History, research, and legislation concerning genetically modified organisms

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first genetically engineered drug.

Humulin, a form of human insulin produced by bacteria, was the first genetically engineered product that was granted approval for human use and subsequently marketed to the public. The human insulin technology was created by a bioengineering company named Genentech and then licensed to Eli Lilly, where it was named “Humulin”.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that genetically altered life forms can be patented.

In the Supreme Court Case of  Diamond v. Chakrabarty in 1980, it was ruled that life forms that had been altered genetically could be patented. The genetic engineer Ananda Mohan Chakrabarty created a  bacterium with the capability of breaking down crude oil. Chakrabarty intended to use this bacterium to aid in the cleaning of oil spills. At the time of his discovery Chakrabarty was working at  General Electric. GE decided to fill out a patent application form listing  Chakrabarty as the inventor, but the form was denied because there were no defining laws stating that you could patent living organisms. In a final decision the court ruled in Chakrabarty’s favor, stating that, “the fact that micro-organisms are alive is without legal significance for purposes of the patent law.”

Herbert Boyer and Stanley Cohen discovered a way to create the first recombinant DNA organism.

Recombinant DNA Technology is a type of genetic engineering  in which genetic material from one organism is artificially introduced into the genome of another organism and then replicated and expressed by that other organism. The experiment that validated this discovery involved the extracting of two separate genes of E. coli, both which were resistant to a different type of antibiotic. These genes were combined and inserted into a separate E. coli cell. The cell then became resistant to both forms of antibiotic.

James Watson and Francis Crick discovered the three-dimensional double helix structure of DNA.

Francis Crick and James Watson, with the help of Rosalind Franklin and Maurice Wilkins, were able to build an accurate model of the structure of DNA for the first time using x-ray diffraction images of DNA. The structure they built was in the shape of a double helix. This discovery would eventually give scientists the ability to identify and splice genes from one type of organism into the DNA of another.

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