Genetic engineering might seem like a whole new concept for most people, but this science has been practiced and researched for decades even before the term became very common to the general public. You will discover how the science has evolved in the past several years and what the implications are to the human race. You can then decide if this is the best way to improve the race or is it a disaster just waiting to happen.
What Does Genetic Engineering Mean?
Also known as genetic modification, genetic engineering is described as the direct human controlling of the genetic material of an organism. This does not happen under natural circumstances. It also involves the application of recombinant DNA approaches, although it does not involve traditional plant and animal breeding or mutagenesis. Any organism made via these approaches is taken to be a GMO or genetically modified organism. The first organisms genetically changed were bacteria back in 1973 and then there were mice in 1974. Bacteria that produce insulin were advertised in 1982 and GM foods have been made available since 1994.
The most basic type of genetic engineering includes the injection of new genetic material at an area in the genome of the host. This is done by isolating and replicating the genetic material, producing a structure that has all the genetic factors for the right expression, and then inserting the structure right into the host organism. Other types of genetic engineering will include the targeting of genes and eliminating specific genes through created nucleases like engineered homing endonucleases and zinc finger nucleases.
Genetic engineering approaches have been used in several fields like medicine, research and biotechnology. Medicines like human growth hormone and insulin are now created in bacteria, knockout mouse and experimental mice. Genetically changed animals and plants now have the ability to make biotechnology drugs very affordable, compared to traditional methods.
History and Background
Human beings have changed the genomes of various species for the past millennia via selective breeding and mutagenesis. The definition of genetic engineering is the direct controlling of DNA by human beings apart from mutations and breeding and has been present since the 1970s. Genetic engineering was first mentioned by Jack Williamson in the novel, Dragon's Island in 1951, before Martha Chase and Alfred Hershey confirmed the function of DNA in heredity one year later. After two years, Francis Crick and James Watson presented DNA as a double helix structure.
More on DNA
Paul Berg made the first recombinant DNA molecules in 1972 by mixing DNA from SV40, a monkey virus and the lambda virus. Herbert Boyer and Stanley Cohen inserted antibiotic resistance genes into E. Coli bacterium plasmid to make the first transgenic organism. Rudolf Jaenisch inserted foreign DNA into the embryo of a transgenic mouse to make the first transgenic animal in the world in 1974. Genentech became the first genetic engineering company in 1976, founded by Robert Swanson and Herbert Boyer. In 1978, genetically changed human insulin was made available.