egg whites from these hens contained functional therapeutic proteins: interferon beta-1a, an antiviral drug and miR24, a monoclonal antibody with potential for treating cancer.
To contact the reporter on this story: Demian McLean in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org