Applications of the transgenic technology

Transgenic technologies form today the core of 'interventional genetics', a key methodology for analyzing and interfering with gene function in whole animals. In agriculture, transgenic animals are engineered to achive better genetic characteristics such as increased production of dairy proteins for food, enhanced production of wool or enhanced disease resistance. In biotechnology, the use of large transgenic animals or 'bioreactors' has been attempted, e.g. for the cost-effective production of high-value pharmaceuticals in the blood or milk of transgenic sheep or cows. Another promising area for the exploitation of the transgenic technology has been in the field of xenotransplantation, where transgenic pigs are engineered to express immunological characteristics that would make their organs well tolerated after transplantation into humans.

However, so far, the major contribution of transgenic technology has been in basic research, in studies of gene expression, gene function and disease processes. Targeting of genes encoding toxins to specific cell types in the mouse (specific cell ablation) has been a helpful tool to address questions of mammalian development and cell lineage analysis. Mutagenesis or disruption of the functioning of endogenous genes by insertion of transgenes (insertional mutagenesis) has also been used not only to identify but also to clone developmentally important genetic loci. Animal modeling of human disease is certainly the area where transgenic technology has made a serious impact. Applications in these fields have allowed reseach into pathophysiological mechanisms, the long-term consequences and possible deleterious side-effects of therapeutic-approaches including gene therapy, and the pathological interactions between multiple generic components and the environment.

See also: Autoimmune disease, spontaneous experimental models; Gene therapy; Genetic analysis at the molecular level; Genetic analysis at the phenotypic level; Immunodeficiency, animal models; Knockout, genetic; Rheumatoid arthritis, animal models; Tolerance, models; Xenotransplantation.

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