Cloning is the production of an identical offspring. For bacteria, they undergo binary fission to produce identical offspring. For humans, they have identical twins, which is where 1 fertilized egg splits to produce 2 identical embryos. Artificial cloning is the production of an identical copy of a gene or entire animal.
Cloning is not necessarily considered unethical, but when cloning humans is brought up there is some controversy. Creating a human that is genetically identical to another person can go against religious and social values of dignity, individual freedom, identity, and autonomy. However, some people believe that cloning could help people who are sterile have children.
Potentials of cloning include benefits in medicine and agriculture. By cloning animals, farmers can clone animals with extra benefits such as sheep modified to produce milk that has human protein essential for blood clotting. Scientist can also clone animal to test certain drugs or medical treatment strategies. Another benefit is that scientist can clone animals that are endangered. People have also had interest in cloning deceased pets, in hopes of replacing their dead pet with an identical one.
Drawbacks of cloning include defects in the cloned subject due to inefficient cloning techniques.
Dolly the sheep was the first mammal cloned from an adult somatic cell. Dolly was the only lamb born from 227 attempts
Researchers can add DNA from a somatic cell into an empty egg using a needle to inject it into the egg or using an electrical current to fuse the entire somatic cell with the empty egg. The egg is developed in a test tube until it reaches an early-stage embryo then is implanted into the womb. Cloning of humans has yet to be done, due to difficulty and the ethical controversies.
Bioinformatics and Microarray
Bioinformatics is the collection and analysis of genetic data such as DNA, protein or amino acid sequences. It is the analysis of the data using computers to look for relationships between species. Bioinformatics is expected to have a huge impact on the bioscientific, bioengineering, and medical field. The data analysis is usually separated into fold-change analysis, clustering, classification, genetic network analysis, and simulation.
Microarray is a way to show active genes versus inactive genes. For example, if someone has a mutation in a gene they will be able to see it on a screen of colorful dots. One of the most popular tools for microarray is Bioconductor. Bioconductor is open source software used for the analysis and comprehension of genomic data, based on the R programming language.
The benefits of these two things is that by using them scientist can see if unborn baby has a mutation in their genes. They can also use it to identify in the BRCA 1 and 2 genes that cause breast and ovarian cancer.
A genetically modified organism is an organism or microorganism that has been genetically altered. It is produced when genes from one species are artificially forced into the genes of another. This technology has been used since the 1980’s for purposes such as: making copies of genes or proteins, to determine gene function, to study gene expression patterns, and to create models for human disease.
One application of this biotechnology is the generation of food crops. These crops are modified in a way that will benefit either the producer or the consumer. GM crops that are on the market today have modified genes that encode for pest or herbicide resistance.
An issue with GMO’s is are they safe for us to eat. However, most scientist agree that GMO’s are safe to consume. Some say that it is because people don't understand the technology of genetically modifying food is why there is vocal resistance against GMO’s.
An example of GMO’s is golden rice. Golden rice was modified to include a gene from a daffodil that produces the enzyme phylogenetic synthase. The introduction of this gene enabled beta-carotene, which in the human liver is converted to vitamin A. This GMO is beneficial to humans. Even though some people have an ethical problem with GMO’s, most of them are beneficial to us.
GMO's have a very positive effect on the research of medicine. For example, genetically modified animals allow researcher to test novel therapies to better know the risks and modifiers of a disease's outcome. Genetically modified microbes, plants, and animals have also helped provide cheaper vaccinations.
Stem Cell Research- Adult vs Embryonic
Stem cells are cells that are undifferentiated cells that can develop into any kind of cell.
Embryonic stem cells are found in embryos from in vitro fertilization, which is outside the female system. They are also taken for aborted fetuses or fertilized eggs. Embryonic stem cells are useful for medical and research purposes because they can produce cells for almost every tissue in the body. Adult stem cells are not usually used for research because they are specific to a certain type such as: skin, blood, muscle, and intestines.
