Biotechnology

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Introduction

Biotechnology can be defined as the field of biology that makes use of the living systems and organisms to develop technologies and products that help improve the lives of people and the health of our planet. It is technology applied to biology by harnessing cellular and biomolecular processes to make products that make the quality of life better for people and for the Earth. Biotechnology is widely used in medicine, agriculture, and food science. Medical biotechnology improves the health of humans, agricultural biotechnology focuses on the betterment of agricultural produce, and food biotechnology modifies the genes of food sources that include plants, animals, and microorganisms.

Biotechnology is a developing field of science by the use of biological processes of living organisms that have been in practice for more than 6000 years. Products like bread, cheese, alcohol are examples of that. Therapeutic protein and drug production, production of genetically engineered crops are all prominent areas of Biotechnology.


Types of Biotechnology

There are two main types of Biotechnology-

  • Medical Biotechnology

Medical Biotechnology uses living cells and cell materials to develop efficient ways of maintaining human health. It broadly focuses on finding a cure, prevention, and causes of diseases. It involves the use of these tools for understanding human cell biology, pathogens, and human response to pathogens. It also involves a DNA study to know more about genetic diseases and how to cure them. Medical biotechnology also studies the genetic make-up of cells and alters them with tools to develop beneficial products for mankind. Example- Insulin. Vaccines and antibiotics which are in use today are all made by using biotechnology.

Examples-

  1. Vaccines- Vaccines are weakened or mortal strains of pathogens introduced in the bloodstream so that the body feels attacked and fights the attenuated strains of the pathogen. Our body takes note of the chemical structure of the pathogen and keeps a memory locked in the cells within the body. On infection with the actual disease, the memory cells direct the body about how to fight the pathogen. Thus, vaccines are made using the tools of biotechnology.

  2. Antibiotics- Antibiotics are biotechnologically developed anti-microbial substances that combat bacterial infections in the body. Antibiotics not just kill the bacteria, but prevent its spread and reproduction inside the body. Thus, drugs that kill the germs in our body which cause diseases are antibiotics.    

  3. Hormones- There are various medical applications of synthetic hormones. Mostly they are used in birth control methods or for treating some symptomatic diseases. In some individuals’ hormonal organs don’t work efficiently to produce the necessary amount of hormone in the body. To meet these needs synthetic hormones are taken externally. Example- Synthetic thyroid hormone tablets.

  • Agricultural Biotechnology

This field makes the use of tools of biotechnology to develop genetically modified plants with two motives. One is to increase the yield and the second is to add an additional feature to the plant for profitable purposes. Genetic crosses can be invented by studying the genes of certain species of plants and thus, they can be altered to withstand weather or other physical conditions. Which the plant otherwise cannot withstand due to the presence of certain genes.

Examples-

  1. Developing pest-resistant crops- Important crops are very susceptible to pest attack. Pests either decrease the yield of crops or destroy the crops completely. Biotechnological techniques are used to develop pest-resistant crops. Crops can also be saved from the pests by using pesticides, but they are harmful to human health. Therefore, a genetic alteration within the plants is neither harmful for humans nor malicious to plants and saves them from the pests. Bt. cotton, Bt. Brinjal are all successful examples of such crops.

  2. Even in animal husbandry, gene modulation and manipulation are used to obtain offspring with desirable traits.


Applications of Biotechnology

The most important applications of Biotechnology are as follows-

  • Nutrient Supplementation

It is the most useful application wherein nutrients are infused into the food in situations of aid. Such food provides heavy nutrition which is necessary for such situations. Example- Golden rice- it is the infusion of beta carotene into the rice making it rich in Vitamin A, which is easy to synthesize by the body.

  • Abiotic Stress Resistance

It means developing crops that can be grown in various abiotic stress conditions like saline soil, cold, drought, etc. In regions of excessive cold, abiotic stress resistance has proved to be very useful.

  • Industrial Biotechnology

It is the application of biotechnology for industrial purposes like fermentation. It ranges from the productions of cellular structure to biological elements. The products include alcohol, wine, detergents, various beauty products, etc.

  • Strength Fibres

Spider’s web is found to have the highest tensile strength. They can withstand more tensional force. This property of the spider web makes them very useful for the production of silk. This silk can be used to produce a variety of materials like body armors and bulletproof jackets. It may also be used to replace Kevlar.

With this initiative genes from spiders are picked and infused in the goat genome. These goats produced silk proteins in their milk. Thus, the production of silk via goat milk is a lot easy to process and handle.

  • Biofuels

Our future generations are threatened by the depleting resources of oil. Biotechnology has helped make a breakthrough by introducing alternate fuel sources. Not only these are useful and can be produced on a large scale in less time but they are environment friendly too. Thus, it widely helps in energy production worldwide.

  • Health Care

It is also applied in the healthcare sector to develop pharmaceuticals that otherwise are problematic to produce by conventional means due to purity concerns.

Thus, Biotechnology is a branch of science which not only makes modern life easier but also solves many problems of the humankind and environment.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. What are the benefits of Biotechnology?

Ans. Following are the benefits of Biotechnology-

  • With pest resistance crops, we can have fewer pesticides laden food.

  • Genetically engineered crops can withstand even the harsh climatic conditions.

  • Pharmaceuticals, synthetic insulin which is cheaper, is now available because of biotechnology.

  • With nutrient supplementation, nutrient-rich food can be given to masses in times of adversity.

  • Biotechnology offers medical advancement.

  • It helps preserve natural resources and provides economical and environmentally friendly alternatives.

2. What are the Industrial applications of Biotechnology?

Ans. Industrial applications include the fermentation process for the production of various food products like cheese, bread, alcohol, wine, beer. It is also used in the production of detergents, health care products, etc.