Following 1953, when Thomas Watson and Francis Crick published their famous paper on the double helix structure of DNA, a series of independent discoveries were made in chemistry, biochemistry, genetics, and microbiology, which together brought about a revolution in biology and led to the first experiments in genetic engineering in 1973. Because of this revolution, scientists learned to modify living microorganisms in a permanent, predictable way. Bacteria have been made to produce medical products, such as hormones, vaccines, and blood factors, that were formerly not available or available only at great expense or in limited amounts. Crop plants have been developed with increased resistance to disease or insect pests, or with greater tolerance to frost or drought. What has made all these things possible is the collection of biochemical and molecular biological techniques for manipulating genes, which are the basic units of biological inheritance. These are the techniques used in genetic engineering or recombinant DNA technology.
The fusion of traditional industrial microbiology and genetic engineering in the late 1970s led to the development of the modern biotechnology industry. Using recombinant DNA technology, this industry has brought a long and steadily growing list of products into the marketplace. Human insulin produced by genetically engineered bacteria was one of the first of these products. It was followed by human growth hormone; an anti-viral protein called interferon; the immune stimulant called interleukin 2; a tissue plasminogen activator for dissolving blood clots; two blood-clotting factors, labeled VIII and IX, which are administered to hemophiliacs; and many other products.
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