Term Paper: Genetic Engineering Is a Tool

Pages: 10 (2752 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Genetics  ·  Buy This Paper


[. . .] Today there are more than 300 restriction enzymes and the list ever continues to grow. Each of these restriction enzymes precisely identify and target particular DNA bases. When treated with DNA the restriction enzymes scan through the DNA strands and identify the specific sequence bases and cut through them. This opening makes possible the insertion of the human gene. This Plasmid-human gene combination is what is called as the recombinant Molecule. There is one more step to be done after the recombinant DNA is introduced into the bacteria. This is to make the bacteria express the newly introduced gene. This is achieved by tagging the bacterial control regions to the human gene. Then the bacteria pickup the signal and create the mRNA. [Chhatwal G.R, 1998, 101]

Extracting the Proteins

Even though we have managed to create the vital human proteins inside the bacterial cell we still need to extract them in a pure form from the other cell constituents. This is called as the 'Down Stream Processing' in the genetic engineering and biotechnology parlance. There are many techniques employed in the isolation and separation of the protein form the cell. Genetic engineers are continuously refining their techniques to ease this 'Down-stream processing'. So far we have discussed the actual technique of genetic engineering or gene manipulation. Let us now look into the application areas.

Applications of Genetic Engineering

Medical Applications

There are hundreds of genetic disorders that are caused by mutations. For most of these diseases there is no known cure. Gene therapy is already a reality and may soon prove to be the panacea for all genetically induced diseases. The advancements in the area of Biochips technology have greatly altered our ability to treat diseases and genetic disorders in particular. Andrei Mirzabekov, one of the leading biologists researching at the Argonne and Engelhardt says, "Instead of reading DNA one letter or word at a time, they read whole phrases and sentences at a time," "By combining biochips with robots and computers," Mirzabekov further adds on that, "we can find one genetic variation among three billion DNA bases in a matter of minutes. Conventional methods take days." [TheHostPros]

Gene chips are nothing but silicon wafers in which the DNA strands are itched out using high precision nano technology. By using these gene chips we can search and identify unknown strands in quick time. Currently genetic disorders, genetically modified agricultural products and bio medical researchers are the main users of gene chips. [Arthur Chiou] Many leading companies like Motorola and Packard are already venturing into mass production of biochips and the technology required for analyzing the biochips. Richard McKernan, president of Packard Instrument Company says, "With a commercial biochip to rapidly and economically perform genetic analysis, within a few years we should see better pharmaceuticals developed more rapidly, faster and more accurate medical diagnostics, a heightened ability to assess and possibly repair environmental damage, and better, more hardy, and healthier crops," [TheHostPros] So we can be sure and hopeful that in the near future medical diagnosis can be expedited and in many cases genetically caused diseases can be prevented.

Agricultural Sector

Genetically modified food is the hot topic of the day. Vitamin A deficiency has been the main cause for blindness and even death in thousands of people especially in the under developed nations. Some scientists argue that genetically modified rice (with added Vitamin A) will be the solution to this problem. While all this is good to hear there are many experts who opine that GM (Genetically Modified) Crops are a serious problem. "Because gene containment is next to impossible with the current generation of GM crops, this discriminatory stance (i.e., regulations based on "process rather than products") has led to several international 'incidents' over the past few years." [Nature Biotechnology, June 2002,527] While genetically modified food materials are gaining rapid acceptance within the United States many European nations are still skeptical about the GM products.

Genetic Engineering Possible Disadvantages

There are many potential health hazards due to the production of genetically engineered plants. Plants which are Transgenic would carry with them proteins that were previously alien to them. This has important consequences for people who are allergic to particular protein varieties. Now that the proteins are mixed up (across species due to Genetic Engineering) it makes it difficult for these allergic people to avoid them. As a typical example of this kind of allergic reaction scientists at the University of Nebraska found that Genetically Engineered Soya beans consumed by people triggered allergic reactions in them. This was ascribed to the presence of 'Brazil nut proteins' in these beans. [Union of Concerned Scientists]

Resistance to Antibiotics

It is common in the early stages of genetic engineering to use antibiotic resistant genes to identify and separate cells that carry the foreign genes. The unfortunate result of this is that these genes continue to thrive in the plants. This produces dangerous results in humans as antibiotics fail to take effect when used in the treatment of diseases. Another important issue is the possibility of creating hybrid varieties of viruses. Since genetically engineered plants carry with them the genetic components of the virus there is every chance that they may combine with the genetic material of the incoming virus and create a hybrid variety that would greatly jeopardize the plants. [Union of Concerned Scientists]

The Future

The future of Genetic Engineering is quite bright. It is estimated that gene therapy will effectively eliminate around 2000 genetic disorders. Invaluable medicinal substances (like Insulin) can be synthesized by genetic engineering. Apart from the medical value Genetic Engineering will also drastically improve the yield of crops and increase their resistance to pests. Genetically engineered drugs and chemicals are not far off and they will have a huge impact on the pharmaceutical industry.


Genetic engineering is a fast growing field, which is rapidly removing the species boundaries. Genetic engineering appears to be the solution for all genetically inherited disorders. With the rapid advent of biochip technology we are in for a paradigm shift in medical diagnosis. Gene manipulation is nothing short of altering the fundamental life code and unless sufficient care is exercised it may lead to disastrous consequences. With all the proposed advantages genetic engineering is still a debatable subject with the scientific fraternity sharing mixed opinion on the subject. Unless we are very sure about the safety and the precautions of interspecies transfer of genetic material there is every chance that we might end up endangering ourselves and other forms of life on earth. Leaving alone the other issues the very thought of playing with nature is quite unsettling.


OLD.R.W, Primrose S.B, "Principles of Gene Manipulation: An Introduction to Genetic Engineering," 1994, Fifth Edition, Blackwell Science, pg 46

Chhatwal.G.R "Textbook of Biotechnology," Anmol Publications Pvt Ltd., First

Edition, 1998 Reprint, pg [101]

Venter Craig', "GE fantasy shattered by human genome project," Accessed on December 12th, 2002, http://www.btinternet.com/~nlpwessex/Documents/GEfantasy.htm

Chiou Arthur, "Biochips Combine a Triad of Micro-Electro-Mechanical, Biochemical, and Photonic Technologies," Accessed on December 12th, 2002, http://www.spie.org/web/oer/march/mar00/biochips.html

Nature Biotechnology Magazine' "Going with the Flow" Editorial, 527 (01 Jun 2002)

Designed by the "TheHostPros," "Motorola-Packard Mass Producing Bio-Chips" http://www.rense.com/general/biochips.htm

Union of Concerned Scientists', "Risks of Genetic Engineering" Accessed on December 12th, 2002, http://www.ucsusa.org/food_and_environment/biotechnology/page.cfm?pageID=346

Synthesis/Regeneration Magazine', "What is Genetic Engineering," Vol. 18 (Winter

1999), pp. 9-12 [END OF PREVIEW]

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