BIOTECHNOLOGY KILEE KNIGHT 7A

CLONING

WHAT IS CLONING, AND HOW DOES IT WORK?

Cloning is the process of making an exact copy of an organism by taking genes from that organism. A clone is the exact copy that is produced from the cloning process. Cloning can occur naturally or in a laboratory setting. In nature, examples of clones are identical twins or organisms produced through asexual reproduction. Microscopic organisms such as bacteria and even some invertebrates can reproduce asexually, which means their offspring inherits only their genes, therefore producing an exact copy of the organism. In a laboratory setting, clones are produced by taking the genetic material of one animal and implanting that into an egg cell of a different animal. The egg cell is then implanted into a surrogate who carries the genetically cloned baby to term. The offspring produced is a clone of the animal whose genetic material was originally implanted into the egg cell.

IS IT CURRENTLY USED NOW OR IN THE FUTURE?

Simple cloning such as grafting and stem cutting has been used by humans for more than 2,000 years. The modern era of cloning began 1958 when English-American plant physiologist Frederick C. Steward cloned carrot plants from mature single cells placed in a nutrient culture containing hormones. Dolly the Sheep is famous for being the first animal cloned from adult somatic stem cells. Her birth in 1996 revolutionized the biotechnological field of cloning. Since Dolly, there have been several different plant and animal species cloned, such as fish, cows, goats, mice, monkeys, rabbits, and cats. Scientists in Japan who have obtained ancient wooly mammoth DNA have begun their attempt to clone the prehistoric creature. An entire human as a whole has yet to be cloned; however, with the rapidity of the field of cloning, it can definitely be argued that human clones are to come in the future.

BENEFITS VS. PROBLEMS OF CLONING

There are many benefits to cloning. The process of cloning aims to benefit the agricultural and medical fields, along with basic scientific research. In farming, cloning can be used to produce genetically superior crops compared to those that occur naturally. The plants that are produced through cloning typically have longer shelf lives and hold a greater nutritional value. In medicine, gene cloning has been and continues to produce vaccines and hormones that both saves and improves the quality of life. While there are many benefits that surround cloning, the process also poses a few problems. Cloning could result in damage to the clone, health risks to the mother, and loss of large numbers of embryos and fetuses.

CLONING CONTINUED

WHAT ETHICAL ISSUES DOES CLONING POSE?

Many religions have a problem with cloning. People following these strict religions believe that only God (or whatever higher power they believe in) is the only one who can create life, especially human life. These individuals are not happy over the fact that scientists are trying to assume a power they believe they should not have. Altering the gene pool poses an issue to society as a whole as well. If gene cloning were to become more widespread, genetic diversity would diminish. This would mean that people overall would experience less diversity in physical and psychological traits. Also, it would result in a lessened immunity to diseases, which could negatively impact the entire human race.

HOW IS TECHNOLOGY USED FOR CLONING?

There are three types of cloning in the field of biotechnology: reproductive cloning, therapeutic cloning, and DNA cloning. Reproductive cloning is defined by the intentional reproduction of genetically identical individuals. This cloning process can be carried out in one of two ways: somatic cell nuclear transfer or embryo splitting. Therapeutic cloning is the production of embryonic stem cells. These can be used in replacing or repairing damaged tissues or organs. This process is achieved by transferring a nucleus from a body cell into an egg cell whose nucleus has been removed. Therapeutic cloning is most commonly used in the medical field. DNA cloning is a molecular biology technique that makes many identical copies of a piece of DNA, such as a gene. DNA cloning has been used to create pest-resistant plants, bacteria used for toxic waste clean-up, and even stone-wash jeans.

HOW DOES KNOWING THE HUMAN GENOME HELP SCIENTISTS IN CLONING?

The Human Genome Project allowed scientists to map the three billion base pairs of a human's genome. This benefits cloning greatly because scientists are able to identify and make sense of all of the genes that are within the human body. Once these genes are identified, humans can use them to make exact copies of organisms through cloning.

BIOINFORMATICS

WHAT IS BIOINFORMATICS, AND HOW DOES IT WORK?

Bioinformatics is the application of information technology to the study of living things, typically at the molecular level. Bioinformatics can be used to analyze vast amounts of DNA simultaneously, making it an efficient scientific field. Samples of DNA are taken from specimens and are then ran through computer programs to identify relationships between the various species.

IS IT CURRENTLY USED NOW OR IN THE FUTURE?

Bioinformatics played a huge role in the Human Genome Project. Sequencing the entire human genome is definitely he field's biggest accomplishment to date. The field will continue to advance in the future, likely in the direction of the diagnosis of rare diseases in children and other medical focuses.

BENEFITS VS. PROBLEMS OF BIOINFORMATICS

There are many advantages to the field of bioinformatics, such as convenient verification, accurate verification, time-efficiency, the storing of identifying characteristics, and the easy accessibility of large databases to verify identities. The field of bioinformatics can also pose some issues, such as identity theft, lost of identifying characteristics due to the lack of hard copies, questionable reliability, and extreme cost.

HOW IS TECHNOLOGY USED FOR BIOINFORMATICS?

