What Is Cloning and How Does It Work?
There is natural and artificial cloning. Some examples of natural clones are identical twins and bacteria.
There are three types of artificial cloning:
Gene cloning is making duplicates of specific genes or pieces of DNA. This is done by the gene of an organism being put in a vector, which is then multiplied, resulting in the gene being copied many times over.
Reproductive cloning makes clones of whole organisms. This is done by taking a mature cell from the animal of choice, taking out the nucleus, putting it into the place of the nucleus of a hollow egg cell, make it start dividing by stimulating it, and if it is normal, it will be put into the womb of the surrogate mother after it makes a blastocyst.
Therapeutic Cloning is creating duplicates of embryonic stem cells to help treat a disease or injury. This is done by taking the nucleus out of the donor cell, putting it into an empty egg cell, make the egg cell divide by stimulating it, and then destroy the embryo to harvest the embryonic stem cell eggs.
Is Artificial Cloning Currently Being Used?
All three types: gene, reproductive, and therapeutic cloning are being used.
Gene Cloning is accepted and there aren't any ethical issues with it
The only ethical issues with Reproductive Cloning are that some people believe that it will escalate to cloning humans.
There are ethical issues with Therapeutic Cloning. A lot of religious groups are against it because it involves the destruction of an embryo.
Benefits of Gene Cloning
- Used for Genome sequencing
- Helpful for studying genes
Disadvantages of Gene Cloning
- PCR is quicker in some cases, which make it more preferable than gene cloning to some people
- Sometimes the plasmid is resistant
Benefits of Reproductive Cloning
- Can revive extinct species or save endangered ones
- Some people can have clones of their pets
- Farmers can clone their most efficient animals, such as cows or pigs
Disadvantages of Reproductive Cloning
- Cloned animals can have shorter life spans
- They can also have mutations
- It's expensive
Benefits of Therapeutic Cloning
- Could end up healing any tissue or organ
- The embryonic stem cells could be used to test new medications
- It makes it easier to find out the causes of some diseases
Disadvantages of Therapeutic Cloning
- Destroy embryos
- Many people against it
- Embryonic stem cells could easily mutate into cancer cells
- It could potentially take hundreds of tries just for one successful attempt
The technology used in gene cloning are restriction enzymes (cut the pieces of DNA) and the vector (where the gene or DNA piece is put)
The technology used in reproductive cloning and therapeutic cloning are almost exactly the same. They both take the nucleus out of the donor cell, putting it into an hollow egg cell, and make the egg cell divide by stimulating it, but in reproductive cloning, the egg is put into an animal womb after blastocyst and in therapeutic cloning, the egg is destroyed and embryonic stem cell eggs are harvested.
How Is Knowing the Human Genome Helpful?
It is helpful to Gene Cloning and therapeutic cloning because it gives information needed to copy a gene, which both processes do.
It isn't helpful to Reproductive Cloning because as of right now, whole humans aren't cloned.
High Tech Genetics: Bioinformatics and Microarrays
What Is Bioinformatics?
Bioinformatics is collecting and sequencing large amounts of genetic information
What Are Microarrays and How Do They Work?
A microarray is a technique that shows mutated, inactive, and active genes. There are two types: Oligonucleotide and Spotted. The steps of using a microarray are:
- Get patient's blood sample and a control sample (completely normal DNA/genes)
- Denature DNA
- Cut up and dye DNA samples
- Put the samples into the chip
If there is a mutation, the samples won't bind properly, but if there isn't, they'll bind perfectly.
Are They Currently Being Used?
Bioinformatics and Microarrays are both being used.
The information coming from bioinformatics and Microarrays could lead to genetic discrimination by insurance companies. Also, it could lead to a potential loss of privacy and confidentiality with your genetic information.
Benefits of Bioinformatics
- Large Storage for Information
- Quick sequencing abilities; if it didn't have this, then it would take a long time, maybe even years to get the whole genome sequenced.
Disadvantages of Bioinformatics
- Is prone to mistakes
Benefits of Microarrays
- Can read 1000s of genes at one time
- It is precise
- Is more productive
Disadvantages of Microarrays
- Low Supply of Needed Equipment
- The dye efficiency isn't very good
Technology of Bioinformatics
The technology needed for this are various computer software programs, other programs such as BLAST (Basic Local Alignment Search Tool), and the Internet
Technology of Microarrays
Microarrays are the technology; it is the technique itself.
How Is Knowing the Human Genome Helpful for Bioinformatics and Microarrays?
