Researchers in the UK have successfully hatched chickens in a lab that shows a resistance to the bird flu.
Since 2022, nearly 50 million chickens in the US alone have been destroyed because of H5N1 Avian Flu.
The number is estimated at 131 million globally.
But now there might be hope for a cure as scientists have effectively edited chicken RNA proteins that are susceptible to the disease.
Using CRISPR, which allows scientists to snip segments of DNA or RNA and replace it with others, was used to edit a protein gene identified as ANP32A.
Scientists clipped this gene and replaced it with another that is resistant to H5N1.
That gene was then injected into eggs which produced chickens that are much more resistant to the current variety of bird flu.
This edited gene will then be passed along to any eggs produced by these chickens.
While we are a long way from a cure, this newest development holds the promise of genetic resistance to viruses.
“It’s still very early stages in terms of getting this up and running to chickens worldwide, but it’s a really neat first step,” said Ceili Peng, a doctoral student at Massachusetts Institute of Technology
While it is unusual for the Avian Flu to transfer to humans, it does occur and from 2003 to 2023 over 800 cases have been reported in humans, with over half of those cases being fatal.
CRISPR holds the promise of similar generic cures for hereditary diseases such as hemophilia, Alzheimers, Huntington’s Disease and Parkinson’s.
But this same technology opens up many ethical questions about genetic improvements to the human body.