A well debated topic in our society is ‘playing god’, by which I mean making changes to cells in vitro to result in advantageous or disadvantageous affects, (depending on what these are being used for). On a smaller level, an aim of scientists is to improve wild strains of microorganisms which can then be used to produce the desirable product. AN issue with this can be that mutant strains are usually genetically unstable and revert to the wild type in continuous culture.
The process of improving these wild strains can be done through many different mechanisms such as selective breeding and culture, mutagenesis and recombinant DNA technology.
Mutagenesis is the process of inducing mutations, and can be done by using mutagenic agents such as ultraviolet light, gamma rays and x-rays.
In selective breeding scientists have the bacteria in conditions where horizontal transfer is likely to occur so that they reproduce sexually to create new genotypes and phenotypes.
Recombinant DNA technology involves the joining together of DNA molecules from two different species. This can be done by the following steps as shown below:
-DNA from the donor organism is extracted.
-The enzyme restriction endonuclease cuts the required gene from the DNA fragment at a restriction sight leaving sticky ends.
-Restriction endonuclease then cuts the vector (plasmid) at the restriction site also leaving sticky ends. These sticky ends are important so that they fit together like a jigsaw puzzle.
-The enzyme DNA ligase seals the DNA fragment into the plasmid and seals the sticky ends together to form recombinant DNA.
-The recombinant plasmids are inserted into host cells and the transformed host cells are selected and cultured. These cells go through the normal process of transcription and translation till a protein is produced which can be extracted.
A danger of these recombinant DNA is the risk of release into the environment and the creation of a new pathogenic microorganism. To counter this genes can be inserted as a safety mechanism that prevent the survival of the microorganism in the outside environment.
I hope to discuss this is greater depth when going through the GMO process!
During my time working in various hospitals, I have met many different healthcare professionals – doctors, nurses, carers, psychiatrists and many more. AN important lesson which I have learnt is that in a healthcare environment all professionals are different parts to one big machine, and patient care would not be able to be fulfilled correctly if all the part didn’t work together.
I’ve spent time volunteering in a hospital specifically for the chronic disease for the elderly, many of which suffered from long term mental conditions as well as physical ones. In this ward nurses were a vital part not just of the patients recovery, but of their daily life.
The nurses spend their days with the patients, and get the oppurtunity to know the patients on an emotional and an further in depth level than doctors do, and their compassion and kindness was admirable. In many cases it was the nurses that were able to calm the patients rather than the medication. The nurses job was full time, not just shift to shift, and they would take time out of their breaks to talk to patients and be there for them not just as a carer but as a friend.
Nurses are a valued and under appreciated part of the NHS, who’s hard work and commitment to patient care is unmatchable .
As this is the first blog post I am doing, I thought I would also start with the first building block in the human body, that being a cell, but not just any cell – a stem cell.
Stem cells are cells that are unspecialised and come in the form of tissue stem cells and embryonic stem cells. A tissue stem cell is multi potent, meaning it can differentiate into a limited number of cell types close to its site of origin. Embryonic stem cells are pluripotent, giving them full differentiation potential to differentiate into all cell types. This unique ability of stem cells makes them vital to the future of healthcare.
A goal of scientists is to understand how and why stem cells differentiate. We know that on a cellular level cell differentiation is when certain genes are switched on and others are switch off to code for a specific protein. This is vital to understand because many serious medical conditions, such as cancer, are due to problems that occur in cell division and differentiation.
Stem cells are useful in testing new drugs for diseases. To be relevant, drug testing needs to be done on micro-organisms with identical conditions to that which humans posses, and due to stem cells differentiation capabilities, scientists can control the differentiation of the cells to achieve the result they need, thus providing accurate testing of drugs.
One of the most important applications of stem cells currently is to grow organs or tissues to replace damaged cells. This works hand in hand with the recent innovation of 3D printing, allowing scientists to create an exact mould in which they can use the stem cells to make the mould a reality.
The possibilities that stem cells provide are endless, whether in the lab or in hospital setting, they are sure to revolutionise healthcare as we know it.