Genetic engineering


Dec 12, 2012 (4 years and 8 months ago)



Unit 18 Green Life

Text A

Genetic engineering has applications in medicine

research, and can be used on a wide
range of animals and micro organism.


In medicine genetic engineering has been used to mass produce insulin, h
uman growth

(for treating infertility),
human albumin
monoclonal antibodies
antihemophilic factors

and many other drugs.

generally involves injecting
weak live, killed or inactivated forms of

or their tox
ins into the person being

Genetically engineered viruses are being developed that can still confer immunity, but lack the

. Mouse
, cells fused together to create
monoclonal antibodies
have been humanised through g
enetic engineering to create human monoclonal antibodies.

Genetic engineering is used to create
animal models

of human diseases.
Genetically modified

are the most common genetically engineered animal model. They have been used to study
and model cance
r (the
), obesity, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, substance abuse,
anxiety, aging and Parkinson disease. Potential cures can be tested against these mouse models.
Also genetically modified pigs have been bred with the aim of increasing the su
ccess of
pig to
human organ transplantation

Gene therapy

is the
genetic engineering of humans

by replacing defective human genes with
functional copies. This can occur in

tissue or

tissue. If the gene is inserted into
the germline tissue
it can be passed down to that person's descendants.

Gene therapy has been
used to treat patients suffering from
immune deficiencies

Severe combined
) and trials have been carried out on other
genetic disorders

The success of
therapy so far has been limited and a patient (
Jesse Gelsinger
) has died during a clinical trial
testing a new treatment.

There are also ethical concerns should the technology be used not just for
treatment, but for enhancement, modification or alteration
of a human beings' appearance,
adaptability, intelligence, character or behavior. The distinction between cure and enhancement
can also be difficult to establish.

consider the enhancement of humans desirable.


Genetic engineering is
an important tool for
natural scientists
. Genes and other genetic
information from a wide range of organisms are transformed into bacteria for storage and
modification, creating
genetically modified bacteria

in the process. Bacteria are cheap, easy to
, multiply quickly, relatively easy to transform and can be stored at
80°C almost
indefinitely. Once a gene is isolated it can be stored inside the bacteria providing an unlimited
supply for research.

Organisms are genetically engineered to discov
er the functions of certain genes. This could
be the effect on the phenotype of the organism, where the gene is expressed or what other genes it
interacts with. These experiments generally involve loss of function, gain of function, tracking and

Loss of function experiments, such as in a
gene knockout

experiment, in which an organism
is engineered to lack the activity of one or more genes. A knockout experiment involves the
creation and manipulation of a DNA construct
in vitro
, which, in a simpl
e knockout, consists of a
copy of the desired gene, which has been altered such that it is non
Embryonic stem

incorporate the altered gene, which replaces the already present functional copy. These stem


cells are injected into
, which are implanted into surrogate mothers. This allows the
experimenter to analyze the defects caused by this

and thereby determine the role of
particular genes. It is used especially frequently in
developmental biology
. Another method, useful
in organisms such as

(fruit fly), is to induce mutations in a large population and then
screen the progeny for the desired mutation. A similar process can be used in both plants and

Gain of function experiments, the logical counter
part of knockouts. These are sometimes
performed in conjunction with knockout experiments to more finely establish the function of the
desired gene. The process is much the same as that in knockout engineering, except that the
construct is designed to incr
ease the function of the gene, usually by providing extra copies of the
gene or inducing synthesis of the protein more frequently.

Tracking experiments, which seek to gain information about the localization and interaction
of the desired protein. One way
to do this is to replace the wild
type gene with a 'fusion' gene,
which is a juxtaposition of the wild
type gene with a reporting element such as
green fluorescent

(GFP) that will allow easy visualization of the products of the genetic modification
. While
this is a useful technique, the manipulation can destroy the function of the gene, creating
secondary effects and possibly calling into question the results of the experiment. More
sophisticated techniques are now in development that can track prot
ein products without
mitigating their function, such as the addition of small sequences that will serve as binding motifs
to monoclonal antibodies.