It is helpful to Bioinformatics because it is sequencing the whole genome. The whole concept of Bioinformatics depends on the Human Genome.
It is helpful to Microarrays because it makes it easier to identify a non-mutated DNA strand; Microarrays needs the control strand and that strand is easily found using the information from the human genome.
Genetically Modified Organisms
What Are They?
Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are organisms whose genome has been changed to have or get rid of certain traits.
Are They Currently Used?
Yes, GMOs are currently being used and created. The most common type are Genetically Modified (GM) foods.
Some of the ethical issues of GMOs are that they can harm food webs. In most cases, animals can't eat what they normally do if it ends up being genetically modified. These animals will end up with a lost food source and the chemicals can also kill other animals around them. Another issue is that many religious groups believe that modifying foods or animals is like playing God, as the scientists are changing and essentially creating new creatures.
Benefits of GMOs
- It can make crops more resistant; some crops are genetically engineered to withstand herbicides and be able to grow through extreme temperatures and weather
- GMOs can help fight diseases. To illustrate, scientists put the toxin from cholera in rice, fed it to mice, and the mice actually became immune to cholera. (Ian Murnaghan BSc)
- GMOs can also help people in poverty. In countries where it is hard for food to grow and if it even does, there is a very small amount, GM foods can grow, leading to more food for the people and animals living in those countries. (Ian Murnaghan BSc)
- GM foods can actually cause and increase allergic reactions and illness in people
- Some foods genetically engineered to drive away bugs have actually had the opposite effect; bugs and animals are actually growing resistant to the crops
There are two main technologies used in creating GMOs: Recombinant DNA technology and Reproductive Cloning. The Recombinant DNA technology is joins the DNA of two different organisms together, in one case, a goat and a spider. The Reproductive Cloning makes a clone of a whole organism.
Stem Cell Research - Adult vs. Embryonic
What Is It?
Adult Stem Cells, a.k.a. Somatic cells, are undifferentiated, found in tissues and organs, and can distinguish itself as a cel of some types of tissues and organs.
Embryonic Stem Cells are undifferentiated cells, are taken from embryos and can distinguish itself as any tissue or organ cell.
Are They Currently Being Used?
Yes, both types of cells are being used in Stem Cell Research. However, embryonic stem cells are more sought after because they can become any type of cell, unlike adult stem cells. They also have the potential to treat more diseases.
There aren't any ethical problems with using adult stem cells for research.
When it comes to embryonic stem cells, on the other hand, many people have problems with them because in order to harvest them, it involves destroying embryos, which many religious groups want to be saved.
Benefits of Stem Cell Research
- Test new medications on stem cells
- Potential to reverse diseases by adding the cells
- These cells can replace the sick ones
Benefits of Embryonic Stem Cell Research
- Embryonic Stem Cells are very versatile
- They can become any type of cell
- They're less likely to have mutations
Disadvantages of Embryonic Stem Cell Research
- There are many people against it
Benefits of Adult Stem Cell Research
- Using adult stem cells for research isn't controversial
- Adult stem cells are actually more flexible than originally thought
Disadvantages of Adult Stem Cell Research
- They're more likely to have flaws or defects
- Adult stem cells can't change into all types of cells like embryonic stem cells can
- They're not as durable as embryonic stem cells
The main piece of technology used is an IN Cell Amalyzer System. It quickly produces pictures of the cell and analyzes it through all of the steps of differentiation.
How Is Knowing the Human Genome Helpful to Stem Cell Research?
Knowing the human genome is helpful because it expanded our understanding of our bodies' biology and function. That information laid the groundwork for stem cell research, which works to study diseases and how to cure them.
Some of the Top Stem Cell Research Labs Are:
UCLA Eli & Edythe Broad Center of Regenerative Medicine & Stem Cell Research
Some of the topics they research are:
- Age-Related Macular Degeneration
- Blood/Hematopoietic Stem Cells (HSC)
- Cardiovascular Stem Cells
- Neutral Stem Cell Repair
- Human Embryonic Stem Cells (hESC)
The New York Stem Cell Foundation (NYSCF)
Some of the Topics they Research Are:
- Bone engineering
- Heart disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Neurodegenerative diseases
McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine
Some of the Topics It Researches Are:
- Tissue Engineering and Biomaterials
- Cellular Therapies
- Medical Devices and Artificial Organs
- Clinical Translation
Gene Therapy and Genomic Medicine
What Is Gene Therapy And How Does It Work?
