Career guidance: Genetic engineering
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Genetic Engineering deals with manipulation of genes. It is related to biotechnology and microbiology. BPC students are eligible to take up genetic engineering.
To pursue a career in the field of genetics, you can take up B.Tech in genetic engineering. Another way is to opt for Genetics/ Biotechnology or other life science groups at B.Sc and then go for genetics at postgraduate level.
SRM University, School of Life Sciences offers B.Tech in Genetic Engineering. The eligibility criterion is Intermediate with BPC and 60 per cent marks. For details, visit www.srmuniv.ac.in
University of Delhi offers M.Sc in Genetics.
The eligibility criterion is B.Sc (Honours) in any branch of Life Sciences or B.Sc (General) with at least 60 per cent marks in their main subject (for Honours) or in aggregate (for General).
The admission is based on performance at written test and interview. For details, visit www.du.ac.in
( Courtesy: T.Muralidharan, http://www.thehindu.com )
Genetic engineering, also called genetic modification, is the direct human manipulation of an organism'sgenome using modern DNA technology. It involves the introduction of foreign DNA or synthetic genes into the organism of interest. The introduction of new DNA does not require the use of classical genetic methods, however traditional breeding methods are typically used for the propagation of recombinant organisms.
An organism that is generated through the introduction of recombinant DNA is considered to be a genetically modified organism. The first organisms genetically engineered were bacteria in 1973 and then mice in 1974.Insulin-producing bacteria were commercialized in 1982 and genetically modified food has been sold since 1994.
The most common form of genetic engineering involves the insertion of new genetic material at an unspecified location in the host genome. This is accomplished by isolating and copying the genetic material of interest using molecular cloning methods to generate a DNA sequence containing the required genetic elements forexpression, and then inserting this construct into the host organism. Other forms of genetic engineering include gene targeting and knocking out specific genes via engineered nucleases such as zinc finger nucleases or engineered homing endonucleases.
Genetic engineering techniques have been applied in numerous fields including research, biotechnology, and medicine. Medicines such as insulin and human growth hormone are now produced in bacteria, experimental mice such as the oncomouse and the knockout mouse are being used for research purposes and insect resistant and/or herbicide tolerant crops have been commercialized. Genetically engineered plants and animals capable of producing biotechnology drugs more cheaply than current methods (called pharming) are also being developed and in 2009 the FDA approved the sale of the pharmaceutical protein antithrombin produced in the milk of genetically engineered goats.
Genetic engineering has applications in medicine, research, industry and agriculture and can be used on a wide range of plants, animals and micro organism.
In medicine genetic engineering has been used to mass-produce insulin, human growth hormones, follistim (for treating infertility),human albumin, monoclonal antibodies, antihemophilic factors, vaccines and many other drugs. Vaccination generally involves injecting weak live, killed or inactivated forms of viruses or their toxins into the person being immunized. Genetically engineered viruses are being developed that can still confer immunity, but lack the infectious sequences. Mouse hybridomas, cells fused together to create monoclonal antibodies, have been humanised through genetic engineering to create human monoclonal antibodies.
Genetic engineering is used to create animal models of human diseases. Genetically modified mice are the most common genetically engineered animal model. They have been used to study and model cancer (the oncomouse), 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 success 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 insomatic tissue or germline 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 (notably Severe combined immunodeficiency) and trials have been carried out on other genetic disorders. The success of gene 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.Transhumanists 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 grow, clonal, 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 discover 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 expression.
By engineering genes into bacterial plasmids it is possible to create a biological factory that can produce proteins and enzymes.Some genes do not work well in bacteria, so yeast, a eukaryote, can also be used.] Bacteria and yeast factories have been used to produce medicines such as insulin, human growth hormone, and vaccines, supplements such as tryptophan, aid in the production of food (chymosin in cheese making) and fuels. Other applications involving genetically engineered bacteria being investigated involve making the bacteria perform tasks outside their natural cycle, such as cleaning up oil spills, carbon and other toxic waste.
One of the best-known and controversial applications of genetic engineering is the creation ofgenetically modified food. There are three generations of genetically modified crops. First generation crops have been commercialized and most provide protection from insects and/or resistance to herbicides. There are also fungal and virus resistant crops developed or in development. They have been developed to make the insect and weed management of crops easier and can indirectly increase crop yield.
The second generation of genetically modified crops being developed aim to directly improve yield by improving salt, cold or drought tolerance and to increase the nutritional value of the crops. The third generation consists of pharmaceutical crops, crops that contain edible vaccines and other drugs. Some agriculturally important animals have been genetically modified with growth hormones to increase their sizewhile others have been engineered to express drugs and other proteins in their milk.
The genetic engineering of agricultural crops can increase the growth rates and resistance to different diseases caused by pathogens and parasites. This is beneficial as it can greatly increase the production of food sources with the usage of fewer resources that would be required to host the world's growing populations. These modified crops would also reduce the usage of chemicals, such as fertilizers and pesticides, and therefore decrease the severity and frequency of the damages produced by these chemical pollution.
Ethical and safety concerns have been raised around the use of genetically modified food.A major safety concern relates to the human health implications of eating genetically modified food, in particular whether toxic or allergic reactions could occur.Gene flow into related non-transgenic crops, off target effects on beneficial organisms and the impact onbiodiversity are important environmental issues. Ethical concerns involve religious issues,corporate control of the food supply, intellectual property rights and the level of labeling needed on genetically modified products.
In materials science, a genetically modified virus has been used to construct a more environmentally friendly lithium-ion battery.Some bacteria have been genetically engineered to create black and white photographs while others have potential to be used as sensors by expressing a fluorescent protein under certain environmental conditions.Genetic engineering is also being used to create BioArt and novelty items such as blue roses, and glowing fish.
( Courtesy: Wikkipedia)
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