Genetic engineering, or "gene splicing," involves the transfer of material genetic from one organism to another, resulting in the formation of recombinant DNA. Recombinant DNA refers to the attachment of a piece of DNA from one species to that of a second species, followed by insertion of the hybrid molecule into a host organism (often a bacterium).
By 1973 the technology for gene splicing had been developed by researchers at two neighboring institutions, Stanford University and the University of California at San Francisco. Using complementary based pairing as a kind of glue, they were able, for example, to insert DNA from the primitive frog Xenopus into the DNA of the bacterium E.coli, where the frog's DNA subsequently reproduced itself as if it were "at home".
Human genes that control the synthesis of insulin, interferon, and growth hormone have been introduced into bacterial cells, where they function as part of the bacterial DNA. In this way, bacterial cells are being used to synthesize substances needed by humans. Genetic engineering may eventually be able to correct genetic defects, so far it has been able to produce agriculturally desirable plants and animals.
*Illustrations credit: Biotechnology: Principles and Isuues, J. Weston Walch, Publisher, 1991.
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Last modified July 30th 1997