Further Advances and Ethical Concerns

The first experiment to combine different DNA molecules was performed in 1972 in the laboratory of Paul Berg (who shared the 1980 Nobel Prize in chemistry for this work). The following year Stanley Cohen and Herbert Boyer combined some viral DNA and bacterial DNA in a plasmid to create the first recombinant DNA organism.

Realizing the potential dangers of moving genes from one organism to another, approximately ninety prominent scientists, whose laboratories were poised to start cloning experiments, met in 1975 at the Asilomar Conference Center in California to discuss the potential dangers of gene manipulation. This meeting, wherein scientists recognized and openly discussed the ramifications and potential dangers of their research before that research was actually begun, was unprecedented. The result of the Asilomar Conference was to call for and agree upon a one-year moratorium before any cloning experiments were to be done. This provided time to develop guidelines for the physical and biological isolation of recombinant organisms, to ensure that they not escape into the environment, and, if they did, to make sure that they would be so weakened as not to survive competition with naturally occurring organisms. By 1976, then, gene cloning was in full swing around the world.

Egyptian artwork, dating from between b.c.e. 1550 and 1295, depicts the harvest of the grapes and subsequent counting of the jars of wine. This art suggests that ancient civilizations fermented grape juice to make wine, establishing the basics of a process still used in wineries today.

plasmid a small ring of DNA found in many bacteria

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