What Makes You (Gene) Tick?

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Think working in a lab studying cool mutations sounds like a great Monday? Think splicing genes is your thing? Genetic Engineering might just be the right field for you. Meera Jakkli digs up the details of the What, Why and How

WHAT?
Genetic Engineering is a subject under the broad topic of Biotechnology. It is the modification and manipulation of genetic material. It is the process of adding certain genes to another organism’s DNA in order to try to add new traits in the organism that would not have been present under normal conditions.

WHY?
Some of the applications of genetic engineering are making disease-resistant plants or crops with
resistance against certain pests. This is not only cheaper but also saves a lot of time and effort. In a world where both of these are limited, genetic engineering can play an enormous role  in solving some major problems. Nutritional values of produces can also be increased. This is a very important application when you consider low-income groups. In this way, sustainability can be achieved. New technology has
made extreme advances in this field making it an ever-changing field at this point in time.

HOW?
There are two primary ways of getting into the field of Genetic Engineering
1)B. sc
2) B .Tech
A BSc degree focused on Genetic engineering is not offered by most colleges but a BSc in any bioscience subject like Biotechnology, Life sciences, Microbiology can be used to pursue a specialized course in genetic
engineering as a master’s degree. The qualifications are a regular 10+2 grade and admission is based on the aggregate marks obtained.

COLLEGES FOR BSC IN BIOSCIENCES:
1) Xavier’s College, Mumbai
2) Jawaharlal Nehru University:
Centre of Molecular Medicine
3) Loyola College, Chennai
4) St. Stephens’, Delhi
5) Fergusson College, Pune

A B.Tech degree in Genetic Engineering is available in some colleges in India. The qualifications for this are the required engineering entrance exam test scores like the JEE (Joint Entrance Exams) and AIEEE (All India Engineering Entrance Examination).

COLLEGES FOR GENETIC ENGINEERING:
1) Institute of Genetic Engineering, Kolkata
2) Nalanda School of Management, Lucknow
3) SRM University, Tamil Nadu
4) IIT Kharagpur
5) IIT Delhi

FUTURE PROSPECTS
Graduates in Genetic Engineering have the opportunities to work in the medical and pharmaceutical industries. Research and Development departments of many private or government companies are also an option. Agriculture Development is also another field that can be pursued. Some institutes that are on the lookout for Genetic Engineers are: -The Institute of Genomic and Integrative Biology, Delhi; -Biochemical Engineering Research and Process Development Centre, Chandigarh; -The Centre for DNA Fingerprint and Diagnostics, Hyderabad; and the National Institute of Immunology, New Delhi

CRITICISMS
Genetic Engineering is a field that has seen a lot of lows in terms of public acceptance. Products like Golden Rice, Flavr Savr tomato and many Bt Crops are extensively available in the market but with people and NGOs strongly protesting against the advancement of this field, it is an added burden to carry out research.

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Gene Career
Dr. Thankamali Marar, Dean of Faculty of Science at Technology at D Y Patil University, Navi Mumbai, answers vital questions on genetic engineering, and it’s prospect as a career

Can you give us a brief concept of what genetic engineering is? What does it entail and which fields is it used in?
Genetic engineering is the deliberate, controlled manipulation of the genes in an organism, with the intent of producing improved or novel organisms. It consists of using technologies to change the genetic makeup of cells, including the transfer of genes within and across species boundaries. Genetic engineering has applications in medicine, research, industry and agriculture as it can be used to modify plants, animals and microorganisms.

What are the job opportunities one can avail as a graduate in genetic engineering?
Genetic engineering is the latest and one of the fastest growing fields. The demand for genetic engineers is increasing in India as well as abroad. Genetic engineers are mainly absorbed in medical and pharmaceutical industries, the agricultural sector, and the research and development departments of the government and private sectors. They can also take up teaching as an option.

What can be the reason for this field not being as popular as others among students?
Genetic engineering is a relatively new field of study that has evolved out of biotechnology. It is still unexplored and in its infancy. There is not much awareness among the public regarding its scope. Further the ethical issues associated with genetic engineering, gene therapy, its ban and controversies
surrounding genetically modified plants has given a bad publicity to  this subject even though genetic engineering has extensive use in day to day life in all fields be it medical, agricultural or research.

What do you see as the scope of genetic engineering in the near future?
Genetic engineering is a relatively new field and the completion of the Human Genome Project (HGP) has
further increased the scope of this subject. The possibilities of genetic engineering are limitless and the horizon is widening with every day of research. Genetic engineering like many other branches of science, for example, nuclear science, can be used nobly and ignobly. Advances in biotechnology and medicine are driving a greater demand for individuals in this specialty.

What is the difference between genetic engineering and biotechnology?
Genetic engineering is a specialized branch of Biotechnology that is associated with the process of gene manipulation. Biotechnology on the other hand has many other branches and applications including molecular biology, diagnosis, bioprocess technology etc.

What infrastructural requirements does your institute provide for this course?
Our institute has the entire infrastructure necessary for this course including facilities for DNA extraction, amplification, manipulation, expression studies, protein purification and analysis etc. We have specialized laboratories for animal cell culture and plant cell culture for doing such types of work.

What characteristics do you believe a student should have to be a master in this field?
Genetic engineering is a field of study that needs a lot of dedication and hard work. The student should be motivated enough since the success in this field is not very easy. Good analytical skills and patience are of prime importance. Further it is a field has huge research application and so the student should be ready to continue with a career in research.

Can genetic engineering help us in our day-to-day lives? If yes, how?
Yes, genetic engineering is helping in our day to day life even now. In the modern world genetic engineering has brought in more dramatic breakthroughs than any other field of biological study. These breakthroughs have an impact in a wide variety of areas, from curing diseases to growing better vegetables to catching criminals. The field of genetics is in the midst of a revolution, and at the center of this exciting (and, to some minds, terrifying) phenomenon. In animal husbandry and agriculture, genes are transplanted from one organism to another to produce what are known as transgenic animals or plants. This approach has been used to reduce the amount of fat in cattle raised for meat or to increase proteins in the milk produced by dairy cattle. Fruits and vegetables also have been genetically engineered for better quality of nutrients, to make them pest resistant and for a longer shelf life.
Genetic engineering in the area of health is aimed at understanding the causes of disease and developing treatments for them: for example, recombinant DNA is being used to develop better vaccines, antibiotics, hormones, and other disease-preventing agents.

 

Volume 5 Issue 3

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