Bioinformatics involves the integration of computers, software tools, and databases in an effort to address biological questions. An important part of the field of bioinformatics is the development of new technology that allows the science of bioinformatics to proceed at a very fast pace. The Internet, new software developments, new algorithms, and the development of computer cluster technology has allowed the field of bioinformatics to make great leaps in terms of the amount of data which can be analyzed efficiently. New technologies and methods such as DNA sequencing, serial analysis of gene expression, microarrays, and new mass spectrometry chemistries have developed at just as fast of a pace, enabling scientists to produce data for analysis at an incredible rate.

HOW DOES KNOWING THE HUMAN GENOME HELP SCIENTISTS IN BIOINFORMATICS?

Knowing the human genome allows bioinformatic scientists to better understand the human body. Breakthroughs such as single cell sequencing and integration with medical records will likely take place in the future. The most beneficial result to come from bioinformatics will be from the diagnosis of rare diseases almost right after birth.

MICROARRAYS

WHAT ARE MICROARRAYS, AND HOW DO THEY WORK?

The DNA microarray is a tool used to determine whether the DNA from a particular individual contains a mutation in genes like BRCA1 and BRCA2. A microarray is typically a glass slide with DNA molecules fixed at specific locations known as spots or features. A microarray may contain a few thousand spots, and each spot may contain a few million copies of identical DNA molecules that uniquely correspond to a specific gene.

ARE THEY CURRENTLY USED NOW OR IN THE FUTURE?

Microarrays are used in clinical diagnostic tests for some diseases. Sometimes they are also used to determine which drugs are best for certain individuals based on their genome. Since microarrays tend to be cheaper than DNA sequencing, microarrays can be used for large-scale testing and even some clinical tests.

BENEFITS VS. PROBLEMS OF MICROARRAYS

Advantages to microarrays include the fact that data for thousands of genes is provided, one experiment as opposed to multiple, fast and easy to obtain results, and that different parts of the DNA can be used to study gene expression. Microarrays also put scientists a huge step closer to discovering cures for many diseases. There are also some problems of microarrays. For one, scientists do not have a standard way to share results. Another issue is that very little knowledge is available about many genes, meaning that the results could potentially be inaccurate.

HOW IS TECHNOLOGY USED FOR MICROARRAYS?

DNA microarray employs a chip to analyze the genes of a sample that is comparable to a computer chip. On the surface, each chip contains thousands of short, synthetic, single-stranded DNA sequences, which together add up to the normal gene in question, and to variants (mutations) of that gene that have been found in the human population.

HOW DOES KNOWING THE HUMAN GENOME HELP SCIENTISTS IN MICROARRAYS?

Knowing the human genome gives scientists using microarrays an understanding of the human genome and the genes that encompass it. By knowing the genes in the genome, scientists can further analyze them to discover why mutations occur on specific genes. Microarray technology can go one step further by identifying the mutations in a living thing and the genes that they occur on.

GENETICALLY MODIFIED ORGANISMS

WHAT ARE GMO'S, AND HOW DO THEY WORK?

Genetically modified organisms are organisms whose genes have been altered in a laboratory setting to modify their characteristics in some way or another. The purpose of GMOs is to enhance the desired traits in naturally occurring plants or animals, such as resistance to herbicides or nutritional value. Scientists go through many different tests and trial-and-errors to obtain their desired results, which usually end up benefitting the retailer profitably more than the consumer physically.

ARE THEY CURRENTLY USED NOW OR IN THE FUTURE?

GMOs have been used in food since the early 90s. They have appeared in everything from tomatoes to drugs such as insulin. They have been used in foods and medical drugs. GMOs have the potential to be used in further medical advancements in the future.

BENEFITS VS. PROBLEMS OF GMO'S

By genetically modifying plants, engineers can increase a plant's resistance to insects; tolerance to herbicides, heat, cold, or drought; and crop yield. These are all great advantages that help companies make a great profit off of their crops. However, GMOs have many potential disadvantages that make consumers weary. For example, allergic reactions can be an issue because of GMOs. Because consumers do not truly know what they are eating, they cannot truly avoid the substances they know will cause allergic reactions in them or their loved ones. This could result in severe symptoms and even death. Another problem GMOs could pose is antibiotic resistance, which kills nearly 23 million people a year.

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WHAT ETHICAL ISSUES DO GMO'S POSE?

While they have been helpful in reducing costs in produce and sometimes increasing the nutritional value of some foods, GMOs have posed a lot of questioning and have underwent extreme scrutinization by organic food advocates. People want to know what they are eating, but the government isn't required to inform the people what they are consuming. The US Food and Drug Administration doesn’t require a single safety study, does not mandate labeling of GMOs, and allows companies to put their genetically modified foods onto the market without even notifying the agency. This outrages many individuals.

HOW IS TECHNOLOGY USED FOR GMO'S?

GMOs are produced by employing the scientific methods of recombinant DNA technology and reproductive cloning. In reproductive cloning, a nucleus is extracted from a cell of the individual to be cloned and is inserted into a host egg cell, which is then implanted in a surrogate. The process results in an offspring that is genetically identical to the donor individual. Recombinant DNA technology, on the other hand, involves the insertion of one or more individual genes from an organism of one species into the DNA of another. GMOs produced through genetic technologies have become a part of everyday life, entering into society through agriculture, medicine, research, and environmental management.

HOW DOES KNOWING THE HUMAN GENOME HELP SCIENTISTS IN GMO'S?

By knowing the human genome, scientists are able to identify the specific genes they desire to genetically modify in produce and medicine. They can tailor make crops according to supply and demand of various companies. Scientists can also benefits humans by targeting their defective genes or hormones and create artificial or genetically enhanced versions in order to improve their quality of life.

