Science for the Future
Students at Wood River High School took science experiments to a new level recently as they explored the concepts of genetic modification. WRHS biology teacher Larry Barnes wrote, “The experiment shows that humans can now move the gene from one species into another species. A similar process is expressing human insulin in bacteria to provide treatment for diabetes. The technology has broad implications. For example, will we one day be able to grow human organ in a donor pig?” Students talked about how the lab fits with their own personal goals. Maren Feltman is interested in studying medicine and commented that the lab gave her even more interest in medicine.
Barnes continued, “The experiment we conducted in biology was "transforming" E. coli k-12 with an engineered "plasmid" called pGLO. A plasmid is a circular length of DNA that naturally occurs in bacteria. The pGLO plasmid includes a jellyfish gene that expresses a phosphorescent protein (that becomes visible with UV light). The plasmid also contains a gene that provides resistance to ampicillin. Bacteria defends itself from foreign DNA, but if you weaken the cell membrane, you can succeed in getting the plasmid into the bacteria. If we successfully transformed E. coli with the pGLO plasmid, then our bacteria glowed green! We did not want a bunch of untransformed bacteria growing with the transformed bacteria, which was the point of using ampicillin. Only bacteria bearing the pGLO plasmid could survive the ampicillin.”