A Kyoto University professor has found a way to create huge quantities of protective avian influenza (bird flu) antibodies using nature's largest egg, that of the ostrich.
Bird flu may be a new and frightening disease to us, but our feathered friends themselves have been dealing with it for untold millennia. Over time, they've built up natural antibodies to the influenza virus, which they store in their eggs to protect the developing chicks.
Prof. Yasuhiro Tsukamoto of Japan's Kyoto Prefectural University began investigating ostrich eggs because the 300 lb. flightless birds are notably resistant to viral infections – not to mention, their eggs are the largest on earth.
Using a technique invented and refined at the university, Tsukamoto has been able to ramp up the ostrich's natural production of avian flu antibodies to the point where 80,000 surgical masks can be treated. Plans are afoot to begin offering the treated masks for sale in autumn of 2008.
The new antibody production technique shows promise in other areas as well, according to Prof. Tsukamoto. For example, ostriches (which can live up to 40 years) can be induced to create antibodies against human influenza viruses. As well, the huge size of an individual ostrich egg means that as many as 20,000 people can be treated with test drugs created with antibodies sourced from a single egg! (via Yomiuri Shimbun)