engineering bacteria


Current biotechnology research indicates a possibility of altering the photosynthetic reactions of cyanobacteria to produce fuels we want such as hydrogen, alcohols or even hydrocarbons, rather than carbohydrates, as they naturally do.


Bacteria are extremely amenable to trans genesis. Genes can be inserted into bacteria with great precision, making expression far easier to control. As a result the desired genetic products can be grown easily under highly controlled conditions, essentially eliminating the danger of transgene escape. The techniques used to slip genes into bacteria chromosomes are identical to those used in gene therapy.


Currently, biotechnology research indicates that viruses are the favored vector. Most gene therapies aim to put a new gene into the target genome. When a virus latches onto a cell that isn't somehow protected from the virus, the virus hijacks all the cell's activities for the sole purpose of making more viruses. Viruses reproduce this way because they aren't really alive and have no moving parts of their own to accomplish reproduction. Part of the virus's attack strategy involves integrating virus DNA into the host genome in order to execute viral genome expression.


Gentling a virus for use as a vector involves deleting most of its genes. These deletions effectively rob the virus of almost all of its own DNA, leaving only a few bits. These remaining pieces are primarily the parts normally used by the virus for getting its DNA into the host. Using DNA manipulation techniques, we can splice a healthy gene sequence into the virus to replace the deleted parts of the viral genome. Also a helper is needed to move the payload from the virus to the recipient cell.


Biotechnology research indicated several viruses to chose from as possible delivery vectors. These viruses fall into one of two classes:


* Those that integrate their DNA directly into the host genome

* Those that climb into the cell nucleus to become permanent but separate residents (called episomes)


Oncoretroviruses and lentiviruses transfer their genes into the host genome; when the retrovirus genes are in place, they are replicated right along with all the host DNA.


Retroviruses use RNA instead of DNA to code their genes; these viruses use a process called reverse transcription to convert their RNA into DNA, which is then inserted into a host cell's genome.


Adenoviruses are excellent vectors because they pop their genes into cells regardless of whether cell division is occurring. Adenoviruses have been both promising and problematic. On the one hand, these viruses are really good at getting into the host cells. On the other hand, adenoviruses tend to excite a strong immune response. Adenoviruses do not put their DNA directly into the host genome. Instead, they exist separately as episomes, so they are aren't as likely to cause mutations as lentiviruses. The drawback is that the episomes aren't always replicated and passed on the daughter cells when the host cell divides. Nonetheless, adenovirus vectors have been used with notable success.



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