Biotechnology

Biotechnology

Overview

Biotechnology is a field of applied biology
Biology
Biology is a natural science concerned with the study of life and living organisms, including their structure, function, growth, origin, evolution, distribution, and taxonomy. Biology is a vast subject containing many subdivisions, topics, and disciplines...

 that involves the use of living organisms and bioprocesses in engineering
Engineering
Engineering is the discipline, art, skill and profession of acquiring and applying scientific, mathematical, economic, social, and practical knowledge, in order to design and build structures, machines, devices, systems, materials and processes that safely realize improvements to the lives of...

, technology
Technology
Technology is the making, usage, and knowledge of tools, machines, techniques, crafts, systems or methods of organization in order to solve a problem or perform a specific function. It can also refer to the collection of such tools, machinery, and procedures. The word technology comes ;...

, medicine
Medicine
Medicine is the science and art of healing. It encompasses a variety of health care practices evolved to maintain and restore health by the prevention and treatment of illness....

 and other fields requiring bioproducts. Biotechnology also utilizes these products for manufacturing purpose. Modern use of similar terms includes genetic engineering
Genetic engineering
Genetic engineering, also called genetic modification, is the direct human manipulation of an organism's genome using modern DNA technology. It involves the introduction of foreign DNA or synthetic genes into the organism of interest...

 as well as cell-
Cell culture
Cell culture is the complex process by which cells are grown under controlled conditions. In practice, the term "cell culture" has come to refer to the culturing of cells derived from singlecellular eukaryotes, especially animal cells. However, there are also cultures of plants, fungi and microbes,...

 and tissue culture
Tissue culture
Tissue culture is the growth of tissues or cells separate from the organism. This is typically facilitated via use of a liquid, semi-solid, or solid growth medium, such as broth or agar...

 technologies. The concept encompasses a wide range of procedures (and history
History
History is the discovery, collection, organization, and presentation of information about past events. History can also mean the period of time after writing was invented. Scholars who write about history are called historians...

) for modifying living organisms according to human purposes — going back to domestication of animals, cultivation of plants, and "improvements" to these through breeding programs that employ artificial selection
Artificial selection
Artificial selection describes intentional breeding for certain traits, or combination of traits. The term was utilized by Charles Darwin in contrast to natural selection, in which the differential reproduction of organisms with certain traits is attributed to improved survival or reproductive...

 and hybridization.
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Encyclopedia

Biotechnology is a field of applied biology
Biology
Biology is a natural science concerned with the study of life and living organisms, including their structure, function, growth, origin, evolution, distribution, and taxonomy. Biology is a vast subject containing many subdivisions, topics, and disciplines...

 that involves the use of living organisms and bioprocesses in engineering
Engineering
Engineering is the discipline, art, skill and profession of acquiring and applying scientific, mathematical, economic, social, and practical knowledge, in order to design and build structures, machines, devices, systems, materials and processes that safely realize improvements to the lives of...

, technology
Technology
Technology is the making, usage, and knowledge of tools, machines, techniques, crafts, systems or methods of organization in order to solve a problem or perform a specific function. It can also refer to the collection of such tools, machinery, and procedures. The word technology comes ;...

, medicine
Medicine
Medicine is the science and art of healing. It encompasses a variety of health care practices evolved to maintain and restore health by the prevention and treatment of illness....

 and other fields requiring bioproducts. Biotechnology also utilizes these products for manufacturing purpose. Modern use of similar terms includes genetic engineering
Genetic engineering
Genetic engineering, also called genetic modification, is the direct human manipulation of an organism's genome using modern DNA technology. It involves the introduction of foreign DNA or synthetic genes into the organism of interest...

 as well as cell-
Cell culture
Cell culture is the complex process by which cells are grown under controlled conditions. In practice, the term "cell culture" has come to refer to the culturing of cells derived from singlecellular eukaryotes, especially animal cells. However, there are also cultures of plants, fungi and microbes,...

 and tissue culture
Tissue culture
Tissue culture is the growth of tissues or cells separate from the organism. This is typically facilitated via use of a liquid, semi-solid, or solid growth medium, such as broth or agar...

 technologies. The concept encompasses a wide range of procedures (and history
History
History is the discovery, collection, organization, and presentation of information about past events. History can also mean the period of time after writing was invented. Scholars who write about history are called historians...

) for modifying living organisms according to human purposes — going back to domestication of animals, cultivation of plants, and "improvements" to these through breeding programs that employ artificial selection
Artificial selection
Artificial selection describes intentional breeding for certain traits, or combination of traits. The term was utilized by Charles Darwin in contrast to natural selection, in which the differential reproduction of organisms with certain traits is attributed to improved survival or reproductive...

 and hybridization. By comparison to biotechnology, bioengineering is generally thought of as a related field with its emphasis more on higher systems approaches (not necessarily altering or using biological materials directly) for interfacing with and utilizing living things. The United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

 Convention on Biological Diversity
Convention on Biological Diversity
The Convention on Biological Diversity , known informally as the Biodiversity Convention, is an international legally binding treaty...

 defines biotechnology as:
In other terms: "Application of scientific and technical advances in life science to develop commercial products" is biotechnology.

Biotechnology draws on the pure biological sciences (genetics
Genetics
Genetics , a discipline of biology, is the science of genes, heredity, and variation in living organisms....

, microbiology
Microbiology
Microbiology is the study of microorganisms, which are defined as any microscopic organism that comprises either a single cell , cell clusters or no cell at all . This includes eukaryotes, such as fungi and protists, and prokaryotes...

, animal cell culture, molecular biology
Molecular biology
Molecular biology is the branch of biology that deals with the molecular basis of biological activity. This field overlaps with other areas of biology and chemistry, particularly genetics and biochemistry...

, biochemistry
Biochemistry
Biochemistry, sometimes called biological chemistry, is the study of chemical processes in living organisms, including, but not limited to, living matter. Biochemistry governs all living organisms and living processes...

, embryology
Embryology
Embryology is a science which is about the development of an embryo from the fertilization of the ovum to the fetus stage...

, cell biology
Cell biology
Cell biology is a scientific discipline that studies cells – their physiological properties, their structure, the organelles they contain, interactions with their environment, their life cycle, division and death. This is done both on a microscopic and molecular level...

) and in many instances is also dependent on knowledge and methods from outside the sphere of biology (chemical engineering
Chemical engineering
Chemical engineering is the branch of engineering that deals with physical science , and life sciences with mathematics and economics, to the process of converting raw materials or chemicals into more useful or valuable forms...

, bioprocess engineering
Bioprocess engineering
Bioprocess Engineering is a specialization of Biotechnology, Chemical Engineering or of Agricultural Engineering. It deals with the design and development of equipment and processes for the manufacturing of products such as food, feed, pharmaceuticals, nutraceuticals, chemicals, and polymers and...

, information technology
Information technology
Information technology is the acquisition, processing, storage and dissemination of vocal, pictorial, textual and numerical information by a microelectronics-based combination of computing and telecommunications...

, biorobotics
Biorobotics
Biorobotics is a term that loosely covers the fields of cybernetics, bionics and even genetic engineering as a collective study.Biorobotics is often used to refer to a real subfield of robotics: studying how to make robots that emulate or simulate living biological organisms mechanically or even...

). Conversely, modern biological sciences (including even concepts such as molecular ecology
Molecular ecology
Molecular ecology is a field of evolutionary biology that is concerned with applying molecular population genetics, molecular phylogenetics, and more recently genomics to traditional ecological questions...

) are intimately entwined and dependent on the methods developed through biotechnology and what is commonly thought of as the life sciences
Life sciences
The life sciences comprise the fields of science that involve the scientific study of living organisms, like plants, animals, and human beings. While biology remains the centerpiece of the life sciences, technological advances in molecular biology and biotechnology have led to a burgeoning of...

 industry.

History




Biotechnology is not limited to medical/health applications (unlike Biomedical Engineering, which includes much biotechnology). Although not normally thought of as biotechnology, agriculture
Agriculture
Agriculture is the cultivation of animals, plants, fungi and other life forms for food, fiber, and other products used to sustain life. Agriculture was the key implement in the rise of sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of domesticated species created food surpluses that nurtured the...

 clearly fits the broad definition of "using a biotechnological system to make products" such that the cultivation of plants may be viewed as the earliest biotechnological enterprise. Agriculture has been theorized to have become the dominant way of producing food since the Neolithic Revolution
Neolithic Revolution
The Neolithic Revolution was the first agricultural revolution. It was the transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture and settlement. Archaeological data indicates that various forms of plants and animal domestication evolved independently in 6 separate locations worldwide circa...

