Project manager

Senior Scientist Helle R. Juul-Madsen  (



The vision is to develop a new genetic selection technology based on an effective innate immune response for production of chickens with polyvalent protection against diverse pathogens and increased livability. This will be achieved by identification of important genes and genetic markers in an old Danish chicken line (Hellevad) using modern biotechnology tools including genome-wide association studies.

One single gene Mannose Binding Lectin (MBL) has already been identified as a potential selection marker in this chicken line. Application of high-throughput genotyping based on Sequenom technology will enable the discrimination of chicken MBL genotypes. MBL belongs to the innate part of the immune system and is a key genetic factor in innate polyvalent resistance.

MBL interacts with the acquired immune response which is why unraveling the interaction between MBL and the adaptive part of the immune system is a prerequisite before an integrated MBL selection approach can be applied in the poultry industry where disease protection  currently relies on wide usage of vaccinations.

The overall success criteria are:

·         That the genetic basis of the robustness in the Hellevad chicken is characterized and developed into a genetic selection approach for breeding chickens.

·         That the interaction between MBL and the adaptive immune response is revealed.

·         That MBL genotypes determining low disease resistance of chickens are eliminated from Cobb populations.

This will increase animal welfare, food safety, the consumers’ accept, and the industry’s competitiveness.

Objectives of the project 

The overall aim of the project is to create the necessary scientific basis for new breeding programs in commercial poultry production focusing on increased innate disease resistance. The following are specific project goals:

·         To identify new genotypes in commercial chickens associated with polyvalent disease resistance.

·         To determine the consequence of MBL deficiency in relation to susceptibility to Infectious Bronchitis Virus (IBV) and Salmonella using experimental infections. 

·         To determine the ability of MBL to stimulate/inhibit the adaptive part of the immune system and to discover new molecules that temporarily modulate the effect of MBL.



The project is supported by the Danish Council for Strategic Research, Danish Poultry Council, The Hatchery Hellevad, and Cobb-Vantress. Two PhD students and one post doc are attached to the project.  





International Publications


Kjærup, R.M., Skjødt K., Dalgaard T.S., and Juul-Madsen H.R. (2013). Chicken mannose-binding lectin 2 gene variants with influence on MBL serum concentration. Immunogenetics 65; 461-471. DOI: 10.1007/s00251-013-0689-6.


Juul-Madsen, HR, Norup, LR, Sørensen, P & Dalgaard, TS 2013, 'Ontogenic Development of Lymphocyte Subsets in Two Selected Chicken Lines that Differ in Mannose-Binding Lectin (MBL) Serum Concentration Under Conventional Rearing: SSI13-1030' Scandinavian Journal of Immunology, vol 77, nr. 4, s. 268-268.


Ulrich-Lynge, SL, Dalgaard, TS, Norup, LR, Olsen, JE & Juul-Madsen, HR 2013, 'Colonization Resistance and Immunological Differences in Response to An Experimental Salmonella Infection between Two Chicken Lines Selectively Bred for High or Low Concentration of Mannonse-Binding Lectin: SSI13-1018' Scandinavian Journal of Immunology, vol 77, nr. 4, s. 274-274.


Kjærup, RM, Dalgaard, TS, Norup, LR, Sørensen P & Juul-Madsen, HR 2013, ’Can Vaccines be improved in Chickens by Adding Mannose-Bonding Lectin (MBL) Ligands?: SSI13-1101’ Scandinavian Journal of Immunology, vol 77, nr. 4, s. 320-320.


Aarhus University
Nordre Ringgade 1
DK-8000 Aarhus C

Tel: +45 8715 0000
Fax: +45 8715 0201

CVR no: 31119103

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