Gene editing blocks spread of bird flu

GLOBAL BIRD FLU RI Farm
VIRUS: UK scientists prevent the flu virus from taking hold by gene-editing chicken DNA. PICTURE: Roslin Institute

SCIENTISTS have used gene-editing techniques to stop the bird flu virus from spreading in chicken cells grown in the lab.

The advance – by deleting a section of chicken DNA inside lab-grown cells – raises the possibility of producing gene-edited chickens that are resistant to the disease.

The researchers at Imperial College London and the University of Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute say the next step will be to try to produce chickens with the genetic change.

They targeted a specific molecule inside chicken cells called ANP32A after they found that during an infection flu viruses hijack this molecule to help replicate themselves.

Gene-editing techniques we-

re used to remove the section of DNA responsible for producing ANP32A and found the virus was no longer able to grow inside cells with the genetic change.

Bird flu is a major threat to farmed chickens, with severe strains killing up to 100 per cent of birds in a flock. In rare instances, certain variations of the virus can infect people and cause serious illness. Efforts to control the spread of the disease are urgently needed.

The Roslin Institute pre-viously worked with experts from Cambridge University to produce chickens that do not transmit bird flu to other chickens following infection, using genetic modification techniques.

The new approach does not involve introducing new genetic material into the bird’s DNA.

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