Producing Drugs using GMOs

Producing Drugs using GMOs

Concept and General Information

  • Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are organisms whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering.
  • This technology is extremely potent in the production of pharmaceutical drugs, which is often referred to as pharming.

Process of Drug Production

  • DNA coding for a desired protein drug is inserted into the genome of host organisms, typically bacteria, plants, or yeast.
  • These hosts are then grown in controlled conditions, producing the desired protein as a result of gene expression.
  • The protein can then be extracted and purified for use as a drug.
  • This process allows for large-scale, cost-effective production of drugs, including complex proteins that are hard to synthesise chemically.

Examples of Drugs Produced using GMOs

  • Insulin, vital for treating diabetes, was one of the first drugs produced using a GMO, specifically a modified strain of E. coli.
  • Genetically modified yeast is used to produce hepatitis B vaccine.
  • Genetically modified carrots have been developed to produce talcid, a medicine used to treat gastric ulcers.

Risks and Ethical Considerations

  • There are potential risks with the use of GMOs, including the possibility of unintended ecological impacts and concerns about GMO contamination in the food chain.
  • The cost-effectiveness of this method can improve access to medicine, but it also raises ethical questions, such as the ownership and control of modified organisms and the possible exploitation of this technology.
  • The potential for allergic reactions or undesired immune responses to the foreign proteins is an issue that requires careful management and regulation.

GMOs and Disease Treatment

  • By targeting specific disease pathways, GMOs can be used to produce more personalised and effective treatments.
  • Disease mutations can sometimes make certain diseases resistant to normal drugs; GMOs can be genetically engineered to produce drugs that can overcome these mutations.
  • Gene therapy using GMOs offers promising potential for the treatment of genetic diseases and disorder, such as cystic fibrosis and certain cancers.