Science

Genetically-engineered hens produce birds of a different feather

Researchers edited chicken genes to develop hens that produce eggs from different breeds
Researchers edited chicken genes to develop hens that produce eggs from different breeds
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Researchers edited chicken genes to develop hens that produce eggs from different breeds
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Researchers edited chicken genes to develop hens that produce eggs from different breeds

Rare breeds of chickens could soon come from entirely different types of hens. The University of Edinburgh's Roslin Institute with help from US biotechnology company Recombinetics used gene editing techniques to create surrogate hens that grow up to produce eggs with all the genetic information of different breeds.

We've seen gene editing and transfer techniques used to create better yeast, bigger trees and even glowing pigs, among numerous other examples, but this is believed to be the first gene-edited bird to come out of Europe.

The team used a gene editing tool called TALEN (for transcription activator-like effector nucleases), which is similar to the more widely publicized CRISPR/Cas9, to delete part of a chicken gene called DDX4 that is related to fertility. Hens with this modification did not produce eggs but were healthy in all other ways.

The researchers could then take primordial germ cells – specialized cells that lead to the formation of eggs – and implant them into eggs that would eventually hatch into the genetically edited surrogate hens. These hens would then mature to produce eggs that are genetically whatever breed they had been implanted with at that early stage.

"These chickens are a first step in saving and protecting rare poultry breeds from loss in order to preserve future biodiversity of our poultry from both economic and climate stresses," said lead researcher Dr. Mike McGrew.

The research is published in the journal Development.

Source: University of Edinburgh

4 comments
Chizzy
this is the first step in creating an artificial womb. awesome, now to have them lay eggs for a different species, and suddenly we have dodo's again.
StWils
Exactly so. So, how long until the passenger pidgeon or the crested woodpecker, (from Louisiana swamps), get to be revived from the many preserved museum examples? How hard is it, and how long will it take to broaden the cheetah's genetic pool? Currently all cheetahs are their own close cousins and all are nearing an extinction horizon.
ljaques
Why does everyone want to reverse Mother Nature's natural trends? Species have been dying out since year 1 of life on this planet, and they're not going to stop any time soon. I'm not looking to the time when some geneticist screws up and make the movies Species, Alien, or Jurassic Park look like child's play, or release a bio-weapon which eats corn, or oil, or wood, or humans.
StWils
LJaques, you have an important point. Especially so about the research team that recently announced a viable 3 base DNA hand made bug that they are sure is harmless. Sure. It does remind me of the dialogue from Jurrasic Park about life always finding a way. However I do not see a problem with magenta or salmon pink geraniums, or eventually BLUE geraniums. And the same goes for reviving species we have a good set of dna for. Fairly routinely a very well preserved wooly mastodon emerges from the permafrost that are so diligently defrosting either in Canada or Siberia. I am not at all convinced that it would be wrong to try to revive extinct species when we can. A couple of years ago a container of well preserved wheat was found in an Egyptian tomb. Scientists were justifiably interested in examining the DNA of the wheat and I am sure any attached dried bacteria or pollen. Maybe there would be some useful information to be gained there. Man's activities are already harming the planet we need to pay attention to finding tools to counter those effects.
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