Scientists Ditch Guns For Lasers To Insert DNA Into Cells

Illustration for article titled Scientists Ditch Guns For Lasers To Insert DNA Into Cells

Step one in any project involving genetic modification is to get the genes you want into the cells you want changed. Traditionally, this meant shooting microscopic DNA-coated bullets at the cells and hoping the DNA got inside without blowing the cells to smithereens. It sounds messy, and it is. Now, researchers in South Korea have devised a super-precise method for inserting DNA into cells, and it's powered by lasers.


Using a brief pulse from a femtosecond laser, researchers are able to punch a tiny hole in the membrane of an individual cell. The foreign DNA is maneuvered through the hole and into place inside the cell using a laser-powered tractor beam, or "optical tweezers," that can move microscopic particles using light. While prior DNA insertion processes relied on throwing lots of DNA at lots of cells and hoping some of it would get to the right spot, this is the first time scientists can guide DNA into an individual cell.

With this technique, scientists get a much more precise method of insuring that the DNA gets into the cells, every time. This could revolutionize all of the fields where gene manipulation takes place, from stupid stuff like glow in the dark plants to the most cutting-edge medical therapies. Compared to this laser technique, the old gene gun method seems like it came from the Old West. [PhysOrg]


I am a grad student working on various cell pathways involving genes and their RNA counterparts, and the subsequent expression of autoimmune disease, won't bore you with the details, but I can say the glow in the dark plants you are likely referring to are far from "stupid". They are the manifestation of our ability to manipulate the GFP gene, which codes for green flourescence, and insert it, along with critical other components, in laboratory created plasmids, which can then be artificially expressed in organisms ranging from single cells or bacterium to plants or mice. Since cells can't choose to express only part of a plasmid gene, those that successfully adopt it and turn flourescent green, we can deduce are also expressing whatever other genes of interest we've included in the plasmid. Please amend your article rather than willfully encouraging contempt for a fascinating biological process simply because you are too happily ignorant to bother trying to understand why scientists turned the plant "glow-in-the-dark" as you so juvenilely phrased it. And just for the record, often times the processes creating fluorescent plants are used for relate to developing "cutting edge medical therapies" (not that you would know one even if you read a NEJM article titled "cutting-edge medical therapy"), so your sentence comes off as uneducated and nonsensical. It would be like if I said mixing paint to create new colors is stupid compared to painting the Vatican, one must do one to do the other.

tl;dr: Creating glow in the dark plants allows scientists to confirm the DNA they are studying is being produced by the cells in the glowing plants. Author is "stupid" for referring to it as stupid.