ADULT STEM CELL RESEARCH

WHAT IS ADULT STEM CELL RESEARCH, AND HOW DOES IT WORK?

The primary role of adult stem cells in humans is to maintain and repair the body tissues in which they are found. While they are known as adult stem cells, they are more accurately called somatic because they come virtually any body tissue, not only in adults, but children and babies as well. Adult stem cells are a “natural” solution. They exist naturally in our bodies, and they provide a natural repair mechanism for many of the tissues within our bodies.

IS IT CURRENTLY USED NOW OR IN THE FUTURE?

Adult stem cells can be derived from umbilical cords, placentas, amniotic fluid, body tissues, and cadavers. Stem cells have been used and are being used to treat conditions such as macular degeneration, type 1 diabetes, irritable bowel disease, bladder disease, cardiac disease, osteoarthritis, burns, stroke, spinal cord injury or disease, and rheumatoid arthritis. In the future, they will hopefully be used to treat other diseases and even cancer.

BENEFITS VS. PROBLEMS OF ADULT STEM CELL RESEARCH

There are many benefits to adult stem cells. Adult stem cells can be harvested from a person’s blood, fat, or bone marrow with little effect on the individual. This eliminates the controversy about destroying life. Cells can be obtained directly from the tissue they belong to, and it does not destroy a human embryo during the process. Another advantage is that they are capable of being transformed into pluripotent stem cells, allowing them to have the advantages of embryonic cells without the need of destroying human embryos. One disadvantage to adult stem cells is that adult stem cells have a determined cell type, and they cannot be changed into tissues that differ from the ones that they came from. This limits the cells by allowing them to be used only in procedures that involve the same type of tissue that they came from. Another disadvantage is that changing these cells into induced pluripotent stem cells is more difficult than harvesting embryonic stem cells.

HOW IS TECHNOLOGY USED FOR ADULT STEM CELL RESEARCH?

There are two methods for collecting stem cells for a transplant. Originally, the collection was done by placing the donor under a general anaesthetic. By using a series of needles to extract bone marrow directly from the large bones, usually the pelvis, the adult stem cells were able to be extracted. This was a relatively simple procedure, but still has the same risks as any procedure which uses a general anaesthetic. The donor would feel no pain during the procedure, but would usually experience moderate pain for a few days after. The second type of harvest is the Peripheral Blood Stem Cell harvest. In a Peripheral Blood Stem Cell harvest, the donor is seated comfortably in an easy chair. An IV is placed into each arm. Blood is drawn out of one arm and sent to the aphaeresis machine where the stem cells are separated. From there, the remaining blood is sent back into the IV and into the other arm.

HOW DOES KNOWING THE HUMAN GENOME HELP SCIENTISTS IN ADULT STEM CELL RESEARCH?

By knowing and understanding the human genome, scientists are able to more easily manipulate adult stem cells into repairing mechanisms for human tissues. The genes and DNA sequences of the stem cells harvested can be genetically engineered in a laboratory setting to form new body tissues.

EMBRYONIC STEM CELL RESEARCH

WHAT IS EMBRYONIC STEM CELL RESEARCH, AND HOW DOES IT WORK?

Embryonic stem cells are derived from embryos. Most embryonic stem cells are derived from embryos that develop from eggs that have been fertilized in an in vitro fertilization clinic and are then donated for research purposes with informed consent of the donors. They are not made from eggs fertilized in a woman's body.

IS IT CURRENTLY USED NOW OR IN THE FUTURE?

In 1981, scientists discovered ways to derive embryonic stem cells from early mouse embryos. The in-depth study of the biology of mouse stem cells led to the discovery of a method to derive stem cells from human embryos and grow the cells in the laboratory in 1998. Currently, the primary role of embryonic stem cells is to create children for parents who are unable to make children on their own.

BENEFITS VS. PROBLEMS OF EMBRYONIC STEM CELL RESEARCH

Since embryonic stem cells are obtained from early blastocysts, they are at a very early developmental stage. Because of this, they are able to become any one of the more than 200 cell types that make up the human body. Given the right combination of signals, embryonic stem cells will develop into mature cells that can function as neurons, muscles, bone, blood or other needed cell types. Stem cells with this flexibility are known as "pluripotent," to indicate their potential to be transformed into a wide variety of cell types. Another advantage of stem cells is their ability to remain in an undifferentiated state and to divide indefinitely. This property of "self-renewal" means that unlimited numbers of identical, well-defined, genetically, and genomically characterized stem cells can be produced in culture for medical use. There also pose many disadvantages. Scientist Gesine Kögler stated, "Although embryonic stem cells have the broadest differentiation potential, their use for cellular therapeutics is excluded for several reasons: the uncontrollable development of teratomas in a syngeneic transplantation model, imprinting-related developmental abnormalities, and ethical issues."

WHAT ETHICAL ISSUES DOES EMBRYONIC STEM CELL RESEARCH POSE?

Embryonic stem cell research poses a moral dilemma. It forces people to choose between two moral principles: the duty to prevent or alleviate suffering and the duty to respect the value of human life. In order to acquire embryonic stem cells, the early embryo has to be destroyed. This means destroying a potential human life, which goes against pro-life beliefs and ideals. On the other hand, embryonic stem cell research could lead to the discovery of new medical treatments that would alleviate the suffering of many people and produce children for couples who aren't fortunate enough to produce them on their own. Deciding which moral principle should have the upper hand in this situation is a hard call to make.

