Practical Applications of DNA Technology

Practical Applications of DNA Technology
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  • 0:07 DNA's Many Applications
  • 0:55 Pharmaceuticals & Medicine
  • 2:08 Agriculture
  • 3:30 Forensics
  • 4:29 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sarah Friedl

Sarah has two Master's, one in Zoology and one in GIS, a Bachelor's in Biology, and has taught college level Physical Science and Biology.

DNA technology is a field that has many applications for our everyday lives. In this video lesson, you will learn about some of the important contributions of DNA technology to industries such as medicine, agriculture and criminal investigation.

DNA's Many Applications

DNA technology is an exciting field these days. This is the study and manipulation of genetic material, and scientists are using DNA technology for a wide variety of purposes and products. A major component of DNA technology is cloning, which is the process of making multiple, identical copies of a gene. Cloning may bring to mind interesting sci-fi movies, but cloning also gives us pest-resistant plants, vaccines, heart attack treatments and even entirely new organisms.

DNA technology has also had a major impact on the pharmaceutical industry, agriculture, disease therapy and even crime scene investigations. Let's take a closer look at the effects DNA technology has had on our world and the applications of such an important field of study.

Pharmaceuticals and Medicine

DNA technology and gene cloning are essential to the pharmaceutical industry and medicine. DNA technology is being used to help diagnose genetic diseases, such as sickle-cell disease and Huntington's disease. Since these diseases are transferred genetically from one generation to the next, those who have such diseases can be identified (sometimes even before birth) and be treated before symptoms appear.

DNA technology is also critical to developing vaccines. Vaccines are harmless versions of a pathogen, such as a bacterium or virus. Vaccines can be used to 'trick' your body into fighting the harmless version so that if you are exposed to a harmful version of the pathogen, you have already built up defenses. There are many ways that DNA technology is used to make vaccines, such as altering the pathogen's genes and mimicking surface proteins of harmful pathogens.

Therapeutic hormones, such as insulin and human growth hormone, are also the result of DNA technology in medicine. Millions of people with diabetes depend on insulin treatments, and human growth hormone is used to help children who suffer from dwarfism, because they produce inadequate amounts of the hormone in their body.

Agriculture

You have likely heard of genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. These are organisms that have genes from artificial means. GMOs are used for a variety of agricultural purposes, such as growing larger plants with higher yields, creating pest-resistant crops and improving the nutritional value of crops.

For example, in India, a salt-resistant gene has been inserted into rice so that it can grow in water that is three times as salty as seawater! Another new variety of rice now exists that has very high beta-carotene levels to help reduce vitamin A deficiencies in certain parts of the world.

DNA technology doesn't just make bigger, better food, though. It's also being used to create food products that have medicinal benefits. For example, a new rice strain has been engineered that has milk proteins that can be used to treat infant diarrhea. There are other medicinal food products being designed, like corn that can treat cystic fibrosis and duckweed to treat hepatitis.

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