Applications of Genetic Engineering

The applications of genetic engineering are increasing rapidly. In its broader definition, genetic engineering simply means the manipulation of organisms to make useful products. This is something humans had been doing since the beginnings of recorded history. Selective breeding of domestic plants and animals is a kind of biotechnology. It is though a very slow kind of biotechnology. What’s different about modern genetic engineering is that we can modify organisms much more rapidly and radically.

The first commercial use of genetic engineering is a relatively simple one. This is to manufacture particular kinds of proteins in abundance that would otherwise be tedious and costly to produce. Consider the protein insulin. This is a hormone that is involved in the regulation of blood sugar. People who suffer from diabetes are unable to produce enough insulin. Diabetes can be treated, however, by injections of insulin. The question is where to get the insulin.

A while ago, the only source of insulin would be from farm animals, such as cows and pigs. The organs of these animals would be harvested and they would provide insulin. That was, though, a tedious and costly process. Furthermore, the insulin of these animals, although very similar to human insulin, wasn’t identical to it. It didn’t always work in certain individuals.

With the advent of modern biotechnology, however, it becomes a relatively simple matter to insert the human insulin gene into the genome of an e. coli bacteria. In fact, now almost all insulin used in medical treatment is manufactured by genetically modified bacteria. It has a much lower cost and a higher level of purity.

There are dozens and dozens of other medically important proteins manufactured in the same way, and hundreds are in commercial development.

The bacteria we genetically modified essentially turned into a chemical manufacturing plant. Here we are more interested in the protein produced by the bacteria than in the organism itself. We might also genetically engineer organisms because we’re interested in the organisms themselves. Many examples of this come from crop plants that had been modified.

In the United States, close to 3 dozen transgenic crops are now in common commercial use. What kinds of gene might we want to insert into a crop species? We might want to insert genes that improve resistance to insects, for example. We might insert genes that cause increased growth, or that improve the nutritional value of the plant.

As you’re probably aware, there are many people who are strongly opposed to genetically modifying crop organisms. Why are they? Opponents worry about a number of issues. For example, if we modify a plant to include a pesticide, how do we know that pesticide produced by the plant won’t get into the environment? How do we know that the modified species won’t escape from cultivation and become some kind of super competitor with wild forms?

These concerns are valid, but at the same time genetic engineering proceeds, and I’m sure our scientists will continue to develop it further.

1 Comment:

umesh said...

what ever the information provided here is really good and it will be more benefit to the students if you can provide informations regarding genetic engineering workshops, any enternship course details in your website.

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