. The processes and methods of agriculture have been refined by other mechanical and biological sciences since its inception. Through early biotechnology, farmers were able to select the best suited crops, having the highest yields, to produce enough food to support a growing population. Other uses of biotechnology were required as the crops and fields became increasingly large and difficult to maintain. Specific organisms and organism by-products were used to fertilize, restore nitrogen
Nitrogen fixation
Nitrogen fixation is the natural process, either biological or abiotic, by which nitrogen in the atmosphere is converted into ammonia . This process is essential for life because fixed nitrogen is required to biosynthesize the basic building blocks of life, e.g., nucleotides for DNA and RNA and...

, and control pests
Pesticide
Pesticides are substances or mixture of substances intended for preventing, destroying, repelling or mitigating any pest.A pesticide may be a chemical unicycle, biological agent , antimicrobial, disinfectant or device used against any pest...

. Throughout the use of agriculture, farmers have inadvertently altered the genetics of their crops through introducing them to new environments and breeding
Plant breeding
Plant breeding is the art and science of changing the genetics of plants in order to produce desired characteristics. Plant breeding can be accomplished through many different techniques ranging from simply selecting plants with desirable characteristics for propagation, to more complex molecular...

 them with other plants—one of the first forms of biotechnology. Cultures such as those in Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia is a toponym for the area of the Tigris–Euphrates river system, largely corresponding to modern-day Iraq, northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey and southwestern Iran.Widely considered to be the cradle of civilization, Bronze Age Mesopotamia included Sumer and the...

, Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

, and India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 developed the process of brewing
Brewing
Brewing is the production of beer through steeping a starch source in water and then fermenting with yeast. Brewing has taken place since around the 6th millennium BCE, and archeological evidence suggests that this technique was used in ancient Egypt...

 beer
Beer
Beer is the world's most widely consumed andprobably oldest alcoholic beverage; it is the third most popular drink overall, after water and tea. It is produced by the brewing and fermentation of sugars, mainly derived from malted cereal grains, most commonly malted barley and malted wheat...

. It is still done by the same basic method of using malted grains (containing enzymes) to convert starch from grains into sugar and then adding specific yeasts to produce beer. In this process the carbohydrates in the grains were broken down into alcohols such as ethanol. Later other cultures produced the process of lactic acid fermentation
Lactic acid fermentation
Lactic acid fermentation is a biological process by which sugars such as glucose, fructose, and sucrose, are converted into cellular energy and the metabolic byproduct lactate. It is an anaerobic fermentation reaction that occurs in some bacteria and animal cells, such as muscle cells, in the...

 which allowed the fermentation and preservation of other forms of food. Fermentation was also used in this time period to produce leavened bread. Although the process of fermentation was not fully understood until Pasteur's work in 1857, it is still the first use of biotechnology to convert a food source into another form.

For thousands of years, humans have used selective breeding to improve production of crops and livestock to use them for food. In selective breeding, organisms with desirable characteristics are mated to produce offspring with the same characteristics. For example, this technique was used with corn to produce the largest and sweetest crops.

In the early twentieth century scientists gained a greater understanding of microbiology
Microbiology
Microbiology is the study of microorganisms, which are defined as any microscopic organism that comprises either a single cell , cell clusters or no cell at all . This includes eukaryotes, such as fungi and protists, and prokaryotes...

 and explored ways of manufacturing specific products. In 1917, Chaim Weizmann
Chaim Weizmann
Chaim Azriel Weizmann, , was a Zionist leader, President of the Zionist Organization, and the first President of the State of Israel. He was elected on 1 February 1949, and served until his death in 1952....

 first used a pure microbiological culture in an industrial process, that of manufacturing corn starch using Clostridium acetobutylicum
Clostridium acetobutylicum
Clostridium acetobutylicum, ATCC 824, is included in the genus Clostridium, is a commercially valuable bacterium sometimes called the "Weizmann Organism", after Jewish-Russian born Chaim Weizmann, then senior lecturer at the University of Manchester, England, used them in 1916 as a bio-chemical...

,
to produce acetone
Acetone
Acetone is the organic compound with the formula 2CO, a colorless, mobile, flammable liquid, the simplest example of the ketones.Acetone is miscible with water and serves as an important solvent in its own right, typically as the solvent of choice for cleaning purposes in the laboratory...

, which the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 desperately needed to manufacture explosives during World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

.

Biotechnology has also led to the development of antibiotics. In 1928, Alexander Fleming
Alexander Fleming
Sir Alexander Fleming was a Scottish biologist and pharmacologist. He wrote many articles on bacteriology, immunology, and chemotherapy...

 discovered the mold Penicillium
Penicillium
Penicillium is a genus of ascomycetous fungi of major importance in the natural environment as well as food and drug production. Members of the genus produce penicillin, a molecule that is used as an antibiotic, which kills or stops the growth of certain kinds of bacteria inside the body...

. His work led to the purification of the antibiotic by Howard Florey, Ernst Boris Chain and Norman Heatley penicillin
Penicillin
Penicillin is a group of antibiotics derived from Penicillium fungi. They include penicillin G, procaine penicillin, benzathine penicillin, and penicillin V....

. In 1940, penicillin became available for medicinal use to treat bacterial infections in humans.

The field of modern biotechnology is thought to have largely begun on June 16, 1980, when the United States Supreme Court ruled that a genetically modified
Genetic engineering
Genetic engineering, also called genetic modification, is the direct human manipulation of an organism's genome using modern DNA technology. It involves the introduction of foreign DNA or synthetic genes into the organism of interest...

 microorganism
Microorganism
A microorganism or microbe is a microscopic organism that comprises either a single cell , cell clusters, or no cell at all...

 could be patent
Patent
A patent is a form of intellectual property. It consists of a set of exclusive rights granted by a sovereign state to an inventor or their assignee for a limited period of time in exchange for the public disclosure of an invention....

ed in the case of Diamond v. Chakrabarty
Diamond v. Chakrabarty
Diamond v. Chakrabarty, , was a United States Supreme Court case dealing with whether genetically modified organisms can be patented.-Background:...

. Indian-born Ananda Chakrabarty, working for General Electric
General Electric
General Electric Company , or GE, is an American multinational conglomerate corporation incorporated in Schenectady, New York and headquartered in Fairfield, Connecticut, United States...

, had developed a bacterium (derived from the Pseudomonas
Pseudomonas
Pseudomonas is a genus of gammaproteobacteria, belonging to the family Pseudomonadaceae containing 191 validly described species.Recently, 16S rRNA sequence analysis has redefined the taxonomy of many bacterial species. As a result, the genus Pseudomonas includes strains formerly classified in the...

genus) capable of breaking down crude oil, which he proposed to use in treating oil spills.

Revenue in the industry is expected to grow by 12.9% in 2008. Another factor influencing the biotechnology sector's success is improved intellectual property rights legislation—and enforcement—worldwide, as well as strengthened demand for medical and pharmaceutical products to cope with an ageing, and ailing, U.S. population.

Rising demand for biofuels is expected to be good news for the biotechnology sector, with the Department of Energy
United States Department of Energy
The United States Department of Energy is a Cabinet-level department of the United States government concerned with the United States' policies regarding energy and safety in handling nuclear material...

 estimating ethanol
Ethanol
Ethanol, also called ethyl alcohol, pure alcohol, grain alcohol, or drinking alcohol, is a volatile, flammable, colorless liquid. It is a psychoactive drug and one of the oldest recreational drugs. Best known as the type of alcohol found in alcoholic beverages, it is also used in thermometers, as a...

 usage could reduce U.S. petroleum-derived fuel consumption by up to 30% by 2030. The biotechnology sector has allowed the U.S. farming industry to rapidly increase its supply of corn and soybeans—the main inputs into biofuels—by developing genetically modified seeds which are resistant to pests and drought. By boosting farm productivity, biotechnology plays a crucial role in ensuring that biofuel production targets are met.

Applications


Biotechnology has applications in four major industrial areas, including health care (medical), crop production and agriculture, non food (industrial) uses of crops and other products (e.g. biodegradable plastic
Biodegradable plastic
Biodegradable plastics are plastics that will decompose in natural aerobic and anaerobic environments. Biodegradation of plastics can be achieved by enabling microorganisms in the environment to metabolize the molecular structure of plastic films to produce an inert humus-like material that is...

s, vegetable oil, biofuel
Biofuel
Biofuel is a type of fuel whose energy is derived from biological carbon fixation. Biofuels include fuels derived from biomass conversion, as well as solid biomass, liquid fuels and various biogases...

s), and environmental uses.

