Scientists aim for clone cure to bird flu
SCOTTISH scientists are attempting to eliminate the threat of bird flu by creating a new breed of chicken that is resistant to the killer virus.
Researchers at the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh, where Dolly the Sheep was created, are using cloning technology to produce poultry that are genetically resistant to flu infection.
Working with scientists at Cambridge University they have already proved they can protect against flu viruses by inserting small pieces of DNA into cells in the laboratory.
And within the next couple of weeks they will begin implanting the genetic material into hen eggs in an attempt to produce the world's first flu-resistant chickens.
Dr Helen Sang, project leader at Roslin, said: "It is a long-term solution to a very real threat that has become so evident recently. We are due to begin the process of introducing the genetic material into the chickens and then challenging them with influenza to see if it is effective."
Bird flu is commonly found in wild birds and is spread as they migrate around the world, shedding the virus into areas populated by domestic poultry.
Although most bird flu is not infectious to humans, in the case of the highly contagious H5N1 strain it can be passed to humans who have had close contact with infected birds.
The scientists claim they will be able to make chickens resistant to all types of avian influenza, dramatically reducing the risk of humans catching the disease from birds.
Dr Laurence Tiley, who developed the resistance genes at Cambridge University, said: "Chickens provide a bridge between the wild bird population where avian influenza thrives and humans where new pandemic strains can emerge. Removing that bridge will dramatically reduce the risk posed by avian viruses to humans."
But he added it could be more than five years before the flu-resistant chickens will become widely available, probably too late to prevent the current avian flu crisis from hitting UK poultry farms.
He said: "Once we have had regulatory approval, we believe it will only take between four and five years to breed up enough chickens to replace the entire world population."
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Wednesday 19 June 2013
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