Genetic Engineering Today and Possibilities for the Future

Genetic engineering is a very current and still developing area of science with huge potential. Genetic engineering has a wide scope of possible uses; it is already being used in everyday life. It has been theorised to be one of the most revolutionary strains of science, which will be be of great significance in actually changing the quality of people’s everyday lives.

Already genetic engineering is impacting society. For example, crops are being genetically modified to be able to produce a large yield of product in conditions of draught, water logged soils or soils which lack plentiful nutrients.  The first genetically modified plant was produced in 1982. Despite genetic engineering being a relatively new area of science, scientists have already achieved many successes. Transgenic plants are modified by inserting genes into them from other species, either from the same kingdom or another one. Transgenic carrots have been produced to treat Gaucher’s disease. There are ample methods of genetic engineering, the most common being ‘gene guns’. This technique ‘shoots’ desired genes into the plant cell. First the DNA is bound to small particle of a metal (gold, for example) which are then shot into plant tissue- these will penetrate the cell wall and membrane. The DNA separates from the metal and is integrated with the original plant DNA in the nucleus.

An already incredible way that genetic engineering is being used in the field of medicine is genetically engineered insulin for those who suffer with diabetes. The gene for producing insulin is inserted into a plasmid of a bacteria cell, who follow the genetic code to produce human insulin, as DNA is a universal language. This was an extraordinary discovery for medicine as it means that sufferers of diabetes no longer need to use animal insulin which could easily cause an allergic reaction and that is more pure and easier and cheaper to produce. Incredible medical breakthroughs using genetic engineering are becoming more common place, and the potential genetic engineering can have in medical fields is unimaginable, from growing human organs to curing genetic diseases.

A very recent and exciting discovery for scientists in the field of genetic engineering is the technology known as CRISPR. This has revolutionised the way we can genetically modify life and cut costs by over 90%. CRISPR derived from bacteria who managed to survive an attack by a virus- it is only after the bacteria has survived that it can activate CRISPR. The bacteria saves a piece of the virus’ genetic code, a DNA archive called CRISPR, if the virus attacks again an RNA copy is made of the virus’ DNA and a protein called CAS9 is produced. The protein can scan all DNA inside the bacteria and cut out virus DNA if found- this makes the attack from the virus useless. Scientists have now found out that CRISPR is programmable. In 2015, scientists used CRISPR to cut the DNA out of a HIV cell- more experiments have shown that CRISPR genetic engineering could even cure HIV and many other diseases with further research.

Genetic engineering has endless possibilities, but one must also think of moral concerns surrounding the practice. Genetic engineering can be classed as a definite slippery slope, it has the potential to save, create and even prolong life, but the consequences for society on a moral ground could be high. Many film and literature has discussed the horror of a world where genetically engineered children are the standard. Proceeding with genetic engineering experiments must be done with caution and integrity.

Bibliography

Anon., 2018. Genetically Modified Crops. [Online]
Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genetically_modified_crops
[Accessed 18 Febuary 2018].

Kaminski, R. e. a., 2016. Elimination of HIV-1 Genomes from Human T-lymphoid Cells by CRISPR/Cas9 Gene Editing. [Online]
Available at: https://www.nature.com/articles/srep22555
[Accessed 18 Febuary 2018].

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