Useful Products of Genetic Engineering

Useful Products of Genetic Engineering


Human insulin is a protein, normally produced by the β cells of the islets of Langerhans in the pancreas.

Insulin is involved in the regulation of blood sugar levels, but in Diabetes (diabetes mellitus) there is a deficiency in the production of this essential hormone.

Problems with obtaining Insulin from natural sources:

  1. Insulin can be obtained from animals such as dogs, cattle and pigs, but it takes a large amount of pancreas material to produce minute quantities of insulin.
  2. The insulin obtained is not identical to the human insulin.
  3. Extraction of the hormone is very difficult.

Obtaining insulin from bacteria or yeasts:

In the 1980's, the fist attempts were made to make insulin from micro-organisms.

'Humulin' was licensed in 1982, and was produced from E.Coli bacteria that had been genetically modified.

Since then, yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) and other microbes have been used.


Advantages of using Insulin from genetically modified organisms:

  1. Humulin is identical to human insulin and so diabetics who use it do not suffer adverse reactions when using it, unlike other the forms of insulin obtained from animals.
  2. The quantities produced are much greater and have overcome the shortage of insulin.
  3. Production costs are much lower, and so cheaper supplies can be produced.
  4. Objection on ethical or religious grounds, to using animals, are overcome.

Factor VIII:.

Haemophiliacs suffer from a defective gene that fails to produce Factor VIII, an important agent involved in blood clotting.

Obtaining Human Factor VIII from natural sources:

Traditionally, factor VIII was obtained from blood serum. Large amounts of serum were purified to obtain the correct protein. The risk of other blood protein and viruses (HIV in particular) were high, and resulted in many haemophiliacs contracting AIDS.

Genetically modified yeast producing Factor VIII:

The gene was isolated from human cells, and introduced into a suitable microbe using standard GE techniques.