• Gene GunPosted 9 years ago under Uncategorized

    The gene gun is used for genetically modifying organisms. The use of a gene gun has many different names, the particle gun method, the microprojectile method, the particle acceleration method, and the bio blaster method. The term used most commonly by the gene gun’s inventors is the gene gun, or biolistic method. (1)

    The gene gun or biolistic method is most commonly used to modify plants. A gene gun is one method employed in biotechnology to modify organisms, there are other methods used. The other two methods most commonly used are the plasmid method and the vector method. (2)

    Not The Same as Selective Breeding

    These methods are fundamentally different than changing the genetic structure of plants or animals using selective breeding, otherwise known as artificial selection. What makes these methods so different is that genes from unrelated species are combined, previous methods have been successful and proven safe. These methods of genetic engineering employed by biotechnology have not been thoroughly tested, short term studies funded by biotech companies have been done repeatedly, but long term studies are rarely done. Of those long term studies done on GMOs, mixed results have come in, suggesting that GMO foods are potentially harmful to human health. (3)

    A Team of Inventors

    The gene gun was invented in 1987 by a team at Cornell University. John C Sanford, Ed Wolf and Nelson Allen, and DuPont’s Ted Klein. The first version of the gene gun was a Crossman air pistol that was modified to fire tungsten particles. Other methods for genetically modifying organisms had been in use before the gene gun, but the gene gun has allowed modification to organisms that previous methods had not allowed. (4)

    The inventors of this method of genetic modification have adopted the term biolistic (biological ballistics) to apply to both this process of high speed mechanical transfection and to refer to any kind of machine that is used to insert biological materials via projectiles into biological targets. (5)

    Biolistic transfection is a mechanical method of transferring genetic material from one species into another. A gene gun is the original tool used for this transfection. The process involves many steps.

    How It Is Used

    The gene gun can be used on cells in a culture or on a plant. As the name implies the apparatus is used to shoot DNA into the target cells or plants. Specially prepared Teflon bullets are coated with microscopic gold or tungsten particles. These metal particles are coated with hundreds of copies of the genes that are to be transfected into the target cell or plant. (6)

    The most up-to-date methods use the gene gun in a vacuum chamber, and the projectiles are fired by the use of high-pressure gas. Once the microscopic gold or metal particles have been fired into the petri dish that contain the target cells, the genes dissolve off of the particles and can insert into chromosomes of the target organism. The cell interprets these genetic insertions as genes that are to be expressed by the organism, and the modified genes are copied along with the rest of the organism’s genes. (7)


    (1) http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0167779988900236
    (2) http://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/science/gmfoods/
    (3) http://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/science/gmfoods/
    (4) http://americanhistory.si.edu/collections/search/object/nmah_1167048
    (5) http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0167779988900236
    (6) http://passel.unl.edu/pages/informationmodule.php?idinformationmodule=958077244&topicorder=3&maxto=7
    (7) http://passel.unl.edu/pages/informationmodule.php?idinformationmodule=958077244&topicorder=3&maxto=7

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