02 July 2016

#155 Genetic technology Syllabus 2016 -2048

19.1 Principles of genetic technology
19.2 Genetic technology applied to medicine
19.3 Genetically modified organisms in agriculture

The discovery of the structure of DNA by Watson and Crick in the early 1950s and discoveries since have led to many applications of gene technology in areas of medicine, agriculture and forensic science. This section relies heavily on prior knowledge of DNA structure and protein synthesis studied in the section on Nucleic acids and protein synthesis. Where possible, candidates should carry out practical work using electrophoresis, either with DNA or specially prepared dyes used to represent DNA or proteins. 

Candidates will be expected to use the knowledge gained in this section to solve problems in familiar and unfamiliar contexts.

Learning outcomes 

Candidates should be able to:

19.1 Principles of genetic technology 

Genetic engineering involves the manipulation of naturally occurring processes and enzymes. 

Genome sequencing gives information about the location of genes and provides evidence for the evolutionary links between organisms.

a) define the term recombinant DNA 

b) explain that genetic engineering involves the extraction of genes from one organism, or the synthesis of genes, in order to place them in another organism (of the same or another species) such that the receiving organism expresses the gene product 

c) describe the principles of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to clone and amplify DNA (the role of Taq polymerase should be emphasised) 

d) describe and explain how gel electrophoresis is used to analyse proteins and nucleic acids, and to distinguish between the alleles of a gene (limited to the separation of polypeptides and the separation of DNA fragments cut with restriction endonucleases) 

e) describe the properties of plasmids that allow them to be used in gene cloning 

f) explain why promoters and other control sequences may have to be transferred as well as the desired gene 

g) explain the use of genes for fluorescent or easily stained substances as markers in gene technology 

h) explain the roles of restriction endonucleases, reverse transcriptase and ligases in genetic engineering 

i) explain, in outline, how microarrays are used in the analysis of genomes and in detecting mRNA in studies of gene expression

19.2 Genetic technology applied to medicine

a) define the term bioinformatics 

b) outline the role of bioinformatics following the sequencing of genomes, such as those of humans and parasites, e.g. Plasmodium (details of methods of DNA sequencing are not required) 

c) explain the advantages of producing human proteins by recombinant DNA techniques (reference should be made to some suitable examples, such as insulin, factor VIII for the treatment of haemophilia and adenosine deaminase for treating severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID)) 

d) outline the advantages of screening for genetic conditions (reference may be made to tests for specific genes such as those for breast cancer, BRCA1 and BRCA2, and genes for haemophilia, sickle cell anaemia, Huntington’s disease and cystic fibrosis) 

e) outline how genetic diseases can be treated with gene therapy and discuss the challenges in choosing appropriate vectors, such as viruses, liposomes and naked DNA (reference may be made to SCID, inherited eye diseases and cystic fibrosis) 

f) discuss the social and ethical considerations of using gene testing and gene therapy in medicine (reference should be made to genetic conditions for which treatments exist and where none exist, also to IVF, embryo biopsy and preselection and to therapeutic abortions) 

g) outline the use of PCR and DNA testing in forensic medicine and criminal investigations

19.3 Genetically modified organisms in agriculture 

The ability to manipulate genes has many potential benefits in agriculture, but the implications of releasing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) into the environment are subject to much public debate in some countries.

a) explain the significance of genetic engineering in improving the quality and yield of crop plants and livestock in solving the demand for food in the world, e.g. Bt maize, vitamin A enhanced rice (Golden riceTM) and GM salmon 

b) outline the way in which the production of crops such as maize, cotton, tobacco and oil seed rape may be increased by using varieties that are genetically modified for herbicide resistance and insect resistance 

c) discuss the ethical and social implications of using genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food production

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