Need help on HS project on genetic engineering

Michael Cooley szcooley at dale.ucdavis.edu
Tue Dec 20 13:03:24 EST 1994


Joseph Hoffman (joehoffman at delphi.com) wrote:
: Michael Cooley <szcooley at dale.ucdavis.edu> writes:
:  
: >:    I'm fourteen years old, and within the next couple of weeks have a report
: >: due in biology class about genetic engineering and future technologies that may
: >: be used in this field.  The report is actually for a contest, 
called the
: >: National Toshiba Exploravision Contest.  I have already gained a lot of
: >: information from the Cornell Theory Center as well as encyclopedias, pamphlets,
: >: etc., but a lot of resources are already obselete.  Any extra help from a kind
: >: soul out there would be much appreciated.  I still have a few questions, and I
: >: don't expect anyone to answer them all, but again, any help would be great.
: >:                   Thank you very much.
: >:                                           Joseph Hoffman
:  
: Thanks for replying.  I read in a very obsolete source that about twenty-five
: years ago, scientists had created a bacterium, a newer version of and old
: bacterium called Pseudomonas.  This bacterium had a built-in appetite for
: petroleum, and scientists were looking to begin using it to help clean up
: oil spills.  Is this bacteria in use today?
:   Also, is there anything keeping scientists from cloning animals and other life
: forms except ethical values.  I know that cloning is in use today, cloning
: plant life and other sinpler organisms, but have they done anything more with
: the technology?
: (I apologize for all of the typographical errors.  I'm unfortunately in a
: hurry.)  Thanks a lot.
:                                            Joseph Hoffman


Ok, first we need to clear up a few problems with terminology. Scientists 
have never created a bacterium. The term created is like made; it does 
not describe what they did. A bacterium is a very complicated organism 
and it's alive. We do not (and probably never will be able to) create 
life. I don't know what exactly was done with this bacterium, but it was 
probably fairly mild in comparison to today's standard. I have heard its 
is still being used. I will post the question. 

The word, cloning, is problematic. Strictly it means creating something 
exactly like the original. In another sense the term is being loosely 
used to designate anything which is created by recombinant techniques.
Using the strict form of the word it is very difficult or impossible to 
clone most life forms. With some plants its easy, and in fact has been 
done for hundreds of years. In this case you simply take a cutting of the 
plant and re-root it. A slightly more high tech approach is to grow the 
plant in culture and then allow the tissue to create new stems and roots 
and eventually a plant. With animals its much harder because the 
different tissues of the animal have changed (differentiated) from the 
embryo and its harder to get the skin, or other tissue, to start acting 
like a fertilized egg. There was recently a discussion on the Internet 
regarding the possibility of doing this. The closest I have heard of is 
in frogs. In this case they started with a frog egg (unfertilized) and 
using a lazer destroyed the nucleus. Then by microinjection they inserted 
the nucleus from a intestinal cell of a different frog. The egg then used 
this genetic material to clone the frog which donated the intestinal 
cell. This all was done ten or more years ago. I would not be surprised 
to learn that it has been tryed on other animals. I suspect its 
difficult. 

In the more casual use of the word "clone" it is common now to geneticly 
alter complex organisms. The scientific journals are full of cases where 
they have inserted pieces of DNA into mice or fruit fly or plants or 
fungi or nematodes, etc. But it is not what I call cloning.

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