[ Diabetes Solutions ]

Genetic Engineering and Mutations

The American Juvenile Diabetes Association estimates that about 3 million Americans suffer from type 1 diabetes. Genetic engineering can cure most illnesses and diseases. Today genetically engineered microbes are used to “manufacture” insulin that’s far safer, more humane and cost-efficient. The other main medical treatment that now commonly contains GMOs is vaccines. naked DNA injections, micro-seeding, liposomal reagents, particle bombardment, and electroporation). Animal Insulin Revision about Chromosome, DNA, gene A gene is a section of DNA that carries the code for a particular protein. Diabetes, a medical condition that affects millions of people, prevents the body from producing enough insulin necessary for cells to properly absorb sugar.

] from one organism, and join them into a gap in the DNA of another organism. Notice that enzymes [enzyme: Proteins which catalyse or speed up chemical reactions inside our bodies. Glucokinase (GK) is the enzyme that senses glucose in the pancreas. And it doesnt stop there: many of the genetically modified crops now being field-tested in the United States and around the world could not only have a devastating Jurassic Park type impact on the global eco-system, but could also hit agriculture-based third-world economies dependent on cash crops. Pharmaceutical companies now use genetic engineering to produce large quantities of insulin for diabetics around the world. There are four different nitrogen bases, adenine, thymine, cytosine and guanine.(7) The synthesis of a particular protein such as insulin is determined by the sequence in which these bases are repeated (see fig. To insert a DNA sequence, a common practice is to use a retrovirus (a form of virus) with a previously added gene to pass the cell wall and implant the DNA into the cell’s nucleus, which is the brain of the cell.

The team then deactivated the functioning FOXO1 inside of the intestinal cells. The most thoroughly studied antigens to date include insulin and GAD65 (Gilliam, Binder, Banga et al., 2004) Antigen specific therapies use target autoantigens to eradicate pathogenic T cells and activate T regulatory cells at the target organ (Grieco, Vendrame, Spagnuolo et al., 2011). Genetic engineering can also be accomplished in other ways. Two popular methods, as opposed to adding a DNA sequence, are removing a gene or using gene targeting. The latter is a method that can be used to have a cell undergo mutations. Mutations are changes in the nucleotide sequence of an organism’s genome and can have immense implications regardless of how small they may seem. Mutations are a fundamental part of genetic engineering: their existence can have various different impacts, from wreaking havoc in an organism to not producing any discernible changes, to having abundant benefits.

While mutations occur normally in organisms due to random errors that our body sometimes encounters and are responsible for countless genetic disorders in humans (did you know cystic fibrosis, sickle-cell disease, and color blindness are all caused by mutations?), they can be used in genetic engineering to artificially create changes that shouldn’t naturally happen, altering the genetic makeup of an organism unforeseeably. There are two main types of mutations: gene mutations, which occur to DNA bases, and chromosomal mutations, which affect entire chromosomes. Gene mutations can be classified into the following types: substitution (point mutation), insertion, and deletion. Special growth solutions are needed to provide the cells with all the nutrients they require. Because nucleotide bases exist in triplets called codons (each triplet coding for a certain amino acid / protein telling our body how it should function), a single base change can alter the codon and therefore produce a different protein, potentially having harmful consequences. I said can change because while a single base substitution may change the codon from ATG to ATC, for example, this change may still produce the same protein and have no effect. This is due to multiple codons encoding for the same amino acid, and the mutation ends up only being a silent mutation (no potential effect).


A missense mutation occurs when a switched base changes only one codon, which in practice is usually non-significant. The worst case scenario in a point mutation is when it causes an amino acid to code for a “stop” codon, known as a nonsense mutation, which signals the end of the gene. In this case, there may still be multiple bases / codons remaining, and the resulting incomplete protein will most likely not function properly. market in 2000, Draeger says. Insertion is when one or several extra nucleotide bases are added to a DNA strand. These are usually more harmful than point mutations and result in something called a frameshift mutation, where all the bases are moved down to make room for the extra bases. A best case scenario for gene insertion is when three bases are added to form an extra amino acid, however, the more likely case is that one or two bases are added, shifting all the bases following it and changing the subsequent protein formations.

Deletion works the same way; sometimes just one protein may be removed, and other times all the proteins will change due to the removal of a base. To better address the association between eNOS polymorphisms and DN risk, we performed a meta-analysis from all eligible studies, including subgroup analyses based on samples of different ethnicities. The diagram below shows what insertion and deletion can do. Mutations can also affect entire chromosomes, which house hundreds to thousands of genes inside. Chromosomal mutations are often similar to gene mutations, though their effects are considerably more pronounced. The hardier plant still looks nice but it isn’t nearly as stunning. Unlike gene mutations, structural changes in chromosomes can include inversion, in which a segment of a chromosome is reversed, and translocation, where non-homologous chromosomes (those that aren’t paired together) switch genetic material.

Mutations are not always lethal or detrimental, and account for variety in the gene pool (set of all genes) in organisms. The picture below explains the various chromosome mutations. Understanding mutations is crucial to learning about genetic engineering, because mutations are what scientists perform to add variety to an organism and, in turn, change it to our benefit. The first real success of genetic engineering happened in 1978 when Genentech, a company said to have founded the biotechnological industry, created the first synthetic human insulin. This was ground-breaking for diabetes care, as insulin needed to treat diabetes has previously been taken from certain animals in a low-yielding and tedious process that was no longer necessary. Later in 1987, the first genetically modified organism, a bacterium known as p. syringae, was released onto strawberry and potato fields intended to stop ice formation on the crops.

Around that time test trials for genetically modified plants, like tobacco plants resistant to herbicides (pesticides used to kill weeds / unwanted plants), had started to emerge. Below is a picture of the first synthetic human insulin Humulin, which pioneered diabetes treatment and exemplifies the benefits genetic engineering could have. Since the 1990s, the use of genetically engineered plants and other products has gone up profusely. Much of this is because of an increased consumption demand, for example, the increasing demand for livestock that requires more feed grain. Currently, approximately 16% of the agricultural area in the U.S. is planted with genetically modified crops, which is quite a large amount compared to the rather few genetically modified crops in Europe and elsewhere. The most popular genetically engineered crops include corn, rice, soybeans, potatoes, sugarcane, sugar beet, tomatoes, and wheat.

While modified crops are consumed regularly and numerous of them have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for quite a while, other genetically modified organisms, like fish for example, haven’t yet been approved for consumption by the FDA. Time can only tell what genetically modified organisms will exist in the future. One of the many modified crops, wheat, can be seen in the picture underneath. There have been many controversies resulting from this sudden proliferation in genetically modified (GM) products, especially in the agriculture industry. Critics of GM foods say that humans are unnecessarily changing the biological state of organisms that evolved over long periods of time naturally. In addition, some argue that we do not know enough and cannot comprehend the damages and potential consequences genetically modified organisms may have.

However, supporters often mention that genetic engineering is just a more sophisticated way of selective breeding, which has gone on for thousands of years, and that it is only a continuation of humans modifying plants and other organisms for our benefit. Whatever the case, genetic engineering should continue to be researched and performed to some extent, as this breakthrough in genetics promises much. On the other hand, many possible ramifications associated with genetic engineering may arise if we are not careful with this technology.

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