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The Most Fascinating Examples of Genetic Engineering
This is post no. 1 under the main topic.
Cats that glow in the dark? It may sound like a bad science fiction movie, but they are around us for several years. Cabbage that produce scorpion poison? Another thing, when you next need a vaccine, a physician may prescribe a banana - do not be surprised.

These and many other genetically modified organisms exist today as a result of DNA hybridization technique that uses DNA material from different organisms to create a completely new combination of genes. Maybe you didn’t pay enough attention, but many of these genetically modified organisms are part of our everyday lives. Today, 45% of U.S. corn and 85% soybeans are genetically altered, while 70-75% of the food on the shelves in supermarkets contains at least one such ingredient.

Just take a look at some of the strangest products of genetic engineering that exist today. Keep in mind that this is only the beginning. Many other products are probably already on the way.

Cats That Glow in The Dark

South Korean scientists created in 2007 cat that glows in the dark using genetic engineering, then took her DNA, cloned it, and created a number of fluorescent kittens.

Here's how they did it: They took skin cells from Turkish Angora female cat (species that were originally tamed by Tatars, but was later transferred to Turkey and is now considered the country's national treasure), and using the virus they inserted the genetic code for the production of red fluorescent protein. Then they put genetically modified nuclei into eggs for cloning and such cloned embryos are returned to the donor cat. It thus became the surrogate mother's own clones.

What’s the point of creating pets that can serve as a night lamp, people will ask. "These are the sick scientists. They have nothing better to do, then acting God, "some will say. However, the possibility of implanting the fluorescent properties in the genetic code of animals is a precursor to the possibility of creating animals with human diseases caused by genetic disorders, such as hemophilia, Down syndrome, Prader-Willie Syndrome and Turner, and many others, in order to make their research and experimentation much easier. So this definitely has potential to be a major milestone in medicine and can save many lives in the future.


Ecopig is the pig genetically modified for more efficient digestion of phosphorus. The swine manure is rich in phytates, one of the main forms of phosphorus storage in plants. Pigs, like all non-ruminants, are unable to digest phytate, so they excrete it in the basic form which is later used as fertilizer. This situation can cause problems, because this matter is, if it enters the water, causing the multiplication of algae to the point where those take enormous surface of lakes, using up all the oxygen, preventing the light to pass into the deeper parts, and thus indirectly killing all the wildlife that of ecosystem.

To prevent this serious problem, scientists have added E.Coli bacteria and DNA of normal mouse in pig embryos. This modification has a direct effect on the processing of phosphorus through the digestive tract of pigs - reduces the presence of phytate and phosphorus in the feces for up to 70%. Admittedly, these pigs will actually deserve the prefix “-eco”.

Plants Fighters Against Pollution

Scientists at the University of Washington were able to create genetically engineered poplar, which is able to clean up contaminated land by absorbing contaminants from groundwater through its root system, and then through a series of chemical reactions, turning it into harmless substances stored in the roots and leaves or released in gaseous form through pores in the environment.

In laboratory tests, those modified plants have been able to remove 91% of trichloroethylene (the most common groundwater contaminants) from aqueous solution. Plain poplar manages to remove only 3%. Good statistics, one must admit.

Toxic Cabbage

Toxic cabbage? Does not sound like something you'd like to see in your salad. However, not everything is the way it appears at a first glance. In fact, scientists have recently succeeded to transfer the gene that is responsible for creating the scorpion toxins to cabbage. Why? The aim is to limit use of pesticides, and at the same time to prevent the destruction of this vegetable by a centipede and similar pests.

These genetically modified Cabbage is creating scorpion poison powerful enough to kill the average centipede or insect as soon as it bites one leaf. Best of all is that this poison, carefully synthesized and changed, is not dangerous to humans.

Goats That Make a Web

Strong, stretchable spider web is one of the strongest natural materials, stronger even than steel. Theoretically, it could have wide use - from the production of artificial ligaments to the ropes for parachutes. If only we were able to produce it in sufficient quantities. Nexia Biotechnologies Company said it has a solution: goat milk contains proteins of spider web!

The researchers inserted the gene from spider DNA gene into goats’ DNA in such a way that it secretes in their milk the protein for building the net. This milk can be used to produce biosteel, material with characteristics similar to spider webs.

Previous attempts of this material have failed because it is extremely difficult to create long protein chains as found in nature. This technique works because the way mammals produce milk is very similar to the way a spider creates its network.

Commercialization of this process has the potential to improve the quality of life for many people.

Bananas Vaccines

There are indications that in the foreseeable future, people could be vaccinated against hepatitis B, cholera and similar diseases simply by taking bites of banana. Scientists have successfully created bananas, potatoes, carrots and tobacco with the characteristics of the vaccine, but they say that bananas are still the best "vehicle" for the drug.