For example, one application of biotechnology is the directed use of organism
Organism
In biology, an organism is any contiguous living system . In at least some form, all organisms are capable of response to stimuli, reproduction, growth and development, and maintenance of homoeostasis as a stable whole.An organism may either be unicellular or, as in the case of humans, comprise...

s for the manufacture of organic products (examples include beer
Beer
Beer is the world's most widely consumed andprobably oldest alcoholic beverage; it is the third most popular drink overall, after water and tea. It is produced by the brewing and fermentation of sugars, mainly derived from malted cereal grains, most commonly malted barley and malted wheat...

 and milk
Milk
Milk is a white liquid produced by the mammary glands of mammals. It is the primary source of nutrition for young mammals before they are able to digest other types of food. Early-lactation milk contains colostrum, which carries the mother's antibodies to the baby and can reduce the risk of many...

 products). Another example is using naturally present bacteria
Bacteria
Bacteria are a large domain of prokaryotic microorganisms. Typically a few micrometres in length, bacteria have a wide range of shapes, ranging from spheres to rods and spirals...

 by the mining industry in bioleaching
Bioleaching
Bioleaching is the extraction of specific metals from their ores through the use of living organisms. This is much cleaner than the traditional heap leaching using cyanide...

. Biotechnology is also used to recycle, treat waste, clean up sites contaminated by industrial activities (bioremediation
Bioremediation
Bioremediation is the use of microorganism metabolism to remove pollutants. Technologies can be generally classified as in situ or ex situ. In situ bioremediation involves treating the contaminated material at the site, while ex situ involves the removal of the contaminated material to be treated...

), and also to produce biological weapons
Biological warfare
Biological warfare is the use of biological toxins or infectious agents such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi with intent to kill or incapacitate humans, animals or plants as an act of war...

.

A series of derived terms have been coined to identify several branches of biotechnology; for example:
  • Bioinformatics
    Bioinformatics
    Bioinformatics is the application of computer science and information technology to the field of biology and medicine. Bioinformatics deals with algorithms, databases and information systems, web technologies, artificial intelligence and soft computing, information and computation theory, software...

    is an interdisciplinary field which addresses biological problems using computational techniques, and makes the rapid organization and analysis of biological data possible. The field may also be referred to as computational biology, and can be defined as, "conceptualizing biology in terms of molecules and then applying informatics techniques to understand and organize the information associated with these molecules, on a large scale." Bioinformatics plays a key role in various areas, such as functional genomics
    Functional genomics
    Functional genomics is a field of molecular biology that attempts to make use of the vast wealth of data produced by genomic projects to describe gene functions and interactions...

    , structural genomics
    Structural genomics
    Structural genomics seeks to describe the 3-dimensional structure of every protein encoded by a given genome. This genome-based approach allows for a high-throughput method of structure determination by a combination of experimental and modeling approaches...

    , and proteomics
    Proteomics
    Proteomics is the large-scale study of proteins, particularly their structures and functions. Proteins are vital parts of living organisms, as they are the main components of the physiological metabolic pathways of cells. The term "proteomics" was first coined in 1997 to make an analogy with...

    , and forms a key component in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical sector.
  • Blue biotechnology is a term that has been used to describe the marine and aquatic applications of biotechnology, but its use is relatively rare.
  • Green biotechnology is biotechnology applied to agricultural processes. An example would be the selection and domestication of plants via micropropagation
    Micropropagation
    Micropropagation is the practice of rapidly multiplying stock plant material to produce a large number of progeny plants, using modern plant tissue culture methods....

    . Another example is the designing of transgenic plants to grow under specific environments in the presence (or absence) of chemicals. One hope is that green biotechnology might produce more environmentally friendly solutions than traditional industrial agriculture
    Industrial agriculture
    Industrial farming is a form of modern farming that refers to the industrialized production of livestock, poultry, fish, and crops. The methods of industrial agriculture are technoscientific, economic, and political...

    . An example of this is the engineering of a plant to express a pesticide
    Pesticide
    Pesticides are substances or mixture of substances intended for preventing, destroying, repelling or mitigating any pest.A pesticide may be a chemical unicycle, biological agent , antimicrobial, disinfectant or device used against any pest...

    , thereby ending the need of external application of pesticides. An example of this would be Bt corn
    Transgenic maize
    Genetically modified maize has been deliberately genetically modified to have agronomically desirable traits. Traits that have been engineered into corn include resistance to herbicides and resistance to insect pests, the latter being achieved by incorporation of a gene that codes for the...

    . Whether or not green biotechnology products such as this are ultimately more environmentally friendly is a topic of considerable debate.
  • Red biotechnology
    Biopharmaceutical
    Biopharmaceuticals are medical drugs produced using biotechnology. They include proteins , nucleic acids and living microorganisms like virus and bacteria where the virulence of viruses and bacteria is reduced by the process of attenuation, they can be used for therapeutic or in vivo diagnostic...

    is applied to medical processes. Some examples are the designing of organisms to produce antibiotic
    Antibiotic
    An antibacterial is a compound or substance that kills or slows down the growth of bacteria.The term is often used synonymously with the term antibiotic; today, however, with increased knowledge of the causative agents of various infectious diseases, antibiotic has come to denote a broader range of...

    s, and the engineering of genetic cures through genetic manipulation.
  • White biotechnology, also known as industrial biotechnology, is biotechnology applied to industrial
    Industry
    Industry refers to the production of an economic good or service within an economy.-Industrial sectors:There are four key industrial economic sectors: the primary sector, largely raw material extraction industries such as mining and farming; the secondary sector, involving refining, construction,...

     processes. An example is the designing of an organism to produce a useful chemical. Another example is the using of enzymes as industrial catalysts to either produce valuable chemicals or destroy hazardous/polluting chemicals. White biotechnology tends to consume less in resources than traditional processes used to produce industrial goods. The investment and economic output of all of these types of applied biotechnologies is termed as bioeconomy
    Bioeconomy
    Bioeconomy refers to all economic activity derived from scientific and research activity focused on understanding mechanisms and processes at the genetic and molecular levels and its application to industrial process. It is often used interchangeably with biotechonomy.The term is widely used by...

    .

Medicine


In medicine, modern biotechnology finds promising applications in such areas as
  • drug
    Drug
    A drug, broadly speaking, is any substance that, when absorbed into the body of a living organism, alters normal bodily function. There is no single, precise definition, as there are different meanings in drug control law, government regulations, medicine, and colloquial usage.In pharmacology, a...

     production
  • pharmacogenomics
    Pharmacogenomics
    Pharmacogenomics is the branch of pharmacology which deals with the influence of genetic variation on drug response in patients by correlating gene expression or single-nucleotide polymorphisms with a drug's efficacy or toxicity...

  • gene therapy
    Gene therapy
    Gene therapy is the insertion, alteration, or removal of genes within an individual's cells and biological tissues to treat disease. It is a technique for correcting defective genes that are responsible for disease development...

  • genetic testing (or genetic screening): techniques in molecular biology detect genetic diseases. To test the developing fetus for Down syndrome
    Down syndrome
    Down syndrome, or Down's syndrome, trisomy 21, is a chromosomal condition caused by the presence of all or part of an extra 21st chromosome. It is named after John Langdon Down, the British physician who described the syndrome in 1866. The condition was clinically described earlier in the 19th...

    , Amniocentesis
    Amniocentesis
    Amniocentesis is a medical procedure used in prenatal diagnosis of chromosomal abnormalities and fetal infections, in which a small amount of amniotic fluid, which contains fetal tissues, is sampled from the amnion or amniotic sac surrounding a developing fetus, and the fetal DNA is examined for...

     and chorionic villus sampling
    Chorionic villus sampling
    Chorionic villus sampling , sometimes misspelled "chorionic villous sampling", is a form of prenatal diagnosis to determine chromosomal or genetic disorders in the fetus. It entails sampling of the chorionic villus and testing it...

     can be used.

Pharmacogenomics




Pharmacogenomics is the study of how the genetic inheritance of an individual affects his/her body's response to drugs. It is a portmanteau derived from the words "pharmacology" and "genomics". It is hence the study of the relationship between pharmaceuticals and genetics. The vision of pharmacogenomics is to be able to design and produce drugs that are adapted to each person's genetic makeup.