Gene therapy is an experimental method that treats and could possibly prevent a disease. There are two types: somatic, which has to do with non-reproductive cells, and germline, which has to do with cells that make eggs or sperm. In gene therapy, a normal gene is sent to the bad or defective gene, which then fixes the problem.
What is Genomic Medicine?
Genomic Medicine is the practice of using a person's Genomic information to specialize their care.
Are They Currently Being Used?
Gene therapy is currently being tested, not used and Genomic Medicine isn't used yet, but it will be in the near future.
Ethical Issues of Gene Therapy
- It is expensive
- It could potentially be used for non-medical purposes, such as making somebody smarter or taller
- Who would decide what is and isn't a disability?
Ethical Issues of Genomic Medicine
- People could be discriminated against because of their genetics; if somebody needs to have an expensive treatment for a disease before they get accepted medical insurance, no company would want them, as they would cost a lot of money
- It would lead to problems with privacy
Benefits of Gene Therapy
- Could eradicate diseases and have treatment for otherwise untreatable diseases
- It could give people born with a genetic disease a chance to have a normal life
Disadvantages of Gene Therapy
- It is very expensive
- The immune system could fight off the new gene, which could have a harmful effect on the patient
- It would be very hard to get the correct gene into the right place and then to turn it on
- It could, if improperly placed, cause cancer
Technology for Gene Therapy and Genomic Medicine
The main technology used for gene therapy are vectors, which are made up of harmless viruses, goes to a patient's cells, and bring them the correct gene. Genomic Medicine doesn't require a technology, as it is more of a method of how to treat a patient than anything else.
How Is Knowing the Human Genome Helpful to Gene Therapy and Genomic Medicine?
It's helpful to Gene Therapy because in order to know where what cell you need to put the correct gene, you have to first know the human genome.
It's helpful to Genomic Medicine because it requires a person's genetic information, which couldn't be acquired without prior knowledge of the human genome.
Designer Babies and Bioethics
What Are They?
Bioethics are the ethics of which biological and medical research pertain to. Designer babies are babies are babies that are designed to have specific traits using genetic engineering.
Are They Currently Being Created?
As of right now, designer babies aren't available for commercial use.
There is a fierce and ongoing debate about the ethics of designer babies. There are two sides: the side against it and the side for it. The side against it believe that it's immoral and in humane to genetically engineer your own child to turn out exactly how you want. Many religious groups believe that this is just playing God and should be illegal. Many people on the side for designer babies believes they are the next step for evolution. They believe that if we can create "perfect" humans genetically, then they will be the next step from being the human race.
Benefits of Designer Babies
- Could increase life span
- Prevent genetic disorders
- Decrease risk of getting inherited disease
Problems with Designer Babies
- There are very strong ethical and moral implications that come with this
- Social divide between genetically engineered humans and naturally conceived humans
- There is a lot of room for mistakes or messing something up
- It creates a lot of prejudice
Two main technologies are used: In Vitro Fertilization and Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD). In Vitro Fertilization is when an egg is fertilized outside of the body, most of the time this occurs in a test tube. PGD is when embryos are searched for specific traits before they are put in the womb.
How Is Knowing the Human Genome Helpful For Designer Babies?
It's helpful because if we didn't know the Human Genome, then it would be very hard to try to genetically modify embryos. However, this information brings us this much closer to being able to do it commercially.
What Is Epigenetics?
Epigenetics is the study of what turns genes on and off.
How Does It Work?
Things such as what someone eats, what their mother ate when she was pregnant with the,, amount of exercise, their age, and even climate affect whether or not genes are active or dormant.
Is It Currently Being Used Now?
Yes, Epigenetics is being used now.
There aren't any ethical issues with Epigenetics; nothing is getting damaged, copied, and there's nothing controversial about it.
Benefits of Epigenetics
- Now people will know what to avoid in order to prevent certain outcomes. For example, a 15-year study shows that menopause actually might speed up the aging process. (Kirkpatrick, Menopause and Insomnia Might Actually Speed Up the Aging Process)
- People can try to change their habits in order to have positive epigenetic effects on their genes. There's a link between eating an unhealthy, sugary, and high-fat diet during pregnancy can lead to ADHD in the child. (Kirkpatrick, Eating Sweet, Fatty Foods During Pregnancy is Linked to ADHD in Children)
Disadvantages of Epigenetics
There are no real disadvantages of Epigenetics.