There are lots of potential uses for stem cells. They can be used to replace destroyed or damaged cells or tissue and they could also possibly be used for curing disease that currently do not have any therapy. Stem cells can also be used to better understand genetics and the stages of development or abnormalities in cells that lead to birth defects. They can also be used for the testing of drugs that can be tested more quickly and efficiently.
The controversy of stem cell research is that a fertilized egg is a human being and that fetuses and fertilized eggs should not be used for research. However, scientist found a way to generate mouse stem cells without destroying the embryo. This has not been tested on human embryos though. People who support stem cell research argue that fertilized eggs are donated with the consent of the donators. Fertilized eggs are not being created for research today.
Gene Therapy and Genomic Medicine
Gene therapy is using genes to help prevent or treat a disease. For instance, once a gene of a disorder or disease is found a healthy gene can be inserted to possibly make a beneficial protein. In the future, this technique could allow doctors to treat a disorder without the use of drugs or surgeries. Researchers are testing several gene therapy approaches such as: replacing mutated genes that cause diseases with a healthy gene, inactivating a mutated gene that isn't functioning properly, and introducing a gene into the body to help fight a disease. Gene therapy is currently being tested to treat diseases with no cure. However, the technique remains risky and still being improved upon to make it safe and effective.
Some people are concerned with fact that being able to fix someone’s disorder make society less accepting of those who are different. People are also questions the concept of being able to enhance basic human traits such as height, intelligence, or athletic ability.
Genomic medicine is customizing your medical care based on your unique genetic makeup. Genomic medicine today, is making an impact in the fields of oncology, pharmacology, rare and undiagnosed diseases, and infectious disease. Currently every baby's born in the US is tested at birth for 29-50 severe, inherited, treatable, genetic diseases. They do this through a newborn screening program. Whole genome sequencing would enable clinicians to look for mutations across the entire genome for a much larger number of diseases.
Designer Babies and Bioethics
Designer Babies are genetically engineered babies during pre-fertilization, or right after, to influence gender, health, or appearance. This ensures the presence or absence of particular genes or characteristics. Due to today's technology, developed originally for the use in animal, designer babies is a real possibility Embryo screening involves the process of pre-implantation genetic diagnosis. Embryos are are created in-vitro fertilization and grown to the eight cell stage and then one or two cells are removed to be examined. Only normal embryos are replaced in the womb.
Potentials of designer babies are reduced risk of genetic diseases and inherited medical conditions, better understanding of genetics, giving infertile couples a chance to have a baby, parents can give child genes they do not have, and prevention of passing down a genetic disease.
Drawbacks of designer babies includes: termination of embryos, possibility of damage to the gene pool, baby has no choice in the matter, loss of individuality, other children in the family could be affected by the parents decision, and only the rich could afford it.
Bioethics is the ethics of medical and biological research. Many people argue that designing your own baby is unethical and unnatural. While some people argue it will help stop certain genetic diseases. People see genetic altering as not accepting your child as they are. Also, that if whatever trait the parents “picked out”, don't pay off, it could lead to disappointment or serious problems if the child were to figure out about their genetic alterations.
Epigenetics is the study of changes in gene expression. The changes in phenotype not genotype will affect how the cells read the genes. Epigenetic change is a regular and natural change that can be influenced by factors such as age, environment and lifestyle, and disease state. Certain circumstances in life can cause genes to turn off, become dormant, or turn on, become active. The different combination of genes that are turned on or off is what makes us unique. There are some indications that epigenetics can be inherited.
If we could map every single cause and effect of the different combinations, and if we could reverse a genes state to keep the good and get rid of the bad then we could theoretically cure cancer, slow aging, stop obesity, and so much more.
An example of epigenetics is mother mice grooming their pups. Some mothers lick, groom, and nurse their pups while some ignore theirs. The ones that are groomed usually grow up to be calm adults. The pups that are ignored tend to grow up to be anxious and not live as long. This goes to show that a difference in lifestyle can change us.
