Genetic modification of chickens succeeds in resisting bird flu

Genetic modification of chickens succeeds in resisting bird flu

A new study shows that gene editing techniques can stop the spread of bird flu among chickens and reduce the risk of transmission to humans.
British scientists used CRISPR-Cas9, a powerful gene-editing tool, to restrict - but not completely prevent - the bird flu virus from infecting chickens.

Introducing genetically modified chickens produced in the laboratory to farms can limit the spread of the disease.

Although the team's method is designed only to prevent the spread of bird flu from chickens to chickens, it can also reduce the risk of transmission from chickens to humans.

Only rarely do strains of bird flu spread to humans, although experts worry that the outbreak could be the next big pandemic.

The new study was led by scientists at the University of Edinburgh, Imperial College London and the Pirbright Institute in Surrey.

Lead researcher Professor Mike McGraw, from the Roslin Institute at the University of Edinburgh, said: “Avian influenza poses a major threat to bird populations. Vaccination against the virus poses a number of challenges, with significant practical and cost issues associated with vaccine deployment. Genetic modification offers a promising route towards durable disease resistance. “Which can be transmitted across generations, which protects poultry and reduces risks to humans and wild birds.”

Gene editing changes an organism's DNA in ways that can be inherited by subsequent generations.

Many gene editing techniques allow genetic material to be added, removed or changed at specific sites in the genome, the complete set of DNA instructions contained in a cell.

During the recent study, scientists used the famous genome editing tool CRISPR-Cas9, which is used to make precise modifications to DNA.

CRISPR-Cas9 has been likened to a pair of genetic scissors, allowing small snippets of DNA to be removed and replaced.

The team edited part of the DNA responsible for producing a protein called ANP32A in chicken germ cells (precursors of reproductive cells).

During infection, influenza viruses hijack ANP32A to help replicate themselves.

Once fully grown in the laboratory, 10 genetically modified chickens were exposed to a normal dose of the strain of the virus that causes bird flu.

The team found that the vast majority of chickens (nine out of 10) remained uninfected and there was no spread to other chickens.

The birds showed no signs that the change in their DNA had any effect on their health or egg laying, according to the scientists.

To further test the birds' tolerance, the scientists then exposed the genetically modified birds to a much higher dose of the virus. Half the group (five out of 10) then became infected, although the genetic modification offered some protection.

They found that the amount of virus in infected transgenic chickens was much lower than the level typically seen during infection in non-transgenic chickens.

More importantly, the genetic modification also helped limit the spread of the virus to just one out of four natural, non-genetically modified chickens housed in the same incubator.

This highlights the ability of the modification to stop the spread of avian influenza among natural, unmodified chicken populations.

As expected, there was no transmission from one genetically modified bird to another.

Scientists say that additional genetic changes are needed for the virus to infect humans and spread effectively, as a result of mutations.

The results of the study were published in the journal Nature Communications.

China discovers an unprecedented ore containing a rare earth element that will boost battery technology

Geologists in China have discovered an unprecedented type of ore containing a rare earth element required for its superconducting properties.
Ore is a type of rock that contains minerals that contain metals in its composition. After the ore is extracted, it must be processed to obtain the desired metal or element.

The South China Morning Post reported that the ore, called "niobobaotite," contains niobium, barium, titanium, iron and chloride.

According to scientists, niobium is the most interesting ingredient in this discovered ore, as it is highly prized in the steel industry for its strength and has superconducting properties.

This light gray metal is currently used mostly in the production of steel, which is strengthened without adding significant weight. Niobium is also used in the manufacture of other alloys (materials made from a mixture of metals) and can be found in particle accelerators and other advanced scientific equipment because it is a superconductor at low temperatures, according to the Royal Society of Chemistry.

Neobautite was found in the Bayan Obo ore deposit in Baotou City in Inner Mongolia on October 3. The black-brown ore is the 17th new type found in the deposit and one of 150 new minerals found in the region, according to the Science Daily website, citing the China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC).

This discovery could be an unexpected gain for China, which currently imports 95% of its niobium needs, according to the South China Morning Post.

“Depending on the size and quality of this niobium, it could make China self-sufficient,” Antonio Castro Neto, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the National University of Singapore, told the newspaper.

Brazil is the world's largest supplier of the rare earth metal, and Canada comes in second place by a large margin.

The demand for the metal may also be greater in the future, as scientists work to develop lithium niobium and graphene niobium batteries.

According to S&P Global, these batteries can reduce the risk of fires when used with lithium. Lithium-niobium batteries also charge faster and can be recharged more often than traditional lithium batteries.
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