Friday, 15 January 2010 00:00
One of the careers on the Science [So What? So everything] list of Future jobs: what might you be doing? is a pharmer, who will grow genetically engineered crops and livestock, not only to produce food, but also to produce medicines We went to visit St. George's Medical School in London, and in this video Professor Julian Ma and his team are already genetically engineering tobacco plants to develop barrier creams for HIV infection.
Professor Ma's goal is to change the genes of the tobacco plant so that it naturally produces medicines for diseases like HIV/Aids and tuberculosis. In this video, he explains the processes he and his team use in their research.
The science behind the pharmer
Genetics is the study of genes. Together, these genes are like a set of instructions that a living creature uses to build the proteins it needs. A single person’s DNA sequence contains over 20,000 genes. Genetic engineering is when an organism’s genetic code is directly changed through human intervention. Often, scientists like Professor Ma do this by inserting genes from a different kind of organism into the genetic code of the organism they want to change, using a gene gun, a really small syringe, or bacteria or viruses.
The future is now
If this sounds far fetched, scientists are already using genetic engineering to produce amazing things. Insulin for people with diabetes has been produced by genetically modified bacteria since 1978, and the Golden Rice Project has been creating rice fortified with Vitamin A to help give people in the developing world with a rice-based diet a better nutritional intake.
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