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 mutation process will be presented for giving deep understanding regarding in 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 surroundings of proteins. The foundations of genetics is dependent on the functions and behaviour of DNA inside a cell. Entire process of evolution of human beings and other organisms has been decoded with help of studies and researches conducted on DNA. All the instructions regarding genes, development or functioning of an organism are carried by this unit.
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 like a backbone to the structure. Continuous and helical structure 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 production of other two counterparts. The result is obtained with production of two replicated molecules from one individual unit (Guerrini and Falchi, 2011). In order to get precise characteristics and traits which accurately match with the original molecule, error checking mechanisms are formulated. Unlike the mutation process described in comic books the realistic results are far from fantasies. The extrachromosonal 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 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 on such fantasies. Mutations are said to have contribution in both development and destruction of the organism (Liang, Tang and Halliwell, 2010). The duplication process involves recombination of 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.
These are further classified into deletion, duplication, inversion, insertion and translocation. The irregularities that are witnessed in the chromosome pairs or many a times one single chromosome is considered to be mutation. It can be due to formation of an extra or 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 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 radiations or chemicals which change the biological composition and structure of the DNA.
Originally used in agriculture for producing best quality produce, seeds where exposed to heavy radiations and chemicals for getting 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 radiations and chemical leaks have resulted in 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 protein synthesis process.
Effect of mutations on protein synthesis
Protein synthesis is a mechanism of generation of new proteins which is accompanied by 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 mostly affected part in this whole process because they carry the information or instructions inside the DNA. Protein synthesis is essential for 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 development of tumour 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 organisms 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 has to be changed is carried by gene. RNA is given the instructions regarding where the changes in the code of information has 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 looses certain functions or gains an extra characteristic.
The proteins which formulate information are either reduced or increased in terms of functions. Abilities of an individual specie or splice is endangered with such a procedure. Despite of being a beneficial research the mutation process can have severe impact over original DNA. Organism can develop deflective characteristics which may or may not acquire the designed quality for which entire processing was initiated (Wollert and Drexler, 2010). The unsuccessful operation of mutation breeding can result in production of defective gene 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 super powers and extra-ordinary abilities are all imaginary. Real time mutation experiments bring in a lot of critical consequences which are harmful for 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 for gaining desirable traits and characteristics. It can be performed for gaining immunity towards various diseases or in order to enhance the performance levels in a person. Often performed with help of drugs the basic use of gene therapy is critically linked with 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).
The different kinds of researches and experimentations for successful mutation on organisms especially animals is very unethical. The changes in the gene structure of a living being causes severe effects on the functionality of the organism. It is like putting an innocent life in danger for gathering scientific information and successful researches (Genetic Enhancement. 2017. The gene enhancement therapy is a technology which has given lots of benefit to mankind and also aided human life for sustaining in the world. But the use of nuclear radiations if not handled appropriately can cause severe drawbacks on the environment as well as on the life on which experimentation is performed.
Despite of the fact that future generations will be safeguarded from the illness 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 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 an experimentation in the gene enhancement theory in such a way that no harm is caused to living organisms and the surrounding environment.
Through this essay, one can understand the basic structure of DNA and its contribution in the development of an organism. 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.
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