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What's so special about chicken immunology?
- Lowenthal, J. W., Bean, A. G. D., Kogut, M. H.
- Developmental and Comparative Immunology 2013 v.41 pp. 307
- B-lymphocytes, T-lymphocytes, World Health Organization, avian influenza, bursa of Fabricius, chickens, emerging diseases, environmental impact, feed grains, host-pathogen relationships, human health, human influenza, humans, immune response, meat production, pathogens, poultry industry, poultry meat, poultry production, production technology
- What’s so special about chickens? Firstly, chickens are not only an invaluable model for studying immunology, they also provide the world’s main source of meat and will be a key protein source needed to feed the growing human population into the future. Poultry meat production is highly efficient in converting grain feed to protein and does so with less environmental impact compared to other forms of meat production systems. Currently, some 80 billion chickens are hatched each year, producing around 105 million tons of meat and 70 million tons of eggs. One of the greatest threats to the poultry industry is the impact of infectious diseases. Therefore, in order to sustain a safe and healthy supply of poultry, a greater understanding of chicken immunity to pathogens underpins future poultry production. Furthermore, poultry play an important role in the spread of emerging infectious diseases, such as avian influenza, that can impact human health. Understanding the host-pathogen relationship has important implications for preventing the transfer of zoonotic pathogens from poultry to humans and for the development of novel treatment strategies. The World Health Organization has warned that the source of the next human flu pandemic is likely to arise from chickens. This highlights the importance of controlling this disease in poultry and similarly highlighting the need for a better understanding of the immune response in the chicken to pathogens, such as avian influenza. Studying the immune system of chickens has led to critical contributions to immunological tenets. The fact that the chicken immune system does things a bit differently, while still being to mount effective immune responses, speaks to the benefits and knowledge gained from the comparative studies of diverse species. The unique chicken organ, the Bursa of Fabricius, has provided extensive information about B cell development and function. Moreover, the easy accessibility to the chicken embryo has not only aided in our understanding of B cell development but also T cell maturation in the thymus. Furthermore, the first interferon activity was discovered in the chicken cells. Therefore, of particular relevance to this Special Issue, apart from rodents and humans, arguably the most thoroughly characterized immune system is that of the chicken.