So, you want to learn about Genetic Engineering right? Well, good news! It’s a pretty simple concept once you get a good example. Like for me, it was this Futurama episode where a character did genetic experiments to breed the perfect green pea plants.
Genetic engineering or Genetic modification is basically where someone manually alters the DNA of an organism to produce a protein for a desired trait, but to a limit. It’s not like someone could completely alter every trait you have. No, scientists are still learning more about it to this day and they’re starting small so they’re trying with a couple traits at a time.
The simplest example I can find of its process is what scientists are doing for Humulin. Humulin is genetically modified insulin for those with diabetes (Diabetes is when your body doesn’t produce enough insulin in the pancreas).
(Found on the website ‘www.yourgenome.org’)
Here they have extracted a piece of DNA, cut out a small section they don’t want, replace it with another gene, and because it’s DNA from bacteria, it can easily be multiplied, purified and packaged into bottles for medicine.
(If you need a better explanation I recommend the video below by Eco-Wise Videos.)
Yes, It’s that simple. Though scientists have other examples of genetic engineering like extracting spider DNA into a goat so that it’s milk have these spider web-like silk or in the episode I talked about earlier, one of the characters experiments was splicing elephant DNA into green beans to make giant green beans (Sorta like Jack and the Beanstalk).
A good example to me is the genetic engineering is done for food because believe it or not, a lot of the food nowadays in genetically modified. Scientists have genetically modified crops to withstand weed killers that would damage the crop. Again, they modified its DNA to withstand chemicals.
Seems like genetic engineering is a good thing, right? Well, not really, there is still a lot of controversy around this topic mostly about the food. Like, because it can withstand the chemicals means that chemicals are on the food which people do eventually eat. People don’t think it’s right to alter the genetics of another living organism. I find it’s mostly religious people who believe this because ‘you shouldn’t mess with gods creations’ but to me, it’s more concerning because since it’s a relatively new experimented topic, it’s hard to see it’s lifelong effect/results.
(Because this episode is a really good example of the topic, I’m using it again).
The character Leela is one of those people who think it’s cruel and mad to genetically experiment and even in the show it’s illegal to genetically experiment, through the experimenter shows her how helpful it can be once she cures Leela of ‘Squidification’ (don’t ask).
Now even with the controversy of this topic, scientists still want to learn more about it and hopefully, genetic engineering will be able to help a lot of people with bad heredity traits passed down from parents or other negative genetic traits. Even with the possible problems of modifying genes, it’s safe to assume we’ll be more knowledgeable about it in the future if something really amazing happens.
Hope you learned a little!
(Sources used: http://agbiosafety.unl.edu/basic_genetics.shtml