Genetic Engineering Definition
Genetic engineering is a stream of science where an organism’s genome is modified using different techniques in biotechnology. These revolutionary techniques were invented by scientists to modify organisms into highly productive and highly tolerant to unsuitable environmental conditions and to be used in various areas of research.
Genes carry the code for all structural and functional biological activities of an organism. Gene content and the gene functions differ from species to species. Once the exact function of a gene is identified in species, it can be used in genetic engineering by modifying it.
Genetic Engineering Process
An organism’s genome can be manipulated by inserting a gene of a closely related species into another species or inserting genetic material within the same species or knocking down a gene to stop its function. An organism which receives genetic material from another species is called transgenic and an organism which receives genetic material from the same species is called a cisgenic. In the method of insertion, the selected gene should be isolated and cloned and then the cloned genetic material can be inserted into the organism using direct methods such as micro-injection, macro- injection or an indirect method such as the vector system transformation. Gene knock down can be performed by introducing mutations into the target gene region, which, as a result , will prevent it from functioning.
Advantages of Genetic Engineering
The organisms with manipulated genomes produced in Genetic engineering are called “GMO”(Genetically Modified Organisms). Applications of GMO organisms are vastly used in industrial biotechnology, agriculture, research and medicine. Bacteria were the first organisms to be genetically modified artificially in 1972. At present with the scientific evolution of techniques and equipments, more organisms such as viruses, crop plants, mammals, insects, fish and many more species of living organisms have been used in Genetic engineering.
1. Crop plants with increased nutrition values, draught resistance, and herbicide resistance have been genetically engineered.
2. GMO mammals such as mice, rats and rabbits are used in health research and producing high level of consumer products.
3. Genetically modified viruses are used in gene therapy to deliver genes into the human body which can cure targeted human diseases.
4. Zebra fish is an organism which is frequently used as a GM organism in scientific research of growth and development.
5. Using genetic engineering synthetic human insulin has been produced which is used in diabetic patient management.
Disadvantages of Genetic Engineering
Despite the advantages of genetic engineering, there are possible disadvantages, as well.
1. As the scientific evolution creates genetically modified species, balance of eco-systems could be disturbed due to the domination of GMO’s over natural species.
2. Warfare could be dangerously advanced due to biological weapons produced using genetic engineering.
3. Research has proven that some GM food produced for human consumption retains some of the artificial genetic material which would create harmful effects on human health.
To prevent genetic engineering being directed to wrong pathways and minimize the harmful effects on nature and human beings there are many regulation bodies with strict rules to screen on scientific protocols.
As a whole, genetic engineering is an advanced stream of science which is used to benefit humans, plants and other animals with many more remarkable inventions in the near future.