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Engineering Medicines

Engineering Medicines

Engineering Medicines

Bacteria can be genetically engineered to produce human medicines. For example, insulin can be introduced to bacteria to help produce medicine for diabetes.

In human cells most genetic information is found inside which structure?

The different functions in our bodies are controlled by chemicals. Some of these chemicals are actually complex proteins.


All these chemicals that control how our bodies work are produced in our glands, for example adrenaline. We have one word to describe them all. It begins with an H. What's the word?

Remember that a hormone is a protein. So to produce a hormone, we need an instruction found in our genes. What would happen if that gene was damaged in some way?

Type I diabetes is a condition in which insulin is not produced to control blood sugar levels.


To manage this condition, some people have to inject insulin.

But insulin is a complex protein that is very hard to produce without the help of an organism.


Bacteria would be ideal to use as insulin factories for humans.

They are small, they are easy to grow and they reproduce rapidly. The problem is that they don't need insulin themselves, so they don't naturally produce it.


What would we need to put into a bacteria to make it produce insulin for us?

A) Insulin B) A gene for insulin from a type I diabetic C) A gene for insulin from a non-diabetic D) A human cell nucleus


Bacteria contain two sets of genetic information.

Strands of DNA in the main cell body that remain there, and a ring of DNA that can be copied and transferred to other bacteria.


What is this ring of DNA called?

DNA can be transplanted into one organism from another to change it. What is this process called?


This shows the simplified sequence for genetically engineering a bacteria.

The insulin gene is introduced into the plasmid of the bacteria from the human chromosome.


Why do you think it is easier to add the gene to the plasmid rather than to the other DNA in the bacteria's cell?

A) Plasmid DNA is the same as human DNA, so it is easier to manipulate. B) Plasmids are naturally transferred between cells, so they are more likely to be accepted by the bacteria.

Human growth hormone (HGH) controls growth of the body. Without it, people will not develop properly as they mature. The process to make HGH can be broken down into these steps.


Locate the gene that codes for HGH.

It is found on chromosome number 17.


Cut this gene out of the human genome.

This is done using a restriction enzyme.


Remove the plasmid from the bacteria.

This is the ring of DNA that will carry the HGH.


What do you think step 4 will be?

A) Cut open the plasmid. B) Add the HGH gene to the plasmid DNA ring.


Add the HGH gene to the plasmid.

This uses another type of enzyme known as ligase enzyme.


Return the plasmid to the bacteria.

A blast of heat or even an electrical shock can help this process.


What do you think we should do as step 7?

A) Leave the bacteria to make HGH in a petri dish. B) Allow the bacteria to grow and multiply. C) Repeat the process many times to have lots of bacteria with the gene.


Finally, We should allow the bacteria to grow and multiply.

As they grow, they will pass on the HGH gene and start to produce the hormone.

Originally, complex hormones could only be obtained from the glands of a deceased person. This meant that there was a risk of transferring infections alongside the hormones. What do you think are advantages of using genetically engineered bacteria to produce hormones for treating medical conditions?

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