The XXIst century promises great technological leaps in the fields of biotechnology and genetic engineering—possibly bringing us the dystopies we’ve seen in films like GATTACA (Niccol, 1997). That’s the worst case scenario, of course. Best case scenario, cancer research—one example of many—will greatly benefit from tools such as the one described in this blog post:
Nanoinjectors provide scientists with unprecedented ways of manipulating genetic material, thus getting us closer to the promise of Biotechnology, which was first hinted at with the mapping of the Human Genome, during the last decade of the XXth Century:
The ability to transfer a gene or DNA sequence from one animal into the genome of another plays a critical role in the medical research of diseases such as cancer, Alzheimer’s and diabetes.
But the traditional method of transferring genetic material into a new cell, microinjection, has a serious downside. This method uses a hollow needle to pump a DNA-filled liquid into an egg cell nucleus, but that extra fluid causes the cell to swell and die 40 percent of the time.
Now a multidisciplinary team of Brigham Young University scientists has developed a way to significantly reduce cell death when introducing DNA into egg cells. The researchers have created a microscopic lance that delivers DNA to the cells through electrical forces.—Via
DNA is fragile. This means that scientists need ways to very carefully handle these molecules. The following images, taken from the primary source of this blog post, show how the lance works. You can also watch a video of the process below:
5 point bonus question for AP and 10H Bio students*:
Knowing what we know about the structure of DNA, explain the following passage:
“”Because DNA is naturally negatively charged, it is attracted to the outside of the lance using positive voltage,” said Brian Jensen, BYU professor of mechanical engineering.””
What part of the DNA molecule accounts for its “negatively charged” feature?
*To receive full credit, you have to answer the bonus question below.