Modern biology is an ever evolving and improving
aspect of today’s world. New discoveries and advancements are made each and
every day, and perhaps no area has advanced more than our current capabilities
with DNA and recombination technologies.
recombination is a process by which desired genes from one organism are viably
transplanted into the genome of another. This process was pioneered in the
early 1970’s by Herbert Boyer, Stanley Cohen, and Paul Berg, who worked heavily
with the genetics of bacteria. In 1971, Berg successfully managed to splice the
circular DNA of the lamba phage virus and insert additional, foreign DNA into
the sequence. This was the first known instance of manmade recombinant DNA, or
rDNA for short (Chemical Heritage Foundation, 2015b).
Berg may have been the first to successfully create manmade rDNA, he was not
the first to insert this new DNA into a separate organism. This feat would
accomplished just a year later by Herbert Boyer and Stanley Cohen. Thanks to
the unique cutting activity of the EcoRI
enzyme, Boyer and Cohen were able to create their desired strands of rDNA.
Then, using the ability of bacteria to undergo transformation, that is, absorb
nucleic acid material present in the extracellular environment, the two
scientists were able to successfully translocate their rDNA into the interior
of the bacterial cells. Not soon after, in 1973, the two were able to use the
same enzyme as before to create a recombinant plasmid, which was itself able to
replicate as it would naturally. For the first time, humans had successfully
created DNA that could replicate in vivo (Chemical Heritage Foundation, 2105a).
the 70s, this technology has grown exponentially. Today, we are able to take
advantage of this process in a multitude of ways. Perhaps one of the most
important, if not well-known, ways in which we do so is by using both E. Coli and S. Cerevisiae as micro factories for human insulin production. By
inserting the gene for human insulin into these organisms, much like the
original experiment done by Boyer and Cohen, we are able to induce the
production of viable human insulin for the treatment of diabetes, and other
similar diseases (Tof, 1994). Additionally, far more advanced treatments are
constantly being developed and tested, all in hopes that we may someday be able
to create medicine aimed specifically at the DNA of the afflicted person,
curing them at the genetic level.
future of biology is expanding faster than we realize. Recombinant DNA was once
thought of as a mere dream, or something of science fiction. Nowadays,
scientists are looking for ways to go beyond what was once thought to be
impossible. It may not be unreasonable to believe that, by the end of our
lifetimes, we may see the first completely designer organism, whos genetic
material was handpicked and customized by aspiring, groundbreaking scientists.