When one thinks of genetically modified organisms, or GMOs for short, a number of things can cross their mind, but many of those thoughts are negative ones. GMOs definitely have been used in ethically-questionable ways, ways that may harm plants, animals, and even humans, but there are also many ways that GMOs have been utilized to help organisms, and track and cure diseases. Scientists and researchers can create transgenic organisms by implementing genes from one species into another, or they can alter the actual genes of an organism itself to take out undesirable traits or further emphasize traits they want to show. Whatever the method, scientists have been making strides in using GMOs to the best of their abilities in recent years, and have been achieving some really cool results.
Many different kinds of jellyfish contain a gene called green fluorescent protein, or GFP, that make them do exactly what it sounds like: glow. Scientists transplanted GFPs into embryos of marmoset monkeys, embryos that were half normal and half transgenic. The experiment had less to do with testing how the first generation of marmoset monkeys would be affected by the transplanted genes and more about if the offspring would inherit the glowing properties. The experiment proved successful, and five of the monkeys that came from the embryos could glow, as well. The monkeys glow green when they are put under blue fluorescent light, and the light serves as a marker to show scientists where the transgenic genes have been placed. When the GFPs were put into the marmoset monkeys, scientists had the goal of using the glowing genes to study neurological diseases in monkeys, and possibly humans, but it definitely showed that transgenic organisms can pass the traits they are given down to their offspring.
The Saving of the Papayas
Many argue that papayas wouldn’t be around if it weren’t for genetically modifying technology. Scientists think that the papaya ringworm virus, which first began to infect the fruit and really hurt the production of the fruit in the 1990s and early 2000s, would have totally wiped out the papaya if a genetically modified version of the papaya, called the Rainbow papaya, wasn’t created. The Rainbow papayas were planted next to non-GMO, normal papayas, and were never afflicted with the disease, while the GMO papayas lasted. Eventually, the seeds of the Rainbow papaya were made available for sale so farmers could continue to grow papayas. In a study done just a few years ago, it was found that over 90 percent of papayas that are produced and consumed today are genetically modified varieties.
Goats and Spider Silk
While BioSteel sounds like something out of a science fiction movie, it’s actually the name for a protein similar to spider silk that was taken from the milk of a goat. The goats from which BioSteel was produced were transgenic. Fibers from spider silk proteins were expressed in the milk, and it was manufactured to help with medical purposes, personal care products, and textile products. BioSteel is considered to be up to 7-10 times stronger than steel when compared to the same weight as normal steel, and it also has more benefits than steel when it comes to the stretching properties and its reactions to extreme cold and heat. Today, BioSteel is used as a coating for medical products and implants, and it also can be used to help athletes who have ligament and tendon injuries because of its elasticity.
BioSteel, glowing monkeys, and Rainbow papayas are all amazing examples of how genetic modification technology can be used to help. While there are many uses of GMOs that scientists and other people disagree with, GMOs can also be used to help animals, foods, and one day in the seemingly new future, possibly humans.
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