Japanese scientists have genetically engineered chickens to lay eggs that contain disease-fighting drugs. The National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) is behind the medical feat. They’ve designed hens to lay eggs that contain a pharmaceutical agent that can be used to treat multiple diseases, including cancer, hepatitis and multiple sclerosis. The drug is interferon beta, which is a type of protein with antiviral properties.
Not only is this feat of science a convenient way to treat patients, it could also dramatically reduce the cost of medical treatment. Interferon beta currently costs up to 100,000 yen ($888) for a very small amount. Getting chickens to produce this substance in their eggs will make the drug incredibly cheap. The team behind the eggs aims to bring down the cost of the drug to just 10% of its current price through their miracle method.
The chickens were created using genome editing. First, genes that produce interferon beta were introduced to cells that were set to become chicken sperm. Those cells were then used to fertilize eggs that produce male chicks. The male chicks were crossbred with several females, who then produced the eggs containing the drug.
There are reportedly 3 hens that lay the interferon beta eggs almost every day. Researchers hope this leads to the development of more cheaply made drugs. But we may have to wait a while, as Japan has strict regulations around new or foreign pharmaceutical products.
The AIST is producing a range of other notable products, that will make life easier for all who use them. One such invention is a humanoid robot, the HRP-2 “Promet.” This robot could become an incredible domestic servant and is a massive improvement on other prototypes seen previously in Japan. It also developed a “Paro” or robot baby seal that is used as a surrogate for animal assisted therapy.