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- Scientists engineer flu-resistant chickens.
- Groundbreaking use of CRISPR gene-editing technology.
- First step towards reducing avian flu outbreaks.
A step forward in chicken health
In a monumental stride for poultry health, scientists, led by Helen Sang from the University of Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute, have successfully used CRISPR gene-editing technology to develop chickens with a strengthened resistance to avian flu.
The team altered a specific chicken gene, ANP32A, using CRISPR, a technology that allows scientists to make precise changes to DNA. ANP32A, when unaltered, allows avian flu to thrive in chickens.
The inspiration came from another gene, ANP32B, that is less susceptible to the flu virus due to a slight variance in its composition. The resulting genetically modified chickens demonstrated improved resistance to flu infection when exposed.
Encouraging results, yet hurdles remain
While this is a significant advancement, the journey is far from over. The CRISPR-edited chickens aren’t completely immune to the flu, especially when exposed to larger virus doses. Furthermore, there's a critical concern: the possibility that this genetic modification could encourage the development of new flu variants that might be better at infecting humans.
In detailed observations, the researchers noticed mutations in the viruses that were growing in the modified chickens. These mutations suggest that the flu virus might be capable of adapting to the genetic changes.
The next steps involve identifying and making additional tiny genetic changes that enhance resistance to the flu while ensuring the safety of both chickens and humans.