Friday, 15 January 2010 00:00

Photo by Magnus ManskeOne 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. 

Transcript for pharmer video  

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.

If you're inspired by the work of Professor Ma, check out our careers in pharmacy and genetics , or download the careers factsheet

If you're a parent or carer, you can take a look at our ideas for parents and carers with young children and our top tips for parents and carers with teens and older children.


Related links

Profile: Julian Ma

Pharma-Planta: About Us


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