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Genetic Engineering - An Easy Explanation
Modern human (Homo sapiens) are present on the Earth for around 200,000 years. We weren't the only hominids on the planet, but we were certainly the cleverest ones. One organ played a vital role in our successful adaptation to a hostile environment – it was a human brain. Thanks to the brain, we were able to create all kind of tools that could simplify our everyday life and facilitate battle for food and warm shelter. It all began with various weapons, followed with the discovery of fire, wheel, electricity….and now, even though we are living in a relatively safe and controlled environment, modern technology is progressing to the aspects of life we couldn't imagine 100 years ago and it’s not just omnipresent but it’s necessary.

Being curious by nature, throughout the centuries we discovered how different organisms are built, how they are working, what triggers the illness and how we can hill ourselves and/or other creatures, what are the basics of reproduction…. Today, we are combining all that knowledge with modern technology to change who we are.

Genetic engineering is one of the most investigated scientific fields with endless possibilities. Fact that all living creatures are built and are functioning thanks to the information written in their DNA (or RNA when it comes to some viruses) is what makes genetic engineering that popular. Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is a main constituent of the chromosomes; it contains genetic information and ability to replicate when cell is dividing. Genes are sequences of DNA, hereditary units specifically located on chromosomes, present in two copies (one copy from each of our parents) that will determine our individual characteristic after expressing. Genome is a set of all known genes within the species. What makes us so different from each other is actually a minimal redistribution of DNA nucleotides that makes us unique and unrepeatable. 99,9% of human genome is universal to all people and just 0,10% differences in our DNA will lead to distinctive characteristics each person have. We are not that different from other species as well - most biochemical processes inside living organisms are universal or at least similar. That simple fact triggered first genetic experiments, and once they started – there was no way back.

Genes are in charge for much more than just the color of our eyes. Few enzymes and couple of RNA molecules are most important participants in the complicated and jet fascinating machinery that is controlling genetic expression. Final product of genetic expression is protein. Proteins are essential for all the biochemical processes inside the organism. Most of those processes can be described as cascade where one molecule affects other and it’s a chain reaction leading at the end to a normal breading, hormone production, neurotransmitters release – in one word – having one normal and functional organism. If gene undergoes unwanted mutation and become dysfunctional – complete process will be affected and disease will develop. That’s where genetic engineering is more than useful. For example, insulin is polypeptide essential for sugar and fat metabolism. Without insulin blood sugar level can’t be regulated and result is diabetes. People with diabetes need insulin in regular daily doses but since insulin is natural protein – its production isn’t that simple. Solution comes with recombinant DNA technique. Bacterial cells contain single DNA and one or more plasmids (a circular and chromosomally independent DNA chain inside the cell) that could incorporate foreign genes and start producing the protein we want during the genetic expression phase that is happening normally in the bacterial cell. Since the genes from different species share same chemical structure, we can easily slice plasmid’s DNA at certain spot and incorporate gene that we need to multiply using specific enzymes and create expanded DNA chain that will produce one more protein in the next genetic expression round. This technique is used for multiplying a lot of proteins where most popular examples are production of the growth hormone, clothing factor VIII, recombinant hepatitis B vaccine….

Beside bacteria, plants can also be enriched with couple of foreign genes that could either enhance their endurance and tolerance toward pests and environmental conditions or increase vitamin/protein amount…

Not all genetic engineering experiments turned to be successful and useful for human kind. As with all other experiments, finding the right balance is always the key to success, but as I mention before with genetic engineering – possibilities are endless.
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Man is not only the one to have performed Genetic Engineering on our planet! This is because genetic changes occurred during the course of evolution in such a way that it not only changed the phenotype but also helped to survive in competitions. As Charles Darwin rightly said that” whenever there is a race of existence, there is a survival of the fittest” and these fitness resulted with changes in genes during the course of evolution. This means that apart from man the one who had performed genetic changes or genetic engineering in plants, animals and microbes for their own benefit was nature itself!
A change that is either addition or deletion in the Genetic material is called Genetic Engineering, and this is being used by nature from the time when living organisms & plants came in existence. Now various techniques & development of knowledge had helped modern science to make the changes in DNA of any organism for the desire purposes like, Inhibiting the genes of cells to prevent cancer, to get monoclonal antibodies from the genetically altered microbes, adding the insulin gene to the cells of bacteria to produce insulin which can then be extracted for its use in treating Diabetes etc. Biotechnology & applications of genetic engineering had open new ways in producing many important medicines like modified antibiotics which are more specificity towards target and alt the same time has low side effects, producing Human growth hormones, vaccines productions which helps in improving immunity against various pathogens, Gene therapy now used to treat many disorders like, immune deficiencies (Severe combined immunodeficiency), to correct altered gene by adding functional gene at targeted site of somatic cells. Genetic engineering played great role in plants development and green revolutions. Many crops have been improved to increase the yield or production with all required nutrients.
Therefore what genetic engineering is doing is applying the concept of evolution which is the basis of continuity of life on earth. To remain alive all living animals, plants, microbes use one simple principle of adaptation with the nature, and to adapt with nature they need phenotypic changes. To have phenotypic change genetic material has to modify itself in such a way that special character should help species to survive in nature. All living organisms, plants, microbes are today also adapting themselves to extreme conditions with the help of mutation in genome. So in my view mutation of genetic material in nature for improvement of species is natural genetic engineering and what we do by using technology is artificial genetic engineering! In short, nature has been using mutation as a tool to make certain changes in DNA of all living organism for better survival of different species of the earth.
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So in my view mutation of genetic material in nature for improvement of species is natural genetic engineering and what we do by using technology is artificial genetic engineering! In short, nature has been using mutation as a tool to make certain changes in DNA of all living organism for better survival of different species of the earth.

Thank you very much for the explanation provided. I agree that genetic engineering is "stolen" from the nature (as so many other natural phenomena) and that "artificial genetic engineering" is way better term to distinguish engineering made by nature and one made by man. Keep on being so well informed and thrilled about nature and its wonders. Rolleyes
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Very informative post shared here as well as helpful for advance research in genetic engineering.
Genetic engineering is the science of altering living things by changing the information encoded in their DNA.Genetic information is stored in DNA using four different chemicals called adenine, cytosine, guanine and thymine.These chemicals coupled together to form the linkages that hold together the two spirals that comprise every DNA molecule.Genes are responsible for specific characteristic.Today,scientist are capable of creating new species of animals by taking genetic material from one or more animals or plants and genetically engineering them into genes of another animal.This allows scientist,to create animals that are on one hand completely foreign and on other hand,posses only traits that human desire in animals.
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Thanks to all, sharing here excellent information about genetic engineering. It is a division of biology. It concentrates on making food, creatures and vegetation better tailored to the need of people. It does this by remodelling genetics. Genetic Engineering also contains insertion of human genetics into sheep so that they discharge alpha-1 antitrypsin in their milk a useful material for some cases of lung disease. It has given us the power to improve the very basis of life on this planet.
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