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Ronnee Yashon and Michael R. Cummings



Copyright © Momentum Press, LLC, 2019.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced,

stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any
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except for brief quotations, not to exceed 400 words, without the prior
permission of the publisher.

First published in 2019 by

Momentum Press, LLC
222 East 46th Street, New York, NY 10017

ISBN-13: 978-1-94664-631-6 (paperback)

ISBN-13: 978-1-94664-633-0 (e-book)

Momentum Press Human Genetics and Society C

­ ollection

Cover and interior design by Exeter Premedia Services Private Ltd.,

Chennai, India

First edition: 2019

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Printed in the United States of America.

Just as a little experiment, to open this fascinating and important topic.
First, go to your refrigerator or kitchen cabinet. Read the labels of a few
things in them.
You will see some are marked NON-GMO. If you think you under-
stand this labeling, you may be surprised how it ties in to politics, adver-
tising, science, medicine, farming, and the future.
New methods to edit DNA may bring about cures for genetic
­conditions, better plant growth, diagnosis, and cure of cancer, as well as
learning about the human genome.

amino acid; clotting factor; CRISPR; EPO; eugenics; GMO; h
­ emoglobin;
hybrid; mitochondria; mRNA; onco mouse; patents; protein; ribosome;
survival of the fittest; transcription; translation
The Basics����������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������xi

Chapter 1 Introduction��������������������������������������������������������������������1
Chapter 2 How Is Biotechnology Used?�������������������������������������������7
Chapter 3 A New Breakthrough: CRISPR�������������������������������������13
Chapter 4 Genetic Engineering in the Media���������������������������������15
Chapter 5 GM Technology: What Are Pros and Cons?������������������17
Chapter 6 Patenting Genes������������������������������������������������������������21
Chapter 7 Other Cases������������������������������������������������������������������25
Chapter 8 Ethical Issues: Who Will Decide?����������������������������������27
Chapter 9 How Will This Influx of Genetic Information Affect
Our Future?������������������������������������������������������������������29
Chapter 10 The Papaya and the Biologist: The Man Behind
the Rainbow������������������������������������������������������������������31

Appendix: What Can We Learn from the Past?����������������������������������������35

About the Authors���������������������������������������������������������������������������������41
Not so long ago, science was only for scientists, and the general public
was not included. Our science education was ignored or poorly taught.
But today, science rears its ugly head in all our lives and looms over cer-
tain parts of our society; many things that no one, but science fiction
writers, could foresee.
I remember, not so long ago, a presidential election that used human
stem cells as an issue. Magazine articles were written, political speeches
discussed it, and religion had its opinion too. And, the president-elect
(George W. Bush) felt he had to do something about it.
But, in areas such as medicine (medical decisions), police work (DNA
identification, paternity testing), reproduction (sperm and egg freezing),
law (privacy, malpractice), and politics (abortion, global warming), this is
only the beginning.
This book is about one of the most controversial topics sitting center
stage: recombinant DNA aka genetic engineering. Keep science in mind,
as we discuss this issue.
Questions (in italics) are scattered throughout this chapter and the
following chapters. Watch for them, and think about how they may apply
to you and other ones.
The Basics
Here is a simple description of how the DNA works:

It all starts with the cell and its nucleus


An organelle that holds chromosomes

Are made up of the DNA

are lined along the DNA and code for

Amino Acids
The building blocks of proteins

Line up AA in the correct order.

And you get


Proteins are important chemicals in our body


First, biotechnology is a medical word. The first thing you do if you want
to discover the meaning of a medical word is separate it into its parts.
Luckily, our word has only three parts and you already know two of them:
Let us try: Bio---Techno---Ology
We all know the meaning of first syllable, Bio. It means life.
The last syllable, Ology means study of.
The middle part is a little harder; it has many meanings: Techno
generally means applying scientific knowledge for practical purposes
(medicine, farming, art, etc.).
When we define all the parts ----voila!, a meaning appears (well maybe
in your brain?).
Our word, biotechnology, means a study of how to apply technology
to living systems (see Figure 1.1).
The manipulation of small particles (such as DNA) has been available
for years. The fantastic microscopes and even more fantastic biologists
have opened our eyes to some amazing things.
So, here we go! First, go back to the page before Chapter 1 called—
The basics. This simply shows the mechanism of protein formation. We
will discuss this later as we go deeper into the DNA molecule.
What Does DNA do?
DNA has two main functions in living things:

1. Make perfect copies of itself. This is called replication and occurs in

mitotic division, when one cell is making two.
2. Assemble proteins for use in the human body (1,000s). This is called

The protein copies and DNA copies must be 100 percent perfect.
What if they are not perfect?
2 Biotechnology



New types of Production of

plants, animals human proteins

Genes are
inserted or Gene inserted
turned on in bacteria
or off

If inserted
Humalin* Human
they can
human insulin clotting factor
come from


Same type of
animal or Hemophilia
plant species

Example: Example:
Turn off a Place the
gene to make a human insulin
plant immune gene in a
to a virus bacteria.

