Genetically modified bacteria
Genetically modified bacteria were the first organisms to be modified in the laboratory, due to their simple genetics. These organisms are now used for several purposes, and are particularly important in producing large amounts of pure human proteins for use in medicine.
The first example of this occurred in 1978 when Herbert Boyer working at a University of California laboratory took a version of the human insulin gene and inserted into the bacterium Escherichia coli to produce synthetic "human" insulin. Four years later, it was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The drug industry has made good use of this discovery in its quest to produce medication for diabetes. Similar bacteria have been used to produce clotting factors to treat haemophilia, and human growth hormone to treat various forms of dwarfism. These recombinant proteins are safer than the products they replaced, since the older products were purified from cadavers and could transmit diseases. Indeed the human-derived proteins caused many cases of AIDS and hepatitis C in haemophilliacs and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease from human growth hormone.
For instance, the bacteria which cause tooth decay are called Streptococcus mutans. These bacteria consume leftover sugars in the mouth, producing lactic acid that corrodes tooth enamel and ultimately causes cavities. Scientists have recently modified Streptococcus mutans to produce no lactic acid. These transgenic bacteria, if properly colonized in a person's mouth, could reduce the formation of cavities. Transgenic microbes have also been used in recent research to kill or hinder tumors, and to fight Crohn's disease Genetically modified bacteria are also used in some soils to facilitate crop growth, and can also produce chemicals which are toxic to crop pests.
Bacteria-synthesized transgenic products
- Hepatitis B vaccine
- Tissue plasminogen activator
- Human growth hormone
- Ice-minus bacteria
- bt corn
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