HOW IS TECHNOLOGY USED FOR EMBRYONIC STEM CELL RESEARCH?

For research purposes, scientists obtain embryos in two ways. Many couples conceive by the process of in vitro fertilization. In this process, a couple's sperm and eggs are fertilized in a culture dish. The eggs develop into embryos, which are then implanted in the female. However, more embryos are made than can be implanted. So, these embryos are usually frozen. Many couples donate their unused embryos for stem cell research. The second way scientists obtain embryos is through therapeutic cloning. This technique merges a cell with a donor egg. The nucleus is removed from the egg and replaced with the nucleus of the patient's cell. This egg is stimulated to divide either with chemicals or with electricity. The resulting embryo carries the patient's genetic material, which significantly reduces the risk that his or her body will reject the stem cells once they are implanted.

HOW DOES KNOWING THE HUMAN GENOME HELP SCIENTISTS IN EMBRYONIC STEM CELL RESEARCH?

The human genome helps scientists with embryonic stem cell research by better understanding the cells in general. By understanding the DNA sequence of the sperm and egg cells, scientists have been able to figure out ways to combine them in a laboratory setting.

GENE THERAPY & GENOMIC MEDICINE

WHAT ARE GENOMIC THERAPY AND GENOMIC MEDICINE, AND HOW DO THEY WORK?

Gene therapy is an experimental technique that uses genes to treat or prevent disease. Gene therapy is designed to introduce genetic material into cells to compensate for abnormal genes or to make a beneficial protein. Genomic medicine is an emerging medical discipline that involves using genomic information about an individual as part of their clinical care along with diagnostics and therapeutic decision-making.

ARE THEY CURRENTLY USED NOW OR IN THE FUTURE?

Researchers are currently testing several approaches to gene therapy, including: replacing a mutated gene that causes disease with a healthy copy of the gene; inactivating, or “knocking out,” a mutated gene that is functioning improperly; and introducing a new gene into the body to help fight a disease. Gene therapy is currently only being tested for the treatment of diseases that have no other known cures. In the future, this technique may allow doctors to treat a disorder by inserting a gene into a patient’s cells instead of using drugs or surgery.

BENEFITS VS. PROBLEMS OF GENE THERAPY AND GENOMIC MEDICINE

Although gene therapy is a promising treatment option for a number of diseases (including inherited disorders, some types of cancer, and certain viral infections), the technique remains risky and is still under study to make sure that it will be safe and effective. Genomic medicine has the advantages of risk assessment, early detection, diagnosis, prognosis, and tailored treatment. The main disadvantage to genomic medicine and gene therapy is that by knowing exactly what disorders or diseases a person might have health insurance companies and employers can use genetic information to limit eligibility, set premiums, or discriminate against individuals with symptoms.

WHAT ETHICAL ISSUES DO GENE THERAPY AND GENOMIC MEDICINE POSE?

There are many ethical questions surrounding gene therapy. How can “good” and “bad” uses of gene therapy be distinguished? Who decides which traits are normal and which constitute a disability or disorder? Will the high costs of gene therapy make it available only to the wealthy? Could the widespread use of gene therapy make society less accepting of people who are different?Should people be allowed to use gene therapy to enhance basic human traits such as height, intelligence, or athletic ability? These questions all create controversy amongst people.

HOW IS TECHNOLOGY USED FOR GENE THERAPY AND GENOMIC MEDICINE?

Personalized medicine – medicine targeting people based on their DNA sequence – is transforming cancer research and treatment, risk assessment, drug development, and clinical practices (the tests and procedures patients experience at the doctor’s office).

HOW DOES KNOWING THE HUMAN GENOME HELP SCIENTISTS IN GENE THERAPY AND GENOMIC MEDICINE?

Knowing the human genome helps scientists with gene therapy and genomic medicine because gene therapy employs DNA sequences in order to create a tailored treatment plan for the patient. DNA is extracted from the patient and further analyzed and deciphered through DNA sequencing in order to provide the basis for gene therapy treatment. Genomic medicine comes into play as a part of gene therapy. By creating gene-specific medicine according to an individual's genome, scientists are able to help cure or diminish the effects of certain diseases and conditions.

DESIGNER BABIES & BIOETHICS

WHAT ARE DESIGNER BABIES AND BIOETHICS, AND HOW DO THEY WORK?

A designer baby is a baby genetically engineered in vitro for specially selected traits, which can vary from lowered disease-risk to gender selection. Designer babies pose many ethical issues. Bioethics is the study of ethical, social, and legal issues that arise in biomedicine and biomedical research.

ARE THEY CURRENTLY USED NOW OR IN THE FUTURE?

Before the advent of genetic engineering and in vitro fertilization, designer babies were primarily a science fiction concept. However, the rapid advancement of technology makes designer babies an increasingly real possibility. As a result, designer babies have become an important topic in bioethical debates.

