when you stick foreign (exogenous) genetic information (like DNA) into a cell. Typically used to refer to sticking DNA into bacteria – when we do the same put DNA into eukaryotic cells (cells with membrane-bound “rooms” like nuclei inside) – things like animal cells) we call it transfection so it doesn’t get confused with tumor transformation (just gets confused with why its called something different…). Often the DNA we put into bacteria is in the form of a plasmid (a circular piece of “extragenomic” DNA – the bacteria can host it separately from the bacterial DNA). These plasmids can contain instructions for making proteins we want. 🙂 A couple common ways to transform bacteria are electroporation (where you use electricity) and heat shock/chemically competent cells.
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