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6th Grade Science / Lesson 14 - Genetics Helping People Today

Genetics Helping People
What will we be learning today?

  • In this lesson, we are going to learn all about how genetics is helping people today.

How Is Genetics Helping People Today?

  • Scientists are applying the techniques of genetic engineering to many aspects of human life. Insulin is now routinely made using gene-splicing.


  • Daily doses of insulin are needed by many people who have a form of the disease called diabetes. In the past diabetics have had to rely on insulin taken from pigs. Although pig insulin is similar to human insulin, it is not exactly the same. Some diabetics cannot use it. For this reason drug companies have created genetically engineered bacteria that can produce exact copies of human insulin.

Growth Hormone

  • Human growth hormone is also being produced by gene-splicing. People make their own growth hormone. It is a substance that regulates growth. However, some people do not produce enough. Thanks to gene-splicing, this substance can be produced in amounts that can help people who do not make enough of their own


  • Supermarkets are popular destinations for genetically engineered products. Tomatoes have been genetically engineered to have a squarer shape-which makes them easier and cheaper to harvest and package. Tomatoes and other kinds of produce have been genetically engineered to stay fresh longer and to taste better. Some fresh fruits and vegetables are more nutritious because genes that make the plant retain more vitamins and minerals have been "spliced" into the plant's genes.

  • Some people question the safety of genetically engineered foods. Bovine growth hormone (BGH) causes dairy cows to give more milk. This increases dairy farmers' profits. Some consumers question BGH's safety, especially for growing children who drink lots of milk.

Genetic Counseling

  • Couples who are considering having children often want to know whether they are carriers of genes for a genetic disorder. This is especially true if there is a history of inherited disease in either family. Such couples may consult a genetic counselor. A genetic counselor provides the couple with information about the possibility of their passing on the genes for an inherited disease to their offspring. The genetic counselor is trained in both medicine and genetics. He or she studies the medical histories of both families and uses pedigrees and the results of medical tests to determine the probability of the couple having a child with a genetic disorder. The couple uses the information to decide about having children.

Future Cures

  • Scientists have recently identified the genes that cause certain inherited disorders, including cystic fibrosis. Using genetic engineering medical scientists hope to find a way to cure this disease by replacing or altering the gene that causes it. As we learn more about DNA, genes, and chromosomes, we may also be able to uncover the causes-and cures-of many other diseases, including some forms of diabetes and cancer.

Let's Review What We Learned Today!

  • Now complete your worksheet!