genetic engineering

Last reviewed 01/2018

Genetic engineering encompasses a variety of specialities that can alter nucleic acid sequences. Some of these techniques produce new mixtures of DNA which may be passed to the next generation: recombinant DNA technology.

This field has been very fruitful since the emergence of enzymes which can cut particular sequences of base pairs. These restriction enzymes, isolated from micro-organisms, produce fragments of DNA which are predictable and well-characterized. Researchers then merge the DNA fragments with molecules or cell-like structures, termed vectors, which can be inserted into host cells to produce combinations of desired genes. By transferring vector to host cell, the effect of modifications in the original gene, over- or under-expression, can be determined or, as highlighted by the biotechnology industry, it can be used to produce desired proteins in large quantities, for example, insulin.