Recombinant Deoxyribonucleic Acid Technology
Ethical use of recombinant DNA technology
Recombinant DNA technology is a scientific technology that involves the production of artificial DNA in living organisms. The use of recombinant DNA technology has however drawn a lot of attention with different people having different opinions on the matter. Recombinant DNA technology has been used in medicine to treat patients with severe and life-threatening illnesses such as cancer and AIDS. This has been able due to the knowledge on the makeup of molecules in human cells.
The technology has made it possible for scientists to identify specific genes in the body, something which would not be possible were it not for the recombinant DNA technology considering the millions of genes we carry in all cells.
The most common ethical use of recombinant DNA technology has been on gene therapy where many sensitive diseases have been diagnosed more accurately and rapidly. Genetic disorders which are in most cases inherited from parents to offspring have been diagnosed as well since they result from altered chromosome structure or numbers.
This helps doctors in deciding the best treatment for the disorder in question. However, the costs of purchasing the equipment and reagents for carrying out these techniques are very high which makes the services inaccessible to some people who may need the same. Despite its usefulness in society, there has been a concern relating the practice to some unethical behaviors mostly on the part of the scientists and doctors who may recommend such unnecessary procedures so that they can benefit from them.
The discovery of etiological genes has given people with high susceptibility to certain diseases the chance to prevent the progression of such diseases through prophylactic treatment. Other genetic factors that accelerate the disease can as well be avoided (Bayertz, 2000, p. 1).
However good it may appear to many, others do not agree with the idea of screening especially young people whose families have inheritable disease history. The argument is based on stigmatization and discrimination once they are found susceptible to one of the critical diseases. For instance, many employers will be reluctant to employ certain people.
The same case applies to insurance companies, especially on the life insurance policy. It is therefore important that information is not disclosed unless the involved party gives consent. In conclusion, the advancement of recombinant DNA technology has its benefits as well as risks. What is essential is educating the public and families on the benefits and the risks involved to help them make decisions when the need for such procedures arises.
The scientists and the doctors should play their role of using the technology wisely and responsibly to the benefit of man. For instance, this could be done by producing new drugs and preventive and treatment medicines (Mulherkar, 1997, p. 1).
Applications of recombinant DNA
On insulin production
Insulin is a very important form of protein in the human body because it helps regulate levels of carbohydrates in the human body. It is produced naturally by the Langerhan’s cells that are located in the pancreas. The deficiency of insulin in the human body results in diabetes where patients excrete the excess glucose through urine. Before the development of recombinant technology, diabetes was treated using tablets or injections from animals such as pigs and cows.
But now with the development of recombinant DNA technology, insulin has been produced and used to treat the same. Its production involves isolating the human gene for insulin and introducing it into a vector, Escherichia coli bacterium, where the insulin gene is replicated along with the host’s genome as the bacterium reproduces.
Production of human insulin has been made easier by the use of two approaches which involve the production of proinsulin first which is then converted into insulin by chemical processes. The only problem associated with this method is that E. coli may produce certain enzymes which digest any foreign substances. However, this problem can be overcome by using mutant strains of the bacterium which cannot produce the enzymes (Black, 2011, p. 1).
Production of vaccines
The use of recombinant DNA technology on vaccine production, just like all other DNA recombinant techniques, involves introducing genetic material, which could be a DNA loop or a plasmid, into the human body which then takes up the DNA and produces proteins that are encoded in the plasmids. Once the proteins are produced, they immediately start improving the immunity of the animal (man included) getting the vaccine.
The Hepatitis vaccine is a good example of recombinant DNA vaccines. However, similar to other forms of gene therapy, recombination of DNA during the production of vaccines poses a threat to the possible development of abnormal cells which may eventually lead to cancer development. Recombinant DNA is also risky in that it may alter the function of genes that are meant to prevent the development of body tumors. (Higgins, 2011, p. 1).
Production of crops
Recombinant DNA technology is also used on plants though it is not as easy as it is with bacteria. The desired gens are identified and then incorporated into the plant which then undergoes normal growth until maturity. Genes are introduced into plant cells using Agrobacterium tumefacient bacterium as the vector.
The combination of DNA has also been used on plants to help improve their uptake of nitrogen from the atmosphere. The genes responsible for this function are obtained from the specific bacteria and then injected into a plant cell hence giving the plant the properties of obtaining nitrogen by itself. Recombination of DNA has also been used in promoting the ability of plants to resist disease infections.
A bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensisis the most commonly used due to its insecticide properties. Once its genes are introduced into the plant, invasion of the plant by pests is prevented. Plants have also been engineered to enable them to produce a certain protein capsid which prevents invasion of viruses (Parrot, 1993, p. 1).
Use on crime scenes
DNA technology has been used in a process known as fingerprinting which involves an examination of DNA and other recovery techniques to identify and match a person’s identification to DNA molecules. This technique has been widely used at crime scenes where investigations have to be done to identify the involved suspects.
The basis of this technique is the use of the sequences in the human genome that are repetitive. Samples such as hair fibers, blood, or fragments of the skin and other tissues are obtained from the scene where a crime has occurred and are digested using certain digestive enzymes producing DNA fragments. These are then tested for characteristic sequences and since every person has a unique sequence, the recovered DNA can be compared to that of a suspect to identify if one was really at the crime scene (Higgins, 2011, p. 1).
Bayertz, K. (2000). Recombinant DNA technology: chances, risks, ethical considerations. Web.
Black, K. (2011). What is Recombinant DNA Technology? Web.
Higgins, J. (2011). What Are the Benefits of Recombinant DNA?. Web.
Mulherkar, R. (1997). Biotechnology and medicine: ethical concerns. Web.
Parrot, C.C. (1993). Recombinant DNA to Protect Crops. Web.