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Genetic Engineering Applications

Genetic Engineering Applications

Author: Amanda Soderlind

This lesson will examine the pros and cons of various applications of genetic engineering and Biotechnology.

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Welcome to this lesson today on genetic engineering applications.

Today we are going to be discussing various applications of genetic engineering.

A GMO is a term you've probably heard before, but maybe don't quite understand what it means. GMO stands for genetically modified organisms. These are organisms that are modified and used in genetic engineering. These organisms can include bacteria, plants, or animals.

And PCR, which stands for polymerase chain reaction, is a fast way to make many copies of an organism's DNA. Basically, it amplifies DNA in test tubes, and then this DNA can be used for many genetic engineering uses, such as in the medical field, agriculture, or industry.

Let's take a look at how bacteria can be used in genetic engineering.

Bioremediation is the use of bacteria for environmental issues. So bacteria can be genetically engineered to clean up oil spills, for example. So this is definitely one pro of genetic engineering, is it can be used to help clean up environmental issues, such as oil spills.

Bacterial plasmids are another way in which bacteria are used. Bacterial plasmids are used to create transgenic organisms, which are organisms that contain the DNA of more than one species. We can use these for various reasons, but one way that we can use them is to produce insulin for diabetics. This is a less costly way to produce insulin, because it can be produced more quickly. So basically, the genes for producing insulin are inserted into these bacterial plasmids, and then insulin can be produced quickly and efficiently. So we no longer have to chemically extract insulin from endocrine tissues. We can use bacterial plasmids to produce insulin.

So that's definitely a pro, as well. It can be used in the medical field to make different types of medicines more quickly and efficiently, and more cost effective. However, a con to this is that sometimes scientists think that by using these bacterial plasmids, it can lead to mutations, which could then cause new diseases. So there's definitely some pros and some cons associated with using bacteria in genetic engineering.

Plants can also be used in genetic engineering, and they can produce genetically modified foods. These genetically modified foods can be pest resistant, more resilient. We can genetically modify these foods to provide us with more vitamins, et cetera. So we can genetically modify these foods in a way that we want. That can definitely be a benefit, as well. If they're pest resistant, then we don't have to use as many pesticides, which is better for the environment. If they're more resilient, more of the crop will survive, producing more food. If there's more vitamins, obviously it's better for your health, et cetera.

So those are all ways in which genetic modification can be used in plants. However, some cons to this are that people think that it could trigger the evolution of new pests. Some of these genes could spread to wild plants, it can trigger allergies, and have various health effects. So those are definitely some pros and cons to using plants in genetic engineering.

We also do use animals in genetic engineering. Foreign DNA can be injected into animals. An example of this is injecting pigs with the human growth hormone. Basically, what this does is allow them to grow larger and faster. So for farmers and for the meat industry, this might be a good thing because the pigs than are allowed to grow larger and faster, and then you get more meat in a shorter amount of time. But there also could be some negative health effects associated with this, and some other ethical issues, as well.

So with genetic engineering, it's important that we take a look at the pros and the cons, and we find a way to use genetic engineering in a way that is not going to be detrimental to the environment or in any other way.

This lesson has been an overview on applications of genetic engineering.

Terms to Know

Using genetically modified organisms to clean pollutants.

Genetic Engineering

The process of transferring genes from one organism into another.

Genetically Modified Organism (GMO)

An organism that contains foreign DNA produced by genetic engineering.

Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR)

Genetic technology that allows scientists to copy DNA quickly.

Transgenic Organisms

Organisms that contain genes from another organism.