Biotechnology - genetic engineering techniques - splicing genes with enzymes! Uses e.g. making insulin, GM crops
and medical applications -
contemporary examples of biotechnology
This section helps you answer questions like ...
What do we mean by genetic
engineering? Discuss the 'Pros and Cons'
Be able to describe the basic
principles of how to transfer a gene from one organism's genome to the
genome of another organism. Can you describe some uses of genetic
engineering in medicine or agriculture?
Note: GM is used as an abbreviation
for genetically modified products i.e. the produce of genetic modification engineering
techniques to an organisms genome.
Sub-index for this section on GM technology
Introduction to biotechnology and genetic engineering
Application of GM - the production of insulin
Examples of modifying the genomes of plants - agricultural and horticultural uses of GM products
Uses of genetic engineering in medicine
including gene therapy
Ethical and other issues: 'pros and cons'
of using genetic
modification in plants and animals
Thoughts on using GM in the world production of food
Learning objectives for this
section GM genetics
Lots more links to my genetics pages
enzymes (GCSE chemistry -
Biotechnology and ethanol
production (GCSE chemistry - alcohol notes)
Biotechnology and biofuel
production (GCSE chemistry - biofuel notes)
(8) Learning objectives for this page
Know and understand that genes can also be transferred to the cells of animals, plants
or microorganisms at an early stage in their development so that they
develop with desired characteristics.
Know that new genes can be transferred to crop
Crops that have had their genes modified in this way are called
genetically modified crops (GM crops).
Examples of genetically modified
crops include ones that are resistant to insect attack, viruses, fungi or to herbicides.
This is all about increasing the
quantity and quality of crops - insert genes into the plant's genome to
increase the size and the quality of the grain.
Large quantities of crops are
lost to disease and insect attack, so it make economic sense in principle.
One practical example is that if
you can make a crop resistant to a herbicide that is used to kill weeds -
weeds that compete for the soil nutrients, then you can kill the weeds
by spraying without damaging the crops.
You can produce plants (fruit or grain)
that are also resistant to diseases and insect attack to improve crop yields.
You can genetically engineer sheep to
produce substances like drugs in their milk, which are used to treat certain
Genetically modified crops generally show increased yields.
about GM crops include the effect on populations of wild flowers and
insects, and uncertainty about the effects of eating GM crops on human
There is considerable public
concern about GM crops eg are they harmful, are they as nutritious, are they
reducing biodiversity, will they spread and multiply at the expense of
native plants - out-compete for nutrients, will they cross-bread with native
plants changing the gene pool,
GM crops of rice, and other
basic grown foods, are seen as an economic way of feeding the growing poor
populations of third world countries.
The idea behind GM crops is to
increase yields and increase nutrition.
You can insert genes into crop
cells so that they contain particular nutrients, whose deficiency can cause
ill-health, or engineer a strain of wheat to contain more protein if meat is
So there are lots of
possibilities and lots of controversies - so 'watch this GM space'
- In the context of genetic engineering, be able to explain the role of the scientific
community in validating new evidence, including the use of:
- a) scientific journals - enable new findings
on genetic engineering to be communicated to other scientists working in the same areas of science,
so ideas and knowledge are widely spread AND other scientists can check
whether the research is valid eg do other scientists get the same results?
do other scientists draw the same conclusions? do other scientists agree
with, and find the theory valid?
- b) the peer review process - a sort of
refereeing system, research papers on genetic engineering are read and checked by people competent
to understand the contents of research papers (their peers) - this ensures
standards are high in terms of 'good scientific practice'.
- c) scientific conferences enable scientists to
meet and present and discuss their findings on genetic engineering, compare their work, listen to
new ideas, get ideas to take back to their own research project. Its also a
forum for other scientists to hear about research which isn't necessarily
exactly their own specialist field, but broadens their own knowledge of
related fields of science e.g. genetic engineering.
Be able to make
informed judgements about the social and ethical issues concerning the use
of stem cells from embryos in medical research and treatments
Be able to make
informed judgements about the economic, social and ethical issues concerning
Be able to demonstrate an understanding of how gene
mutations change the DNA base sequence and that mutations can be:
(i) harmful - causing genetic disorders like
cystic fibrosis, Downe syndrome, haemophilia and colour blindness.
(ii) beneficial - the gene expression
produces an enhanced feature that makes that organism more able to survive,
this is partly responsible for driving the evolution of more successful
species, but not always to our benefit! e.g. bacteria genes are quite
susceptible to mutations and some are becoming very resistant to antibiotics
as their DNA subtly changes!
(iii) or neither ('neutral') - any faults
from DNA mutations do not affect the organisms existence i.e. protein
functions are not affected, no advantage is gained and no disadvantage
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