They look like your usual breakfast fare, but eggs may play a critical role in treating cancer.
Origen Therapeutics is working to produce cancer fighting antibodies using chickens. "Well they're mini factories where we can create human therapeutics, purify them and then provide them to patients to treat diseases like cancer, infectious diseases, autoimmune diseases and so on," explained Robert Kay, Ph.D.
Researchers captured certain cells from eggs, grew and modified them in the lab.
Then, they squirted them back into another egg.
The goal is to produce special antibodies that can attach to cancer cells and signal to a patient's body they need to be destroyed. "What we hope is that the antibodies made in the chickens will actually perform better than the existing therapies," Dr. Kay said.
In addition to potentially helping treat colon and breast cancer, this process may be used to treat bacterial infections, rheumatoid arthritis and possibly even bird flu.
The company is about two years away from developing an injectable drug that can be tested. "You can see that these eggs have a window in them. What we do is take an egg, a normally laid egg from a hen. Then, we slice off the top and empty out the contents," scientist Christine Love explained.
This approach is much cheaper than traditional methods of growing antibodies and that's not all. "Well we think the advantages here are with the speed at which we can develop therapeutics," said Dr. Kay.
While some critics are opposed to altering chicken embryos, scientists say what hatches from this technology is worth pursuing if it can benefit patients in the future.
Another benefit, unlike chemo or radiation, which can kill healthy cells too, is that this approach can target only the cancer cells.