Pharmacogenomics results in the following benefits:
  1. Development of tailor-made medicines. Using pharmacogenomics, pharmaceutical companies can create drugs based on the protein
    Protein
    Proteins are biochemical compounds consisting of one or more polypeptides typically folded into a globular or fibrous form, facilitating a biological function. A polypeptide is a single linear polymer chain of amino acids bonded together by peptide bonds between the carboxyl and amino groups of...

    s, enzymes and RNA
    RNA
    Ribonucleic acid , or RNA, is one of the three major macromolecules that are essential for all known forms of life....

     molecules that are associated with specific genes and diseases. These tailor-made drugs promise not only to maximize therapeutic effects but also to decrease damage to nearby healthy cells.
  2. More accurate methods of determining appropriate drug dosages. Knowing a patient's genetics will enable doctors to determine how well his/ her body can process and metabolize a medicine. This will maximize the value of the medicine and decrease the likelihood of overdose.
  3. Improvements in the drug discovery and approval process. The discovery of potential therapies will be made easier using genome targets. Genes have been associated with numerous diseases and disorders. With modern biotechnology, these genes can be used as targets for the development of effective new therapies, which could significantly shorten the drug discovery process.
  4. Better vaccines. Safer vaccines can be designed and produced by organisms transformed by means of genetic engineering. These vaccines will elicit the immune response without the attendant risks of infection. They will be inexpensive, stable, easy to store, and capable of being engineered to carry several strains of pathogen at once.

Pharmaceutical products


Most traditional pharmaceutical drugs are relatively simple molecules that have been found primarily through trial and error to treat the symptoms of a disease or illness. Biopharmaceutical
Biopharmaceutical
Biopharmaceuticals are medical drugs produced using biotechnology. They include proteins , nucleic acids and living microorganisms like virus and bacteria where the virulence of viruses and bacteria is reduced by the process of attenuation, they can be used for therapeutic or in vivo diagnostic...

s are large biological molecules such as proteins and these usually target the underlying mechanisms and pathways of a malady (but not always, as is the case with using insulin
Insulin
Insulin is a hormone central to regulating carbohydrate and fat metabolism in the body. Insulin causes cells in the liver, muscle, and fat tissue to take up glucose from the blood, storing it as glycogen in the liver and muscle....

 to treat type 1 diabetes mellitus, as that treatment merely addresses the symptoms of the disease, not the underlying cause which is autoimmunity
Autoimmunity
Autoimmunity is the failure of an organism to recognize its own constituent parts as self, which allows an immune response against its own cells and tissues. Any disease that results from such an aberrant immune response is termed an autoimmune disease...

); it is a relatively young industry. They can deal with targets in humans that may not be accessible with traditional medicines. A patient typically is dosed with a small molecule via a tablet while a large molecule is typically injected.

Small molecules are manufactured by chemistry but larger molecules are created by living cells such as those found in the human body: for example, bacteria cells, yeast cells, animal or plant cells.

Modern biotechnology is often associated with the use of genetically altered microorganism
Microorganism
A microorganism or microbe is a microscopic organism that comprises either a single cell , cell clusters, or no cell at all...

s such as E. coli or yeast
Yeast
Yeasts are eukaryotic micro-organisms classified in the kingdom Fungi, with 1,500 species currently described estimated to be only 1% of all fungal species. Most reproduce asexually by mitosis, and many do so by an asymmetric division process called budding...

 for the production of substances like synthetic insulin
Insulin
Insulin is a hormone central to regulating carbohydrate and fat metabolism in the body. Insulin causes cells in the liver, muscle, and fat tissue to take up glucose from the blood, storing it as glycogen in the liver and muscle....

 or antibiotics. It can also refer to transgenic animals
Genetically modified organism
A genetically modified organism or genetically engineered organism is an organism whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques. These techniques, generally known as recombinant DNA technology, use DNA molecules from different sources, which are combined into one...

 or transgenic plants, such as Bt corn. Genetically altered mammalian cells, such as Chinese Hamster Ovary cells (CHO)
Chinese Hamster Ovary cell
Chinese hamster ovary cells are a cell line derived from the ovary of the Chinese hamster. They are often used in biological and medical research and commercially in the production of therapeutic proteins. They were introduced in the 1960s and grow as a cultured monolayer...

, are also used to manufacture certain pharmaceuticals. Another promising new biotechnology application is the development of plant-made pharmaceuticals.

Biotechnology is also commonly associated with landmark breakthroughs in new medical therapies to treat hepatitis B, hepatitis C
Hepatitis C
Hepatitis C is an infectious disease primarily affecting the liver, caused by the hepatitis C virus . The infection is often asymptomatic, but chronic infection can lead to scarring of the liver and ultimately to cirrhosis, which is generally apparent after many years...

, cancers, arthritis
Arthritis
Arthritis is a form of joint disorder that involves inflammation of one or more joints....

, haemophilia
Haemophilia
Haemophilia is a group of hereditary genetic disorders that impair the body's ability to control blood clotting or coagulation, which is used to stop bleeding when a blood vessel is broken. Haemophilia A is the most common form of the disorder, present in about 1 in 5,000–10,000 male births...

, bone fractures, multiple sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis is an inflammatory disease in which the fatty myelin sheaths around the axons of the brain and spinal cord are damaged, leading to demyelination and scarring as well as a broad spectrum of signs and symptoms...

, and cardiovascular disorders. The biotechnology industry has also been instrumental in developing molecular diagnostic devices that can be used to define the target patient population for a given biopharmaceutical. Herceptin, for example, was the first drug approved for use with a matching diagnostic test and is used to treat breast cancer in women whose cancer cells express the protein HER2.

Modern biotechnology can be used to manufacture existing medicines relatively easily and cheaply. The first genetically engineered products were medicines designed to treat human diseases. To cite one example, in 1978 Genentech
Genentech
Genentech Inc., or Genetic Engineering Technology, Inc., is a biotechnology corporation, founded in 1976 by venture capitalist Robert A. Swanson and biochemist Dr. Herbert Boyer. Trailing the founding of Cetus by five years, it was an important step in the evolution of the biotechnology industry...

 developed synthetic humanized insulin
Insulin
Insulin is a hormone central to regulating carbohydrate and fat metabolism in the body. Insulin causes cells in the liver, muscle, and fat tissue to take up glucose from the blood, storing it as glycogen in the liver and muscle....

 by joining its gene with a plasmid
Plasmid
In microbiology and genetics, a plasmid is a DNA molecule that is separate from, and can replicate independently of, the chromosomal DNA. They are double-stranded and, in many cases, circular...

 vector inserted into the bacterium Escherichia coli
Escherichia coli
Escherichia coli is a Gram-negative, rod-shaped bacterium that is commonly found in the lower intestine of warm-blooded organisms . Most E. coli strains are harmless, but some serotypes can cause serious food poisoning in humans, and are occasionally responsible for product recalls...

. Insulin, widely used for the treatment of diabetes, was previously extracted from the pancreas of abattoir animals (cattle and/or pigs). The resulting genetically engineered bacterium enabled the production of vast quantities of synthetic human insulin at relatively low cost. According to a 2003 study undertaken by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) on the access to and availability of insulin in its member countries, synthetic 'human' insulin is considerably more expensive in most countries where both synthetic 'human' and animal insulin are commercially available: e.g. within European countries the average price of synthetic 'human' insulin was twice as high as the price of pork insulin. Yet in its position statement, the IDF writes that "there is no overwhelming evidence to prefer one species of insulin over another" and "[modern, highly purified] animal insulins remain a perfectly acceptable alternative.

Modern biotechnology has evolved, making it possible to produce more easily and relatively cheaply human growth hormone, clotting factors for hemophiliacs, fertility drugs, erythropoietin
Erythropoietin
Erythropoietin, or its alternatives erythropoetin or erthropoyetin or EPO, is a glycoprotein hormone that controls erythropoiesis, or red blood cell production...

 and other drugs. Most drugs today are based on about 500 molecular targets. Genomic knowledge of the genes involved in diseases, disease pathways, and drug-response sites are expected to lead to the discovery of thousands more new targets.

Genetic testing



Genetic testing
Genetic testing
Genetic testing is among the newest and most sophisticated of techniques used to test for genetic disorders which involves direct examination of the DNA molecule itself. Other genetic tests include biochemical tests for such gene products as enzymes and other proteins and for microscopic...

 involves the direct examination of the DNA
DNA
Deoxyribonucleic acid is a nucleic acid that contains the genetic instructions used in the development and functioning of all known living organisms . The DNA segments that carry this genetic information are called genes, but other DNA sequences have structural purposes, or are involved in...

 molecule itself. A scientist scans a patient's DNA sample for mutated sequences.

There are two major types of gene tests. In the first type, a researcher may design short pieces of DNA ("probes") whose sequences are complementary to the mutated sequences. These probes will seek their complement among the base pairs of an individual's genome. If the mutated sequence is present in the patient's genome, the probe will bind to it and flag the mutation. In the second type, a researcher may conduct the gene test by comparing the sequence of DNA bases in a patient's gene to disease in healthy individuals or their progeny.

