What Is Recombinant DNA Technology?
You might have eaten a fruit called a tangelo, which is a cross between an orange and a tangerine. How exactly does that happen? Well, they used to actually do something called grafting. They'd take a tree branch from a tangerine and graft it to an orange tree, and it would produce these hybrid fruits. Well, scientists have gotten a lot more sophisticated in their technology and now they can actually mix these two species right inside of a test tube. I'm Janice Crenetti. I've been teaching biology for over twenty years and I'm here to answer the question, "What is recombinant DNA?" Well, let's break that down. First of all, what's DNA? Well, I have a molecule up here on the screen. DNA is the material that's inside the nucleus of your cells. It's the genetic blueprint that makes a person a person, a squirrel a squirrel and an orange an orange. The recombinant part has got to do with combination. If you break the word down, recombinant, you'll hear the word combine in there. Well, scientists now have the ability to actually take DNA from different species and put them together. You may have heard them talk about that in the movie Jurassic Park, where they stuck some frog DNA inside some dinosaur blood. Scientists are also working with lots of different combinations. They have combined the DNA of several plants, a lot of times it's in an effort to make a plant more disease resistant, so you might take one plant that's resistant to a certain slug, and blend that DNA in with a, say, let's say tomato that you're trying to produce, so you now have a tomato that's resistant to that slug. It picks up the traits from the DNA of the other plant. It's not that complicated of a process, and scientists now have the technology to do things on a very microscopic scale, so they can actually do these combinations of DNA in the laboratory. It's also the same thing that's used to produce human insulin. We used to get insulin from pigs and cows and inject that into people, and as you can imagine, their bodies didn't like it very much. Well, now, using recombinant DNA, we can take a bacteria, splice in a human-producing insulin gene, and turn the bacteria into insulin-producing factories, so the insulin that's now given to a diabetic is the actual insulin that would be produced by a human body. Recombinant DNA technology has created great advances in human health, as well as in crop production, and I'm sure there's more wonderful advances to come. I'm Janice Crenetti, and this is "What is recombinant DNA?"