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Name: Peter and Edmund
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Question:
Dear Scientists, We would like to know some ways that scientists use DNA. For instance, we have heard that scientists used DNA to change fruits and vegetables, such as tomatoes, so they don't spoil so fast.

We appreciate your help with this investigation, because we have found a lot of information on how the police use DNA to help identify criminals, but we need to find out about other uses of DNA.

We are in the first grade.
Thank you for your help.



Replies:
Scientists use DNA is many ways. Some of those ways will show up in the news, like the police work or the tomatoes. Most often, though, scientists use DNA (and the ways they can work with DNA) to try to find out how things work - like how plants or animals grow and develop, or why bone cells are different than muscle cells, or how the brain works. Sometimes scientists and physicians (doctors) used DNA to help figure out what disease is making someone sick, and can even use DNA to help make some people well. I'll be glad to tell you more, if you want to hear more!

Steve J Triezenberg


DNA is being used my medical doctors in an attempt to cure some human disease. One strategy is to replace the mutant (non-functioning) gene with a normal gene. This strategy can be used when the cell is constantly dividing. One form of genetic immunodeficiency disease is caused by a defective gene in a bone marrow cell and has been cured by this approach. Some cells are not in a state of constant division but the cells can be infected with a virus that has been engineered not to cause disease and also to contain the normal gene. Cystic fibrosis is a lung disease caused by a mutant gene. Scientists have placed the normal gene in a disabled virus and infected kids and restored partial normal lung function. One problem is that all the cells that need to be infected are not and the procedure needs to be repeat I think another problem is the children develop antibodies (resistance) to the infection. Another problem is that the defective gene also causes other organs to function abnormally. There are other strategies that you may be able to read about. DNA has may other uses. One of the most far-fetched uses (at least in my mind because I don't understand it!) is to uses DNA molecules as the basis for the development of molecular computing chips!

Michael B Lomonaco



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