Lesson Plan Industry Sector
Health Science and Medical Technology

Lesson Plan Originally Created By: Kristofer Orre

Recombinant DNA Paper Lab

Part of Unit: Biotechnology Components and Fields

Lesson Plan Overview / Details

This lesson introduces the process of using recombinant DNA by using paper models to represent how a human gene such as the gene for insulin can be inserted into a bacterial plasmid.  This lesson is a great introduction to recombinant DNA technology, especially before doing a real transformation.

Recombinant DNA Lab

Two periods
115 Minutes

Objectives and Goals

  • Understand the techniques used in recombinant DNA technology
  • Understand how bacteria are used to produce insulin for diabetics

Activities in this Lesson

  • Intro to Diabetes Hooks / Set

    Ask students if they know someone who is affected by diabetes. Chances are it will be a large percentage of the class.  Ask students if they know what causes diabetes and how it is treated.
    Most will have heard of insulin and know that some diabetics have to inject insulin to help control their sugar, but where does that insulin come from?

    Show a video clip from the series DNA: Playing God which gives an overview of how insulin was originally harvested from cows and how scientists were able to genetically engineer bacteria to grow insulin in large quantities.  The video explains how the gene from insulin was identified, cut, and placed inside of a bacteria plasmid.  This is was the first time DNA was successfuly transferred from one organism and inserted into another.  In this lab students will model the process using paper.

    Resources and Materials

  • After reading the background information in the "Recombinant DNA" lab, students begin following the procedure outlined. To set up this lab, photocopy pages 5-7 on colored paper.  Page 5 should be photocopied on blue paper, page 6 on pink, and page 7 on yellow.  Students can work in pairs or groups of 3 or 4 and each working group will need one of each of these colored pages.  All of the instructions are tailored to these colors.  Students will cut and tape the pink strips together, and cut and tape the blue strips together.

    Things to emphasize with students:

    The blue strips can be in any order, but it needs to be a circle. This is the bacterial plasmid.

    The pink strips need to be in order (match the numbers) and should be one long strip. This is the human DNA. They will need to cut the shaded region (gene) out.

    The yellow squares are the restriction enzymes.  They will need to match the bases of the restriction enzymes with the same base sequences on the blue and pink strips.  Whenever they find a matching sequence they need to draw the cut points on the strips and label them.

    The goal is to cut the plasmid in only ONE place and to cut the DNA sequence in two places (once on either side of the gene).  More than one enzyme may work, but they want the one that will cut as close as possible to the gene.

    Sometimes students lose context of what exactly they are doing.  Good checks for understanding can be done by walking up to them and asking what each color represents and why they are doing each step.  Usually this helps them self discover the context.

    Resources and Materials

    • Recombinant_DNA_Lab.doc [ Download ]
    • Recombinant DNA Lab handouts page 5-7.pdf [ Download ] pages 5-7 lab handouts


Assessment Types:
Writing Samples, Demonstrations,

Students will have successfully completed the assignment if they have a taped circle of blue and pink strips.  The blue plasmid was cut in only one place, the human gene was not cut in the shaded area, and the "sticky ends" match up correctly (ie only one restriction enzyme was used).

Once students have the finished product, students write a conclusion using the REE, PE, PA format.   Although any conclusion format can be used, this method structures students by having them first organize their Results with Evidence and Explanation, Possible Errors, and Practical Applications.  (See attached handout).  Students also answer the "Thinking Like a Biotechnician" questions at the end of the lab.

  • Conclusion Writing Format Conclusion Writing Format [ Download ] This is the handout I give to my students at the beginning of the year. I have students write all conclusion in this format, so by the time they get to this lab they are pretty adjusted to it. If using this for the first time, it may take a little longer to set up the expectations for using this format.