There is no specific technology used either.
How is Knowing the Human Genome Helpful for Epigenetics?
The information coming from the Human Genome helps because it was easier to further pinpoint which genes had what function and study their changes when we actually knew what they were,
DNA Fingerprinting and Crime Scene Investigation
What Is It?
DNA Fingerprinting is a technique in which DNA is gathered, combined, and then is used to try to match to other DNA left behind at the crime scene.
How Does It Work and Technology?
There are three methods of DNA Fingerprinting: Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism (RFLP), Short Tandem Repeat Test (STR Test), and Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR).
- RFLP- After DNA is collected, pieces of DNA are taken and separated during electrophoresis and the result produces an x-ray (by autoradiography) that is compared to other DNA at the crime scene
- STR Test- The DNA sample is studied and the forensic scientist counts the amount of repeats
- PCR- A method to make many copies of a portion of DNA, RNA, or protein. This process happens in three steps. First, the DNA is denatured, the reaction cools, Taq polymerase builds new strands of DNA with higher temperatures, and this whole process is repeated around 20-35 times.
Is DNA Fingerprinting for Crime Scene Investigation Currently Used?
Yes, and it actually is the best evidence that can be presented to a court and jury.
The ethical issues that come with DNA Fingerprinting and criminal investigations is that with using DNA evidence, the idea of keeping a database of criminals' data comes up. That then can lead to discrimination against not only criminals themselves, but their families and friends as well.
Benefits of DNA Fingerprinting and Crime Scene Investigation
- It can properly identify crimimals
- Help solve crimes
- Could identify a body
- Prove innocence
Disadvantages of DNA and Crime Scene Investigation
- DNA could be contaminated
- If it is, then it could be used to wrongfully accuse someone
- It's easy to mess something up with PCR
- It might not always be 100% accurate
How is Knowing the Human Genome Helpful?
It's helpful because without the Human Genome, it would be harder to identify people or things. It also shows the characteristics of DNA.
Interesting Facts About DNA Fingerprinting
- Identical siblings have the exact same genes
- There are DNA tests you can take to find out your heritage and family tree
- Every fingerprint is different one each person
- A child shares about 50% of their genes with each of their parents
Personal Ancestry and Paternity Kits
What Are They?
Personal ancestry kits are DNA tests coming from places such as Ancestry.com and 23andme.com, in which a person sends in a DNA sample and in return will receive information such as what relatives they have and/or what their heritage is.
Paternity kits are a DNA test that confirms whether or not a man is the father of a certain child.
How Do They Work?
The way Ancestry Kits work is that you send in a DNA sample, which most of the time will be saliva, and after testing, you'll get the results of what your heritage is and who your ancestors are.
For paternity kits, you either send in DNA samples of the mother, alleged father, and child, or just the alleged father or child. You will then get the results of lab testing saying whether or not the suspected father actually is the father.
Are They Currently Being Used?
Both Ancestry and Paternity kits are currently being used.
Ethical Problems with Ancestry Kits
- Some kits will tell if someone is at risk for any major diseases, which isn't always a good idea to trust or take action on without showing the results to their doctor
- If someone are told by a not 100% accurate and non-FDA approved test that they're at high risk for a debilitating disease, should they spend money to try to prevent that?
Ethical Issues With Paternity Kits
- It could be an invasion of privacy because the father has to be willing to give a sample of his own DNA to the testing company
Benefits of Ancestry Kits
- Someone can find out their heritage
- Find relatives they didn't know they had
- It's generally a good way for someone to find out more about their family tree
Disadvantages of Ancestry Kits
- Only one well known company actually has FDA approved tests: 23andme.com
- The tests aren't 100% accurate
Advantages of Paternity Kits
- Can help confirm whether a man is actually the father of someone's child
- It could potentially be used as evidence in court for Child Support
In both Ancestry and Paternity Kits, the main technology used is Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR). In the tests, PCR is used to enlarged portions of DNA, and for Ancestry Kits, that DNA is used to help locate your family tree and for Paternity Kits, it's used to compare the alleged father and child and telll whether or not the man is the biological father of the child.
How is Knowing the Human Genome Helpful For Ancestry and Paternity Kits?
It is helpful because without the Human Genome, it would be harder to tell what in our DNA and genes, are the defining traits. It would be very hard to trace back hundreds of years or tell us who our long-lost relatives are. Without it, it would be that much harder to find out what our heritage is, our ancestors were, and who our parents are.
