Researchers develop surrogate hens to save rare breeds

Researchers have developed hens that do not produce their own chicks and can be used as surrogates to lay eggs from rare breeds.

Using gene-editing techniques, this could help to boost breeding of endangered birds, as well as improving production of commercial hens, researchers wrote in the study published in the journal Development.

A team led by the University of Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute used a genetic tool called TALEN to delete a section of chicken DNA. They targeted part of a gene called DDX4, which is crucial for bird fertility.

“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 lead researcher Mike McGrew from the University of Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute.

Researchers noted that donor primordial germ cells from other breeds could be implanted into the gene-edited chickens as they are developing inside an egg.

The surrogate hens would then grow up to produce eggs containing all of the genetic information from the donor breeds.

The surrogate chickens are the first gene-edited birds to be produced in Europe.—IANS

Image: The Roslin Institute

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