Figure 1.1  What is biotechnology?

Source: This chart shows what can be done with biotechnology. Follow it down to “genetic engi-
neering” and notice how there are two main uses at this time. It will soon EXPLODE!

Steps of Replication

First: The helical DNA (see Figure 1.2) splits into two strands.
Second: Each half finds the matching triplset to its pairs, from the
fluid within the nucleus and makes a clone of itself.
Introduction 3

5’ 3’




C G Sugar-phosphate G C






Figure 1.2  (a) Flat DNA. (b) Helical DNA (double helix)

Steps of Protein Synthesis

DNA contains the code for all amino acids needed to create all human
proteins (proteins can have as many as 1,000 amino acids).
Protein synthesis: Follow along with Figure 1.3.

Figure 1.3  Protein synthesis in a cell

4 Biotechnology

• Nucleus showing the complete DNA. (#1)

• DNA splits and converts into messenger RNA (mRNA). (#2)
• Messenger RNA. (#3)
• Messenger RNA moves through cytoplasm and out of the
nucleus. (#4)
• Messenger RNA in cytoplasm. (#5)
• Messenger RNA moves to the ribosome that reads its the
code. (#6)
• Places the correct amino acid in the chain. (#7)

The mRNA moves to the ribosome that reads three bases (triplet) at a
time and presents the amino acids in order.
A mRNA is produced and takes the code, out of the nucleus into the
cytoplasm where a specific protein can be made.
This is called translation (translating a code hidden in the messenger
Ribosomes read the code and place the correct amino acids in order.
An example of a few codes:

Amino Acid: Glycine (AA) GGA triplet code in normal DNA

Amino Acid: Lysine (AA) AAA code in normal DNA

What can go wrong?

Any mix up in the amino acid position can alter the protein being
­produced. As little as one mistake on mRNA (in translation), no matter
how small, can cause a giant effect in the protein itself, and therefore in
the living thing.
Example: The DNA strand that codes for hemoglobin is a complex gene.
Statistics: Hemoglobin strand has 31 amino acids, which have to be
in perfect order.
One mistake (CTC normal code) becomes CAC (sickle cell anemia).
The normal form of the sickle cell gene creates the protein hemoglo-
bin (If mutated, this gene will lower the amount of hemoglobin, and less
oxygen will get to the cells some of you recognize this); it is the protein
that carries oxygen in the red blood cells.
Introduction 5

But what if we could cut the “wrong gene” and replace it with a
healthy one?

This is only one of the futures of biotechnology, some being done

now, and many more to come. Keep reading.
American Eugenics Society, 35 fitter families, 35–36
Amgen Inc. v. Chugai Pharmaceuticals, flat DNA, 3
animal manipulations, 10 genes, patenting, 21–24
Association for Molecular Pathology v. genetic engineering
Myriad Genetics, Inc., 23–24 ethical issues in, 27–28
in media, 15–16
bacterial manipulations, 10 genetic manipulation versus cross
biotechnology breeding, 7–8
CRISPR in, 13–14 genetic modification (GM)
definition of, 2 future developments, 30
genetic manipulation versus cross in papaya, 31–33
breeding, 7–8 technology, 17–20
overview, 1–5 Genetics Institute (GI), 22
uses of, 7–11 Gonsalves, Dennis, 31
See also genetic engineering; genetic
modification (GM)
Brave New World (Aldous Huxley), 29 helical DNA, 2–3
BRCA1 genes, 23–24 human blood, 30
BRCA2 genes, 23–24
mRNA, 4
cancer, 18 Myriad Genetics, 24
Chugai Pharmaceuticals, 22
CRISPR. See clustered interspaced National Geographic Magazine, 29
short palindromic repeats
Clarke, Arthur C, 29 papaya with PRSV, 31–32
clustered interspaced short patenting genes, 21–24
palindromic repeats plant manipulations, 9
(CRISPR), 13–14, 29–30 protein synthesis, 3–5
Cornell University, 31
cross breeding
genetic manipulation versus, 7–8 rainbow papaya, 31–32
in plants and animals, 8 replication, 1, 2–3
ribosomes, 4
ringspot virus (PRSV), 31
da Vinci, Leonardo, 29
Diamond v. Chakrabarty, 22
DNA, functions, 1 social media, genetic engineering in,
Doudna, Jennifer, 14 15–16
“The Study of Human Heredity,”
Eigsti, O. J., 7 37
Eugenics, 35
Eugenics Record Office, 37 translation, 1, 4
46 Index

U.S. Patent Office (USPO), 21, 22 decisions, 24

U.S. Supreme Court Diamond v. Chakrabarty, 21–22
Amgen Inc. v. Chugai other cases, 25–26
Pharmaceuticals, 22–23 US sterilization laws, 38
Association for Molecular Pathology
v. Myriad Genetics, Inc., 23–24 The White Plague (Clarke), 29