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Areas of Biotechnology Research

Basic Techniques Of Biotechnology

Most research in biotechnology is based on changing or moving the DNA of organisms. Recombinant DNA technologies are those that allow researchers to break and rejoin DNA, as well as to make lots of it. This process lets scientists isolate one gene in an organism so that they can study it. The next step is usually to alter the gene and/or put it in another organism.

Recombinant DNA technologies are the basis for much of the work in biotechnology labs. The steps often include:

  • Growing cells in a glass dish, outside an organism
  • Isolating a gene from those cells
  • Inserting that gene into the cells of a different organism
  • Testing if the new gene is working in the cells of the second organism

The next step is to test the new gene in an actual organism. Microorganisms such as bacteria have just one cell. Once a new gene is inserted into that one cell, it's in the organism and should be functioning. But other, more complex organisms have billions or trillions of cells. Often, the new gene needs to be in each one of those cells. For most plants and animals, the easiest way to do this is to insert the gene into an egg or embryo. As an embryo grows and develops into a mature organism, its cells divide. During cell division, a second copy of the cell's DNA is made so that the two new cells each have a copy. The new gene inserted by researchers into the original cell is copied at the same time. In this way, all cells in the organism will end up with the new gene.

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