DNA Fingerprinting and Crime Scene Investigation
Everyone has their own unique fingerprint that is based on their DNA makeup. DNA fingerprinting is applied to the scientific process of collecting DNA, that may have been found at a crime scene, and comparing it to other DNAs to figure out who was involved. DNA fingerprinting is based off the fact that each individual's genetic makeup is unique and cannot be forged, faked, or altered. Only in the case of identical twins could two persons have the same fingerprints.
One of the most common DNA fingerprinting processes is Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism. In this special enzymes are used to cut segments of a sample of DNA. RFLP focuses on repetitive sequences of DNA bases. These segments are then separated by electrophoresis which separates them by length. Then they are put in a visual representation using autoradiography, that creates an x-ray like product that you can compare it with overlapping other “x-rays”. Other tests for DNA fingerprinting include: Short Tandem Repeat Test and Polymerase Chain Reaction.
With DNA fingerprinting there aren't really any ethical issues, but there were issues about how accurate it was and whether the procedures were faulty when it is used to solve crimes.
Personal Ancestry and Paternity kits
Personal DNA and Paternity kits help people better understand their bloodline, ethnicity, and family trees. Most kits take a saliva sample and then compare your profile to other people's profiles to look for similarities in your DNA. These kits are currently used to unlock the mysteries of your heritage. Paternity kits are used to determine the parents of a child. You get half your genetic information from your mom and half from your dad. To carry out a Paternity test, scientists take a pinprick of your blood and then compare the STR profiles. If they don't match or there are no similarities the supposed father can be ruled out as a candidate.
There are no ethical issues with these kits because they aren't destroying human embryos or genetically changing an organism. They are helping people reunite with family and learn about where they come from. For theses kits scientist need to know the human genome so that they can compare yours with other people's.
PCR and Gel Electrophoresis
Polymerase chain reaction is a way to make millions of copies of DNA fragments in just one hour. This process uses reagents very similar to the ones in DNA replication in cells. PCR is a form of direct cloning of DNA without the need for bacteria, which is convenient when there is little DNA to work with. PCR can be used for producing a DNA fingerprinting pattern for forensic purposes. PCR can detect allied sequence variation and chromosomal rearrangements. It is also involved in DNA sequencing and is the newest technique to detect viral and bacterial infections.
The size of DNA fragments can be estimated by using gel electrophoresis. Gel electrophoresis separates fragments by charge, size(molecular weight), and shape. Samples are placed in wells made out of gel. Electricity is then used to drive the sample from one end to the other. Because DNA molecules are negatively charged, when placed in an electric field at the negative electrode it will margrave towards the positive electrode. Smaller DNA fragments pass through the narrow passages more easily than the larger fragments.
Plasmids, Recombinant DNA and Transgenic Organisms
Recombinant DNA is when DNA from two different organisms are joined in a lab. Although it is fairly easy to isolate a strand of DNA it is pretty difficult to separate a specific gene on that strand of DNA. Recombinant DNA technology has made it possible to isolate a specific gene on a DNA strand. This technology enables scientist to determine the nucleotide sequence, mutate it, and reinsert it into a living organism.
Plasmids are small, double-stranded, circular DNA molecule that is distinct from a cell's chromosomal DNA. Plasmids naturally occur in bacteria cells and some eukaryotes. When a bacteria divides it copies the full length of the plasmid and each daughter cell gets a copy. Bacteria can also transfer plasmids to one another through a process called conjugation. Scientist use plasmids to clone, transfer, and manipulate genes. Researchers use plasmid vectors to insert DNA fragments or genes into to create a recombinant plasmid. This plasmid can be introduced into a bacteria through transformation. Because bacteria divide so rapidly, they can be used in factories to copy DNA fragments very quickly.
Transgenic organisms are organisms that have altered genomes. Most transgenic organisms are made in laboratory for research purposes. For example, “knock-out” mice are transgenic mice that have a particular gene that is disabled. By studying genes that are missing or altered researchers can better understand the function of a normal gene. Transgenic organisms have also been produced as food crops. These crops are modified for pest and herbicide resistance. Scientist have also made goats that produce milk with health benefits for humans.