Rayshell Clapper for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
After learning about human genetic engineering, many readers might want to find out about some examples of genetic engineering. Both bizarre and beneficial, the following article highlights some truly fascinating and pragmatic examples of modern genetic engineering.
The Biotechnology Forums, a website for professionals and students in biotechnology (the area that studies genetic engineering) recently explained some of these examples. The first animal example of genetic engineering is the spider goat. Yes, you read that correctly. A spider goat is able to produce the strong, stretchable silk used by spiders to create their webs. This silk web is one of the strongest natural materials known to man, stronger even than steel.
Nexia Biotechnologies Company inserted the gene from a golden orb-weaver spider into the genome of goat in such a way that the goat secretes the protein of the spider web in its milk. The milk was then used to create a what Nexia called (and trademarked) BioSteel, a material with characteristics similar to spider webs.
Beyond goats capable of secreting spider webs in their milk, there are a number of other really cool examples of genetic engineering in animals. In one redOrbit blog, this author reported about a cat that glows in the dark. The glow-in-the-dark feline has a fluorescence gene that makes it glow under an ultraviolet light. As the Biotechnology Forum outlines, here is how South Korean scientists first created the glowing cat in 2007:
“They took skin cells from Turkish Angora female cat (species that were originally tamed by Tatars, but was later transferred to Turkey and is now considered the country’s national treasure), and using the virus they inserted the genetic code for the production of red fluorescent protein. Then they put genetically modified nuclei into eggs for cloning and such cloned embryos are returned to the donor cat. It thus became the surrogate mother’s own clones.”
And why make a cat that glows in the dark? The researchers explained that this was no frivolous experiment and that potential benefits exist in medicine for treating and testing for human diseases caused by genetic disorders. And just today, researchers in Uruguay announced that they had successfully created a genetically modified glowing sheep. Though not directly applicable to medical technology, the researchers had this to say about the purpose of their research: “Our focus is generating knowledge, make it public so the scientific community can be informed and help in the long run march to generate tools so humans can live better, but we´re not out in the market to sell technology.”
Moving on, two other good example are the less-flatulent cow and the so-called Ecopig. As Mother Nature Network explains, cows produce a lot of methane gas, which is second only to carbon dioxide in contributing to the greenhouse effect. So scientists at the University of Alberta identified the bacteria responsible for producing methane and designed a breed of cows that create 25 percent less methane than the average cow. This is one genetic engineering example that directly and practically addresses one of the major problems facing modern man.
The Ecopig (aka “enviropig” or “Frankenswine”) is yet another of the many examples of genetic engineering that positively contribute to the environment. The Ecopig has been genetically altered to better digest and process phosphorus. The reason is that pig dung is high in phytate, a form of phosphorous that farmers use it as fertilizer but which over stimulates the growth of algae which can deplete oxygen in the watersheds and thus kill marine life. The Ecopig has been genetically modified by adding E. Coli and mouse DNA to the pig embryo, which reduce the pig´s phosphorous output by about 70 percent.
Each of these bizarre examples point to some of the pros of genetic engineering, highlighting how researchers are striving to bring modern science and technology to the aid of humanity and some of its most pressing problems. Whether the goat that produces spider silk or the cow that doesn´t produce as much flatulence, these animal examples of genetic engineering shows biotechnology in action.