Expression studies aim to discover where and when specific proteins are produced. In these
experiments, the

DNA sequence before the DNA that codes for a protein, known as a gene's
, is reintroduced into an organism with the protein coding region replaced by a reporter
gene such as GFP or an enzyme that catalyzes the production of a dye. Thus the time an
d place
where a particular protein is produced can be observed. Expression studies can be taken a step
further by altering the promoter to find which pieces are crucial for the proper expression of the
gene and are actually bound by transcription factor pr
oteins; this process is known as

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Text B

of Food Additive

With the increasing use of processed foods since the 19th century, there has been a great
increase in the use of food additives of varying levels of safety. Th
is has led to legislation in many
countries regulating their use. For example, boric acid was widely used as a food preservative
from the 1870s to the 1920s, but was banned after World War I due to its toxicity, as demonstrated
in animal and human studies.

During World War II the urgent need for cheap, available food
preservatives led to it being used again, but it was finally banned in the 1950s. Such cases led to a
general mistrust of food additives, and an application of the precautionary principle led t
o the
conclusion that only additives that are known to be safe should be used in foods. In the USA, this
led to the adoption of the Delaney clause, an amendment to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic
Act of 1938, stating that no carcinogenic substances ma
y be used as food additives. However,
after the banning of cyclamates in the USA and Britain in 1969, saccharin, the only remaining
legal artificial sweetener at the time, was found to cause cancer in rats. Widespread public outcry
in the USA, partly commu
nicated to Congress by postage
paid postcards supplied in the
packaging of sweetened soft drinks, led to the retention of saccharin despite its violation of the


Delaney clause.

In September 2007, research financed by Britain’s Food Standards Agency and pub
online by the British medical journal The Lancet, presented evidence that a mix of additives
commonly found in children’s foods increases the mean level of hyperactivity. The team of
researchers concluded that “the finding lends strong support for t
he case that food additives
exacerbate hyperactive behaviors (inattention, impulsivity and overactivity) at least into middle
childhood.” That study examined the effect of artificial colors and a sodium benzoate preservative,
and found both to be problemat
ic for some children. Further studies are needed to find out whether
there are other additives that could have a similar effect, and it is unclear whether some
disturbances can also occur in mood and concentration in some adults. In the February 2008 issue

of its publication, AAP Grand Rounds, the American Academy of Pediatrics concluded that a
additive diet is a valid intervention for children with ADHD:

“Although quite complicated, this was a carefully conducted study in which the investigators
went t
o great lengths to eliminate bias and to rigorously measure outcomes. The results are hard to
follow and somewhat inconsistent. For many of the assessments there were small but statistically
significant differences of measured behaviors in children who con
sumed the food additives
compared with those who did not. In each case increased hyperactive behaviors were associated
with consuming the additives. For those comparisons in which no statistically significant
differences were found, there was a trend for m
ore hyperactive behaviors associated with the food
additive drink in virtually every assessment. Thus, the overall findings of the study are clear and
require that even we skeptics, who have long doubted parental claims of the effects of various
foods on t
he behavior of their children, admit we might have been wrong.”

In 2007, Food Standards Australia New Zealand published an official shoppers' guidance
with which the concerns of food additives and their labeling are mediated.

There has been significant con
troversy associated with the risks and benefits of food
additives. Some artificial food additives have been linked with cancer, digestive problems,
neurological conditions,

ADHD, heart disease or obesity. Natural additives may be similarly
harmful or be th
e cause of allergic reactions in certain individuals. For example, safrole was used
to flavor root beer until it was shown to be carcinogenic. Due to the application of the Delaney
clause, it may not be added to foods, even though it occurs naturally in sa
ssafras and sweet basil.

Extreme caution should be taken with sodium nitrite which is mainly used a food coloring
agent. Sodium nitrite is added to meats to produce an appealing and fresh red color to the
consumer. Sodium nitrite can produce cancer causing

chemicals such as nitrosamines, and
numerous studies have shown a link between nitrite and cancer in humans that consume processed
and cured meats.

Blue 1, Blue 2, Red 3, and Yellow 6 are among the food colorings that have been linked to
various health ri
sks. Blue 1 is used to color candy, soft drinks, and pastries and there has been
some evidence that it may cause cancer. Blue 2 can be found in pet food, soft drinks, and pastries,
and has shown to cause brain tumors in mice. Red 3, mainly used in cherries

for cocktails has been
correlated with thyroid tumors in rats and humans as well. Yellow 6, used in sausages, gelatin, and
candy can lead to the attribution of gland and kidney tumors and contains carcinogens, but in
minimal amounts.

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