Chickens could help in the fight against cancer, according to a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Scientists.

An international research team, comprised mostly of scientists from the Seoul National University in Korea, examined 62 White Leghorn and 53 Cornish chickens for diversity in NK-lysin, an antibacterial substance that occurs naturally in animals and is used to help fight off disease. They were able to obtain two genetic variations of NK-lysin and both showed abilities to fight off bacterial infections and other diseases, while one showed it could successfully fight cancer cells, as well. 

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The two breeds were selected because they are found throughout the world yet have relatively diverse genetic origins. After conducting a DNA sequence of the chickens, the team found two variations of the genes that offered clues to their protective ability to ward off infections. One form appeared to be more potent in killing off cancer.

The discovery could lead to other steps to fight cancer or to developing ways to prevent certain infections, according to the researchers.