Genetic testing is now used for:
  • Carrier screening, or the identification of unaffected individuals who carry one copy of a gene for a disease that requires two copies for the disease to manifest;
  • Confirmational diagnosis of symptomatic individuals;
  • Determining sex;
  • Forensic/identity testing;
  • Newborn screening;
  • Prenatal diagnostic screening;
  • Presymptomatic testing for estimating the risk of developing adult-onset cancers;
  • Presymptomatic testing for predicting adult-onset disorders.


Some genetic tests are already available, although most of them are used in developed countries. The tests currently available can detect mutations associated with rare genetic disorders like cystic fibrosis
Cystic fibrosis
Cystic fibrosis is a recessive genetic disease affecting most critically the lungs, and also the pancreas, liver, and intestine...

, sickle cell anemia, and Huntington's disease
Huntington's disease
Huntington's disease, chorea, or disorder , is a neurodegenerative genetic disorder that affects muscle coordination and leads to cognitive decline and dementia. It typically becomes noticeable in middle age. HD is the most common genetic cause of abnormal involuntary writhing movements called chorea...

. Recently, tests have been developed to detect mutation for a handful of more complex conditions such as breast, ovarian, and colon cancers. However, gene tests may not detect every mutation associated with a particular condition because many are as yet undiscovered, and the ones they do detect may present different risks to different people and populations.
Controversial questions


The absence of privacy and anti-discrimination legal protections in most countries can lead to discrimination in employment or insurance or other use of personal genetic information. This raises questions such as whether genetic privacy is different from medical privacy.
  1. Reproductive issues. These include the use of genetic information in reproductive decision-making and the possibility of genetically altering reproductive cells that may be passed on to future generations. For example, germline therapy changes the genetic make-up of an individual's descendants. Thus, any error in technology or judgment may have far-reaching consequences (though the same can also happen through natural reproduction). Ethical issues like designed babies
    Designer baby
    The colloquial term "designer baby" refers to a baby whose genetic makeup has been artificially selected by genetic engineering combined with in vitro fertilisation to ensure the presence or absence of particular genes or characteristics. The term is derived by comparison with "designer clothing"...

     and human cloning have also given rise to controversies between and among scientists and bioethicists, especially in the light of past abuses with eugenics
    Eugenics
    Eugenics is the "applied science or the bio-social movement which advocates the use of practices aimed at improving the genetic composition of a population", usually referring to human populations. The origins of the concept of eugenics began with certain interpretations of Mendelian inheritance,...

     (see reductio ad hitlerum
    Reductio ad Hitlerum
    Reductio ad Hitlerum, also argumentum ad Hitlerum, is an ad hominem or ad misericordiam argument whereby an opponent's view is compared to a view that would be held by Adolf Hitler or the Nazi Party...

    ).
  2. Clinical issues. These center on the capabilities and limitations of doctors and other health-service providers, people identified with genetic conditions, and the general public in dealing with genetic information.
  3. Effects on social institutions. Genetic tests reveal information about individuals and their families. Thus, test results can affect the dynamics within social institutions, particularly the family.
  4. Conceptual and philosophical implications regarding human responsibility, free will vis-à-vis genetic determinism, and the concepts of health and disease.

Gene therapy


Gene therapy may be used for treating, or even curing, genetic and acquired diseases like cancer and AIDS by using normal genes to supplement or replace defective genes or to bolster a normal function such as immunity. It can be used to target somatic cells (i.e., those of the body) or gametes (i.e., egg and sperm) cells. In somatic gene therapy, the genome of the recipient is changed, but this change is not passed along to the next generation. In contrast, in germline gene therapy, the egg and sperm cells of the parents are changed for the purpose of passing on the changes to their offspring.

There are basically two ways of implementing a gene therapy treatment:
  1. Ex vivo, which means "outside the body" – Cells from the patient's blood or bone marrow
    Bone marrow
    Bone marrow is the flexible tissue found in the interior of bones. In humans, bone marrow in large bones produces new blood cells. On average, bone marrow constitutes 4% of the total body mass of humans; in adults weighing 65 kg , bone marrow accounts for approximately 2.6 kg...

     are removed and grown in the laboratory. They are then exposed to a virus carrying the desired gene. The virus enters the cells, and the desired gene becomes part of the DNA of the cells. The cells are allowed to grow in the laboratory before being returned to the patient by injection into a vein.
  2. In vivo, which means "inside the body" – No cells are removed from the patient's body. Instead, vectors are used to deliver the desired gene to cells in the patient's body.


As of June 2001, more than 500 clinical gene-therapy trials involving about 3,500 patients have been identified worldwide. Around 78% of these are in the United States, with Europe having 18%. These trials focus on various types of cancer, although other multigenic diseases are being studied as well. Recently, two children born with severe combined immunodeficiency disorder ("SCID") were reported to have been cured after being given genetically engineered cells.

Gene therapy faces many obstacles before it can become a practical approach for treating disease. At least four of these obstacles are as follows:
  1. Gene delivery tools. Genes are inserted into the body using gene carriers called vectors. The most common vectors now are viruses, which have evolved a way of encapsulating and delivering their genes to human cells in a pathogenic manner. Scientists manipulate the genome of the virus by removing the disease-causing genes and inserting the therapeutic genes. However, while viruses are effective, they can introduce problems like toxicity, immune and inflammatory responses, and gene control and targeting issues. In addition, in order for gene therapy to provide permanent therapeutic effects, the introduced gene needs to be integrated within the host cell's genome. Some viral vectors effect this in a random fashion, which can introduce other problems such as disruption of an endogenous host gene.
  2. High costs. Since gene therapy is relatively new and at an experimental stage, it is an expensive treatment to undertake. This explains why current studies are focused on illnesses commonly found in developed countries, where more people can afford to pay for treatment. It may take decades before developing countries can take advantage of this technology.
  3. Limited knowledge of the functions of genes. Scientists currently know the functions of only a few genes. Hence, gene therapy can address only some genes that cause a particular disease. Worse, it is not known exactly whether genes have more than one function, which creates uncertainty as to whether replacing such genes is indeed desirable.
  4. Multigene disorders and effect of environment. Most genetic disorders involve more than one gene. Moreover, most diseases involve the interaction of several genes and the environment. For example, many people with cancer not only inherit the disease gene for the disorder, but may have also failed to inherit specific tumor suppressor genes. Diet, exercise, smoking and other environmental factors may have also contributed to their disease.

Human Genome Project


The Human Genome Project
Human Genome Project
The Human Genome Project is an international scientific research project with a primary goal of determining the sequence of chemical base pairs which make up DNA, and of identifying and mapping the approximately 20,000–25,000 genes of the human genome from both a physical and functional...

 is an initiative of the U.S. Department of Energy ("DOE") that aims to generate a high-quality reference sequence
Reference genome
A reference genome is a digital nucleic acid sequence database, assembled by scientists as a representative example of a species' genetic code. As they are often assembled from the sequencing of DNA from a number of donors, reference genomes do not accurately represent the genetic code of any...

 for the entire human genome and identify all the human genes.

The DOE and its predecessor agencies were assigned by the U.S. Congress to develop new energy resources and technologies and to pursue a deeper understanding of potential health and environmental risks posed by their production and use. In 1986, the DOE announced its Human Genome Initiative. Shortly thereafter, the DOE and National Institutes of Health developed a plan for a joint Human Genome Project ("HGP"), which officially began in 1990.

The HGP was originally planned to last 15 years. However, rapid technological advances and worldwide participation accelerated the completion date to 2003 (making it a 13 year project). Already it has enabled gene hunters to pinpoint genes associated with more than 30 disorders.

Cloning


Cloning involves the removal of the nucleus from one cell and its placement in an unfertilized egg cell whose nucleus has either been deactivated or removed.

There are two types of cloning:
  1. Reproductive cloning. After a few divisions, the egg cell is placed into a uterus where it is allowed to develop into a fetus that is genetically identical to the donor of the original nucleus.
  2. Therapeutic cloning. The egg is placed into a Petri dish
    Petri dish
    A Petri dish is a shallow glass or plastic cylindrical lidded dish that biologists use to culture cells or small moss plants. It was named after German bacteriologist Julius Richard Petri, who invented it when working as an assistant to Robert Koch...

     where it develops into embryonic stem cells, which have shown potentials for treating several ailments.


In February 1997, cloning became the focus of media attention when Ian Wilmut and his colleagues at the Roslin Institute announced the successful cloning of a sheep, named Dolly, from the mammary glands of an adult female. The cloning of Dolly made it apparent to many that the techniques used to produce her could someday be used to clone human beings. This stirred a lot of controversy because of its ethical implications.

