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Mutations and Replication of DNA

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Introduction to Mutations

The process of introduction of changes in the current gene structure or base unit of DNA is mutation. Unlike the comic world fantasy changes, mutation has certain serious scientific aspects which will be discussed in the presented essay. The effects and ethical considerations of gene therapy and the mutation process will be presented to give a deep understanding of the subject.

Biochemical composition, structure and replication of DNA

Deoxyribonucleic Acid abbreviated as DNA is the basic unit that helps in decoding the informative content like inherited traits, ancestral details, genes and their structure. Chromosomes form the nuclei of cells which are present with a thread-like structure in higher organisms like human beings (Charlesworth and Charlesworth, 2010). DNA is present in chromosomes with the surroundings of proteins. The foundations of genetics are dependent on the functions and behaviour of DNA inside a cell. The entire process of evolution of human beings and other organisms has been decoded with the help of studies and research conducted on DNA. All the instructions regarding genes, development or functioning of an organism are carried by this unit.

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The biochemical composition of DNA is made up of chains of two strands of the unit that are continuous in nature and have nucleotides or monomer units. The components of these monomer units with either of the four bases i.e. cytosine (C), guanine (G), adenine (A) or thymine (T) and deoxyribose or phosphate as the sugar. A covalent bond is shared between these bases and the sugar acts as a backbone to the structure. Continuous and helical structures make the double strands of DNA (Duarte and et. al., 2012).

The process of DNA replication is based on the production of two similar molecules of DNA from one original unit. Inheritance is based on this process. The original molecule has two strands which are separated and used as the arrangement for the production of the other two counterparts. The result is obtained with the production of two replicated molecules from one individual unit (Guerrini and Falchi, 2011). In order to get precise characteristics and traits which accurately match the original molecule, error-checking mechanisms are formulated. Unlike the mutation process described in comic books, the realistic results are far from fantasies. The extrachromosomal DNA present in an organism is completely altered on a permanent basis and this automatically produces a deflective behaviour in the organism. It is a result of the errors that occur in the DNA replication process.

Different types of mutations that can take place

As depicted in the X-Men comics, mutations generate super power abilities in living organisms which can be varied in terms of characteristics. But practical biological sciences do not infer such fantasies. Mutations are said to have contributed to both the development and destruction of the organism (Liang, Tang and Halliwell, 2010). The duplication process involves the recombination of a large number of DNA molecules and there are differences created in the genetic structure. There are various kinds of mutations experienced by making alterations or changes in the original DNA structure. The chromosome abnormality or mutation is a kind of mutation that occurs due to flaws or deformities in the pair of chromosomes in an organism.

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These are further classified into deletion, duplication, inversion, insertion and translocation. The irregularities that are witnessed in the chromosome pairs or many times one single chromosome is considered to be a mutation. It can be due to the formation of an extra missing or deformed part of the chromosomal DNA (Poduri, Evrony and Walsh, 2013). This indicates that there is a variation in traits and genes of the organism with this defect as compared to the normalised behaviour of an individual. This type of mutation takes place right at the time of cell division when an organism is growing. On the other hand, there is another type of mutation that is caused by exposure to radiation or chemicals which change the biological composition and structure of the DNA.

Originally used in agriculture for producing the best quality produce, seeds were exposed to heavy radiation and chemicals to get desired traits in the targeted seed. There have been various researches conducted on living organisms mostly animals to produce a species that are engineered and biologically designed by introducing alterations in the basic structure of DNA (Tenaillon and et. al., 2012). Also known as mutation breeding, this process was initially used for getting different breeds of plants and produce in agriculture. Several accidents related to nuclear radiation and chemical leaks have resulted in the production of mutant birds, bugs and animals. The consequences of such alterations can be fatal and disturbing to the ecology. The mutation process has different effects on the protein synthesis process.

Effect of mutations on protein synthesis

Protein synthesis is a mechanism of generation of new proteins which is accompanied by the degradation or breakdown of the current proteins (Wainreb and et. al., 2011). The entire process takes place in the cell itself. Generally, mutation can occur by chance i.e. either by medical errors or by introducing a desirable change in the DNA. Genes are the most affected part of this whole process because they carry the information or instructions inside the DNA. Protein synthesis is essential for the proper functioning of the biological mechanisms. There are cases where mutations have taken place but no side effects were experienced on the other hand, many mutations have caused the development of tumours or cancer like conditions (Weitz and et. al., 2012).

