Avian flu has devastating consequences on poultry farms. To deal with this, scientists have attempted to genetically manipulate chickens to make them resistant to the disease. An experiment with promising results that nevertheless raises ethical questions.

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Since 2021, avian flu has devastated poultry farms around the world, leading to the killing of millions of domestic and wild animals, as well as huge economic losses. However, at present, no transmission to humans has been recorded, “The increasing frequency of transmission of these viruses among different species of mammals increases the risk of a new virus emerging influenza Better adapted to humans and capable of human-to-human transmission”Public health warns France.

So scientists have begun work on genome editing of chickens, not to be confused with genetic modification; The latter include bribebribe of a new one AshamedAshamedWhen’genome editinggenome editing This involves cutting a gene using “molecular scissors” and then correcting, repairing, or inactivating it to introduce characteristics. resistanceresistance For a particular disease, increase productivity and features that improve animal welfare.

very promising results

But, back to our chickens. So researchers began editing a gene to target proteinprotein ANP32A. Once the eggs hatch, these genetically modified chickens reach maturity without any negative effects on their health and well-being. In fact, they were even healthier than normal chickens! To test their immunity, they were first exposed to a low dose of the avian flu virus. Results: 9 out of 10 chickens showed complete resistance and there was no transmission in the group.

Our ultra-resistant chickens were also exposed to a higher synthetic dose of the virus, which was 1,000 times stronger than before. This time, 5 out of 10 genetically modified chickens were infected. If the results of their study, published in nature communication While encouraging, they nevertheless raise an ethical question: should we continue industrial farming and maintain our current consumption of meat? Or should we, on the contrary, minimize it and promote it despite progress BiotechnologyBiotechnologyA more ontological approach to our relationship with food?

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