We have heard of the wonders of biotechnology like the new kinds of plants with modified hereditary material, such as cotton and corn. So what’s the concern?

That hereditary material is called a chromosome, which is 2 inches long. For example, a human being has 46 chromosomes. A chromosome is like a pod of string beans. Each seed is the equivalent of a gene. A gene or several genes control the production of an eye, a hand, an ear, or a bone.

So now let’s talk about a plant whose chromosomes have been modified. When that happens, it is called a genetically modified organism, GMO for short. For example, corn. Corn is attacked by insects like the corn borer. The larva of this insect tunnels in the stalk and kills the corn plant. So corn borers reduce the harvest of corn which significantly hurts the farmer. They need to grow a variety of corn that is not attacked by the corn borer.

There are several ways to come up with a good harvest of corn. One, select a variety that is naturally resistant to corn. Two, spray the corn field with insecticides. Three, produce a hybrid of corn that is resistant to corn borer.

This last method can be done by modifying the chromosomes of corn. It has been accomplished by scientists in agriculture. Corn has 20 chromosomes and 32,540 genes.

The idea is to find an organism, like bacteria, that controls corn borer. One such bacteria is the species Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). This fact has been verified in the laboratory. Bt was grown in artificial medium into a large population. Larva of corn borer was grown as well. Then specimens of Bt were applied on corn borer larva. Bt attacked the larva and killed them.

So came the idea: how about incorporating genes of Bt into chromosomes of corn? This new variety of corn should be resistant to corn borer. This idea was tried out.

The materials were chromosomes of corn and genes of Bt that control corn borer. It took scientists a long time to find the right Bt genes. But when selected, they were also grown in artificial medium.

The next task was to incorporate the genes of Bt into chromosomes of corn. The task was completed as you can see in the illustrated steps. The resulting product is called recombinant DNA of Btcorn. Several trials were needed to come up with Btcorn that is now a GMO. This Btcorn is successfully resistant to corn borer.

In other words, Btcorn has chromosomes of corn that incorporates the genes of Bt. Such incorporation was done purposely by scientists and a multinational corporation.

Monsanto is the multinational concern that has come up with Btcorn, and is patent holder. It is now selling seeds of Btcorn to farmers. And because Btcorn grown in the field is resistant to corn borer, farmers can now have a greater corn harvest.

To repeat, Bt corn is a GMO that has genes of Bt.

So how does Btcorn compare with stem cell therapy?

Stem cells of humans used in therapy may not incorporate into the chromosomes of the patient. However, stem cells of plants, called meristems, used in therapy do not incorporate into the chromosomes of the patient. In other words, a patient given stem cells coming from sources other humans does not become a GMO.

You may read other articles like “Framework of Stem Cell-Organism,” and “Stem Cell Therapy Based on Stem Cell-Organism Framework.”

Stem cell therapy triggers the stem cells of the patient to multiply and differentiate. This differentiation grows into the adult cells of a human being that are defective or missing. If an earlobe has been torn, the stem cell therapy will regrow the earlobe.

Another example is a person whose one eye has been burned by acid and has become blind. Stem cell therapy can correct that blindness. Stem cells from the normal eye are gathered. They are grown in artificial medium. Then those stem cells are applied on the burned eye.

The applied stem cells will do two things. One, they will trigger the stem cells of the blind eye to regrow the burned cornea. Two, the applied stem cells will participate in regrowing the cornea (Pellegrini, G. and associates. Hurdles in a Successful Example of Limbal Stem Cellbased Regenerative Medicine. doi: 10.1002/stem.1517).

The result: vision is restored in the blind eye. This kind of stem cell therapy is now being done successfully.

So this raises the question: What would a human being with genes of Bt look like? How would he think or act?

Issues of safety arise about a GMO, like Btcorn. “Is it safe to eat Btcorn?”  Will the genes of Bt incorporate themselves into the chromosomes of a human being? There are now findings that those who had ingested GMOs develop diseases that attack the guts (Dr. Mercola. Internet).

So far, it has been demonstrated that stem cells of a human being participate in the regrowth of tissue. Normal plant (not GMO) stem cells do not participate, they only trigger the native human stem cells to regrow tissue.

 

Conrado Fontanilla
Conrado has an extensive background in science. He has specialized in bridging the gap between scientists and consumers. He started out in agriculture, forestry and environment. Then he branched out into medical journalism owing to his desire to control his heart disease. In the present decade interest in stem cell research has emerged, stirring ethical issues around the use of embryonic stem cells. In 2006, it was discovered that adult cells like skin can be reprogrammed back to embryonic stem cells. Now, there is no more need to utilize an embryo as the source for stem cells. Recently it was found that nutritional supplements constitute a method in stem cell therapy. Conrado has contributed to the development of stem cell-organism theory and its application in medicine, particularly regenerative medicine.