Crop yield


Using the techniques of modern biotechnology, one or two gene
Gene
A gene is a molecular unit of heredity of a living organism. It is a name given to some stretches of DNA and RNA that code for a type of protein or for an RNA chain that has a function in the organism. Living beings depend on genes, as they specify all proteins and functional RNA chains...

s (Smartstax
Smartstax
SmartStax is a brand of genetically modified seed made through a collaboration between Monsanto Company and Dow. It takes advantage of multiple modes of insect protection and herbicide tolerance. SmartStax takes advantage of Yieldgard VT Triple , Herculex Xtra , RoundUp Ready 2 , and Liberty Link...

 from Monsanto in collaboration with Dow AgroSciences will use 8, starting in 2010) may be transferred to a highly developed crop variety to impart a new character that would increase its yield. However, while increases in crop yield are the most obvious applications of modern biotechnology in agriculture, it is also the most difficult one. Current genetic engineering techniques work best for effects that are controlled by a single gene. Many of the genetic characteristics associated with yield (e.g., enhanced growth) are controlled by a large number of genes, each of which has a minimal effect on the overall yield. There is, therefore, much scientific work to be done in this area.

Reduced vulnerability of crops to environmental stresses


Crops containing genes that will enable them to withstand biotic and abiotic stresses may be developed. For example, drought
Drought
A drought is an extended period of months or years when a region notes a deficiency in its water supply. Generally, this occurs when a region receives consistently below average precipitation. It can have a substantial impact on the ecosystem and agriculture of the affected region...

 and excessively salty soil are two important limiting factor
Limiting factor
A limiting factor or limiting resource is a factor that controls a process, such as organism growth or species population, size, or distribution. The availability of food, predation pressure, or availability of shelter are examples of factors that could be limiting for an organism...

s in crop productivity. Biotechnologists are studying plants that can cope with these extreme conditions in the hope of finding the genes that enable them to do so and eventually transferring these genes to the more desirable crops. One of the latest developments is the identification of a plant gene, At-DBF2, from Arabidopsis thaliana
Arabidopsis thaliana
Arabidopsis thaliana is a small flowering plant native to Europe, Asia, and northwestern Africa. A spring annual with a relatively short life cycle, arabidopsis is popular as a model organism in plant biology and genetics...

, a tiny weed that is often used for plant research because it is very easy to grow and its genetic code is well mapped out. When this gene was inserted into tomato
Tomato
The word "tomato" may refer to the plant or the edible, typically red, fruit which it bears. Originating in South America, the tomato was spread around the world following the Spanish colonization of the Americas, and its many varieties are now widely grown, often in greenhouses in cooler...

 and tobacco
Tobacco
Tobacco is an agricultural product processed from the leaves of plants in the genus Nicotiana. It can be consumed, used as a pesticide and, in the form of nicotine tartrate, used in some medicines...

 cells (see RNA interference
RNA interference
RNA interference is a process within living cells that moderates the activity of their genes. Historically, it was known by other names, including co-suppression, post transcriptional gene silencing , and quelling. Only after these apparently unrelated processes were fully understood did it become...

), the cells were able to withstand environmental stresses like salt, drought, cold and heat, far more than ordinary cells. If these preliminary results prove successful in larger trials, then At-DBF2 genes can help in engineering crops that can better withstand harsh environments. Researchers have also created transgenic rice plants that are resistant to rice yellow mottle virus
Rice yellow mottle virus
Rice yellow mottle virus is a plant pathogenic virus, belonging to the genus Sobemovirus. The genome is a positive-sense single strand RNA of 4450 nucleotides in length. It was first reported in Kenya in 1966, and it has been detected in many countries in the sub-Saharan Africa.-External links:**...

 (RYMV). In Africa, this virus destroys majority of the rice crops and makes the surviving plants more susceptible to fungal infections.

Increased nutritional qualities


Proteins in foods may be modified to increase their nutritional qualities. Proteins in legumes and cereals may be transformed to provide the amino acids needed by human beings for a balanced diet. A good example is the work of Professors Ingo Potrykus
Ingo Potrykus
Ingo Potrykus was full Professor of Plant Sciences, specifically of Biotechnology of Plants, at the Institute of Plant Sciences of the ETH Zurich from June 1, 1987 until his retirement on April 1, 1999. His research group applied gene-technology to contribute to food security in developing countries...

 and Peter Beyer
Peter Beyer
Peter Beyer is a German Professor for Cell Biology at the Faculty of Biology of the University of Freiburg. He is known as co-inventor of the Golden rice, together with Ingo Potrykus from the ETH Zurich...

 in creating Golden rice
Golden rice
Golden rice is a variety of Oryza sativa rice produced through genetic engineering to biosynthesize beta-carotene, a precursor of pro-vitamin A in the edible parts of rice...

 (discussed below).

Improved taste, texture or appearance of food


Modern biotechnology can be used to slow down the process of spoilage so that fruit can ripen longer on the plant and then be transported to the consumer with a still reasonable shelf life. This alters the taste, texture and appearance of the fruit. More importantly, it could expand the market for farmers in developing countries due to the reduction in spoilage. However, there is sometimes a lack of understanding by researchers in developed countries about the actual needs of prospective beneficiaries in developing countries. For example, engineering soybeans to resist spoilage makes them less suitable for producing tempeh
Tempeh
Tempeh , or tempe , is a traditional soy product originally from Indonesia. It is made by a natural culturing and controlled fermentation process that binds soybeans into a cake form, similar to a very firm vegetarian burger patty...

 which is a significant source of protein that depends on fermentation. The use of modified soybeans results in a lumpy texture that is less palatable and less convenient when cooking.

The first genetically modified food product was a tomato which was transformed to delay its ripening. Researchers in Indonesia
Indonesia
Indonesia , officially the Republic of Indonesia , is a country in Southeast Asia and Oceania. Indonesia is an archipelago comprising approximately 13,000 islands. It has 33 provinces with over 238 million people, and is the world's fourth most populous country. Indonesia is a republic, with an...

, Malaysia, Thailand
Thailand
Thailand , officially the Kingdom of Thailand , formerly known as Siam , is a country located at the centre of the Indochina peninsula and Southeast Asia. It is bordered to the north by Burma and Laos, to the east by Laos and Cambodia, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and to the...

, Philippines
Philippines
The Philippines , officially known as the Republic of the Philippines , is a country in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean. To its north across the Luzon Strait lies Taiwan. West across the South China Sea sits Vietnam...

 and Vietnam
Vietnam
Vietnam – sometimes spelled Viet Nam , officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam – is the easternmost country on the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is bordered by China to the north, Laos to the northwest, Cambodia to the southwest, and the South China Sea –...

 are currently working on delayed-ripening papaya in collaboration with the University of Nottingham
University of Nottingham
The University of Nottingham is a public research university based in Nottingham, United Kingdom, with further campuses in Ningbo, China and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia...

 and Zeneca
Zeneca
Zeneca Group PLC was a multinational pharmaceutical company headquartered in London, United Kingdom. Zeneca was formed in June 1993 by the demerger of the pharmaceuticals and agrochemicals businesses of Imperial Chemical Industries into a separate company listed on the London Stock Exchange.In 1999...

.

Biotechnology in cheese production: enzymes produced by micro-organisms provide an alternative to animal rennet – a cheese coagulant – and an alternative supply for cheese makers. This also eliminates possible public concerns with animal-derived material, although there are currently no plans to develop synthetic milk, thus making this argument less compelling. Enzymes offer an animal-friendly alternative to animal rennet. While providing comparable quality, they are theoretically also less expensive.

About 85 million tons of wheat flour is used every year to bake bread. By adding an enzyme called maltogenic amylase to the flour, bread stays fresher longer. Assuming that 10–15% of bread is thrown away as stale, if it could be made to stay fresh another 5–7 days then perhaps 2 million tons of flour per year would be saved. Other enzymes can cause bread to expand to make a lighter loaf, or alter the loaf in a range of ways.

Reduced dependence on fertilizers, pesticides and other agrochemicals


Most of the current commercial applications of modern biotechnology in agriculture are on reducing the dependence of farmers on agrochemicals. For example, Bacillus thuringiensis
Bacillus thuringiensis
Bacillus thuringiensis is a Gram-positive, soil-dwelling bacterium, commonly used as a biological pesticide; alternatively, the Cry toxin may be extracted and used as a pesticide. B...

(Bt) is a soil bacterium that produces a protein with insecticidal qualities. Traditionally, a fermentation process has been used to produce an insecticidal spray from these bacteria. In this form, the Bt toxin occurs as an inactive protoxin, which requires digestion by an insect to be effective. There are several Bt toxins and each one is specific to certain target insects. Crop plants have now been engineered to contain and express the genes for Bt toxin, which they produce in its active form. When a susceptible insect ingests the transgenic crop cultivar expressing the Bt protein, it stops feeding and soon thereafter dies as a result of the Bt toxin binding to its gut wall. Bt corn is now commercially available in a number of countries to control corn borer (a lepidopteran insect), which is otherwise controlled by spraying (a more difficult process).

