Recombinant DNA, or rDNA, is the science behind transgenic animals, insect-resistant crops, artificial insulin and other "mutant" or genetically modified organisms, also known as GMOs.
The rDNA is important in virtually all fields of science, from the completion of the human genome map, to the creation of artificial human hormones up to the production of highly sustainable and renewable products. Overall, rDNA replaces the slow, classical approaches of improving the quality of life of organisms.
Deoxyribonucleic acid is the genetic code containing your inherited traits, such as the color of your eyes, hair and skin. Recombinant DNA is an artificial DNA created by combining DNA from two different sources. The key point is that rDNA does not occur naturally.
Mapping the Genes
Part of the success of the human genome project is attributed to the advances brought by rDNA technology. In a report from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, science editor Beverly Merz states that "recombinant DNA technology began to revolutionize biology. ... These advances resulted in ... an explosion of knowledge about the locations of human genes." In particular, rDNA allowed researchers to virtually "cut and paste" DNA, which led to flexible gene mapping strategies.
The completion of the human gene project led to a better understanding of the genetic makeup of the human species---the similarities and the differences, as well as the defects that causes certain diseases.
Therapeutic and Health-care Applications
In medicine, recombinant DNA is used to create therapeutic drugs, artificial human proteins and hormones for treating genetic diseases that cannot be treated by traditional methods. Some of the genetically engineered drugs include hepatitis B vaccine, an insulin drug for diabetics and erythropoietin for blood-related diseases.
High-Quality Agricultural Products
Recombinant DNA supplements agricultural research in the development of new technologies that enable the production of high-quality crops. These plants are important sources of food for humans and animals and are also sources for the manufacture of commodities such as paper and clothes.
Some of the agricultural advances involving rDNA include insect-resistant, herbicide-resistant and virus-resistant crops. In addition, agricultural products are genetically modified to have longer shelf life and more "value," such as vitamin-enriched rice.
In industrial development, compared to the medical and agricultural advances, recombinant DNA is still in its infancy. One of the fundamental goals is to produce low-cost renewable raw materials that could replace fossil resources. In addition, rDNA will help maximize industrial resources by utilizing biological alternatives, which are highly sustainable.
Some of the known industrial advances produced with rDNA techniques include biomass, biofuel and biorefineries---all of which deal with sustainable products, fuel and energy.
- Photo Credit Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Jer Thorp
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