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Genetic Engineering


Genetic engineering is the alteration of genetic material by direct intervention in genetic processes with the purpose of producing new substances or improving functions of existing organisms. It is a very young, exciting, and controversial branch of the biological sciences. On the one hand, it offers the possibility of cures for diseases and countless material improvements to daily life. Hopes for the benefits of genetic engineering are symbolized by the Human Genome Project, a vast international effort to categorize all the genes in the human species.

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The science of genetic engineering originated in the late 1960s and early 1970s with the discovery of restriction enzymes (Avise, 1998). Molecular biologists have discovered many enzymes which change the structure of DNA in living organisms. Some of these enzymes can cut and join strands of DNA. Using such enzymes, scientists learned to cut specific genes from DNA and to build customized DNA using these genes. They also learned about vectors, strands of DNA such as viruses, which can infect a cell and insert themselves into its DNA.

The process of genetic engineering involves splicing an area of a chromosome, a gene, that controls a certain characteristic of the body. The enzyme endonuclease is used to split a DNA sequence and split the gene from the rest of the chromosome. For example, this gene may be programmed to produce an antiviral protein. This gene is removed and can be placed into another organism. For example, it can be placed into a bacteria, where it is sealed into the DNA chain using ligase. When the chromosome is once again sealed, the bacteria is now effectively re-programmed to replicate this new antiviral protein. The bacteria can continue to live a healthy life, though genetic engineering and human intervention has actively manipulated what the bacteria actually is. No doubt there are advantages and disadvantages, and this whole subject area will become more prominent over time.

Genetic engineering have specialisations related to plants, animals and human beings. Genetic engineering in plants and animals may be to improve certain natural characteristics of value, to increase resistance to disease or damage and to develop new characteristics etc. It is used to change the colour, size, texture etc of plants otherwise known as GM (Genetically Modified) foods. GE in humans can be to correct severe hereditary defects by introducing normal genes into cells in place of missing or defective ones.

A team headed by Ian Wilmut and his colleagues at the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh, Scotland made history when they produced a lamb named Dolly, an exact genetic copy or clone of a sheep. This landmark discovery of the regeneration of an exact replica of a whole animal by transferring nuclei from the cells of that animal to unfertilized eggs of another animal, without the help of a male counterpart, has given researches a wide area open to be discovered. With this discovery, genetic engineering has become globally recognized

Area Of Specialization

Genetics engineering comes under the broad area of biotechnology. The biotechnology industry depends on genetics to produce pharmaceutical products such as insulin and other medicines. In the medical field, genetics focuses on genetic diseases. It strives to understand the molecular basis of diseases and their cure. Genetic tests help in identifying culprits in criminal cases. This field is a high-growth area that has thrown up several job opportunities. At present, most of the universities/institutes do not offer courses in genetic engineering as a separate discipline, but as a subsidiary to biotechnology, microbiology, biochemistry streams.


There is a great scope in this field as the demand for genetic engineers are growing.A PG degree and beyond (PhD) in this field will certainly enhance your employ-ment prospects.The pharmaceutical industry offers the best opportunities. Genetic engineers employment avenues are mainly related in the following fields

• Medical and pharmaceutical industries.

• The agricultural sectors.

• Dairy farming

• Biotech laboratories

• Energy and environment- related industries.

• Animal husbandry.

• Research and Development departments of the government and private sectors.

• Teaching industries.

Famous personalities

Barbara McClintock

Barbara was an American scientist and one of the world's most distinguished cytogeneticists. Her father Thomas Henry McClintock was a physician and her mother's name was Sara Handy McClintock. She was born in Hartford, Connecticut on June 16, 1902. In 1908, Barbara's family moved to Brooklyn, New York. She did her secondary education in Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn. She enrolled at the Cornell University in 1919. Barbara took a course in genetics in 1921. C. B. Hutchison, a plant breeder and geneticist, conducted it. From Cornell she received the B.S. degree in 1923, the M.A. in 1925, and the Ph.D. in 1927. Barbara served as a graduate assistant in the Department of Botany from 1924 to 1927. In 1927, she was appointed as a botany instructor. In 1930, Barbara was the first person to describe the cross-shaped interaction of homologous chromosomes during meiosis. In 1931, Barbara working with a graduate student Harriet Creighton proved the link between chromosomal crossover during meiosis and the recombination of genetic traits. She published the first genetic map for maize in 1931, showing the order of three genes on maize chromosome 9. In 1936, she accepted an Assistant Professorship in the Department of Botany at the University of Missouri. In 1938, Barbara produced a cytogenetic analysis of the centromere, describing the organization and function of the centromere.

For her groundbreaking work in the genetics of corn, she earned a place among the leaders in genetics. Barbara was elected to the prestigious National Academy of Sciences in 1944. Almost half of the human genomes are composed of transposable elements or jumping DNA. In the 1940s Dr. Barbara first recognized jumping DNA in studies of peculiar inheritance patterns found in the colors of Indian corn. Jumping DNA refers to the idea that some stretches of DNA are unstable and "transposable," meaning they can move around - on and between the chromosomes. This particular theory was confirmed in the 1980s when scientists observed jumping DNA in other genomes. Now scientists believe transposons may be linked to some genetic disorders such as leukemia, hemophilia and breast cancer. They also believe that transposons may have played significant roles in human evolution. In 1983, Barbara McClintock was awarded the Nobel Prize in Genetics for the discovery of genetic transposition. She died in Huntington, New York on September 2, 1992. To this day, her work is relevant despite the fact that much of it was completed over half a century ago, before the advent of the molecular era.

Francis Crick

Francis was born on June 8, 1916 in Northampton, England. Crick was educated at Mill Hill School, London and Northampton Grammar School. He studied physics at University College, London and obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in 1937. In 1949, Francis was working at the Cavendish Laboratory at Cambridge, investigating the structure of proteins. In 1951, James Watson, an American biologist joined the lab. Both of them formed a strong working relationship. They believed that if a three-dimensional structure of the molecule known to play a role in passing genetic information, DNA could be determined, then the way genes are passed on might also be revealed. Francis brought to the project his knowledge of X-ray diffraction, while Watson brought the knowledge of phage and bacterial genetics. They created a visual model of DNA in 1953, which over the next few years proved to fit all experimental evidence. Francis and Watson shared the Nobel Prize in physiology/medicine in 1962 'for their discoveries concerning the molecular structure of nucleic acids and its significance for information transfer in living material'. Crick died of colon cancer in July 2004, at age 88.

Rosalind Franklin

Rosalind was born on 25 July, 1920 in Notting Hill, London. She graduated with a Ph.D. from Cambridge University in 1945. She went to work as a research associate for John Randall at King's College in London in 1951. A chemist by training, Rosalind had established herself as a world expert in the structure of graphite and other carbon compounds before she moved to London. She learned many different techniques, and how to use them to extract DNA fibers and arrange them into bundles. Eventually, using this method, Rosalind discovered the key to DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) structure. Rosalind never did receive the due credit for her role in discovering the structure of DNA, the carrier of genetic material. Besides other notable achievements, she was the first to produce photographs that clearly illustrated DNA's helical structure and identify the location of phosphate sugars in DNA. Rosalind died of cancer on April 16, 1958.

Horoscope - Career for Zodiac Signs

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