When inserted into a young banana, the modified form of the virus quickly releases its genetic material and becomes the part of the plant cell. Along with the growth of the plant, its cells produce proteins of the virus, but they are not contagious and dangerous. When people eat pieces of such genetically modified bananas, full of viral proteins, their immune system begins to produce antibodies to fight the disease - just l
This is post no. 2 under the main topic.
Subsequently, the product range expanded to include other chemical intermediaries for detergent manufacture. The industrial usage in various applications has also widened. Versatile products were aggressively marketed leading to their usage in several other industries - building construction, paper, foundries, paints, ceramics, candles, textiles to name a few. The current installed capacities of other products manufactured are 10,000 tonnes of LABSA and 25,000 tonnes of Potassiun Silicate.
This is post no. 3 under the main topic.
Model Organisms

While there are some specific interesting examples of genetic engineering done on some organisms, there are organisms that have been extensively experimented on, due to their relatively simple genome for specific engineering purpose, their short life cycle resulting in large number of generations in short amount of time, or something else. These are called model organisms, and they have been invaluable in genetic engineering because they have helped us study a lot of different things, like metabolism, diseases, functions of novel genes, etc., which would otherwise be unethical to study on humans, but can still benefit us due to the similarity of genes involved, chemicals, etc.

Viruses and Bacteria

Viruses and bacteria have very small genomes which are amendable to genetic dissection, making them perfect model organisms for a number of different experiments. Their study has given us many insights into gene control, especially when we are talking about the proteins involved in the DNA and RNA, protein synthesis as well as metabolism (in the case of bacteria). Gene regulation has also been studied a lot because it is a complex field of genetic engineering, making it hard for exploration in organisms with complex genomes.

Viruses are also perfect targets for the study of cancer and control of cell proliferation. Also, due to their intrinsic function, transport of proteins and organelles inside the cells has also been extensively examined with them, as well as infection and immunity. This has helped us a lot, especially since it gives us some alternative possible approaches to gene therapies.

Bacteria, on the other hand, are perfect targets for experimentations on new antibiotics, especially since it is relatively easy to control their “behavior”, sensitivity or resistance, with the help of plasmids and insertions or silencing of different genes. Study of their cell cycle has also given us a lot of insight into control of cell division and phases in the life of a cell. Bacteria are also great targets for studying of the signaling mechanisms, both inside the cell and between different cells.
This is post no. 4 under the main topic.
Yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae)

The yeast is perfect for genetic studying and engineering because it has the cellular organization of a eukaryote, but it is pretty simple single-celled organism that is easy to grow and manipulate genetically. Since they are from the same kingdom as us humans, the study of their cell cycle, and the control of cell cycle and cell division has given us the insight into our own. This is possible since there are approximately 6000 different proteins expressed in yeast whose homologs are found in almost all eukaryotes.

Basically, most of what we know of the proteins in the endoplasmic reticulum and Golgi apparatus has been found out with the help of yeast. It has also been studied for protein secretion and membrane biogenesis, as well as for the function of cytoskeleton. Cell differentiation and aging is also an interesting process, especially for humans, and we have found a lot about it studying yeast. If we go down to genetic level, gene regulation and chromosome structure is also the target for genetic experiments in S. cerevisiae.

Yeast is popular since vast numbers of yeast cells can be grown easily and cheaply from a single cell, resulting in completely identical colony of cells with same biochemical properties, making it great for purification of proteins and their study in detail. Moreover, yeast cells can grow by mitosis both as haploids and diploids (containing one and two copies of each chromosome, respectively), which makes it easy to isolate and characterize mutations in genes which encode essential cell proteins.

Yeast, like many organisms, has a sexual cycle, which allows exchange of genes between cells. Interesting thing happens under starvation conditions – diploid cells undergo meiosis, making two different haploid cells from a single diploid one (a and α). These can then grow by mitosis and if they encounter each other, they can fuse forming a/α diploid. This mechanism gives us a lot of possibilities to perform some additional genetic experiments.
This is post no. 5 under the main topic.
Model Organisms

Roundworm (Caenorhabditis elegans)

C. elegans is in the group of nematode worms (they are basically unsegmented worms with elongated rounded body pointed at both ends) and it is great target for genetic engineering since it is multicellular organism but still very simple. It has small number of cells arranged in nearly identical way in every worm, making it perfect target for studying embryonic development. Basically, it has been used to trace the formation of each individual cell, to study the development of the whole body plan and to study the cell lineage.

C. elegans was also the first organism to have given us the insight into RNAi (RNA interference), which refers to the control of gene expression by blocking the translation of specific mRNA molecules and targeting them for degradation with the help of siRNA (small interfering RNA) molecules.

Moreover, formation and the function of nervous system is well studied through C. elegans, as well as muscle development, mostly due to the simplicity of its body, making it easy to track the development of these tissues and compare them among different individuals from the population. The research about muscle and nerve cells extends to the identification, isolation and study of mutants, focusing on their problems with development and function.

