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In research GMOs are used to study gene function and expression through loss of function, gain of function, tracking and expression experiments. By knocking out genes responsible for certain conditions it is possible to create animal model organisms of human diseases. As well as producing hormones, vaccines and other drugs genetic engineering has the potential to cure genetic diseases through gene therapy. The same techniques that are used to produce drugs can also have industrial applications such as producing enzymes for laundry detergent, cheeses and other products. The rise of commercialised genetically modified crops has provided economic benefit to farmers in many different countries, but has also been the source of most of the controversy surrounding the technology.
This has been present since its early use; the first field trials were destroyed by anti-GM activists.
An Introduction to Genetic Engineering
Although there is a scientific consensus that currently available food derived from GM crops poses no greater risk to human health than conventional food, GM food safety is a leading concern with critics. Gene flow , impact on non-target organisms, control of the food supply and intellectual property rights have also been raised as potential issues. These concerns have led to the development of a regulatory framework, which started in It has led to an international treaty, the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety , that was adopted in Individual countries have developed their own regulatory systems regarding GMOs, with the most marked differences occurring between the US and Europe.
Genetic engineering is a process that alters the genetic structure of an organism by either removing or introducing DNA. Unlike traditional animal and plant breeding , which involves doing multiple crosses and then selecting for the organism with the desired phenotype , genetic engineering takes the gene directly from one organism and inserts it in the other. This is much faster, can be used to insert any genes from any organism even ones from different domains and prevents other undesirable genes from also being added.
Genetic engineering could potentially fix severe genetic disorders in humans by replacing the defective gene with a functioning one. The DNA can be introduced directly into the host organism or into a cell that is then fused or hybridised with the host. Genetic engineering does not normally include traditional breeding, in vitro fertilisation , induction of polyploidy , mutagenesis and cell fusion techniques that do not use recombinant nucleic acids or a genetically modified organism in the process.
Plants, animals or micro organisms that have been changed through genetic engineering are termed genetically modified organisms or GMOs. If genetic material from the same species or a species that can naturally breed with the host is used the resulting organism is called cisgenic. Humans have altered the genomes of species for thousands of years through selective breeding , or artificial selection  : 1  : 1 as contrasted with natural selection. More recently, mutation breeding has used exposure to chemicals or radiation to produce a high frequency of random mutations, for selective breeding purposes.
Genetic engineering as the direct manipulation of DNA by humans outside breeding and mutations has only existed since the s. The term "genetic engineering" was first coined by Jack Williamson in his science fiction novel Dragon's Island , published in  — one year before DNA's role in heredity was confirmed by Alfred Hershey and Martha Chase ,  and two years before James Watson and Francis Crick showed that the DNA molecule has a double-helix structure — though the general concept of direct genetic manipulation was explored in rudimentary form in Stanley G.
Weinbaum 's science fiction story Proteus Island. One of the main recommendations from this meeting was that government oversight of recombinant DNA research should be established until the technology was deemed safe.
Law and Genetics
In Genentech , the first genetic engineering company, was founded by Herbert Boyer and Robert Swanson and a year later the company produced a human protein somatostatin in E. Genentech announced the production of genetically engineered human insulin in Supreme Court in the Diamond v. Chakrabarty case ruled that genetically altered life could be patented.
The first field trials of genetically engineered plants occurred in France and the US in , tobacco plants were engineered to be resistant to herbicides. In , scientists at the J. Craig Venter Institute created the first synthetic genome and inserted it into an empty bacterial cell. The resulting bacterium, named Mycoplasma laboratorium , could replicate and produce proteins. Creating a GMO is a multi-step process. Genetic engineers must first choose what gene they wish to insert into the organism. This is driven by what the aim is for the resultant organism and is built on earlier research.
Genetic screens can be carried out to determine potential genes and further tests then used to identify the best candidates. The development of microarrays , transcriptomics and genome sequencing has made it much easier to find suitable genes. The next step is to isolate the candidate gene. The cell containing the gene is opened and the DNA is purified. If the chosen gene or the donor organism's genome has been well studied it may already be accessible from a genetic library.
If the DNA sequence is known, but no copies of the gene are available, it can also be artificially synthesised. The plasmid is replicated when the bacteria divide, ensuring unlimited copies of the gene are available. Before the gene is inserted into the target organism it must be combined with other genetic elements. These include a promoter and terminator region, which initiate and end transcription. A selectable marker gene is added, which in most cases confers antibiotic resistance , so researchers can easily determine which cells have been successfully transformed.
The gene can also be modified at this stage for better expression or effectiveness. These manipulations are carried out using recombinant DNA techniques, such as restriction digests , ligations and molecular cloning. There are a number of techniques used to insert genetic material into the host genome.
Genetic engineering - Wikipedia
Some bacteria can naturally take up foreign DNA. This ability can be induced in other bacteria via stress e. DNA is generally inserted into animal cells using microinjection , where it can be injected through the cell's nuclear envelope directly into the nucleus , or through the use of viral vectors. In plants the DNA is often inserted using Agrobacterium -mediated recombination ,  taking advantage of the Agrobacterium s T-DNA sequence that allows natural insertion of genetic material into plant cells. Due to the damage caused to the cells and DNA the transformation efficiency of biolistics and electroporation is lower than agrobacterial transformation and microinjection.
As only a single cell is transformed with genetic material, the organism must be regenerated from that single cell. In plants this is accomplished through the use of tissue culture. Selectable markers are used to easily differentiate transformed from untransformed cells.
These markers are usually present in the transgenic organism, although a number of strategies have been developed that can remove the selectable marker from the mature transgenic plant. The presence of the gene does not guarantee it will be expressed at appropriate levels in the target tissue so methods that look for and measure the gene products RNA and protein are also used.
The new genetic material can be inserted randomly within the host genome or targeted to a specific location.
click The technique of gene targeting uses homologous recombination to make desired changes to a specific endogenous gene. This tends to occur at a relatively low frequency in plants and animals and generally requires the use of selectable markers.
The frequency of gene targeting can be greatly enhanced through genome editing. Genetic engineering has applications in medicine, research, industry and agriculture and can be used on a wide range of plants, animals and micro organisms. Bacteria , the first organisms to be genetically modified, can have plasmid DNA inserted containing new genes that code for medicines or enzymes that process food and other substrates. The genetically modified animals include animals with genes knocked out , increased susceptibility to disease , hormones for extra growth and the ability to express proteins in their milk.
Genetic engineering has many applications to medicine that include the manufacturing of drugs, creation of model animals that mimic human conditions and gene therapy.
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