Crops have also been genetically engineered to acquire tolerance to broad-spectrum herbicide
Herbicide
Herbicides, also commonly known as weedkillers, are pesticides used to kill unwanted plants. Selective herbicides kill specific targets while leaving the desired crop relatively unharmed. Some of these act by interfering with the growth of the weed and are often synthetic "imitations" of plant...

. The lack of herbicides with broad-spectrum activity and no crop injury was a consistent limitation in crop weed management
Weed control
Weed control is the botanical component of pest control, using physical and chemical methods to stop weeds from reaching a mature stage of growth when they could be harmful to domesticated plants and livestock...

. Multiple applications of numerous herbicides were routinely used to control a wide range of weed species detrimental to agronomic crops. Weed management tended to rely on preemergence—that is, herbicide applications were sprayed in response to expected weed infestations rather than in response to actual weeds present. Mechanical cultivation and hand weeding were often necessary to control weeds not controlled by herbicide applications. The introduction of herbicide-tolerant crops has the potential of reducing the number of herbicide active ingredients used for weed management, reducing the number of herbicide applications made during a season, and increasing yield due to improved weed management and less crop injury. Transgenic crops that express tolerance to glyphosate, glufosinate
Glufosinate
Glufosinate or its ammonium salt DL-phosphinothricin is an active ingredient in several nonselective systemic herbicides - Basta, Rely, Finale, Ignite, Challenge and Liberty. It interferes with the biosynthetic pathway of the amino acid glutamine and with ammonia detoxification.Some plants have...

 and bromoxynil
Bromoxynil
Bromoxynil is a nitrile herbicide, trade names include Brominal, Bromotril, Bronate, Buctril, Certrol B, Litarol, M&B 10064, Merit, Pardner, Sabre, and Torch. It is used for post-emergent control of annual broadleaf weeds. It is especially effective in the control of weeds in cereal, corn,...

 have been developed. These herbicides can now be sprayed on transgenic crops without inflicting damage on the crops while killing nearby weeds.

From 1996 to 2001, herbicide tolerance was the most dominant trait introduced to commercially available transgenic crops, followed by insect resistance. In 2001, herbicide tolerance deployed in soybean
Soybean
The soybean or soya bean is a species of legume native to East Asia, widely grown for its edible bean which has numerous uses...

, corn
Maize
Maize known in many English-speaking countries as corn or mielie/mealie, is a grain domesticated by indigenous peoples in Mesoamerica in prehistoric times. The leafy stalk produces ears which contain seeds called kernels. Though technically a grain, maize kernels are used in cooking as a vegetable...

 and cotton
Cotton
Cotton is a soft, fluffy staple fiber that grows in a boll, or protective capsule, around the seeds of cotton plants of the genus Gossypium. The fiber is almost pure cellulose. The botanical purpose of cotton fiber is to aid in seed dispersal....

 accounted for 77% of the 626,000 square kilometres planted to transgenic crops; Bt crops accounted for 15%; and "stacked genes" for herbicide tolerance and insect resistance used in both cotton and corn accounted for 8%.

Production of novel substances in crop plants


Biotechnology is being applied for novel uses other than food. For example, oilseed can be modified to produce fatty acids for detergent
Detergent
A detergent is a surfactant or a mixture of surfactants with "cleaning properties in dilute solutions." In common usage, "detergent" refers to alkylbenzenesulfonates, a family of compounds that are similar to soap but are less affected by hard water...

s, substitute fuel
Fuel
Fuel is any material that stores energy that can later be extracted to perform mechanical work in a controlled manner. Most fuels used by humans undergo combustion, a redox reaction in which a combustible substance releases energy after it ignites and reacts with the oxygen in the air...

s and petrochemical
Petrochemical
Petrochemicals are chemical products derived from petroleum. Some chemical compounds made from petroleum are also obtained from other fossil fuels, such as coal or natural gas, or renewable sources such as corn or sugar cane....

s. Potato
Potato
The potato is a starchy, tuberous crop from the perennial Solanum tuberosum of the Solanaceae family . The word potato may refer to the plant itself as well as the edible tuber. In the region of the Andes, there are some other closely related cultivated potato species...

es, tomato
Tomato
The word "tomato" may refer to the plant or the edible, typically red, fruit which it bears. Originating in South America, the tomato was spread around the world following the Spanish colonization of the Americas, and its many varieties are now widely grown, often in greenhouses in cooler...

es, rice
Rice
Rice is the seed of the monocot plants Oryza sativa or Oryza glaberrima . As a cereal grain, it is the most important staple food for a large part of the world's human population, especially in East Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, the Middle East, and the West Indies...

 tobacco
Tobacco
Tobacco is an agricultural product processed from the leaves of plants in the genus Nicotiana. It can be consumed, used as a pesticide and, in the form of nicotine tartrate, used in some medicines...

, lettuce
Lettuce
Lettuce is a temperate annual or biennial plant of the daisy family Asteraceae. It is most often grown as a leaf vegetable. It is eaten either raw, notably in salads, sandwiches, hamburgers, tacos, and many other dishes, or cooked, as in Chinese cuisine in which the stem becomes just as important...

, safflower
Safflower
Safflower is a highly branched, herbaceous, thistle-like annual. It is commercially cultivated for vegetable oil extracted from the seeds. Plants are 30 to 150 cm tall with globular flower heads having yellow, orange or red flowers. Each branch will usually have from one to five flower heads...

s, and other plants have been genetically engineered to produce insulin
Insulin
Insulin is a hormone central to regulating carbohydrate and fat metabolism in the body. Insulin causes cells in the liver, muscle, and fat tissue to take up glucose from the blood, storing it as glycogen in the liver and muscle....

 and certain vaccine
Vaccine
A vaccine is a biological preparation that improves immunity to a particular disease. A vaccine typically contains an agent that resembles a disease-causing microorganism, and is often made from weakened or killed forms of the microbe or its toxins...

s. If future clinical trials prove successful, the advantages of edible vaccine
Vaccine
A vaccine is a biological preparation that improves immunity to a particular disease. A vaccine typically contains an agent that resembles a disease-causing microorganism, and is often made from weakened or killed forms of the microbe or its toxins...

s would be enormous, especially for developing countries. The transgenic plants may be grown locally and cheaply. Homegrown vaccines would also avoid logistical and economic problems posed by having to transport traditional preparations over long distances and keeping them cold while in transit. And since they are edible, they will not need syringes, which are not only an additional expense in the traditional vaccine preparations but also a source of infections if contaminated. In the case of insulin grown in transgenic plants, it is well-established that the gastrointestinal system breaks the protein down therefore this could not currently be administered as an edible protein. However, it might be produced at significantly lower cost than insulin produced in costly bioreactors. For example, Calgary, Canada-based SemBioSys Genetics, Inc. reports that its safflower-produced insulin will reduce unit costs by over 25% or more and approximates a reduction in the capital costs associated with building a commercial-scale insulin manufacturing facility of over $100 million, compared to traditional biomanufacturing facilities.

Animal Biotechnology


In animals, biotechnology techniques are being used to improve genetics and for pharmaceutical or industrial applications. Molecular biology techniques can help drive breeding programs by directing selection of superior animals. Animal cloning, through somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT), allows for genetic replication of selected animals. Genetic engineering, using recombinant DNA, alters the genetic makeup of the animal for selected purposes, including producing therapeutic proteins in cows and goats. There is a genetically altered salmon with an increased growth rate being considered for FDA approval.

Criticism


There is another side to the agricultural biotechnology issue. It includes increased herbicide
Herbicide
Herbicides, also commonly known as weedkillers, are pesticides used to kill unwanted plants. Selective herbicides kill specific targets while leaving the desired crop relatively unharmed. Some of these act by interfering with the growth of the weed and are often synthetic "imitations" of plant...

 usage and resultant herbicide resistance, "super weeds," residues on and in food crops, genetic contamination of non-GM crops which hurt organic and conventional farmers, etc.

Biological engineering



Biotechnological engineering or biological engineering is a branch of engineering
Engineering
Engineering is the discipline, art, skill and profession of acquiring and applying scientific, mathematical, economic, social, and practical knowledge, in order to design and build structures, machines, devices, systems, materials and processes that safely realize improvements to the lives of...

 that focuses on biotechnologies and biological science. It includes different disciplines such as biochemical engineering
Biochemical engineering
Biochemical engineering is a branch of chemical engineering or biological engineering that mainly deals with the design and construction of unit processes that involve biological organisms or molecules, such as bioreactors...

