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Intervention on the genomes. Part 4

Genetic engineering refers to the modification, manipulation, or direct changing of an organism’s genes using biotechnology.
The big difference between genetic engineering and what has happening in humankind until now is that now it is exactly known what we want and what we achieved. Before we could achieve the same thing without knowing exactly what happened in the genome. And there are lots of techniques we are not going to describe here, but these techniques may be direct in the sense that DNA may be thrown directly inside or through a vector, a vector that many times is a virus that helps to introduce a given gene in a given genome.
The techniques, the engineering techniques to make these changes, this addition of the genome have been changing and improving in the last years and what is clear is that the more precise the technique is, it means that this is what biotechnology wants to achieve. The point is that to which extent a gene in a new context is going to be something different. And what we have learned is that DNA is the same in any spices. What is true for bacteria is true for an elephant because at the very base the genetic information is the same.
So, nothing is new in biology through genetic engineering techniques, because the novelty is a biological novelty that is directed, but this may have, and really it does, social concerns. And these concerns are going to increase in the near future because in the last time there has been a very special technique called CRISPR/Cas9 that is a tool of making very precise edits in the DNA and this is allowing, this allows to make very specific, very precise changes and this is much faster, much cheaper, easier than previously done. This means that this idea of editing, now is really something much feasible that it used to be, and the technique is going to be much more widespread.
By one side, the biological problem; by the other side, the social problem. The uses of genetic engineering are huge; in fact if we think that we have engineered without knowing all the species we eat, all the species we use, so we can think on the impact of that, but looking at specific modifications we may be interested in modifying bacteria to produce substances like insulin, growth hormone and this is all the insulin, all the growth hormone nowadays is being produced by bacteria and this has been really a success, a success of biotechnology producing these molecules that are so needed by sick people that need a clear clean substance (to having) in his own body.
Plants may be modified and this is the best may be known in the newspapers and in this case may be resistant to insects, to diseases, to temperatures, to excess or dearth of water… Plants can be modified to get, to produce given substances so this plants in fact are plants that are very important in the sense that they have substances that may be needed for some individuals, for some populations. At the very end there are lots of modifications that are of interest in human health and in food production. In therapy, no doubt, if we want to cure a cancer, what we have to do is either kill or modify the cancer’s cells.
So, this genetic engineering uses are important in biomedicine and in therapy, there is nothing new. Instead of using other molecules that has been used, in other words now is using the DNA as a drug. And in fact, the idea of “who wants to be a transgenic?” is interesting because there are some diseases nowadays very well-known, genetic diseases or cancer in which to make part of our cells transgenic is the only way that may be cured in the future.

Genetic engineering refers to the modification, manipulation, or direct changing of an organism’s genes using biotechnology.

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Why Biology Matters: The Genome and You

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