Ever wondered what the big fuss around GMO crops was about? Or wondered how they managed to make Vegan-Chicken?
It boggles your mind, doesn’t it? Welcome to the world of scientific artistry that is Genetic Engineering!
That’s right! Genetic Engineers aren’t just scientists, they’re also artists! Their research and works can potentially change mankind forever!
Who knows, given enough time we might even witness the birth of a real-life Captain America!
So it’s time to let the genie out of the bottle and answer the question – “What is Genetic Engineering?”
- An overview of Genetic Engineering
- History and application of GE
- Impact of GE on Mankind
What is Genetic Engineering?
Genetic Engineering (GE) is the process of using Recombinant DNA technology to change/alter the Genetic makeup of an organism.
Recombination is the process of breaking down DNA and recombining them to produce new combinations.
You might be wondering what is phenotype?
Well, the phenotype is the observable physical characteristics of an organism (physical appearance, height, hair colour, etc). It is an expression of the organism’s genotype. They can also form as a result of environmental factors.
Genotype simply refers to the Genetic code of an organism. This code contains all the characteristics displayed by the organism.
So maybe, the next time you compliment someone you can just say…
History of Genetic Engineering
Genetic Engineering (GE) historically referred to many techniques that were used to manipulate organisms.
Interesting Fact: Dolly the sheep was the first successfully cloned mammal. Dolly, was such a perfect clone that, when people who protested cloning, tried to abduct her, they couldn’t tell her apart from the rest of the sheep in the herd. Read more in the link given below.
Lately, however, Genetic Engineering specifically refers to only Gene Manipulation that uses Recombinant DNA techniques.
Genetic Engineering through Recombination was perfected by Stanley N. Cohen and Herber W. Boyer, after years of research in Restriction Enzymes by Werner Arber and Hamilton O. Smith (who worked separately)
Stanley Cohen and W. Boyer successfully cut DNA into fragments and reintroduced them into E. Coli bacterium which was then allowed to reproduce.
If you want more information read: Restriction Enzymes and how they are used in Recombination
How does Genetic Engineering work?
Genetic Engineering is also called transformation as it involves physically removing a gene from one organism and inserting it into another.
Just like mixing two colours to get a new colour.
This makes the host DNA express the transferred trait. Here are the steps
- An organism with the desired trait is found.
- The whole DNA is extracted from it.
- The specific gene that exhibits the desired trait is isolated and cloned.
- It is modified slightly to work better in the recipient organism. This gene is called the Transgene.
- The new genes are delivered through bacteria that is used to deliver the gene to cells.
Another method called the Gene-Gun Method is also used to do the same. Microscopic gold particles coated with the transgene are shot at the cells.
Scientists have no control over the combination process itself, it is a matter of chance and luck. Hence the process is repeated several times to create transgenic organisms.
- Once the transgenic organism is created, traditional breeding is used to impart the traits to the species.
Some Applications and Uses for Genetic Engineering
The Applications of Genetic Engineering are many. GE can be used to modify the genes of many plants, animals and micro-organisms.
Here are some uses and applications in GE
- In Medicine, GE has been used to mass-produce – Insulin, human growth hormones and vaccines. It is also being used in Infertility treatment and the production of several drugs
- In Research, GE is used to learn the workings and properties of genes.
It is also used in cloning experiments.
- In the food industry, GE Yeast and Bacteria are used as more efficient agents to process foods
- GE has been used by a company called ‘Impossible’ to produce ‘Vegan’ meat. Read more here: Genetic Literacy Project
- GE is used in producing Genetically engineered seeds that are resistant to pests and diseases. HYV(High Yield Variety) seeds are also a result of GE
- Genetics is used in forensics, to see if the evidence collected matches the assumptions made in the investigation.
(Wondering whether Sherlock’s forensic techniques were accurate? Read: Which forensic techniques on “Sherlock” are real?)
DID YOU KNOW?
DNA also has great potential for the storage of data, and many scientists are exploring the possibility. All of Wikipedia’s information (64 GB of text) is already recorded in DNA based storage.
Impacts of GE on Human Health and Well-Being
It is easy to assume that GE only benefits humanity and is a very good thing; but, that would be a rather naive and false assumption.
Genetic Engineering is utilised in the creation of destructive Bio-weaponry. On the other hand, it was also used in creating the life-preserving vaccines for Coronavirus.
Like everything else, GE is a tool, which can either do great harm or a lot of good.
Hence, we must place the responsibility of this God-like power only in the hands of trusted scientists, who are collectively working for the betterment of humanity.
Certified courses in Genetic Engineering
These platforms provide the Best Online Genetic Engineering Courses in India
- Class Central
We have only scratched the surface of the vast microworld of Genetic Engineering.
You now have a basic understanding of concepts such as Recombination, Cloning, Genomics and Transgenics.
There are so many unexplored corners and applications of GE waiting to be found and utilised.
So adjust the lenses of your microscopes towards Verzeo and bring your career in Genetic Engineering into focus! The possibilities will become clear to you.