MadSci Network: Molecular Biology

Re: What are the disadvantages of recombinant DNA?

Date: Mon Jan 23 11:18:34 2006
Posted By: Keith Anderson, Staff, Vascular Research, Brigham & Womens Hospital
Area of science: Molecular Biology
ID: 1137083279.Mb

This is a vague question and I’m not exactly sure how to answer this…… but here goes.

According to the textbook Molecular Cell Biology by Lodish et al:
Recombinant DNA is DNA that have had insertion points made by enzymes called DNA 
ligases and restrction enzymes.  (Restriction enzymes cut the DNA strand at specific 
sequences, ligases attach engineered or other cut sequences to that specific site.)  The 
recombinant DNA can then be “mass produced” as identical copies in other cells like 
bacteria.  Recombinant DNAs thus can be produced containing either natural DNA fragments 
from restriction-enzyme cleavage or any desired chemically synthesized mutant sequence.  
Any cloned DNA segment, whether natural, modified, or completely synthetic, can be 
reinserted into cells and tested for biological activity.  This group of techniques is often 
referred to as recombinant DNA technology and is a most common approach to study many 
basic biological processes.

Recombinant DNA technology is a powerful tool but like any other scientific procedure or 
tool, all variables and results need to be looked at closely.  Verification that the DNA was 
spliced in the proper location, that it ligated only the intended sequence, that the resulting 
sequence results in the correct protein (or in the case of mutation, potentially what protein 
or any protein?), what does this DNA sequence do to your cell-type of interest, etc are all 
things that need to be carefully looked at.  Further, if these sequences/proteins/cells are 
introduced into a living cell or animal, careful study of what that does both locally and 
systemically is vitally necessary.  As a caveat to this, animals or even plants being studied 
that contain mutations must be well contained so as not to become part of the natural 
population and therefore perpetuate that mutation through reproduction.  Recombinant 
DNA technology has been used to understand the cause of many disease, study the result of 
naturally occurring mutations, and even treat several diseases in both animals and plants.

Like most scientific techniques, all steps of these techniques are difficult to perform and 
technically demanding.  Further they are to be applied to appropriate questions and are not 
meant to solve every problem. One should always be aware of ethical issues of the 
technology as a whole, as is true of any scientific method or technique.

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