Nanotechnology-based chicken feed?

Nanotechnology-based chicken feed?

Summary: In order to keep healthy the 200 million chicken raised in South Carolina -- and the humans who ate them -- Clemson University researchers are using nanoparticles. They call this 'intelligent chicken feed.' They have built 'nanoparticles that mimic the host cell surface and lock to targeted pathogens. The particles then bind together and are purged through the digestive system.' Personally, I have some doubts about this patented invention when it becomes commercially available. As it can potentially be used on billions of chicken -- and billions of humans -- what will the impact of these nanoparticles on us? But read more...

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In order to keep healthy the 200 million chicken raised in South Carolina -- and the humans who ate them -- Clemson University researchers are using nanoparticles. They call this intelligent chicken feed. They have built 'nanoparticles that mimic the host cell surface and lock to targeted pathogens. The particles then bind together and are purged through the digestive system.' Personally, I have some doubts about this patented invention when it becomes commercially available. As it can potentially be used on billions of chicken -- and billions of humans -- what will the impact of these nanoparticles on us? But read more...

Jeremy Tzeng holding a chicken

You can see on the left one of the researchers, Jeremy Tzeng, holding a chicken. (Credit: Clemson University) This picture comes from the Fall 2007 issue of the Impacts Magazine published by Clemson University.

Tzeng is an Assistant Professor working at the Institute for Nutraceutical Research. For this project, he worked with Fred Stutzenberger, Professor Emeritus, Robert Latour, Professor of Bioengineering and Ya-Ping Sun, Professor in Organic Chemistry.

But why did they focus on chicken health? "Chickens are susceptible to disease. An illness in a handful of birds can spread throughout a facility housing thousands. Vaccines and medications can be effective but pose risks to growers and consumers. Each flock has particular health and immunity profiles, so chicks from different breeders do not respond to vaccines and diseases the same way. What's more, bacteria can build up 'antibiotic resistance' making the drugs less effective.

And for us who ate these birds, this means we can ingest bacteria, viruses and fungi that do not affect the birds, but can cause human illnesses.

This is why the Clemson University scientists "have built nanoparticles that mimic the host cell surface in poultry and locks to the targeted pathogens. The particles then bind together and are purged through the bowel. Tzeng calls it 'intelligent chicken feed.'"

As you can guess, the researchers and Clemson University have applied for a patent to protect their invention. Thanks to FreePatentsOnline, you can read the full text of the patent, Adhesin-specific nanoparticles and process for using same, which was accepted on August 9, 2007 under the number 20070184120. Here is the abstract of this patent. "The present invention is generally directed to compositions useful in preventing and/or treating disease due to infection by any of a variety of biologically active pathogenic microorganisms. The compositions include nanoparticles formed of a hydrophobic polymeric core, hydrophilic linking agents bound to the core, and biofunctional materials bound to the linking agents. The biofunctional materials are functionally identical to receptors on host cell surfaces that can be recognized and bound by adhesins on the surface of the targeted pathogenic adhesin-bearing microorganisms. In one embodiment, the binding action between the nanoparticles and the microorganisms can lead to the formation of large agglomerated complexes, which can then be easily removed from an area, including the digestive tract of an infected individual. The compositions of the present invention can also be utilized in preventing enteric infections via the ability to purge animals of enteropathogens prior to transport and processing for human consumption."

Personally, I have some doubts about this invention when it becomes commercially available. What will the impact of this? It can potentially be used on billions of chicken -- and billions of humans. What are your thoughts?

Sources: Peter Kent, Clemson University News, February 21, 2007; and various websites

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  • Re: Nanotechnology-based chicken feed?

    Sounds interesting to me. In the present form, it would be good for bacteria/viruses injested orally, but I could see it in other applications, such as a face mask for physicians/other health workers for respiratory infections. For example, it could be used during the flu season, and the virus would be trapped before it infects them and proceeds on to other patients. And you wouldn't need a new "strain" of nanoparticles each year (which might not be the right one), because you're not using the virus protein for your effectiveness, but the receptor protein of whatever cell the flu virus invades. Or as a filter to extract blood pathogens, which have to be caught quickly to prevent catastrophe. Lots of possible applications, lots of work yet to do.
    cd2_z