Designer Genes
By Kirstin Bittel and Rachel Hughes

Time: 1 class period
Preparation Time: None
Materials: None


During this lesson students apply biotechnology concepts to engineer a new organism.

Purpose – Engagement of students in a theoretical creation of a new organism.

Students will be able to:-
1. Explain how restriction enzymes are used to remove sections of DNA and reattach them.
2. Justify the engineering of a new organism.
3. Explain the benefits and drawbacks of engineering a new organism.

National Science Education Standard
Content Area C – The Molecular Basis of Heredity
- In all organisms, the instructions for specifying the characteristics of the organism are carried in DNA, a larger polymer formed from subunits of four kinds (A, G, C, and T). The chemical and structural properties of DNA explain how the genetic information that underlies heredity is both encoded in genes (as a string of letters) and as replicated (by a templating mechanism). Each DNA molecule in a cell forms a single gene.

Content Area C – The Interdependence of Organisms
- Human beings live within the world’s ecosystem. Increasingly, humans modify ecosystems as a result of population growth, technology, and consumption.

Teacher Background
In recombinant DNA, scientists use restriction enzymes to cut DNA into its parts. New genes can be added to sections or specific genes can be removed altogether.

Related and Resource Websites



Engage (How can we use our knowledge of DNA to make specific foods taste better?)
“Recall yesterday when we spliced DNA from chocolate to create chocolate flavored cherries. Today we will be applying our knowledge of recombinant DNA to engineer a new organism.”

As a class, take time to discuss the considerations that need to be made when engineering a new organism. Encourage the class to think in terms of both macro and microbiology.

Break the class into small groups and ask them to answer the following questions together.
1) If you could engineer a new organism (plant or animal) what would you design and why?
2) What considerations would you need to make?

Have the groups write up the procedures for engineering your new organism. What will be the benefits/drawbacks of your organism? How might it possibly affect the environment?

Finally have each group create a model of their new organism. They will share this model with the class along with their justification for engineering the organism. Presenters must share the benefits/drawbacks as they present their organism into the environment.

Things to bring up during discussion on considerations
1) Students need to identify the wanted gene(s) from the first organism.
2) They must recall the use of ligase to “cut” the DNA at the start and stop codons.
3) The must insert the desired trait into a plasmid at the correct location.
4) The plasmid must be inserted into eh host (second organism).

Embedded Assessment


PULSE is a project of the Community Outreach and Education Program of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center and is funded by:

NIH/NCRR award #16260-01A1
The Community Outreach and Education Program is part of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center: an NIEHS Award


Supported by NIEHS grant # ES06694

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Last update: February 7, 2007
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