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Scientists have long recognized the value of developing methods to induce modifications in DNA sequences. Although the wave of recent breakthroughs concerning gene editing has propelled the field to the forefront of science, the concept itself is not new. This chapter explains how genome editing became a reality and argues that the concept of genetic manipulation is rooted in popular culture. The chapter begins by introducing readers to Gregor Mendel’s groundbreaking pea-plant experiments in the mid-1800s, which gave rise to modern genetics. The chapter then provides a concise overview of the origins of the concept of genetic manipulation, and how the discovery of two critical elements—restriction enzymes and DNA-repair mechanisms—in the second half of the twentieth century marked the genesis of modern molecular biology and biotechnology. Importantly, this chapter acquaints readers with fundamental concepts in molecular biology and genetics—including gene expression, DNA replication, RNA transcription, protein translation, DNA repair, the structure of DNA, the rise of genetic mutations, the flow of genetic information through the central dogma of molecular biology, and more—and explains important scientific terminology in a clear and accessible format with the aid of illustrations.
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