Genetic Modification in Medicine

Genetic modification is a technique to alter the properties of a plant, animal or microorganism by transferring a piece of DNA from one organism to another. This is done by targeted removal of the desired genes from the DNA of an organism and their addition to the other organism. For example, this technique has been used to develop fungi and bacteria that produce drugs.

In plants, we distinguish between cisgenesis and transgenesis within the genetic modification. Cisgenesis is the transmission of genetic material derived from a related plant. For example, Wageningen UR has used this method to use genes from wild potato plants to make consumer potatoes more resistant to Phytophthora. Transgenesis is the transmission of genetic material from unrelated species.

The story of genetic change

Genetic modification dates back to antiquity when humans influenced genetics through targeted breeding of organisms, according to an article by Gabriel Rangel, a public health scientist at Harvard University. This process leads over several generations to dramatic changes of the kind.

Dogs were probably the first animals to be intentionally genetically modified. The beginnings of this effort were about 32,000 years old, according to Rangel. Wild wolves joined our ancestors by hunters and gatherers in East Asia, where the canines were domesticated and bred. Over the millennia, humans have bred dogs with different desired personalities and physical characteristics, ultimately leading to a large variety of dogs that we see today.

The earliest known genetically modified plant is wheat. It is believed that this valuable crop has been created in the Middle East and North Africa in an area called Fertile Crescent, according to an article published in the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine in 2015. Ancient peasants selectively bred wheat grasses that were cultivated around 9000 BC. to create domesticated varieties with larger grains and harder seeds. Around 8000 BC The cultivation of domesticated wheat had spread throughout Europe and Asia. The continued selective breeding of wheat resulted in thousands of varieties grown today.

Corn has also experienced some of the most dramatic genetic changes in the last thousand years. The staple food comes from a plant called Teosinte, a wild grass with tiny ears that bore few grains. Over time, the farmers selectively brooded the Teosinte grasses to produce corn with large spikes that burst in front of kernels.

Besides these cultures, many of the products we eat today, including bananas, apples, and tomatoes, have passed through several generations of selective breeding, according to Rangel.

The technology used to specifically cut and transfer part of the recombinant DNA (rDNA) into DNA was developed in 1973 by Herbert Boyer and Stanley Cohen, researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, and Stanford University, respectively. The couple transferred a piece of DNA from one bacterial strain to another and allowed antibiotic resistance in the modified bacteria. The following year, in the first experiment, two American molecular biologists, Beatrice Mintz, and Rudolf Jaenisch, introduced foreign genetic material into embryos of mice to genetically engineered animals.

The researchers also modified bacteria as drugs. In 1982, human insulin was synthesized from genetically engineered E. coli bacteria and became, according to Rangel, the first FDA-approved genetically engineered human medicines. General genetic medicine especially the field of genetic engineering is growing more and more popularity.

Purposes of genetic modification

Adding desired properties to living organisms, e.g. B. Resistance to disease or drought, can also be achieved by the species are crossed with each other. But the intersection also brings with it undesirable characteristics. The process of eliminating these undesirable properties by crossing them takes decades. For example, back to the potato, there are wild potato species that are resistant to diseases that consumer potatoes cannot protect. By crossing a wild potato species with a crop, seedlings are made with a gene packet of which only half is from the wild potato. It would take about thirty years to reuse the plant material for food production by crossing it with the potato. Through genetic modification, a new variant with just the right properties can be developed in a short time, since only the desired gene is transmitted.

Are there any disadvantages to genetic modification?

Adding desired properties to living organisms, e.g. B. Resistance to disease or drought, can also be achieved by the species are crossed with each other. But the intersection also brings with it undesirable characteristics. The process of eliminating these undesirable properties by crossing them takes decades. For example, back to the potato, there are wild potato species that are resistant to diseases that consumer potatoes cannot protect. By crossing a wild potato species with a crop, seedlings are made with a gene packet of which only half is from the wild potato. It would take about thirty years to reuse the plant material for food production by crossing it with the potato. Through genetic modification, a new variant with just the right properties can be developed in a short time, since only the desired gene is transmitted.