4.4a Transgenic Techniques

25/02/2013 § 1 Comment

Another large and important part of genetics is its use in biotechnology and genetic engineering. Scientists can genetically modify the genes of an organism by transferring genes between species. You ask, “But how! Switching genes between two different species!? That’s absurd!” It’s not, actually, so pipe down. It’s completely possible because as we learned units ago, the genetic code is universal. You and I (humans – or at least I hope you’re human) share the same genetic code that a lobster has. How does that make you feel.

Because the genetic code is universal the base sequences can code for all of the amino acids that make up the proteins in whatever species. Organisms that have transferred genes are called genetically modified organism (GMO). These are not limited to walking, talking, breathing organisms but especially to agriculture and livestock, like sheep, goat, and crops.

One method of transferring genes involves the usage of plasmids, restriction enzymes, and DNA ligase. What basically happens is that the restriction enzymes cut the plasmids (loops of DNA found in bacteria), so that there are two open ends where DNA ligase will fuse a copy of DNA extracted from human pancreatic cells. This is fed into a worthy host cell that will then be cultured in a fermenter. The new E.coli bacteria that this process has created will be used to make human insulin, which treats diabetics.

Other examples of genetic modification include:

  • goats – to secrete an anti-clotting agent in their milk called anti-thrombin
  • sheep – to produce a protein to treat emphysema
  • multiple crops – to produce a protein that makes them resistant to herbicide
  • golden rice – to produce ß-carotene as a solution to children’s blindness, caused by a vitamin A deficiency

Essay Questions

  1. Calculate and predict; genotypic and phenotypic ratios of offspring of dihybrid crosses involving unlinked autosomal genes.
  2. Identify which of the offspring in dihybrid crosses are recombinants.
  3. Describe the methods and aims of DNA profiling.
  4. Outline a technique for transferring genes between species.
  5. Describe the technique for the transfer of the insulin gene using E. coli.
  6. Discuss the potential benefits and possible harmful effects of genetic modification.
  7. Discuss the ethical arguments for and against the cloning of humans.
  8. Outline the ethical issues of cloning humans.



I’m just kidding, there are none.

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