4.4 Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology

And here’s the revision page from Click4Biology


Polymerase Chain Reaction

Lyrical Science! The PCR song is great:


Gel Electrophoresis and DNA Profiling (or DNA Fingerprinting)

Access Excellence has a very good paper modeling activity, which I have adapted to fit onto a single A3 side. Please visit the full instructions and background to activity at Access Excellence’s site.

To find out more about restriction enzymes, visit Scitable’s Spotlight.

TOK and Biology – DNA evidence frees 200th US prisoner


The Human Genome Project

Outcomes: looking deeper into evolutionary relationships:


Gene Transfer Technology


Genetic Modification in Crops and Animals

Here is an interesting, if superficial, infographic on why we need more robust crops in many regions of the world. Your challenge – find out how these crops are modified and produced. HL students might think about how these environmental conditions affect plants.

Growing Better Rice for a Hungry World | GOOD Magazine

This short clip from Science in Europe outlines the state of GM food in Europe and has a nice explanation of the precautionary principle (it fits better here than in the Greenhouse Effect unit).

But do GM crops encourage resistance and increased pesticide and herbicide use? from the Guardian.


And this article from oneinsevenpeople outlines the use of GM mosquitoes in fighting dengue. But is there a serious knowledge gap standing in our way?

GM mosquitoes to fight dengue, from oneinsevenpeople

GM mosquitoes to fight dengue, from oneinsevenpeople

Also, Carl Zimmer writes in Slate: “Strain Game – Could information about a lab-made virus really help evildoers create a biological weapon?



Video: Enucleation of an egg cell from Howard Hughes Medical Institute:


Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells

Although this is ahead of the syllabus, it is developing into a hot topic in cell biology and genetics. Does is negate the deadlock over the use of cloned embryos in therapy and research?

Ed Yong’s great iPS research timeline.

Nature Methods names iPS as the Method of the Year 2009:


Ethics & Curriculum Link Discussion

Since the Human Genome Project, up to 20% of human genes have been patented by their discoverers. By patenting the genes – which are present in all of us – the companies responsible have control over what can be done with regards to research, diagnostic testing and treatment.

Recently, one company’s patent of the BRCA1 gene was overturned, opening the doors to research with reduced legal worries. Read this neat article from BadScience: “I patent your ass. And your leg…

Here is a short video on the BRCA1 gene (critical in women), from OvarianCancerDr:


1. What was the effect of the patent on research and medicine?

2. What is the effect of the patent being overturned now likely to be?

3. Explain the significance of the clause that states “…[patent #5,747,282] makes claim to any sequence of 15 nucleotides, the “letters” of the genetic code, coding for any part of the protein made by the BRCA1 gene.

News updates:

US says genes should not be patented, from the NY Times.

How Epigenetics Works from David Brown on Vimeo.

  1. Your website is great!
    I’m very happy that you allow me and others than your students to share your science videos, power points etz.
    I just was reading your PP for Genetic engineering etz and I think that the eample on picture 11 Q. 1 should be IV, not I.
    I really hope you will continue with this website.
    It must be very time demanding, but it is really useful.
    Britta Fardig Bergstrom

  2. Hi Britta – you are right! The smallest fragment gets pushed further from the origin, so it should be IV – I’ll correct it now. Silly mistake. Thanks for letting me know.

    Good luck!


  3. the essential biology link leads to a file that has been deleted or missing. 😦
    Please fix it, thank you :D.

    Great stuff btw, i believe all teachers should share their resources and knowledge for free. You are a great inspiration to all 😀

  4. Cristina Guevara

    Hi Stephen,

    I’m teaching IBD biology in Hong Kong. We’re doing the genetic engineering part of the syllabus now and using your wonderful presentation.
    Just wanted to share last Friday news from a local newspaper about Hong Kong scientists who are using DNA microarray to spot fetal abnormalities.
    This is the link:

  5. Stephen;

    I came down sick with pneumonia and am missing several days of school. However, thanks to your available papers (Essential Biology worksheets) and your presentations on i-biolog.net, my students keep learning in my absence!

    I can’t say thanks enough. Your work benefits many teachers and students beyond the walls of your classroom!

    Jay Reimer
    GSIS, Korea

  6. Hi Stephen,
    This is the first time I came across such a rich bank or resource for IB and I am overwhelmed.
    I must thank you for sharing such wonderful resource with fellow teachers like us. I am trying to find out the resource of yours for other topics as well.
    Thanks again
    Lakshmi, India

  7. Great source! thank you Stephen.

  8. Hi there! I’m a teacher at an international school and am teaching IB biology. I was wondering if it was possible to have access to the teacher keys to the worksheets? They’re really great and I’d like to use them. Thanks!

  9. Hi there! I’m a teacher at an international school and am teaching IB biology. I was wondering if it was possible to have access to the teacher keys to the worksheets? I’d like to use them. Thanks!

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