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Articles on Cloned cattle and GMO chickens and crops

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Chicken Eggs can Produce Cancer Drugs
Blogger News Network, 14 January 2007. By Christine Burke.

Scientists in the UK have genetically modified chickens to that can lay eggs capable of producing proteins used in cancer drugs. The birds were created by the Roslin Institute, which also created the lamb Dolly ten years ago.It is not the first time scientists attempted to use animals, or animal products, as "drug factories". In fact, the label "drug factory" carries a pretty negative tone without reason. The animals themselves are not harmed by this procedure, and do not physically "notice" they are producing these life saving proteins in their egg whites. This method does give the pharmaceutical industry a much cheaper and easier method of creating compounds necessary for drugs, and is considered a major breakthrough.

There is still a long way to go: the project took fifteen years to come this far, and it will be another ten years until a drug is actually developed from these proteins. This is however not an unreasonable amount of time in drug-development terms.

GMO animals and animal products have been receiving criticism since the moment the concept hit the media. However, proteins like insulin are already produced in genetically modified bacteria for years. Somehow people do not seem to care equally about GMO bacteria as they do about other organisms, or are just less aware. Certain proteins are too complex to be produced in bacteria though, are need more complex systems to produce them. In this case chicken eggs are a perfect medium to produce complex proteins in.

Roslin Institute has engineered eggs that produce the antibody miR24, which can potentially be used to treat malignant melanoma.


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GM hens lay eggs to fight cancer
The Sunday Times, January 14 2007. By Jonathan Leake, Science Editor.


SCIENTISTS have created the world's first breed of designer chickens, genetically modified to lay eggs capable of producing drugs that fight cancer and other life-threatening diseases.

Researchers at the Roslin Institute near Edinburgh, which created Dolly the cloned sheep, have bred a 500-strong flock of the birds.

The breakthrough offers the prospect of mass-producing drugs that currently cost the NHS thousands of pounds a year per patient, at a fraction of the price.

The ISA Browns, a common breed of egg-laying hen, have each had human genes added to their DNA to enable them to produce complex medicinal proteins. These human proteins are secreted into the whites of the birds' eggs, from which they can be easily extracted to produce drugs.

The Roslin scientists have achieved a world first in creating birds that "breed true", meaning the added human genes are passed on from generation to generation. This opens the way for the creation of industrial-scale flocks and offers a potentially unlimited cheap source of medicinal proteins.

One of the chicken lines produces human interferon of a kind closely resembling a drug widely used to treat multiple sclerosis. Such drugs have a potential worldwide market worth hundreds of millions.

Another line could be useful in treating skin cancer, by producing miR24, an antibody that could also potentially treat arthritis, which afflicts 7m people in Britain.

The institute is understood to have created at least two other lines of genetically modified chicken, whose eggs could produce drugs with the potential to fight cancer.

The research is a triumph for Dr Helen Sang, the leader of the Roslin team who, since 1997, has sought to make the technique work without new genes being lost as they are transmitted down the generations. Ian Wilmut, the Edinburgh University professor who created Dolly at Roslin, was an adviser on the project.

"This is potentially a very powerful new way to produce specialised drugs," said Dr Karen Jervis of Viragen Scotland, a biotech company that is working closely with Roslin. "We have bred five generations of chickens so far and they all keep producing high concentrations of pharmaceuticals."

Other researchers have already produced transgenic chickens - with artificially altered DNA - but the ability to make desirable proteins has generally vanished in a generation or two.

At present, therapeutic proteins are mainly made in bio-reactors, vats of bacteria or other cells that have been genetically modified. However, extracting the relevant proteins is expensive and difficult.

In Roslin's research - to be published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences tomorrow - the scientists will describe how they extracted embryonic cockerels from hens, before the eggs had formed.

The embryos, just small clusters of cells, were then each injected into surrogate eggs and "infected" with a virus genetically modified to contain human genes. These genes contained the blueprint for the human proteins that the researchers were trying to produce.

The virus carried those human genes into the cells of the embryonic cockerels where they became incorporated into the bird's DNA.

When the so-called "founder cockerels" hatched, they were mated with ordinary female hens. Their progeny were found to contain the same human genes and, to the delight of the researchers, the females all produced the desired protein in their eggs.

"In theory, this technique could be used with a wide range of genes, so that hens could be used to make many different proteins," said Andrew Wood of Oxford BioMedica, whose researchers collaborated on the project. "Potentially, this could lead to treatments for ill-nesses including Parkinson's Disease, diabetes and a range of cancers."

The ISA Brown, a French breed that is a cross between Rhode Island Red and Rhode Island White chickens, produces about 300 eggs, per hen, a year.

Some scientists are cautious about the advance, pointing out that biotechnology firms have been promising a new generation of drugs from transgenic animals for nearly two decades.

So far, however, perhaps the world's most successful transgenic animal is the glofish - a tropical fish modified with DNA from a sea anemone and a jelly fish to give it a fluorescent skin. It is used as a pet.

