MAR 01, 2017 1:33 PM PST

Researchers Find Way to Produce Rarer Chicken Breeds With Gene-Editing Technique

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

When it comes to the world of chickens, some breeds are more readily available than others, and this tends to be a problem. As numbers of more unique breeds run thin, there is the very real threat that they could cease to exist at some point in the future.

To combat this problem, scientists are working on ways to help breeders maintain a steady supply of the chicken breeds that are in higher demand, and one way that recently showed a positive impact on sustaining them is gene-editing.

Could gene editing help pave the way for forcing the breeding of rare bird species?

Image Credit: Norrie Russell, The Roslin Institute

Published in the journal Development, scientists from the University of Edinburgh's Roslin Institute discuss how they are able to use TALEN (a genetic tool) to modify a gene known as DDX4 to produce a surrogate chicken that can lay eggs from different chicken breeds. This gene is important, as it propagates fertility in many bird species.

According to the study, the genetically-modified hens are unable to lay eggs on their own, but by implanting germ cells from other chicken breeds into the embryos of surrogate chickens before they hatch, it’s possible to force them to lay specific kinds of eggs that will eventually hatch into a more desired breed.

Germ cells are important in this process because they are the building blocks of egg production in avian creatures like chickens. By taking the germ cells that are hard-coded to a specific chicken breed and implanting them into undeveloped genetically-modified chicken egg, the hatchling will be capable of laying eggs based off of the breed the germ cells came from originally.

As implied, the process that started with the single surrogate has the potential to produce multiple hatchings that will grow up to be completely healthy and continue (on their own) the chain of reproducing the desired breed for generations to come.

“These chickens are a first step in saving and protecting rare poultry breeds from loss in order to preserve future biodiversity of our poultry from both economic and climate stresses,” said one of the study's authors, Dr Mike McGrew.

For what it’s worth, even the surrogate chicken remained completely healthy, that is if you don’t count the fact that they can’t lay eggs on their own. This is also the first time ever that a genetically-modified bird species has been produced in Europe, which in itself is a major achievement.

This kind of gene-editing could save not only rare chicken breeds from vanishing off of the face of the Earth, but also other species of birds as well, so it should be interesting to see how this kind of breakthrough technology can change the future of avian creatures.

Source: University of Edinburgh via Phys.org

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
MAR 22, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
MAR 22, 2020
The Evolutionary Origins of the Human Hand
An ancient fish fossil has given researchers new insight into how fish fins eventually evolved into human hands.
MAR 22, 2020
Plants & Animals
MAR 22, 2020
Narwhals With Larger Tusks Have a Better Chance of Finding a Mate
Narwhals are often referred to as the ‘unicorns of the sea’ because of the unicorn-esque tusks they grow on ...
APR 14, 2020
Plants & Animals
APR 14, 2020
Why Are Bats So Resistant to Viruses?
Bats are some of the most infamous carriers of zoonotic viruses, which are viruses capable of spreading between both ani ...
APR 19, 2020
Plants & Animals
APR 19, 2020
Flamingos Understand the Value of Friendship
Most of the time, wild flamingos are observed in massive flocks as opposed to hanging out on their own. It’s evide ...
APR 28, 2020
Plants & Animals
APR 28, 2020
Young Orangutans Must Learn a Lot Before Adulthood
Orangutans watch over their children for longer periods than any other primate besides humans. On average, most organs t ...
MAY 10, 2020
Plants & Animals
MAY 10, 2020
'Murder Hornets' Are Now in the U.S., So Now What?
Most people cringe at the thought of getting stung by a bee, let alone hornets or wasps, with the latter tending to be m ...
Loading Comments...