Scientists use gene editing to make chickens more resistant to bird flu

Bird flu has long been suspected to be the next pandemic because it jumps from birds to humans. Therefore, scientists are working hard to find solutions to this serious problem. In 2019, a team from the University of Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute (the center of Dolly the Sheep’s birth) and Imperial College London used gene-editing tools to stop the spread of avian influenza viruses in chicken cells grown in the lab. They are resistant.

The findings open the possibility of producing genetically modified chickens that are resistant to the disease.

Well, that’s exactly what a study just published in Nature Communications concluded, which found that editing a protein necessary for the development of avian influenza in chickens, called ANP32A, inhibits two related genes ( ANP32B and ANP32E), if put into cells, they will prevent the virus from replicating from one animal to another.

Scientists are using gene-editing technology to identify and alter parts of chicken DNA to limit the spread of avian influenza viruses in the animals.

By changing a small part of the chicken’s DNA, the researchers were able to limit, but not completely prevent, the virus from infecting the chickens.

There is no indication that the changes in the birds’ DNA have any impact on their health or well-being.

The findings are an encouraging step forward, but Experts stress that more genetic modification is needed to create chickens that are immune to bird fluone of the most costly animal diseases in the world.

“Avian influenza is widespread in Asia, Europe, Africa and the Americas, especially South America, and there are fears it could reach Antarctica,” University of Edinburgh researcher Mike McGrew explained in a press release introducing the study. Effie .

By changing a small part of the chicken’s DNA, the researchers were able to limit, but not completely prevent, the virus from infecting the chickens.

McGrew recalled that the virus posed a threat to wild bird species, caused huge economic losses to livestock farmers, and posed a threat to human health; in fact, it had caused human deaths.

Several years ago, Wendy Barclay, a scientist at Imperial College London and an author on the study, isolated the protein that carries the virus, taking the first step toward breeding chickens that are resistant to the virus. step.

Now, researchers have successfully edited this protein in chicken germ cells to minimize the activity of influenza A.

«We found that adult chickens with edited ANP32A protein are resistant to physiological doses of influenza A virus exposurefrom other infected birds, and showed better resilience to the disease,” McGrew said.

Additionally, the chickens were followed for more than two years after receiving a dose of the virus and experienced no virus-related health problems or effects on their egg production.

Transmission resistance

Gene editing offers a promising path to permanent disease resistance that could passed down from generation to generation, protect poultry and reduce risks to humans and wild birds. Our work shows that stopping the spread of avian influenza in chickens requires multiple genetic changes simultaneously.

The next step will be to try to breed chickens with all three genes modified. No birds have been produced yet.

Study highlights importance of responsible gene editing Experts say that if complete resistance is not achieved, we need to be alert to the risk of the virus evolving in an undesirable direction.

Avian influenza is a major global threat, causing devastating impacts on wild and farmed bird populations.

In rare cases, avian influenza viruses mutate so that they can infect humans and cause severe illness. Efforts to control the spread of the disease are urgently needed.

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