Genetic engineering is the genetic make-up of an organism using biotechnological tools. Genetically engineered technology is one of the most powerful and promising applications for the treatment of genetic diseases such as sickle cell anemia, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, Cystis fibrosis and Tay-Sachs disease, Huntington’s chorea and Lesch-Nyhan syndrome.
Now, medical scientists can detect more than 3,000 disorders due to the error in the DNA of individuals. Through this technique, scientists are changing the genome of an organism. The production of genetically modified organisms requires recombinant DNA. Recombinant DNA is a combination of DNA from different organisms or different locations in a given genome that would normally not be found in nature. The goal is to add one or more new features that are not already present in this organism. Examples of genetically modified organisms currently on the market include plants that are resistant to some insects, plants that can tolerate herbicides, and plants with altered oil content.
How does genetic engineering in medicine work?
To explain the process of genetic engineering, we took the example of insulin, a protein that regulates blood sugar levels.
Normally, insulin is produced in the pancreas, but there is a problem with insulin production in people with type 1 diabetes. People with diabetes therefore need to inject insulin to control their blood sugar levels. Genetic engineering in medicine has been used to make a type of insulin that is very similar to our own, from yeast and bacteria such as E. coli. This genetically engineered insulin, “Humulin”, was approved for human use in 1982.
The genetic engineering process
- A small piece of circular DNA, called a plasmid, is extracted from the bacterial or yeast cell.
- A small section is then excised from the circular plasmid by restriction enzymes, “molecular scissors.”
- The gene for human insulin is inserted into the gap in the plasmid. This plasmid is now genetically engineered.
- The genetically modified plasmid is introduced into a new bacterial or yeast cell.
- This cell then breaks down quickly and begins to produce insulin.
- To produce large quantities of the cells, the genetically modified bacteria or yeasts are grown in large fermentation vessels containing all the nutrients they need. The more the cells divide, the more insulin is produced.
- When the fermentation is complete, the mixture is filtered to release the insulin.
- The insulin is then purified and packaged in bottles and insulin pens for delivery to patients with diabetes.