Last year saw a breakthrough for such technologies when European regulators approved the world«s first medicine derived from transgenic animals. ATryn, an anticlotting agent for people with a rare inherited disease, is made from the milk of goats whose DNA has been modified to incorporate human genes.

Dr Barbara Glenn of Bio, which represents the American biotech industry, said the Roslin research was likely to be the first of many similar breakthroughs. "This technique is simply a way of producing human proteins, which is why it is applicable to so many different diseases," she said.

For the NHS, the hope is that such technologies will help to minimise its annual bill for prescription drugs which was £8 billion last year; an increase of 46% since 2000.

Andrew Tyler, the director of Animal Aid, which campaigns to improve animal welfare, said genetically manipulating farm animals was a reckless and dangerous procedure. "The fallout for the animals of creating GM individuals in enormous. The modification process produces many casualties, with young animals being born with defects and females suffering miscarriages and other problems," he said.


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Trust in British food 'threatened by birth of calf'

The Telegraph, 11 January 2006. By Nicole Martin, and Nick Britten.

The Government was accused yesterday of "inexcusable and irresponsible" behaviour after it emerged that the calf of an American cloned cow had been born on a British farm.

Animal welfare campaigners said the birth last month of Dundee Paradise at a Shropshire farm without the Government's knowledge would undermine trust in British farming.

It would also undermine trust in British food because it raised the possibility of the calf's milk entering the human food chain, they claimed. Cloned animals and their offspring have not been used before in British commercial farming.

But supporters of cloning said a five-year study by the US Food and Drug Administration had concluded last month that "meat and milk from clones and their offspring are as safe as food we eat every day".

Dundee Paradise is the daughter of a clone, Vandyk K Integ Paradise 2, created in the US by the company Cyagra Clone using cells from a champion dairy Holstein, Vandyk K Integ Paradise.

"Vandyk-K Integrity Paradise, the two time Supreme Champion at the World Dairy Expo, was an easy choice for her owners to clone," said the company. "When you have an individual this good you need to have more copies of her to realise her true value."

The procedure, which cost about £9,800, involved removing eggs from the clone, fertilising them in a laboratory and implanting them into a surrogate cow.

The British farm bought five embryos from America to be implanted into its Holsteins. The others are expected to be born in the next few weeks.

Mark Rueth, 45, a farmer in Oxford, Wisconsin, who owns the clone cow and sold the embryos, said yesterday that the procedure made sense "because it increases the genetic base of an elite cow".

Those in favour of cloning say that an animal clone is a genetic copy. It is not the same as genetic engineering, which involves altering, adding or deleting DNA. Supporters believe that the technology is fundamental to the success of the farming industry, enabling farmers to replicate elite livestock.

Dr Barbara Glenn, the managing director of the department of animal biotechnology at Bio, the trade association for the biotechnology industry in America, said cloning could help farmers to develop animals resistant to pandemic diseases such as foot and mouth.

"We are talking about assisted reproductive technology," she said. "It allows farmers to produce more reliable, healthier animals capable of producing more nutritious meat and milk."

The Government rejected advice by the Farm Animal Welfare Council in 2004 to set up a committee to monitor attempts to introduce cloning to the commercial farming industry.

Lord Melchett, the policy director of the Soil Association, said the Government's failure to impose regulatory controls on such a practice was "inexcusable".

"The news that this has arrived without any checks and without any controls from the Government, despite the fact that they were advised by the Government advisory committee to introduce controls, will undermine trust in British farming and British food," he said.

"It is irresponsible and bad for the industry. There should be a moratorium on any use of any cloned animals or the offspring of any cloned animals. I have seen absolutely no evidence that consumers want this and lots of evidence which suggests that consumers are very uneasy about the idea of eating meat from cloned animals or drinking milk from clone animals."

Since the days of pioneering British clones such as the sheep Dolly, Megan and Morag, cloners have noted low pregnancy rates and a condition called large offspring syndrome.

Peter Stevenson, the chief policy adviser at Compassion for World Farming, said he was "horrified" by the news that the offspring of a cloned animal was born in Britain.

"Cloning is an incredibly invasive surgical procedure that causes health and welfare problems for all the animals involved," he said. "It is doubly worrying that there is no safeguard in place to avoid serious animal welfare and ethical problems from the introduction of this Frankenstein technology." Andrew Praill, the honorary secretary of the British Cattle Veterinary Association, said: "Our worries are whether the right safeguards are in place to ensure that there are no problems as a result of a trade in cloned embryos, such as genetic traits from chromosomal changes."

A spokesman for the Department for Food and Rural Affairs said the Government did not believe that any animal health and welfare regulations had been contravened.

"From an animal health point of view there are no specific EU regulations that govern the import of cloned animals or embryos other than those health and welfare conditions that must be met for all embryos or animals." he said.

"EU animal health rules do not require us to differentiate cloned from normal embryos and we do not see the need to 'gold plate' this issue."

The company that owns the calf refused to comment last night.
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