The discovery of DNA is attributed to the research of three scientists in 1951; Francis Crick, Maurice Wilkins, and James Dewey Watson. They were all later accredited with the Nobel Prize in physiology and medicine in 1962. Thanks to their discovery science has been able to research and learn from DNA blueprints and use recombinant DNA technology to discover answers, vaccines and build immunity for many viruses. In recent years science has been using this new technology to genetically modify animals, plants and possibly the main aim being to modify the DNA of humans.
Recombinant DNA technology or genetic engineering as it is more commonly known is a “method of changing the inherited characteristics of an organism in a predetermined way by altering its genetic material. ” It involves “the combination of DNA from one organism with DNA from another organism. ” Before the process of Recombinant DNA can begin there are two substances in bacterial cells that are required. The first is located in the cytoplasm of the bacterial cell, where there are small circular pieces of DNA known as plasmids these are used as vectors.
The second is the desired gene. There are three ways of isolating the gene; using DNA probes, working backwards from the protein or using messenger RNA. When the gene has been isolated it has to be cut from its DNA chain, this is done using Restriction Endonucleases (restriction enzymes). These cut DNA molecules at specific sites. By choosing the correct restriction enzyme, DNA molecules from different organisms can be cut at predictable sites to extract specific genes from lengths of DNA.
The desired gene is then spliced into a vector. A vector being a gene carrier is used to get the desired gene into the target organism. The desired gene and the plasmids are both cut using the same restriction enzyme so that they both have the same ‘sticky ends’. The two ends are joined together, with the help of an enzyme called ligase. A new molecule is formed that contains genes from both the plasmid and another organism.
This is recombinant DNA; this DNA formed is then introduced into the host cell and using antibiotics the cells containing the DNA are selected. The vectors then multiply and produce genetically identical daughter cells which also produce the desired protein. This is recombinant DNA; this DNA formed is then introduced into the host cell and using antibiotics the cells containing the DNA are selected. The vectors then multiply and produce genetically identical daughter cells which also produce the desired protein.
Recombinant DNA technology is currently an extremely controversial topic and with such infectious epidemics as SARS, there is reason to go further into genetic engineering; however are we meddling with technology we don’t fully understand the future of and should we be meddling with the genetic makeup of individuals and a world that we do not even know how was created. Moral and Ethical issues surround all aspects of Recombinant DNA technology. Economical, Social and Environmental issues are all entwined with the morals and ethics of genetic engineering.
It is hard to judge morally the issues of Recombinant DNA technology as their as yet are no answers to fully support an argument, so I will try to hit a balance. Technology in this field is helping us to begin to discover possible cures for cancer and other diseases. Chung Lee a researcher in Illinois has discovered a possible way to boost our immune system so we are resistant to cancer. I will discuss this further in social issues; however an advancement such as a cure for cancer surely gives the moral high ground to the development of genetic engineering.
Tosk a biotech company in America claim that they can add “genes to mammalian cells with unprecedented efficiency with the help of fruit fly DNA that can jump in and out of chromosomes. ” This would make genetically modifying animals cheap and easy, and they could be soon not only modifying farm animals but our pets too. Instead of going through dozens of injections and implanting embryos, Tosk’s method simply requires injecting the extra DNA into the animal’s blood stream. The within weeks “it is integrated into a high proportion of cells in many different tissues.
Then when breeding occurs the newborn has in every cell the extra DNA. Results show successes only in animals, but medically they have for example prevented haemophilia in mice and hope to continue testing on animals and possibly in time use it to benefit humans. However there are catches to this research, the DNA is inserted randomly and could land in the wrong place and knock out vital genes making cells cancerous. However the chances of this are claimed to be miniscule. Another worry is; in the integration of a gene into the human germline.
If the extra DNA ends up in the egg or sperm cell of a patient, some argue that “germline transmission is desirable” and they would welcome a cure that also protects their future children, as would I. However should we allow this cure to be passed onto our children? Some say that this is not a worry and random integration is more serious, with this being a miniscule threat the positives seem to substantially outweigh the negatives. One moral objection to genetic engineering comes from animal testing, to develop the technology we need to test on animals in laboratories.
They could be injected with disease after disease and in pain until they die, yet I feel if for the benefit of the human race then from my view animal testing is justifiable. I successful genetic engineering hopes to create ‘designer babies’ and clone humans, this would create a world of choice and a race of superb humans. However I feel this is morally and ethically wrong, if we take the view point God created earth, which in the United Kingdom and many people I know is accepted, then we do not have the power to intervene and change God’s creation.
He made us imperfect and I feel humans should be this way, without flaws we have nothing to strive for and life would be a waste of time. We need to be individuals and to be accepted and accept who we are, and I do not feel we as humans have the power to change the human race from what God intended it to be like. However if we believe in evolution, then that argument is turned on its head and we should evolve continuously improving ourselves. Jews – pigs are unclean and Muslims are cows genes in cows bad.