Researchers in the UK have edited chicken cells in the lab to be resistant to bird flu, Reuters reports.
It notes that bird flu can pass quickly been wild birds and poultry, and sometimes infect humans, which many health officials see a major concern as it could lead to a pandemic.
By using the CRISPR gene-editing tool to disrupt the production of the ANP32 protein, researchers from Imperial College London and the University of Edinburgh prevented the virus from spreading in chicken cells in the lab. The bird flu virus relies on the ANP32 protein to infect its host, Reuters notes.
The researchers tell Reuters that they first need to explore what any other effects of making this gene edit might be before developing chickens with the alteration. Still, the Roslin Institute's Mike McGrew, who co-led the work, says in a statement that "[t]his is an important advance that suggests we may be able to use gene-editing techniques to produce chickens that are resistant to bird flu."