Open Access Medical Books



Edited by Idah Sithole-Niang .

138 pages .
Open Access .

Genetic engineering as a field emerged with the dawn of molecular biology when James Watson and Francis Crick deciphered the three dimensional structure of DNA. Several decades have passed since then, and today whole genome sequences of several different organisms across kindgoms have been deciphered giving rise to a wealth of information that is only a computer terminal away.
The book, while having only five chapters ,covers a wide range of topics in genetic engineering of microorganisms, plants and animals. Specifically, it covers both the natural and social sciences. In the natural sciences topics ranging from the genetic engineering of microorganisms to produce antibiotics, the gene targeting and transformation in plants, the generation of marker-free plants in response to biosafety concerns, as well as the generation of transgenic animals and those derived through cloning are covered. In the social sciences, the issue of ethics in biotechnology and the role of the media in reporting around the cloned sheep, Dolly are discussed.
Interestingly the application of genetic engineering to plants and animals generates controversy compared to the same application in microorganisms. Perhaps some of that controversy is due to the actual use of the end product, in the case of plants, food, and in the case of animals, even more so, as the reality of cloning animals conjures up fears that humans are about to be cloned even though cloning is not a transgenic process. This then brings on the whole issue of ethics in science, given the technological leaps and bounds of genetic engineering within the last decade compared to many before that. The book also highlights the role of the media in perpetrating the fear associated with the unknown. Clearly the role of the media should be one of responsible reporting with the goal of educating the public and not that of engendering fear.
The first chapter of the book discusses the genetic engineering of Acremonium chrysogenum, a producer of the antibiotic cephalosporin C, as well as 7-amino cephalosporanic acid a key intermediate for the biosythesis of many first-line antibiotics in this class. This paper is therefore pivotal to the manufacture of newer and improved antibiotics and certainly broadens the scope of this publication.
The second chapter deals with strategies for gene targeting using two specific examples of common selectable marker genes (SMGs), antibiotic resistance genes and herbicide resistance genes. They state how their residual effects affect the final product, and susbsequent use. They discuss the likelihood of the SMGs being able to spread to nearby crops, weeds or wild relatives. They then go on to review the various approaches currently used to generate marker gene-free plants, while highlighting the limitation of each method. Of particular importance was the the need to have these protocols widely applied to include sterile plants, vegetatively propagated species, as well as their application to plants with a long life cycle such as trees. They also described the improvement of these approaches as applied to both nuclear and chloroplast transformations systems. They conclude by showcasing the latest improvements as applied to agronomically important traits and most importantly the development of recipient plants that can be used to accelerate the breeding cycle and address the biosafety regulatory issues. At least from the genetically modified organism debate point of view one would hope that concerns with SMGs will be put to rest and aid adoption of the technology while recognizing that this issue is complex.
The third chapter is slightly different from the one above in that it discusses a slightly different approcah to gene targeting and genetic transformation. This approach has largely been led by controversies in GM crops. To-date this approach does not render the plant marker free per se but does begin to address some of those issues. This approach also provides a mechanism for producing engineered plants that might be non-transgenic depending on the source of the gene. It is routinely applied in Drosophila, yeast and mice and indeed in industry where made to order organisms are routine. The fundamental approach for animals is via homologous recombination (HR) whereas in plants HR does not work, and what seems to work is non homologous end joining (NHEJ) or illegitimate homologous recombination.
The author gives an overview of other recombination systems based on serine and tyrosine recombinases, then ventures into the latest application of zinc finger nucleases that are capable of editing the genome without leaving a trace of the transgenic event. They argue that when the system is up and running this would be one approach to generating marker-free, vector backbone free precisely engineered crops that would be useful to the farmer, consumer and the environment.
In chapter four the authors delve into the entire spectrum of recombinant DNA technology as applied to animal systems. Indeed this is a comprehensive coverage of the subject. For example with DNA sequencing the topic is well covered from the basic procedure through direct PCR, capillary, microarrays as well as sequencing by MALDI-TOF culminating in various approaches to gene synthesis. Similarly, with cloning vectors, the entire spectrum of vectors is presented starting from plasmid vectors, for cloning small fragments, animal virus vectors, transposons into the large capacity cloning vectors such as Bacterial artificial chromosomes.
The fundamental difference between an animal clone and a transgenic animal is adequately discussed. The technical challenges related to both approaches are well elucidated. The chapter culminates in the ethical consideration of genetic engineering. This is perhaps where the topic got a limited coverage as it only makes quick reference to issues of public perception and the ethics of the technology. Needless to say, I think giving detailed coverage at this level goes beyond the scope of the chapter.
In the fifth chapter the author argues very convincingly that during the coverage of Dolly the sheep, a lot of misconceptions were made, that the media set the scene and went to report the findings in a biased way. They further argue that the focus was on the culmination of Dolly and the social consequences of the experiments and not on the technical details.
There were arguments as well around the benefits that accrue to both scientist and the techno- scientific companies. These benefits range from gaining professional prestige, legitimacy as well as financial gain. The mediatization of Dolly engendered fear in the public, resulting in the kinds of divergent views we see surrounding this debate today. Furthermore, the skewed intepretation by journalists fueled the debate on ethics with little attention paid to the actual science, such as the validity of the data or methodologies used. The consequence of all this was flawed decision making at both the administrative and legislative levels, with far reaching consequences on how the public view cloning.
Finally, I would like to express my sincerest gratitude to the authors of the chapters for the tremendous contributions. I am equally indebted to the Publishing Process Manager, Ms. Daria Nahtigal initially, Senior Commisioning Editor, and Ms. Ana Pantar, at InTech.

Idah Sithole-Niang
Professor, Department of Biochemistry
University of Zimbabawe


Section 1 Of The Textbook : Genetic Engineering in Microbes .

 1 Genetic Engineering of Acremonium chrysogenum, theCephalosporin C Producer 3  Youjia Hu

Section 2 Of The Textbook : Gene Targeting in Plants .

 2 Strategies for Generating Marker-Free Transgenic Plants 17 Borys Chong-Pérez and Geert Angenon

 3 Gene Targeting and Genetic Transformation of Plants 49 Richard Mundembe

Section 3 Of The Textbook : Genetic Engineering and Cloning in Animals .

 4 Genetic Engineering and Cloning: Focus on Animal Biotechnology 63 Mariana Ianello Giassetti*, Fernanda Sevciuc Maria*, Mayra Elena Ortiz D’Ávila Assumpção and José Antônio Visintin

Section 4 Of The Textbook : Ethics and the Role of Media in Reporting Controversial Issues in Biotechnology .

 5 The Presentation of Dolly the Sheep and Human Cloning in the Mass Media 103 Miguel Alcíbar.

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Published by: younes younes - Sunday, May 26, 2013


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