Gene synthesis is synthesizing an artificially designed gene to be used in molecular biology research. In this process, a gene is created by assembling DNA strands that are chemically synthesized.
The final product is a stretch of DNA that encodes a protein or RNA sequence. A gene can be anywhere from 100 to several thousand base pairs long. Synthesized genes are often modified versions of naturally-occurring genes, with specific mutations introduced at strategic points in the sequence.
Gene synthesis has become an essential tool for researchers who want to study the functions and interactions of different proteins in the body, using genetically modified organisms as test subjects. Gene synthesis also enables researchers to develop new treatments for diseases by designing synthetic DNA sequences that can be used as custom pharmaceuticals.
There are two methods used to synthesize genes: PCR and chemical synthesis.
What Is PCR?
Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) amplifies DNA fragments by using its natural ability to replicate itself when exposed to specific conditions. The target DNA fragment is copied in PCR by adding four chemical components: DNA polymerase, primers (short nucleotide sequences), nucleotides, and buffer solution.
The process requires multiple cycles of heating and cooling the reaction mixture to denature the double-stranded DNA fragment into single strands. Annealing the primers to these single strands, then extending the primers by adding free nucleotides with polymerase enzyme activity.
Gene Synthesis By Chemical Synthesis?
Gene synthesis by chemical synthesis or gene synthesis from scratch refers to synthesizing a gene from its component nucleotides (A, T/U, C, G). Each base or group of bases is added stepwise using a DNA synthesizer. Because genes are made up of hundreds or thousands of nucleotides, this process can take days or weeks.
Chemical synthesis is the most widely used method for producing genes. It is often called gene assembly or oligo-based assembling.
Similarities and Differences Between Gene Synthesis and DNA Sequencing
Gene synthesis has various similarities and differences with DNA sequencing. Here are some of them:
- Both use Oligonucleotides (short single-stranded nucleic acid molecules).
- Both methods require a specialized lab facility to conduct the experiments.
- Both methods are usually outsourced to a CRO (contract research organization).
A customer can order the synthetic genes in the desired sequence for their projects in gene synthesis. The sequences cannot be chosen or picked by the customer in DNA sequencing, and a customer can only get what they have in their samples.
The gene synthesis method takes less time than the DNA sequencing method to produce results of long nucleic acids. However, it can take more time if one wants duplicate copies of the same product. The DNA sequencing method takes longer than gene synthesis because it is more complex and requires more quality checks. 5 best workouts to lose weight quickly: weight loss
Applications of Gene Synthesis in the Biotech Industry
Gene synthesis has several critical applications, especially in the field of biotechnology.
- Academic research. The foundation of medical breakthroughs in academic research. These studies are highly dependent on DNA synthesis.
- Pharmaceutical manufacturing. Once a genetic sequence is synthesized, it must be incorporated into a host organism to enable the mass production of pharmaceutical proteins.
- Vaccine development. Vaccine development requires the synthesis of viral genes inserted into cells.
- Disease diagnostics. The ability to detect disease-related DNA sequences is essential for identifying diseases and determining severity.
- Drug screening and toxicity testing. Drug screening and toxicity testing are essential steps before new drugs can reach the market. DNA synthesis is an instrumental tool for creating and testing thousands of candidate drugs in this process.
- Genetic engineering: involves inserting foreign genes into an organism’s genome to produce proteins with therapeutic properties. Gene synthesis is vital to genetic engineering projects because it allows researchers to synthesize genes without obtaining them from living organisms.
What Are the Ethical Issues Related To Gene Synthesis?
For starters, one of the most common ethical issues related to gene synthesis is the possibility of bioterrorism. Experts believe that ordering custom DNA online can be an easy way for terrorists to obtain deadly pathogens. These pathogens can then be used in their attacks against others.
However, this is not much of a problem, mainly because these companies highly value the security and safety of their customers and employees and public safety in general. They also ensure that only qualified professionals will work on the project and make sure that they follow all standard protocols for gene synthesis projects.
Gene synthesis is on the edge of transforming genetic science. Already, it has made possible the development of a new era of molecular medical research that promises the unlimited potential for healing and curing disease. With gene synthesis, scientists will create customized versions of genes introduced into living cells.
The most potent part of gene synthesis is creating genes from scratch and designing them specifically for a scientific purpose. As science evolves, this newfound ability to synthesize genes will enable scientists to create customized versions of DNA to combat many diseases and conditions we face today.