Applications of Genetic Engineering


Applications of Genetic Engineering

Genome organization and gene expression

Molecular cloning has led directly to the elucidation of the complete DNA sequence of the genomes of a very large number of species and to an exploration of genetic diversity within individual species, work that has been done mostly by determining the DNA sequence of large numbers of randomly cloned fragments of the genome, and assembling the overlapping sequences.

At the level of individual genes, molecular clones are used to generate probes that are used for examining how genes are expressed, and how that expression is related to other processes in biology, including the metabolic environment, extracellular signals, development, learning, senescence and cell death. Cloned genes can also provide tools to examine the biological function and importance of individual genes, by allowing investigators to inactivate the genes, or make more subtle mutations using regional mutagenesis or site-directed mutagenesis. Genes cloned into expression vectors for functional cloning provide a means to screen for genes on the basis of the expressed protein's function.

Transgenic organisms

Once characterized and manipulated to provide signals for appropriate expression, cloned genes may be inserted into organisms, generating transgenic organisms, also termed genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Although most GMOs are generated for purposes of basic biological research (see for example, transgenic mouse), a number of GMOs have been developed for commercial use, ranging from animals and plants that produce pharmaceuticals or other compounds (pharming), herbicide-resistant crop plants, and fluorescent tropical fish (GloFish) for home entertainment and also plays a key role in Gene therapy

Gene therapy

Gene therapy involves supplying a functional gene to cells lacking that function, with the aim of correcting a genetic disorder or acquired disease. Gene therapy can be broadly divided into two categories. The first is alteration of germ cells, that is, sperm or eggs, which results in a permanent genetic change for the whole organism and subsequent generations. This “germ line gene therapy” is considered by many to be unethical in human beings. The second type of gene therapy, “somatic cell gene therapy”, is analogous to an organ transplant. In this case, one or more specific tissues are targeted by direct treatment or by removal of the tissue, addition of the therapeutic gene or genes in the laboratory, and return of the treated cells to the patient. Clinical trials of somatic cell gene therapy began in the late 1990s, mostly for the treatment of cancers and blood, liver, and lung disorders.

Despite a great deal of publicity and promises, the history of human gene therapy has been characterized by relatively limited success. The effect of introducing a gene into cells often promotes only partial and/or transient relief from the symptoms of the disease being treated. Some gene therapy trial patients have suffered adverse consequences of the treatment itself, including deaths. In some cases, the adverse effects result from disruption of essential genes within the patient's genome by insertional inactivation. In others, viral vectors used for gene therapy have been contaminated with infectious virus. Nevertheless, gene therapy is still held to be a promising future area of medicine, and is an area where there is a significant level of research and development activity.