Know About Genetic Engineering
Biotechnology is the use of living organisms, cellular processes, and study of a biological system. This ability to make biological modifications is helpful for us in various ways. We can produce genetically modified crops and animals that are better than the natural ones. Biotechnology and genetic engineering can also be helpful in genetic engineering in humans. It is applicable in various fields like agriculture, genetics and medicines, too. The field of biotechnology concentrates on almost all the aspects of life like plants and animals, unicellular and multicellular lifeforms, cellular-level and organism-level modification etc. We shall study it more in detail.
What are the Benefits of Biotechnology?
Biotechnology has a lot of practical applications. We can produce crops and fruits that have better flavours, textures and less genetic vulnerability to certain types of diseases. We can bring about changes in animals to yield more meat, milk or eggs. These animals and plants can be made highly reproductive, as well. Scientists are planning to make green plants that will grow in non-habitable areas like over the surface of the ocean, which will help us reduce the carbon footprint.
Biotechnology – The Basics of Genetic Engineering
Biotechnology is the study of all the complex functions of the lifeforms and the ability to change them. The changes can be done with the intention to bring about more improvements in the being. Things like genetic manipulation with the traditional methods of hybridisation or newer methods of DNA sequencing etc. all fall under the realm of biotechnology. The changes can be made either with the help of modern technology or another organism. Biotechnology has been used for centuries in producing better crops and animals for their use in the field; hybridisation and selective breeding were the earliest known forms of biotechnology manipulation. The processes of hybridisation and selective breeding come under genetic engineering.
As stated above, the process of genetic manipulation started with hybridisation of animals. With modern technology and study of other related biological processes like genetics, we have been able to learn the more advanced means of genetic manipulation. Therefore, we can now use methods of artificial genetic manipulation and bring about changes that were not possible with the traditional methods. The artificial method is performed by changing the DNA material in organisms or RNA material in RNA viruses. Another method of artificial genetic engineering is cloning.
Recombinant DNA Technology
The recombinant DNA, i.e. rDNA molecules, are made in the laboratory with methods like genetic recombination. In this method, the genetic materials are brought from various sources like several organisms or different hosts of the same species etc. The external genetic information is introduced with the help of a vector ̶a DNA molecule that is used as a vehicle to carry foreign genetic material into the cell, artificially. The insertion of the external genetic material, the DNA of the cell is altered, and it will replicate itself with the new information. The thus developed organism contains information from all the DNA strands, and it will show all the traits of the updated genome. The process of genetic recombination or restructuring is carried out with the help of different enzymes. The main enzymes are recombinases which catalyse the step of strand transfer during the process of recombination.
Cloning is a process found even in nature; parthenogenesis, commonly known as ‘virgin birth’, is the process of giving birth to a young one without fertilisation of the female ova with male spermatozoa. However, this ability is only found in some invertebrates and lower vertebrates. Genetic manipulation can help us with making clones artificially even in animals that do not possess the ability to reproduce clones; this is called molecular cloning. The offspring thus reproduced is genetically identical to its parent whose clone it is. In the cloning process, the nucleus of an animal is removed and transferred into another host cell from which the nucleus has been removed. The cell is then fused with electricity. Once the cell starts its division process, it is transferred into the surrogate mother’s uterus. From there, it can begin its journey of developing into a clone.
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Another important application of biotechnology is chemical engineering. It has a lot of uses of these biochemicals in the pharmaceutical industry. With the help of biotechnology, it is now possible to create various medicines like antibodies, vaccines against life-threatening diseases, enzymes and hormones.
Question 1: What are the Most Useful Applications of Biotechnology?
Answer: Biotechnology is useful in many ways and has a lot of practical applications. Genetic manipulation, in particular, has a lot of applications. With the better understanding of the RNA, DNA and all other bodily functions, scientists have been able to make new species that were earlier not possible. These species in plants and animals can be useful to us in many ways; especially as food. Cloning as a method of genetic engineering can help someone, who is unable to conceive a child, with giving birth to a child; however, the process hasn’t proven helpful in humans thus far. Gene therapy is a form of genetic manipulation in which someone’s DNA can be artificially altered and a new DNA strand can be introduced in it. It can be helpful in making the person resistant to certain infections; two people have been cured of HIV with gene therapy.
Question 2: Are There Any Demerits in Genetic Manipulation?
Answer: Genetic manipulation is a subject of debate for a long time. Even some of the simplest methods of genetic engineering like hybridisation have been questioned. With such processes, we tend to create breeds that are only valuable from the commercial perspective; the natural breeds or their genetic multitude, therefore, may be lost. The loss of natural breeds may even lead to ecological imbalance. Besides, although the genetically modified species carry some of the most important traits of the organisms, they also carry some undesirable traits like genetic defects.