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5-Animals: GM chickens could help control bird flu



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TITLE:  GM chickens could help control bird flu
SOURCE: Australian Broadcasting Corporation, by Melanie Christiansen
        http://www.abc.net.au/pm/content/2005/s1471446.htm
DATE:   29 Sep 2005

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GM chickens could help control bird flu

MARK COLVIN: With global concern about a major outbreak of Asian bird
flu, some of the world's leading scientists are examining the possibility
of using genetically modified chickens to help control the spread of the
disease.

The CSIRO's Chris Prideaux says there's the potential to create chickens
which are immune to bird flu.

Mr Prideaux says that that will be on the agenda at an international
scientific conference on the Gold Coast next week, looking at
"redesigning animal agriculture".

And he thinks the need to respond to urgent health issues, like the Asian
bird flu, will help overturn public concern about the use of genetically
modified animals.

Chris Prideaux spoke to our reporter Melanie Christiansen.

CHRIS PRIDEAUX: Transgenic animals are, you know, available now. They're
not used in production. There's no transgenic animals used in the human
food supply or in just general medical at the moment. But that's the way
biotechnology may head in the future and that's one possible opportunity.

MELANIE CHRISTIANSEN: How far away do you think that is?

CHRIS PRIDEAUX: The science to get there is probably available in, you
know, the short to medium term - say the five to 10 years. But we also
have to deal with here is consumer acceptance of that type of product and
that may be a slower process.

MELANIE CHRISTIANSEN: So if we're looking at the first one off the mark
which is the most acceptable to consumers, what will be the first product
that is transgenic?

CHRIS PRIDEAUX: I think the first ones that we'll see picked up in the
animal industries, will be ones where there's consumer benefits. Where,
you know, they have health giving benefits to the consumer.

MELANIE CHRISTIANSEN: Give me some examples of likely transgenic ones
with pharmaceutical benefits?

CHRIS PRIDEAUX: Probably the biggest benefit that people talk in
pharmaceuticals is dairy cattle. People envision you can engineer a cow
to express proteins in its milk. So when you milk the cow, the milk
contains the protein that has a pharmaceutical benefit to humans.

And really, the potential there is quite wide - it's just a case of
picking your favourite protein or pharmaceutical for human benefit and
expressing it in the dairy cow and getting it secreted in the milk.

MELANIE CHRISTIANSEN: So insulin for diabetics?

CHRIS PRIDEAUX: Insulin for diabetics or you know, a full range of proteins.

Probably an early example of where milk is already adding value through
biotechnology is not through transgenics, but using dairy cattle to
produce antibodies in milk for travellers' diseases. So you can see you
know, instances where you can take that the next step and actually
engineer dairy cattle to express antibodies so that when you consume the
milk, you are getting antibodies to protect you against gut diseases and
other types of diseases.

MELANIE CHRISTIANSEN: Is there any potential here to use this technology
to say fight bird flu?

CHRIS PRIDEAUX: Yes.

There's a potential to produce transgenic chickens that are immune to
avian influenza or bird flu. The discovery that CSIRO made a couple of
years back now, was RNAI or RNA inhibition of viruses in particular. It's
a very old part of the immune system that was only just identified in the
last decade and its scientists are working to use RNAI molecules that
attack avian influenza, and engineer chickens so they'll express this
RNAI molecule and be naturally immune to chickens.

MELANIE CHRISTIANSEN: So this work is already happening? People are
trying to modify chickens so that they're naturally immune to bird flu?

CHRIS PRIDEAUX: Yep, that work is already underway in the UK and there's
a number of groups around the world looking at using transgenics to
produce production animals that are immune to disease.

MELANIE CHRISTIANSEN: With bird flu because there is such worldwide
concern about that, do you think that technology will actually come into
being sooner than others?

CHRIS PRIDEAUX: I think things like transgenic chickens that are
resistant to bird flu will meet consumer acceptance a lot quicker and
easier than other products, and so it wouldn't surprise me to see that
they'd be adopted a lot quicker and taken on board a lot quicker than
other transgenic animals.

MARK COLVIN: Chris Prideaux, Deputy Chief of the CSIRO's Livestock
Industries Division, talking to Melanie Christiansen.

*****

This is a transcript from PM. The program is broadcast around Australia
at 5:10pm on Radio National and 6:10pm on ABC Local Radio. You can also
listen to the story in REAL AUDIO and WINDOWS MEDIA and MP3 formats.




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