Friday, January 3, 2014

Genetic Engineering

This subject is immensely intricate but hugely entertaining and stimulating for a human mind. It involves manipulation of material that has such wide diversity, which is yet not fully covered or even understood by the scientists. This article will try to tackle the subject by explaining its meaning and functions.

What does genetic engineering mean? If we break the words down, then we understand that it is engineering of some material that involves genes. Genetic is something involves genes and genes are the coded information contained within a material that is known as DNA. DNA is a chemical molecule, which contains information about the make up of an organism. For example in our DNA, the information will be about our looks, eye colour, hair colour, size of our body parts, our blood group, etc. So if we have a DNA of any organism we can (on paper) reproduce that very organism as we have all the information about it. It's like having a recipe for a dish, which can be used to make that exactly same dish again and again. DNA is just like a recipe for any organism. Going back to cooking analogy, if we use a recipe to cook a dish, when its cooked we don't like the taste because perhaps there was too much of some ingredient So next time when we cook the dish we either omit that ingredients or substitute with another ingredient. This will cause the dish to be different from the original recipe and may be more to your taste. We can say that recipe has been manipulated or engineered to give us the dish with taste that we like. Well Genetic Engineering is when we manipulate the DNA and try to bring about changes in the organism, which would improve the organism or make it do what would be beneficial to us. For example, an organism such as cow that produces milk, if we manipulate with her DNA and make her produce more amount of milk, we have genetically engineered the cow for our benefit.

As genetic is a huge subject, therefore its engineering stems to many varied directions. The basic technique carried many advantages and disadvantages. The advantages allow us to use this technique to treat or cure many diseases. Genetic Engineering is applied to gene therapy where the faulty gene that is causing the diseases is either replaced with a normal gene or omitted in order to cure the disease. An example is Cystic Fibrosis where one of the gene is faulty, that causes build up of thick mucus in a person's breathing system and the person suffers from chest infection and cough for most of their life. In this case, the normal gene (that does not cause the build up of thick mucus) is inserted into the DNA, which then gives instruction and helps to stop the build up of the mucus. Though this is a good technique to help the problem but it is very expensive and the research takes a long time to be able to clone the normal genes.

It is also used to genetically engineered microorganism. For example manipulating bacteria to produces antibiotics, hormones and enzymes. If we think of bacteria as a photocopier we can understand how it is used to make so many beneficial materials. A bacterium tries to survive by multiplying a very high rate. Whatever it ingests it will reproduce and multiply. If we insert the gene of interest (gene to make antibiotic) in bacterium feed, it will ingest and reproduce bacteria with that particular gene. The bacteria have photocopied information that we require in bulk such as antibiotics.

Genetic Engineering is used to improve nature, change animals, change plants, and to find many answers relating to human activities. Where its uses are immensely beneficial, they also give rise to many social ethical and economical issues. For example when it is used to select either sex of an unborn baby, or select features of baby such as eye colour, hair colour or any other in demand feature, giving rise to designer babies. This technique is also used to produce GM food (genetically modified) which also raises many issues such as if the use of GM food produces more illnesses in people and weather its use is should be allowed.

There is much more research needed to be done to advance this technique. Like everything else in life, it has advantages and disadvantages. Its correct use can be very beneficial for humankind and for that reason it should come with some legal limitations.


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