Genetics and Evolution

What was the first commercial use of genetic engineering?

Recombinant DNA technology was first used commercially to produce human insulin from bacteria. In 1982, genetically engineered insulin was approved for use by diabetics. Insulin is normally produced by the pancreas, and the pancreas of slaughtered animals such as swine or sheep was used as a source of insulin. To provide a reliable source of human insulin, researchers obtained DNA from human cells carrying the gene with the information for making human insulin. Researchers made a copy of DNA carrying this insulin gene and moved it into a bacterium. When the bacterium was grown in the lab, the microbe split from one cell into two cells, and both cells got a copy of the insulin gene. Those two microbes grew, then divided into four, those four into eight, the eight into sixteen, and so forth. With each cell division, the two new cells each had a copy of the gene for human insulin. And because the cells had a copy of the genetic “recipe card” for insulin, they could make the insulin protein.


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