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Newsletter - May 2010

This newsletter features a new Focus story – Transgenic cows. Genetic modification is a contemporary and sometimes controversial topic. This Focus story is developed as a resource for teachers of year 13 biology students. It is also a valuable source of information for both science and technology teachers who wish to introduce discussion on the use of genetically modified animals and their products in New Zealand.

Also in this issue we reintroduce the Ethics thinking tool recently added to the Hub. Later this term, watch out for a new Focus story – Wool innovations. It showcases new textiles developed at AgResearch and featured in the 2008 New Zealand Fashion Week.

We hope you enjoy using these resources and exploring others on the Biotechnology Learning Hub.

What's new on the Hub?

Transgenic cows – Focus story
Scientists at AgResearch in New Zealand have successfully produced healthy transgenic cows that produce modified milk or human therapeutic proteins in their milk. Transgenic cows are genetically modified (GM) cows. They have an extra gene or genes inserted into their DNA.

Techniques used to make transgenic cows – Information sheet
Scientists producing transgenic cows use a range of techniques including DNA cloning, restriction enzyme digests, ligation, polymerase chain reaction (PCR), transfection and nuclear transfer, and in vitro embryo production.

Transgenic cows making modified milk – Information sheet
AgResearch’s first transgenic cows were generated to produce modified or ‘designer’ milk. The cows had extra kappa casein genes inserted in their genome resulting in increased kappa casein in their milk. This research was the first proof that transgenic technology could be used to modify milk composition in cows.

Making a transgenic animal – Interactive
This interactive uses diagrams and video clips to illustrate the techniques used by AgResearch scientists to make transgenic animals.

Teaching activities

Ethics thinking tool – supports teaching about ethics
Most advances in biotechnology raise ethical issues that need to be carefully considered because they can affect human health, society and our environment. Raising student awareness of these issues is an important part of developing scientific and technological literacy.

The Ethics thinking tool can help you explore such issues with your students. The tool uses generic questions to help students think about an issue using different ethical frameworks.

View the DEMO version to find out how to use the Ethics thinking tool. REGISTER for the tool and LOGIN and create your own ethical issues relating to a topic or context you are teaching or use the default issues provided.

Explore other resources on the Hub that support teaching ethics:

Biotech news articles

Keep up to date with the latest biotechnology news, events and radio broadcasts. We add more items regularly, so keep an eye out for these. You could use these articles as a lead-in to an activity using the Ethics thinking tool or use them as lesson starters or extension activities.

Development of ‘smart foods’ – News item
New Zealand food companies could one day develop scientifically founded ‘smart foods’ that enhance intestinal health, following research into how intestinal cells and bacteria interact to maintain intestinal function and how this is influenced by what we eat.

Plant research aims to reduce methane emissions – News item
Scientists are screening a wide range of plants to see if certain species or traits can reduce agricultural methane emissions.

Pig carcasses provide forensic clues – News item
Decomposing pig carcasses could hold the key to determining time since death in forensic cases, Victoria University PhD graduate Rachel Parkinson believes.

Zebrafish and genetic research – Radio New Zealand audio
Zebrafish are small tropical fish being used to help genetic research into human cancers and developmental diseases.

More news and events

We welcome your ideas

We’re keen to hear from teachers using our resources. Email us at enquiries@biotechlearn.org.nz if you have any questions, comments or feedback about the Hub, or complete our online feedback form.

Best wishes,
The Biotechnology Learning Hub team


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