27 May 2011

Genetic engineering

Genetic engineering
Genetic engineering, also called genetic modification, is the direct human manipulation of an organism's genetic material in a way that does not occur under natural conditions. It involves the use of recombinant DNA techniques, but does not include traditional animal and plant breeding or mutagenesis. Any organism that is generated using these techniques is considered to be a genetically modified organism. The first organisms genetically engineered were bacteria in 1973 and then mice in 1974. Insulin producing bacteria were commercialized in 1982 and genetically modified food has been sold since 1994.

Genetics deals with the molecular structure and function of genes, with gene behavior in the context of a cell or organism (e.g. dominance and epigenetics), with patterns of inheritance from parent to offspring, and with gene distribution, variation and change in populations. Given that genes are universal to living organisms, genetics can be applied to the study of all living systems, from viruses and bacteria, through plants (especially crops), to humans, as in medical genetics.

In modern molecular biology and genetics, the genome is the entirety of an organism's hereditary information. It is encoded either in DNA or, for many types of virus, in RNA. The genome includes both the genes and the non-coding sequences of the DNA/RNA.

A gene is a unit of heredity in a living organism. It normally resides on some stretches of DNA and RNA that codes for a type of protein or for an RNA chain that has a function in the organism. Living things depend on genes, as they specify all proteins and functional RNA chains. Genes hold the information to build and maintain an organism's cells and pass genetic traits to offspring, although some organelles (e.g. mitochondria) are self-replicating and are not coded for by the organism's DNA. All organisms have many genes corresponding to many different biological traits, some of which are immediately visible, such as eye color or number of limbs, and some of which are not, such as blood type or increased risk for specific diseases, or the thousands of basic biochemical processes that comprise life.

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