BENEFITS VS. PROBLEMS OF DESIGNER BABIES AND BIOETHICS

There are many pros to designer babies. By designing your baby, you are able to prevent genetic diseases such as Down Syndrome, Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s Disease, Spinal Muscular Atrophy, and many others. You also reduce the risk of your child inheriting medical conditions such as obesity, anemia, diabetes, cancer, and many more from you or your family members. Designing babies also allows parents to give their child a better shot at a healthy lifestyle. There are slo some disadvantages that come along with designer babies, mostly on the bioethical side. It is unknown how genetically modifying babies will affect the gene pool. Most people will choose to have good-looking, intelligent babies, which could lead to a lack of genetic diversity. This could create a gap in society and form classes that distinguish designer babies from those that are not.

WHAT ETHICAL ISSUES DO DESIGNER BABIES AND BIOETHICS POSE?

Many people argue that it is unethical and unnatural to be able to create your own baby the way you want it, while others argue that it could be used to stop certain genetic diseases in babies. Other bioethicists have argued that parents have a right to prenatal autonomy, which grants them the right to decide the fate of their children. These certain doctors now say that within 10 years, they believe they’ll be able to change eye color and have an 80% accuracy rate. They also think that in the future they’ll be able to give the child “athletic abilities” or make them more academic. There are many ethical problems behind the hopes for these procedures.

HOW IS TECHNOLOGY USED FOR DESIGNER BABIES AND BIOETHICS?

IVF has become an increasingly common procedure to help couples with infertility problems conceive children, and the practice of IVF confers the ability to pre-select embryos before implantation. (This is an example of how humans have been gradually designing their babies, at least by genotype.) For example, preimplantation genetic diagnosis allows viable embryos to be screened for various genetic traits, such as sex-linked diseases, before implanting them in the mother. By this process, physicians can select embryos that are not predisposed to certain genetic conditions. For this reason this method is commonly used in medicine when parents carry genes that place their children at risk for serious diseases such as cystic fibrosis or sickle cell anemia.

HOW DOES KNOWING THE HUMAN GENOME HELP SCIENTISTS IN DESIGNER BABIES AND BIOETHICS?

The human genome allows scientists to be able to create designer babies. Without knowing the various genes and their location within the human body, scientists could have never been able to develop the concept of designer babies. The entire field of bioethics likely would not have come around had it not been for the human genome being mapped completely, allowing scientists to initially perform their questionable experiments and test their plausible theories.

EPIGENETICS

WHAT IS EPIGENETICS, AND HOW DOES IT WORK?

Epigenetics is the study of biological mechanisms that will turns genes off and on. Epigenetics affects how genes are read by cells, thus affecting how they produce proteins. Any outside stimulus that can be detected by the body has the potential to cause epigenetic modifications. It’s not yet clear exactly which exposures affect which epigenetic marks, nor what the mechanisms and downstream effects are, but there are a number of quite well characterized examples, from chemicals to lifestyle factors to lived experiences.

IS IT CURRENTLY USED NOW OR IN THE FUTURE?

Epigenetics is one of the hottest fields in the life sciences. It’s a phenomenon with wide-ranging, powerful effects on many aspects of biology, and enormous potential in human medicine. As such, its ability to fill in some of the gaps in our scientific knowledge is mentioned everywhere from academic journals to the mainstream media to some of the less scientifically rigorous corners of the Internet. In the future, epigenetics will continue to help scientists figure out why certain genes are inactive and why others are active within an individual's gene expression.

BENEFITS VS. PROBLEMS OF EPIGENETICS

Epigenetics allows scientists to understand environmental factors such as air quality, food consumption, and daily lifestyle on a more genetic-type basis. By understanding the way these certain factors can impact the phenotype of an individual, scientists can make the effort to put a control on the environmental factors that can result in an undesirable genetic mutation. On the other hand, knowing what these environmental factors can result in may not always be a good thing. Depending on location, scientists and governments as whole may not have the means to control these certain environmental factors. Whether it be a lack of capital or a lack of control, not every nation and its people can be as precautious as others when it comes to epigenetics.

WHAT ETHICAL ISSUES DOES EPIGENETICS POSE?

Epigenetics is what makes us unique. The way our physical features collectively come together, the way we dislike or like certain foods, and even our interest in certain hobbies can be attributed to epigenetics. Epigenetics has been proven to be inherited, which may pose ethical issues. This could be linked to designer babies in the sense that parents may wish to pick out certain desirable traits in them for their offspring. Scientists could somehow use epigenetics to turn off specific undesirable traits and turn on desired traits. However, since epigenetics is essentially a naturally occurring phenomenon, it is unlikely that this could be used for nefarious purposes.

HOW IS TECHNOLOGY USED FOR EPIGENETICS?

Epigenetics encompasses heritable changes in DNA or its associated proteins except mutations in gene sequence. Many investigators in the field of epigenetics focus on histone modifications and DNA methylation, two molecular mechanisms that are often linked and interdependent. A variety of methods are applied to the study of epigenetic processes, and the past decade has witnessed an exponential increase in novel approaches to elucidate the molecular mysteries of epigenetic inheritance.

HOW DOES KNOWING THE HUMAN GENOME HELP SCIENTISTS IN EPIGENETICS?

The epigenome comprises the chemical modifications that shape the physical structure of the human genome. By understanding the human genome and its 20,000+ genes that encompass it, scientists are able to understand epigenetics and why certain genes turn off while others stay on. Because of the human genome being fully mapped out, scientists can use that to their advantage and put epigenetics to use towards playing a significant role in growth, development, and disease progression.