Proteins completely control the chemical composition and structure of the genes. Having such a crucial function in the organism's biological structure, protein synthesis is the formation of new proteins by translation of RNA i.e. ribonucleic acid. The information that certain attributes in the organism have to be changed is carried by genes. RNA is given instructions regarding where the changes in the code of information have to be made and where no changes are to be introduced (Wirth, Parker and Ylä-Herttuala, 2013). Considering the case of nuclear mutation, the chemical or nuclear radiations that are being introduced in the organism's cell structure then two possibilities are identified. Either the targeted organism loses certain functions or gains an extra characteristic.

The proteins which formulate information are either reduced or increased in terms of functions. The abilities of an individual species or species are endangered with such a procedure. Despite being beneficial research, the mutation process can have a severe impact on the original DNA. Organisms can develop deflective characteristics which may or may not acquire the designed quality for which the entire processing was initiated (Wollert and Drexler, 2010). The unsuccessful operation of mutation breeding can result in the production of defective genes and hence, protein synthesis is altered and affects other generations of the organism. Hence, it is implied that movies and fictional comics like X-Men where mutation brings in superpowers and extra-ordinary abilities are all imaginary. Real-time mutation experiments bring in a lot of critical consequences which are harmful to the ecology.

Moral concerns of enhancement gene therapy/ ethical issues surrounding this technology

Gene therapy or genetic enhancement therapy is based on the transfer or modifications that are made to the ordinary genes of an individual especially humans to gain desirable traits and characteristics. It can be performed to gain immunity towards various diseases or in order to enhance the performance levels in a person. Often performed with the help of drugs the basic use of gene therapy is critically linked with the mutation process. The mutants in X-Men comics had undergone gene enhancement therapy that altered their gene structure permanently. The results of this therapy in the comics were extraordinary but practically there are various moral and ethical issues related to the process (DNA - structure, 2017).

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The different kinds of research and experimentations for successful mutation on organisms especially animals are very unethical. The changes in the gene structure of a living being cause severe effects on the functionality of the organism. It is like putting an innocent life in danger to gather scientific information and successful research (Genetic Enhancement. 2017. Gene enhancement therapy is a technology which has given lots of benefits to mankind and also aided human life for sustaining in the world. But the use of nuclear radiation if not handled appropriately can cause severe drawbacks to the environment as well as to the life on which experimentation is performed.

Despite the fact that future generations will be safeguarded from the illnesses and ailments that are caused by genetic disorders, there are chances that if gene therapy fails, the reverse effect will be created over future organisms. Morale and ethical issues will take a serious face only negligence or an uncontrolled atmosphere is provided to the genes and DNA cells of the subject (What physical or mental enhancements are possible through gene therapy ?. 2014). Henceforth, it is essential to develop experimentation in the gene enhancement theory in such a way that no harm is caused to living organisms and the surrounding environment.

Conclusion

Through this essay, one can understand the basic structure of DNA and its contribution to the development of an organism. The basic aspects of mutation and the principle types have been discussed above. The effects of such mutation processes on the protein synthesis process and the ethical considerations related to the subject have also been presented to gain an overview of mutation and gene enhancement therapy.

References

  • Charlesworth, B. and Charlesworth, D., 2010. Elements of evolutionary genetics. Greenwood Village: Roberts and Company Publishers.
  • Duarte, S. and et. al., 2012. Suicide gene therapy in cancer: where do we stand now? Cancer letters
  • Guerrini, R. and Falchi, M., 2011. Dravet syndrome and SCN1A gene mutation relatedepilepsies: cognitive impairment and its determinants. Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology.
  • Liang, H. D., Tang, J. and Halliwell, M., 2010. Sonoporation, drug delivery, and gene therapy. Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Part H: Journal of Engineering in Medicine.
  • Poduri, A., Evrony, G. D. and Walsh, C.A., 2013. Somatic mutation, genomic variation, and neurological disease. Science.
  • Tenaillon, O. and et. al., 2012. The molecular diversity of adaptive convergence. Science.
  • Wainreb, G. and et. al., 2011. Protein stability: a single recorded mutation aids in predicting the effects of other mutations in the same amino acid site. Bioinformatics.
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