According to a BBC report,researchers have genetically modified chickens that can lay eggs that contain drugs for arthritis and some cancers.
The drugs are 100 times cheaper to produce when laid than when manufactured in factories.
The researchers believe that in time production can be scaled up to produce medicines in commercial quantities.
After researchers from the University of Edinburgh spliced a human gene into the chickens’ DNA, the animals began laying eggs boasting a significant amount of two proteins used to treat diseases including cancer in humans — and the process, they say, is far cheaper than current methods of protein production.
The chickens do not suffer and are "pampered" compared to farm animals, according to Dr Lissa Herron, of Roslin Technologies in Edinburgh.
“Production from chickens can cost anywhere from 10 to 100 times less than the factories,” researcher Lissa Herron told the BBC. “So hopefully we’ll be looking at at least 10 times lower overall manufacturing cost.”
The human body naturally produces the proteins found in the new hen eggs — IFNalpha2a and macrophage-CSF, if you’re wondering — and they each play an important role in the immune system. Drugs containing both proteins are widely used by doctors to treat cancers and other diseases, but producing the proteins in the lab is difficult and expensive.
For their study, published in the journal BMC Biotechnology, the Edinburgh researchers inserted the gene that produces the proteins in humans into the part of the chickens’ DNA that handles the production of the white in its eggs. When they tested the hens’ eggs, they found that just three eggs contained a dose-worth of the proteins.
"As far as the chicken knows, it's just laying a normal egg. It doesn't affect its health in any way, it's just chugging away, laying eggs as normal."
"They live in very large pens. They are fed and watered and looked after on a daily basis by highly trained technicians, and live quite a comfortable life.
Scientists have previously shown that genetically modified goats, rabbits and chickens can be used to produce protein therapies in their milk or eggs. The researchers say their new approach is more efficient, produces better yields and is more cost-effective than these previous attempts.