Advances in DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) technology have rapidly emerged since the structure of DNA was discovered in 1953. Genetic engineering has made it possible to insert genes from one organism into another organism, producing traits that would be impossible to develop using traditional breeding techniques. This is possible because of the development of techniques that allow rapid copying of any piece of DNA and cutting at specific sites on DNA strands. Other advances have allowed for entire genomes to be sequenced, including the human genome. As more information is collected about how each gene functions, personal genome sequencing will be able to offer predictions about an individual's likelihood of developing genetic illnesses. Thus, DNA technology has important applications in medicine, agriculture, and the judicial system.
At A Glance
Genetic engineering involves the direct manipulation of an organism's genome.
- Transferring genes from one organism to another makes recombinant DNA, which can produce traits that the organism does not naturally possess.
Restriction enzymes cut any piece of DNA at the same restriction sites, allowing unrelated DNA pieces to be connected at the "sticky ends."
- Using techniques that exploit the complementary base pairing rule of nucleic acids, the nucleotide sequence of an entire genome can be determined.
Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is a technique for rapidly copying any piece of DNA using actions similar to natural DNA replication.
Large databases house entire genome, gene, and protein sequences, including those of humans, for researchers to access.
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs), which contain recombinant DNA, are widely used in medicine and agriculture.
- Human genes can be directly modified, with the help of a virus to deliver new DNA, in a process called gene therapy.
- DNA that is cut by restriction enzymes will always produce the same fragments, giving each person a unique DNA fingerprint that can be read using a technique called gel electrophoresis.
Cloning from a parental cell is one way to make stem cells, which can develop into more than one cell type, for use in medical research and treatment.