GM insulin – A ray of hope for million diabetic patients
The human insulin saga is of historical interest because it provides one of the first success stories in genetic engineering.
Synthetic human insulin was the earliest golden and incredible molecule of the biotechnology industry and the direct result of recombinant DNA technology. Currently, millions of diabetics worldwide use synthetic insulin to regulate their blood sugar levels. Synthetic insulin is made in both bacteria and yeast.
Diabetes is a metabolic disorder in which the blood glucose levels remain too high. It can be treated by injecting insulin. The extra insulin allows the glucose to be taken up by the liver and other tissues, so cells get the glucose they need and blood-sugar levels stay normal. What would a diabetic patient do if enough human-insulin was not available in his/her own body? As from the scientific knowledge gained till date, we would soon realize that one would have to isolate and use insulin from other animals. Until the early 1980s, pharmaceutical insulin was extracted from the pancreas of cows or pigs. But, it raised another question that – would the insulin isolated from other animals be just as effective as that secreted by the human body itself and would it not elicit an immune response or develop allergy or other types of reactions to the foreign protein in the human body? Since that time, the process of attaching the human gene for insulin production to the DNA of the bacteria E. coli has been developed. Insulin produced from this newer method is known as GM insulin (Genetically modified), and genetically modified bacteria have become the most common source of pharmaceutical insulin. In addition to bacteria, baker's yeast is also a common template onto which the human insulin-producing gene can be attached.