DNA FINGERPRINTING & CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATION

WHAT ARE DNA FINGERPRINTING AND CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATION, AND HOW DO THEY WORK?

DNA fingerprinting is a method used to identify an individual from a sample of DNA by looking at unique patterns in their DNA. The process of DNA fingerprinting can be described through this process: "The first step of DNA fingerprinting was to extract DNA from a sample of human material, usually blood. Molecular ‘scissors’, called restriction enzymes?, were used to cut the DNA. This resulted in thousands of pieces of DNA with a variety of different lengths. These pieces of DNA were then separated according to size by a process called gel electrophoresis. Once the DNA had been sorted, the pieces of DNA were transferred or ‘blotted’ out of the fragile gel on to a robust piece of nylon membrane and then ‘unzipped’ to produce single strands of DNA. Next the nylon membrane was incubated with radioactive probes. The minisatellites that the probes have attached to were then visualized by exposing the nylon membrane to X-ray film."

ARE THEY CURRENTLY USED OR IN THE FUTURE?

DNA fingerprinting was originally used for paternity purposes in order to link a parent to a child. The process wasn't introduced into the forensic field until 1986, when it was brought up in a British court to prove the innocence of a 17-year-old boy in a rape-murder trial. DNA testing was used to find and convict the actual perpetrator in that particular case. Since then, DNA profiling has become a staple in modern forensics. Not only is it useful in finding and identifying culprits in cases, it is helpful in ruling out potential suspects. In the future, DNA fingerprinting will continue to be used for paternity and forensic purposes.

BENEFITS VS. PROBLEMS OF DNA FINGERPRINTING AND CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATION

DNA fingerprinting, when used properly and along with other forensic tools and evidence, can greatly reduce the number of innocent convictions. Even after decades have passed, DNA samples with forensic value can still be available and collected as evidence. DNA fingerprinting is also very helpful in identifying cadavers during massive deaths, and in disproving or proving kinship of certain individuals. However, there are some disadvantages to DNA fingerprinting: it can be a violation to one’s privacy; It raises concerns over third-party access; and It can be used the wrong way to convict innocents. There also poses the issue of identical twins: one twin may be found guilty for a crime they didn't commit simply because they possess the same exact DNA as their sibling.

DNA FINGERPRINTING & CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATION CONTINUED

WHAT ETHICAL ISSUES DO DNA FINGERPRINTING AND CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATION POSE?

Privacy is one of the central ethical issue to take into account when handling DNA information. It is an important concept in contemporary ethics and legal issues, and it is central to many people’s identities and beliefs. A person’s right to privacy is recognized as an international human right, and critics of DNA testing question whether the current use of DNA analysis imposes on this fundamental right. DNA analysis in forensics and immigration can be viewed as an injustice and an infringement on human rights.

HOW IS TECHNOLOGY USED FOR DNA FINGERPRINTING AND CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATION?

The procedure for creating a DNA fingerprint consists of first obtaining a sample of cells, such as skin, hair, or blood cells, which contain DNA. The DNA is extracted from the cells and purified. In Jeffreys’s original approach, which was based on restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP) technology, the DNA was then cut at specific points along the strand with proteins known as restriction enzymes. The enzymes produced fragments of varying lengths that were sorted by placing them on a gel and then subjecting the gel to an electric current (electrophoresis): the shorter the fragment, the more quickly it moved toward the positive pole (anode). The sorted double-stranded DNA fragments were then subjected to a blotting technique in which they were split into single strands and transferred to a nylon sheet. The fragments underwent autoradiography in which they were exposed to DNA probes—pieces of synthetic DNA that were made radioactive and that bound to the minisatellites. A piece of X-ray film was then exposed to the fragments, and a dark mark was produced at any point where a radioactive probe had become attached. The resultant pattern of marks could then be analyzed.

HOW DOES KNOWING THE HUMAN GENOME HELP SCIENTISTS IN DNA FINGERPRINTING AND CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATION?

Because the human genome has been mapped, DNA fingerprinting is much easier for scientists to narrow down suspects through DNA finger printing. Since everyone's DNA is roughly 99.9% similar, those other 3 million base pairs that make a human unique can be discovered through DNA fingerprinting and analyzed by method of the human genome.

PERSONAL ANCESTRY & PATERNITY KITS

WHAT ARE PERSONAL ANCESTRY AND PATERNITY KITS, AND HOW DO THEY WORK?

Personal Ancestry is a study to identify one's lineage and a person's ancestors. This study results in one's "family tree." A DNA Paternity Test is a test used to test a man on whether or not he is the biological father of the particular child in question. This test is done by taking a sample from both the baby and the man in question. To carry out a paternity test, scientists take a pinprick of blood from the child, the mother and the supposed father. (This can also be done through a swab of cheek cells, as the DIY paternity tests at home direct buyers to do.) Half the DNA fragments that make up a child's STR profiles come from the mother and half from the natural father. If the child's STR profile contains fragments that can't be matched to the supposed father, he can be ruled out as the child's natural father.

ARE THEY CURRENTLY USED NOW OR IN THE FUTURE?

Paternity testing has been around since the 1960s, with at-home paternity testing becoming available in more recent years. Paternity testing has been used to identify the kinship of fathers to their babies for over fifty years, and in the future, paternity testing can be useful in crime scene investigation, large-scale clinical testing, and much more.

