Genetically Modified Bioremediators

Biotechnology can transfer the ability to manufacture detoxifying proteins from one type of organism to another. One organism that was so modified has earned the distinction of being the first micro-organism to be patented. Called the "oil eater," the microorganism was actually a naturally occurring bacterium that had been given four plasmids that were also naturally occurring (plasmids are rings of DNA that can be transferred from one cell to another). It was the combination of the four transferred plasmids in a single bacterial cell that was novel and therefore patent-worthy. The four plas-mids in the oil eater gave the bacterium the ability to degrade four components of crude oil. It was invented by Ananda Chakrabarty at General Electric in 1980.

Today, transgenic technology creates designer bioremediators. A trans-genic organism contains a gene from another type of organism in all of its cells. The altered organism then manufactures the protein that the transgene encodes. The technology works because all organisms use the same genetic code. In other words, the same DNA and RNA triplets encode the same amino acids in all species.

plasmids small rings of DNA found in many bacteria

RNA triplets sets of three nucleotides

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