The first commercial products to be developed by using recombinant DNA technology were pharmaceuticals used in the treatment of human diseases and disorders. In 1979, the Eli Lilly corporation began selling human insulin produced with the use of recombinant DNA technology. Before this time, all the insulin used in the treatment of diabetics was isolated from the pancreases of farm animals slaughtered for meat. Although this source of insulin worked well for many diabetics, it was not human insulin, and some people suffered allergic reactions to the foreign protein. The human insulin gene was inserted into plasmids and transferred to bacteria that then produced human insulin. Pharmaceuticals produced through recombinant DNA technology include human growth hormone (for children with growth deficiencies), clotting factors (for hemophiliacs), and tissue plasminogen activator (used to dissolve blood clots in heart-attack patients).

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