BENEFITS VS. PROBLEMS OF PERSONAL ANCESTRY AND PATERNITY KITS

The biggest advantage to using the home DNA paternity test is that the entire process can be performed in the privacy of your own home, and, in your own time. One no longer needs to make doctor appointments or have painful blood tests anymore. Once the kit is sent to you and you have taken the necessary samples, you simply post it to the laboratory address provided and wait for your results. Although, using a home DNA paternity test does has its disadvantages. This type of test is what’s known as a “peace of mind” test. In other words, the results are purely to satisfy a personal need to know and would be not be admissible in a court of law. The biggest disadvantage, however, to using a home DNA test is the issue of cheating. If someone wants to avoid a positive paternity result they can easily replace their DNA with someone else’s. This could occur in cases where a man wants to disprove paternity over a child, for example.

WHAT ETHICAL ISSUES DO PERSONAL ANCESTRY AND PATERNITY KITS POSE?

Paternity testing can result in inappropriate applications of genetic testing, such as for the sole purpose of family balancing (sexing of a fetus for this reason) or testing a fetus's paternity without the informed consent of all parties involved. This lack of consent can result in legal battles.

HOW IS TECHNOLOGY USED FOR PERSONAL ANCESTRY AND PATERNITY KITS?

This procedure involves collecting and examining the DNA of a small sample of bodily fluid or tissue from a child and the potential father. DNA is the unique genetic "fingerprint" that makes up a person’s genes and chromosomes. When a baby is conceived, each parent passes on half of his/her DNA to the baby, whose genetic code (DNA) is a shared mix of only its mother’s and father’s DNA. By collecting and examining a small sample of DNA from the baby and the potential father, a paternity test can confirm or disprove that the potential father is indeed the biological father of the baby.

HOW DOES KNOWING THE HUMAN GENOME HELP SCIENTISTS IN PERSONAL ANCESTRY AND PATERNITY KITS?

By knowing the human genome, scientists have figured out that half of one's DNA comes from the mother and the other half comes from the father. Because of this, scientists have been able to identify methods to test the fatherhood of individuals in relation to children in question. Without knowing the human genome, scientists never would have been able to do this.

PCR

WHAT IS PCR, AND HOW DOES IT WORK?

PCR is a lab technique used to make millions of copies of a particular section of DNA. PCR is used in molecular biology to make many copies of small sections of DNA or a gene.

IS IT CURRENTLY USED NOW OR IN THE FUTURE?

PCR was developed in 1983 by Kary Mullis, who received a Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1993 for his invention. The polymerase chain reaction has been elaborated in many ways since its introduction and is now commonly used for a wide variety of applications including genotyping, cloning, mutation detection, sequencing, microarrays, forensics, and paternity testing.

BENEFITS VS. PROBLEMS OF PCR

An advantage to PCR is that testing can take as little as a few hours versus a few days for other tests like bacterial culture. Another benefit of the test is that organisms that are difficult or impossible to grow in a lab can be detected, and they can often be detected at lower levels than with other diagnostic methods. However, cautions such as sample contamination, test inhibition, biologically irrelevant results, and lack of validation make PCR an unappealing option in some cases.

HOW IS TECHNOLOGY USED FOR PCR?

There are three main stages of PCR. Denaturing is the first stage, and it is when the double-stranded template DNA is heated to separate it into two single strands. Next comes annealing, and this is when the temperature is lowered to enable the DNA primers to attach to the template DNA. Last is extending, and this is when the temperature is raised and the new strand of DNA is made by the Taq polymerase enzyme. These three stages are repeated 20-40 times, doubling the number of DNA copies each time. A complete PCR reaction can be performed in a few hours, or even less than an hour with certain high-speed machines. After PCR has been completed, a method called electrophoresis can be used to check the quantity and size of the DNA fragments produced.

HOW DOES KNOWING THE HUMAN GENOME HELP SCIENTISTS IN PCR?

Without knowing the human genome, scientists never would have been able to make copies of a particular section of DNA through PCR. PCR allows scientists to make millions of copies of a single DNA fragment for research purposes. In the future, research through PCR can be used in the medical, scientific research, and forensics fields.

GEL ELECTROPHORESIS

WHAT IS GEL ELECTROPHORESIS, AND HOW DOES IT WORK?

Gel electrophoresis is a laboratory method used to separate mixtures of DNA, RNA, or proteins according to molecular size. In gel electrophoresis, the molecules to be separated are pushed by an electrical field through a gel that contains small pores. The molecules travel through the pores in the gel at a speed that is inversely related to their lengths. This means that a small DNA molecule will travel a greater distance through the gel than will a larger DNA molecule.

IS IT CURRENTLY USED NOW OR IN THE FUTURE?

Gel electrophoresis is used to test for genes related to specific illnesses, to identify DNA associated with crime scenes, to discover paternity and to track evolutionary relationships. This technique is important in medical, biological and criminal science. Gel electrophoresis has been used and will be used in the future to diagnose diseases and to get DNA fingerprints for forensics.

BENEFITS VS. PROBLEMS OF GEL ELECTROPHORESIS

There are many pros to gel electrophoresis. The pore size of acrylamide are uniform. The process is inert and will not react with sample since there is no charge associated with it. There is a very high resolving power. Gel electrophoresis can increase or decrease molecular sieving by manipulate the pore sizes. Different buffers can be used to manipulate resolution and run time. Chemically synthetic gel can give more reproducible results. Gel electrophoresis can promote better separations at higher field strengths due to efficient heat dissipation of thin gels. The only disadvantage to gel electrophoresis is that there is a longer wait time for the gel to set and more care is needed when pouring the gel to make sure all of the gas bubbles are removed.

