Category Archives: Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology
Nellie McKay sings ‘Clonie’
Another TED video, though a bit of musical silliness.
Synthetic Biology – the man-made future?
Where’s the money in Biology? Probably where the future lies – genetics and synthetic biology.
As we learn more about genomes and the way different organisms (including pathogens) work, we can move towards creating targeted responses and DNA-level manipulation. Synthetic biologists take DNA and try to re-work it into a solution to a problem – by creating synthetic DNA, they hope to achieve control over the functions of the organism. They hope to generate alternative sources of fuel, targeted treatments and vaccines and many more applications.
Click on the image to the right to download a useful poster from SEED magazine.
BioBricks (company link) are a leading example of synthetic biology in action. Think of them like lego bricks or parts of standard computer code – you can take them and (theoretically) fit them into any genome. This is one of the wonders of DNA – base-pairings and the universality of the genetic code allow these researchers endless opportunities for tinkering and advancing science. Some BioBricks are ‘parts’, some are ‘devices’ and others are ‘systems’ – sections of code that increase in complexity and functionality.
There is an exciting world of information out there about this topic, and it’s well worth looking at if you think your future lies in biotechnology. It’s a discipline that pulls together Biology, Physics, Chemistry, Maths, Engineering and Programming, and the ways in are various. If you want to find out more about a career in synthetic biology, MIT are world-leaders in the field.
For a quick explanation of how synthetic biology works (and an interesting hardware/software analogy) watch the video from ScientificAmerican below:
You might also want to read ‘Prey’ by Michael Crichton for a bit of light holiday scare-mongering. Imagine ‘The Andromeda Strain‘ with nanoparticles.
And while we’re on the subject of Scientific American, you may as well check out their video channel on YouTube. It’s much like the NewScientist one.
Gene Therapy ‘Reverses Hereditary Blindness’
Awesome. And just in time for the Grade 11 Genetics unit!
Here’s the NewScientist article. And here’s an old one about gene therapy treating deafness.
Here is an article from the Guardian’s Science section that sums it up nicely.
Learn.Genetics @ Utah has loads of gene therapy interactives to learn more.
And for the hard-of-researching, here is the gene therapy wikipedia page.
Exciting times we live in.
Animal Farm (Not the Orwellian one)
A while ago I posted about glowing pigs and fish and couldn’t work out where it had come from. Thanks to stitchintime from the TES Boards, I found out it was from Channel 4’s ‘Animal Farm’ series on genetic engineering.
Here’s the first part of episode 1:
It’s probably a good idea to save all the parts of it before it gets taken down. Here’s the link.
Human Genome Project
First stop, the official website from the National Institute of Health
Here’s a great interactive from DNAi at the Dolan DNA Learning Centre
Now for some videos:
Mickey-Mouse introduction, bit of review on transcription and translation:….
If you have a spare hour (I don’t), here’s Charlie Rose interviewing Dr. J. Craig Venter:
Here’s James Watson (famous for co-discovering the structure of DNA and the first person to receive their own personal genome) chatting with NewScientist:
And don’t forget Learn.Genetics excellent site.
Gene Almanac – a resource of good animations and simulations
From the Dolan Learning Centre, this collection of animations and simulations can be downloaded easily for PC and MAC.
Clicking the image on the left should bring you directly to an animation about the polymerase chain reaction.
How to Build Tricky Compounds and Make a Cup of Tea
Have a go at this demo from Presence Multimedia, aimed at A-Level students. It can be saved, is a bit of a challenge and works on the SMART Board.
A simple hunt around their site reveals other educational gems, such as ‘How to Wire a Plug‘, a ‘Personal MOT (good for ATL), and ‘How to Make a Cup of Tea‘.
Yes, you read that correctly – there is a Flash app on the internet to teach you how to make a cup of tea.
Learn.Genetics @ Utah
Easily the best Genetics resource out there. Loads of Flash animations, Shockwave virtual labs and up-to-date information. Well worth spending some time there and seeing what could be used in class. Teachers can register for news and teaching ideas.
Virtual labs include DNA Extraction, Gel Electrophoresis and a DNA Microarray. Perfect for the DP Genetics unit.
HHMI Biointeractive: teach ahead of the textbook
The Howard Hughes Medical Institute has produced some great, interactive resources for medicine and genetics, including a virtual ELISA test and a transgenic fly virtual lab. Go and have a look – there’re also plenty of animations, though even Flashcatcher can’t save them.
Download a worksheet for the ELISA here.
For a simple mock HIV test (using potassium iodide, lead nitrate and a bit of imaginitive labeling), visit the IB Biology Lab Bank