Having relatively simple multicellular body has many other advantages. Chromosome structure has been studied in C. elegans but, more importantly, gene regulation, as it is very complex process, making it pretty complicated to study in more advanced organisms. Knowledge on gene regulation has led to additional research of the regulation of cell cycle, cell aging and programmed cell death, also known as apoptosis. Any mutations here can lead to uncontrolled cell proliferation and cancer, so this worm has also been used to identify and study potential cancer genes responsible for the “immortality” of cells.
This is post no. 6 under the main topic.
Fruit Fly – Drosophila melanogaster

Fruit fly is definitely one of the best studied model organisms. I even like to think of it as a model organism among model organisms. The reason for this lies in many advantages of studying fruit fly in comparison to other organisms.

First of all, it is very easy and cheap to have them. They are small, take up little space and they eat a little. They are usually placed in small vials where their food and water is and they have to be changed to another vial every two weeks or so. One of the best characteristics of fruit fly is their short life span (around 40-50 days; it is strongly affected by the temperature).

Moreover, once they are hatched, they spend about 4 days as larvae, four days in pupation stage, and then they are ready to mate 2 days after. This allows scientists to breed about 800 generations of fruit flies over the course of 30 years (the same number of mice generations would take more than 200 years).

Another reason why fruit flies are good for examinations and experiments is their type of chromosomes. They have polytene chromosomes which allow the precise mapping of genes due to the patterns of light and dark bands resembling a barcode.

One of the things studied the most in Drosophila is the development of the whole body plan, including the study of generation of different cell lineages and formation of different tissues/organs like nervous system, heart and musculature. Also, Drosophila has been extensively used to study cancer, cancer genes, control of cell proliferation, programmed cell death (apoptosis) and overall genetic control of behavior.

Cell polarity has been studied in Drosophila as well. It basically refers to the study of specialized cell functions based on the differences in the shape, structure and function of cells. All of the benefits of keeping fruit fly in the lab have also led scientists to use them in order to study the effects of drugs, alcohol and pesticides on living organisms.
This is post no. 7 under the main topic.
Arabidopsis thaliana

Arabidopsis thaliana is the best studied organism among plants. In fact, I think it is one of the three most studied organisms overall (not including humans, the other two are Drosophila melanogaster and mice). It even has its own database of genetic and molecular biology data called TAIR (The Arabidopsis Information Resource). This database contains things like the complete genome sequence (finished in 2000), information about the gene structure, gene products, gene expression, genome maps, markers, publications, research community, etc.

Arabidopsis thaliana was in the focus of research from the early 20th century. There are several reasons why it is great for research. First of all, its genome is really small (one of the smallest plant genomes, around 155,000 kb) and diploid (even though polyploidy is really common in plants) with only five chromosomes. This makes things easier to perform sequencing and genetic mapping.

Another good characteristic of A. thaliana is its rapid life cycle and small size, making its cultivation easy and relatively fast (some strains need only six weeks from germination to mature seed). Moreover, its transformation is pretty simple. There is no need for tissue culture or plant regeneration because it can be easily transformed with Agrobacterium tumefaciens, which simplifies genetic experiments even more. Young seedlings of A. thaliana are semitransparent, making them well suited for light microscopy and live cell imaging using both fluorescence and confocal microscopy.

Basically, Arabidopsis thaliana has been used to study plant development and development and patterning of tissues. Also, as a model organism, it has been used to study genetics of plant species, evolution and population genetics. Research from it is also used for agriculture and for understanding of cellular, molecular and genetic biology of flowering plants, even though A. thaliana itself does not directly contribute to the agriculture. Moreover, since it is relatively simple to transform, it has been used to study gene regulation in plants, their immunity and infectious diseases.
This is post no. 8 under the main topic.
Model Organisms


While Drosophila melanogaster has a very short life cycle and is very cheap to keep alive thousands of samples, mouse is the closest best studied organism to us, humans. The mouse genome is approximately the same size to our genome and it contains roughly the same amount of genes which are conserved in pretty much the same order.

Moreover, most human genes have homologs in mouse genome, especially some genes that are not found in other model organisms, like the genes responsible for the immune system, and same mutations in homologous genes usually cause same or similar problems. In fact, more than 95% of the mouse genome is similar to ours. These are only some advantages, others being that it is still cheap to study mice, plus they have relatively short breeding cycle (about 2 months) comparing to other mammals.

There are also a lot of different species of mice which can be used for interbreeding which usually results in highly heterozygous individuals. This is good for making detailed genetic maps and map genes related to diseases. Once we know the position of the particular gene, we can use that information to help us find the similar one in our genome.

Another good thing about mice is that congenics can be relatively easily created with use of advanced breeding techniques. Congenics are essentially two same organisms differing in only one gene. This is great for studying specific functions of a certain gene and potential mutations which may happen.

Mice have been used to study a lot of different things like development of body tissues, function of mammalian immune system, formation and function of brain and nervous system, gene regulation and others. They have been invaluable for the research regarding many diseases, some of which are cancers and tumors, of course, then infectious diseases, also Down syndrome, cystic fibrosis, diabetes, epilepsy, heart disease and many others.

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