Science: Redesigning Bacteria

The development of the recombinant DNA technique ushered in a new era of genetic engineering—with all of its promise and possible peril. The lowly organism that currently plays the largest role in the process is the E. coli bacterium. This microbe—a laboratory derivative of a common inhabitant of the human intestine—lends itself to being engineered because its genetic structure has been so well studied. In the first step of the process, scientists place the bacterium in a test tube with a detergent-like liquid. This dissolves the microbe's outer membrane, causing its DNA strands to spill out in a disorderly tangle. Most...

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