Q: Recombinant DNA

William Tivol tivol at news.wadsworth.org
Wed Dec 13 17:46:07 EST 1995

Tim Taylor (timt at aisb.ed.ac.uk) wrote:
: I'm interested in the question of whether it is possible to implant
: recombinant DNA which has been engineered to, say, produce insulin,
: into an organism so that the new ability will be maintained by future
: generations of the organism in an evolutionarily stable manner. Do
: genetic engineers who work with such things generally only get the
: engineered protein production in one generation, or how many
: generations does this go on for?

Dear Tim,
	Presently, recombinant DNA is often incorporated into single-celled
organisms, which pass the gene to future generations.  In order for this to
be evolutionally stable, there must be a selective advantage for the organism
which contains the gene.  This is arranged in biotech companies by discarding
any organisms which have lost the functional gene, and in the environment by
putting the organism in a niche where the gene is advantageous.  Whether this
can be done clearly depends on the gene (and the organism).  In the cases of
genes introduced into plants--such as disease resistance or resistance to
freezing--the genes provide an advantage, and should be stable.  BTW the
gene must end up in the germline cells to be passed on, insertion into other
(somatic) cells only affects the individual.  At present, human genetic en-
gineering is contemplated for somatic cells, but not germline cells.
				Bill Tivol

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