PCR and Gel Electrophoresis
What Is PCR and How does it Work?
PCR is a method to make many copies of a portion of DNA, RNA, or protein. This process happens in three steps. First, the DNA is denatured, the reaction cools, Taq polymerase builds new strands of DNA with higher temperatures, and this whole process is repeated around 20-35 times.
What Is Gel Electrophoresis and How does it Work?
Gel electrophoresis is a way to separate pieces of DNA, RNA, and proteins based on their size. First, prepare the gel, which will most likely be agarose gel (depending on whether high or low concentration is needed), dye the section of DNA that is wanted, put the samples in the wells of the gel, turn on the electric current, the sample separates, turn on the UV light, and then look at the bands in the wells of the gel.
Are PCR and Gel Electrophoresis Used Currently or Will It Be In the Near Future?
Both of these processes are currently being used, especially for DNA fingerprinting.
Are There Any Ethical Issues With These Processes?
Some of the ethical issues with PCR and Gel Electrophoresis are the same as with many other Biotechnological processes: the invasion of privacy that comes along with doing anything to DNA, and the potential discrimination that will come with the information and results of these techniques.
Benefits of PCR
- Due to this process's sensitivity, it's easy to enlarge duplicate the DNA from old, degraded, or small amounts of DNA
- The technique can have quick production and results
- The information coming from this process can help with things such as DNA fingerprinting and genome mapping
- It is generally not expensive to do
Disadvantages of PCR
- The same sensitivity that proves as an advantage can also make it easy to contaminate the sample of interest
- It's simple to get incorrect results by accidentally including wrong nucleotides into the portion used
Benefits of Gel Electrophoresis:
- Just like PCR, gel electrophoresis is inexpensive, especially compared to some other biotechnological techniques
- The results of gel electrophoresis can check a Polymerase Chain Reaction to see if the results are correct
Disadvantages of Gel Electrophoresis
- The results of this process aren't very precise
- The gel can melt when there are high temperatures
Technology in PCR
- Polypropylene PCR Tubes- Holds the samples
- Thermal Cyclers- Enlargens pieces of DNA during the Polymerase Chain Reaction
- Filtered PCR Enclosures- Protects the PCR work from environmental contamination
Technology in Gel Electrophoresis
- Horizontal Gel Box- Holds DNA/RNA/Protein samples, allows and keeps electric currents going across the gel, and cools down the samples when needed
- TBA or TAE Buffer- Creates the electric current needed for this process
- Comb- Makes the wells in the gel, which the separated portion goes to
- UV Light Box- Makes the bands of separated DNA/RNA/protein visible
How is Knowing the Human Genome Helpful in PCR and Gel Electrophoresis?
It is helpful because our bodies are made up of DNA, which the Polymerase Chain Reaction and Gel Electrophoresis test. By knowing the human genome, you can see mutations in DNA, and the same results can be used for cloning and paternity testing.
Plasmids, Recombinant DNA, and Transgenic Organisms
What Are They, How Do They Work and Technology
Plasmids are small circles of genetic material, used as vectors, and usually some type of bacteria. They're used often in gene cloning.
Recombinant DNA is DNA of two organisms that are joined together. This is usually done through gene splicing or being fused together by an electric current.
Transgenic Organisms are Organisms whose genomes have been altered by genetic modification.
Are They Currently Being Used?
Yes, Plasmids, Recombinant DNA, and Transgenic Organisms are all being used.
- Easy to duplicate
- Easily found
- Can transfer whatever is held inside of it
- Can be used to make transgenic organisms
- Can be used to make a more productive or more useful organism, such as a goat who has spider silk in his milk or a cow who makes milk that helps with blood clotting
- Can be used as help with cloning
- Can be used to help couples that want a child but can't have one
- Can be tested on for better medication or treatment of disease
- Sometimes are resistant when used in gene therapy
- Resulting organisms can end up harming the environment
- They could also have mutations and not live long
- It isn't always an easy process
- Can have a shorter life span
- Can end up mutating
- Can have opposite effect of what the goal was, for example if a crop meant to drive away bugs, bugs might actually grow resistant to it
How Is Knowing the Human Genome Helpful?
It isn't helpful for transgenic Organisms because it is illegal to try to change the genome of a human being. It is helpful for plasmids because plasmids are sometimes used in gene therapy and in order to do that you need to know into what cell to put the plasmid. It's also helpful for recombinant DNA because the information is needed for two human beings to have a child in vitro in order to eventually have a kid.