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Genetic Engineering Technology at Work

written by: Rishi Prakash•edited by: lrohner•updated: 1/4/2011

Genetic engineering is one of the most important achievements in the world of science. Scientists use this technology in agriculture, medicine and other fields.

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    One example of modern biotechnology is the field of genetic engineering. It is a process that involves transfer of genes between organisms, or even modifying genes in an organism in order to remove or append a desired trait or characteristics. What are some examples of genetic engineering? Some examples are described below:

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    Transgenic Plants

    When a gene is transferred from one organism to another, the recipient is referred to as transgenic. An insect protection gene called Bt has been transferred to several crops such as cotton, potatoes and corn in order to ward off pests. Bt cotton is resistant against bollworm while Bt corn is resistant to European corn borer.

    Gentically Modified foods (GM foods/plants): Flavor Savr tomato is a GM food where tomato genes have been modified so that the fruit can stay on the vine for a long time and develop mature flavor. High oleic soybean is again a GM plant that produces beans containing less saturated fat. In addition, Bt cotton is one of the most popular examples of genetically modified plant.

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    Genetic Engineering in Medicine

    Genetically engineered insulin: Diabetes is managed by taking insulin at normal intervals. However, what would a patient do if human insulin was not available? Scientists have used genetic engineering technique to produce human insulin using the bacterium E. coli.

    Gene therapy: This is a method that allows correction of genetic defects in child or embryo. Genes are inserted into an individual’s cells and tissues in order to correct the defect. A functional gene is inserted into the embryo of an individual to balance for the non- functional gene.

    The very first clinical gene therapy was given in 1990 to a four-year-old girl with adenosine deaminase (ADA) deficiency. This enzyme is vital for the immune system to function normally. The main cause of the disorder is the deletion of the gene for adenosine deaminase. In some children, ADA deficiency can be healed by bone marrow transplantation while in others it can be cured by enzyme replacement therapy.

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    Transgenic Animals

    Animals that have had their DNA manipulated to possess and express an extra gene are called transgenic animals. Transgenic rabbits, pigs, sheep, rats, and cows have been produced, although more than 95% of all the transgenic animals are mice.

    Transgenic animals are produced for various purposes such as to study gene regulation, how genes have an effect on the normal functioning of the body etc. In addition, transgenic animals are produced to know how genes add to the development of a particular disease.

    Many transgenic animals are being used to make biological products such as human protein alpha-1 antitrypsin for the treatment of emphysema. In a similar manner, scientists are attempting to treat phenylketonuria (PKU) and cystic fibrosis.

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    Reference

    (Web): What are transgenic plants -- http://cls.casa.colostate.edu/transgeniccrops/what.html

    (Web): Transgenic animals -- http://people.ucalgary.ca/~browder/transgenic.html