CBS Local — Which came first, the mutant chicken or the cancer-fighting egg? That’s the interesting new question scientists in Japan are experimenting with in the quest to cure cancer.

Researchers from the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) in Japan’s Kansai region are using genetically engineered hens to lay cancer-battling eggs. To create the medicated eggs, scientists modified the chickens’ genes so they will produce eggs full of the disease-fighting drug interferon beta.

Interferons are a type of protein that is used to treat various diseases like multiple sclerosis, hepatitis, and cancer. Cancer patients can take the drug through injections three times a week to prevent cancer cells from multiplying and fight tumors. The treatments are extremely expensive and can reportedly cost between $250 and $900 for just a small amount of interferon.

According to reports, there are three females that are each laying eggs every few days. The research team hopes to be able to regularly produce eggs carrying up to 100 milligrams of interferon beta in each one. The breakthrough of easily produced drugs would likely result in dramatically reduced costs for the cancer-fighting agent.

“This is a result that we hope leads to the development of cheap drugs,” Osaka University’s Hironobu Hojo told The Japan News. “In the future, it will be necessary to closely examine the characteristics of the agents contained in the eggs and determine their safety as pharmaceutical products.”


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