HOW IS TECHNOLOGY USED FOR GEL ELECTROPHORESIS?

As previously mentioned, gel electrophoresis involves an electrical field; in particular, this field is applied such that one end of the gel has a positive charge and the other end has a negative charge. Because DNA and RNA are negatively charged molecules, they will be pulled toward the positively charged end of the gel. Proteins, however, are not negatively charged; thus, when researchers want to separate proteins using gel electrophoresis, they must first mix the proteins with a detergent called sodium dodecyl sulfate. This treatment makes the proteins unfold into a linear shape and coats them with a negative charge, which allows them to migrate toward the positive end of the gel and be separated. Finally, after the DNA, RNA, or protein molecules have been separated using gel electrophoresis, bands representing molecules of different sizes can be detected.

HOW DOES KNOWING THE HUMAN GENOME HELP SCIENTISTS IN GEL ELECTROPHORESIS?

By knowing the human genome and the DNA that encompasses it, scientists are able to put gel electrophoresis to the test. Since gel electrophoresis uses restriction enzymes to separate DNA fragments by length, the human genome greatly comes in handy.

PLASMIDS, RECOMBINANT DNA, & TRANSGENIC ORGANISMS

WHAT ARE PLASMIDS, RECOMBINANT DNA, & TRANSGENIC ORGANISMS, AND HOW DO THEY WORK?

Plasmids are small circular pieces of DNA that replicate independently from the host's chromosomal DNA. Plasmids are used in a laboratory setting for gene manipulation. Recombinant DNA is DNA in which one or more segments or genes have been inserted, either naturally or by laboratory manipulation, from a different molecule or from another part of the same molecule, resulting in a new genetic combination. Recombinant DNA is used for genetics research, cloning, creating genetically modified organisms, and producing biomedical products. Transgenic organisms are organisms that contain a gene or genes which have been artificially inserted instead of the organism acquiring them through reproduction.

ARE THEY CURRENTLY USED NOW OR IN THE FUTURE?

Plasmids are very important in biotechnology for research. Researchers can alter plasmids and observe the immediate effects they have on the prokaryote as well on its offspring. Researchers can add or delete genes, and observe their effects. They can also use plasmids to grow certain organic compounds, such as synthetic insulin. Recombinant DNA technology has also proven important to the production of vaccines and protein therapies such as human insulin, interferon and human growth hormone. It is also used to produce clotting factors for treating haemophilia and in the development of gene therapy. Transgenic organisms have given great benefit to the field of biotechnology especially in the fields of agriculture, industry, and medicine.

BENEFITS VS. PROBLEMS OF PLASMIDS, RECOMBINANT DNA, & TRANSGENIC ORGANISMS

In nature, plasmids provide one or more functional benefits to the host such as resistance to antibiotics, degradative functions, and/or virulence. Characteristics such as flexibility, versatility, safety, and cost-effectiveness enable molecular biologists to broadly utilize plasmids across a wide range of applications. Since recombinant DNA is used to create transgenic organisms, they pose the same pros and cons. There are many pros to transgenic animals. They are used in clinical trial research. They can be organ donors in the future. They can be used by diabetes patients who need insulin as well as patients with several diseases like sickle-cell anemia. They can be used to keep infants healthy. However, there are also some cons to transgenic animals. They can be unsafe for human consumption and they are added expense to the government.

WHAT ETHICAL ISSUES DO PLASMIDS, RECOMBINANT DNA, & TRANSGENIC ORGANISMS POSE?

Opponents of the gene modification of animals to create transgenic offspring claim that the practice is clearly against moral ethics. Animal advocates, in particular, are the ones not in favor of this practice. These individuals strongly believe that animals have rights just like humans do. By altering their DNA make-up, animal advocates argue that scientists are definitely violating these rights. Animal advocates also are against the use of hundreds of animals in clinical trial research, and transgenic animals are no different, according to them.

HOW IS TECHNOLOGY USED FOR PLASMIDS, RECOMBINANT DNA, & TRANSGENIC ORGANISMS?

To make recombinant DNA, a basic procedure is followed. First, DNA from a donor genome is extracted and cut into fragments that each contain one to several genes. These fragments then insert themselves individually into small autonomously replicating DNA molecules that have been opened up, such as bacterial plasmids. These small circular molecules, known as plasmids, act as vectors for the DNA fragments. The vector molecules with their inserted DNA are called recombinant DNA because they consist of a combination of DNA from the donor genome and vector DNA from a completely different source. A wide collection of techniques, mainly recombinant DNA, are employed to create transgenic animals, plants, bacteria, and viruses.

HOW DOES KNOWING THE HUMAN GENOME HELP SCIENTISTS IN PLASMIDS, RECOMBINANT DNA, & TRANSGENIC ORGANISMS?

By understanding the human genome, scientists are able to use plasmids (circular DNA found in organisms such as bacteria which are separate from DNA) to make other things such as recombinant DNA, which can then be used to make transgenic organisms. Without an understanding of the human genome and DNA sequencing, scientists would have no idea what plasmids and recombinant DNA are, let alone would they have the knowledge to create transgenic organisms.

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