Engineering Design Challenge - Designer Genes
A. The Problem
Genes control the chemical reactions in cells that ultimately determine the growth and function of the organism. Parents transmit a variety of traits to their offspring by passing on genes.
Genetic engineering and gene therapy are technologies that change the genetic material of organisms from that which they inherited from their parents. The purpose of gene therapy is to fix genetic defects by preventing or curing genetic diseases. On the other hand, genetic engineering tries to amend the genes for the purpose of improving the normal or expected capabilities or traits of the organism.
Genetic engineering has come under ethical condemnation for trifling with human genes especially when it involves the modification of what is generally considered superficial traits, such as eye or hair or skin color. This technology, however, is impactful when used to offer permanent fixes to the deleterious effects of mutation, such as cystic fibrosis, type 1 diabetes, sickle cell anemia, and others.
1. In this challenge, you and 2-3 other collaborators will:
a. Research a harmful genetic mutation in humans
b. Identify the mutant nucleotide sequence, and
c. Find the genetic engineering cure by designing as many possible genes that translate into the normal amino acid sequence.
d. Propose a feasible means of delivering your designer gene into affected individuals.
2. Using readily available repurposed or recycled materials, you and 2-3 other collaborators will:
e. Build a model of the mutant gene. (The following resources are just a starting point. Use any other resource you find helpful.)
i. How to Make a Model of DNA Using Common Materials
ii. Modeling DNA Replication and Protein Synthesis
iii. Protein Synthesis
f. Build two or more designer genes that can code for the normal amino acid sequence, thus finding a cure for the disorder.
g. Create a graphic representation of the models.
B. Research the need or problem
1) Do research on the genetic engineering and genetic therapy focusing on:
a) current developments on these technologies current state of the issue and current solutions
b) Explore other options via the internet, library, interviews, etc.
C. Develop possible solutions and select the best possible solution
1. With your team, brainstorm probable solutions
2. Express likely solutions in words, illustrations and/or miniature models
3. Enhance possible solutions.
4. Weed out the least feasible solutions and decide, which solutions best address the problem.
D. Construct a prototype
1. Build a model of the mutant gene.
2. Build two or more designer genes that can cure the mutation by coding for the normal amino acid sequence.
3. Create a 2 or 3-dimesional model of the selected solutions. (see examples below)
E. Test and assess the solutions
1. Switch models and research materials with another team to analyze each other’s work. Focus on the feasibility of the solutions and whether they will work or not.
2. Does it address the constraints and problem in the challenge?
F. Communicate the solution(s)
• Make a presentation discussing how the solutions address the problem, how you figured out the solution and how your hurdled difficulties throughout the process.
• Using the information you collected from your own testing, from the another team’s feedback, feedback from the presentation, and other sources of information, redesign your solutions and repeat steps E-G until your team has come up with the best possible solutions.