Biotechnology and Its Applications - Notes | Class 12 | Part 3: Transgenic Animals, Ethical Issues



- These are the animals whose genome has been altered by introduction of a foreign gene by manipulation.

-  E.g. Transgenic rats, rabbits, pigs, sheep, cows and fish.

-  Over 95% of the transgenic animals are mice.

Benefits of transgenic animals

· To study regulation of genes and their action on normal physiology & development: E.g. Study of insulin-like growth factor. Genes (from other species) that alter formation of this factor are introduced and the biological effects are studied. This gives information about biological role of the factor.

· To study the contribution of genes in the development of a disease and thereby new treatments: E.g. transgenic models for human diseases such as cancer, cystic fibrosis, rheumatoid arthritis & Alzheimer’s.

· Biological products: Some medicines contain expensive biological products. Transgenic animals can be used to produce biological products by introducing genes which codes for a particular product.

They are used to treat diseases such as emphysema, phenylketonuria (PKU), cystic fibrosis etc. E.g. human protein (a-1-antitrypsin) used to treat emphysema.

In 1997, Rosie (first transgenic cow) produced human protein-enriched milk (2.4 gm per litre). It contains human a-lactalbumin. It is nutritionally more balanced product for human babies than natural cow-milk.

· Vaccine safety testing: Transgenic mice are used to test the safety of the polio vaccine. If it is reliable, they can replace the use of monkeys to test the safety of vaccines.

· Chemical safety testing (toxicity testing): Some transgenic animals carry genes which make them more sensitive to toxic substances than non-transgenic animals. They are exposed to the toxic substances and the effects studied. It gives immediate results.


· Problem of unpredictable results: Genetic modification may cause unpredictable results.

Indian Government has set up organizations like GEAC (Genetic Engineering Approval Committee) to make decisions about the validity of GM research and the safety of GM-organisms for public services.

· Bio-piracy: It is the use of bio-resources by multinational companies and other organizations without proper authorization from the countries and people concerned. Certain companies have got patents for products and technologies that make use of the genetic materials, plants etc. that have been identified, developed and used by farmers and indigenous people of a country. E.g. Basmati rice, herbal medicines (turmeric, neem etc.).

Basmati rice has unique aroma & flavour. India has 27 varieties of Basmati. In 1997, an American company got patent rights on Basmati rice through the US Patent and Trademark Office. This allowed the company to sell a ‘new’ variety of Basmati. This was actually derived from Indian farmer’s varieties. Indian Basmati was crossed with semi-dwarf varieties and claimed as a novelty. Other people selling Basmati rice could be restricted by patent.

Generally, industrialized nations are poor in biodiversity and traditional knowledge. The developing and underdeveloped world have rich biodiversity and traditional knowledge related to bio-resources.

It has to develop laws to prevent unauthorized exploitation of bio-resources and traditional knowledge.

Indian Parliament has cleared the second amendment of the Indian Patents Bill that has considered patent terms emergency provisions and research and development initiative.


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