, biomedical engineering
Biomedical engineering
Biomedical Engineering is the application of engineering principles and design concepts to medicine and biology. This field seeks to close the gap between engineering and medicine: It combines the design and problem solving skills of engineering with medical and biological sciences to improve...

, bio-process engineering, biosystem engineering and so on. Because of the novelty of the field, bioengineer is still not clearly defined. However, in general it is an integrated approach of fundamental biological sciences and traditional engineering principles.

Biotechnologists are often employed to scale up bio processes from the laboratory scale to the manufacturing scale. Moreover, as with most engineers, they often deal with management, economic and legal issues. Since patents and regulation (e.g., U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulation in the U.S.) are very important issues for biotech enterprises, bioengineers are often required to have knowledge related to these issues.

The increasing number of biotech enterprises is likely to create a need for bioengineers in the years to come. Many universities throughout the world are now providing programs in bioengineering and biotechnology (as independent programs or specialty programs within more established engineering fields).

Bioremediation and biodegradation



Biotechnology is being used to engineer and adapt organisms especially microorganisms in an effort to find sustainable ways to clean up contaminated environments. The elimination of a wide range of pollutants and wastes from the environment
Environment (biophysical)
The biophysical environment is the combined modeling of the physical environment and the biological life forms within the environment, and includes all variables, parameters as well as conditions and modes inside the Earth's biosphere. The biophysical environment can be divided into two categories:...

 is an absolute requirement to promote a sustainable development of our society with low environmental impact. Biological processes play a major role in the removal of contaminants and biotechnology is taking advantage of the astonishing catabolic versatility of microorganisms to degrade/convert such compounds. New methodological breakthroughs in sequencing
Sequencing
In genetics and biochemistry, sequencing means to determine the primary structure of an unbranched biopolymer...

, genomics
Genomics
Genomics is a discipline in genetics concerning the study of the genomes of organisms. The field includes intensive efforts to determine the entire DNA sequence of organisms and fine-scale genetic mapping efforts. The field also includes studies of intragenomic phenomena such as heterosis,...

, proteomics
Proteomics
Proteomics is the large-scale study of proteins, particularly their structures and functions. Proteins are vital parts of living organisms, as they are the main components of the physiological metabolic pathways of cells. The term "proteomics" was first coined in 1997 to make an analogy with...

, bioinformatics
Bioinformatics
Bioinformatics is the application of computer science and information technology to the field of biology and medicine. Bioinformatics deals with algorithms, databases and information systems, web technologies, artificial intelligence and soft computing, information and computation theory, software...

 and imaging are producing vast amounts of information. In the field of Environmental Microbiology, genome
Genome
In modern molecular biology and genetics, the genome is the entirety of an organism's hereditary information. It is encoded either in DNA or, for many types of virus, in RNA. The genome includes both the genes and the non-coding sequences of the DNA/RNA....

-based global studies open a new era providing unprecedented in silico views of metabolic and regulatory networks, as well as clues to the evolution of degradation
Microbial biodegradation
Interest in the microbial biodegradation of pollutants has intensified in recent years as humanity strives to find sustainable ways to clean up contaminated environments...

 pathways and to the molecular adaptation strategies to changing environmental conditions. Functional genomic and metagenomic approaches are increasing our understanding of the relative importance of different pathways and regulatory networks to carbon flux in particular environments and for particular compounds and they will certainly accelerate the development of bioremediation
Bioremediation
Bioremediation is the use of microorganism metabolism to remove pollutants. Technologies can be generally classified as in situ or ex situ. In situ bioremediation involves treating the contaminated material at the site, while ex situ involves the removal of the contaminated material to be treated...

 technologies and biotransformation
Biotransformation
Biotransformation is the chemical modification made by an organism on a chemical compound. If this modification ends in mineral compounds like CO2, NH4+, or H2O, the biotransformation is called mineralisation....

 processes.

Marine environments are especially vulnerable since oil spills of coastal regions and the open sea are poorly containable and mitigation is difficult. In addition to pollution through human activities, millions of tons of petroleum enter the marine environment every year from natural seepages. Despite its toxicity, a considerable fraction of petroleum oil entering marine systems is eliminated by the hydrocarbon-degrading activities of microbial communities, in particular by a remarkable recently discovered group of specialists, the so-called hydrocarbonoclastic bacteria (HCCB).

Biotechnology regulations


The National Institute of Health was the first federal agency to assume regulatory responsibility in the United States. The Recombinant DNA Advisory Committee of the NIH published guidelines for working with recombinant DNA and recombinant organisms in the laboratory. Nowadays, the agencies that are responsible for the biotechnology regulation are: US Department of Agriculture (USDA) that regulates plant pests and medical preparation from living organisms, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that regulates pesticides and herbicides, and the Food and Drug Administration
Food and Drug Administration
The Food and Drug Administration is an agency of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, one of the United States federal executive departments...

 (FDA) which ensures that the food and drug products are safe and effective

Education


In 1988, after prompting from the United States Congress
United States Congress
The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States, consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C....

, the National Institute of General Medical Sciences
National Institute of General Medical Sciences
The National Institute of General Medical Sciences is a part of the National Institutes of Health that primarily supports research that lays the foundation for advances in disease diagnosis, treatment and prevention...

 (National Institutes of Health
National Institutes of Health
The National Institutes of Health are an agency of the United States Department of Health and Human Services and are the primary agency of the United States government responsible for biomedical and health-related research. Its science and engineering counterpart is the National Science Foundation...

) instituted a funding mechanism for biotechnology training. Universities nationwide compete for these funds to establish Biotechnology Training Programs (BTPs). Each successful application is generally funded for five years then must be competitively renewed. Graduate students in turn compete for acceptance into a BTP; if accepted then stipend, tuition and health insurance support is provided for two or three years during the course of their PhD
PHD
PHD may refer to:*Ph.D., a doctorate of philosophy*Ph.D. , a 1980s British group*PHD finger, a protein sequence*PHD Mountain Software, an outdoor clothing and equipment company*PhD Docbook renderer, an XML renderer...

 thesis work. Nineteen institutions offer NIGMS supported BTPs. Biotechnology training is also offered at the undergraduate level and in community colleges.

See also



  • Outline of biotechnology
  • Bioeconomics
    Bioeconomics
    Bioeconomics is closely related to the early development of theories in fisheries economics, initially in the mid 1950s by Canadian economists Scott Gordon and Anthony Scott...

  • Bioengineering
  • Biopolitics
    Biopolitics
    The term "biopolitics" or "biopolitical" can refer to several different yet often compatible concepts.-Definitions:# In the work of Michel Foucault, the style of government that regulates populations through "biopower" .# In the works of Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, anti-capitalist insurrection...

  • Biomimetics
    Biomimetics
    Biomimetics is the study of the structure and function of biological systems as models for the design and engineering of materials and machines. It is widely regarded as being synonymous with biomimicry, biomimesis, biognosis and similar to biologically inspired design.-History:The term biomimetics...

  • Bioculture
  • Biochemistry
    Biochemistry
    Biochemistry, sometimes called biological chemistry, is the study of chemical processes in living organisms, including, but not limited to, living matter. Biochemistry governs all living organisms and living processes...

  • Lancaster Laboratories
    Lancaster Laboratories
    Lancaster Laboratories Inc., is one of the largest contract laboratories in the United States. They specialize in pharmaceutical and environmental analytical services....

  • Pharmaceutical companies
  • Pharmaceutical chemistry
  • History of biochemistry
    History of biochemistry
    The history of biochemistry spans approximately 400 years. Although the term “biochemistry” seems to have been first used in 1882, it is generally accepted that the word "biochemistry" was first proposed in 1903 by Carl Neuberg, a German chemist....

  • Bionic architecture
    Bionic architecture
    Bionic architecture is a movement for the design and construction of expressive buildings whose layout and lines borrow from natural forms. The movement began to mature in the early 21st century, and thus in early designs research was stressed over practicality...

  • Biotechnology industrial park
    Biotechnology industrial park
    Biotechnology industrial park is a special form of industrial park that specialized in biotechnology....

  • Competitions and prizes in biotechnology
    Competitions and prizes in biotechnology
    There exist a number of competitions and prizes to reward distinguished contributions and to encourage developments in biotechnology.-Inducement prizes:...

  • Genetic Engineering
    Genetic engineering
    Genetic engineering, also called genetic modification, is the direct human manipulation of an organism's genome using modern DNA technology. It involves the introduction of foreign DNA or synthetic genes into the organism of interest...

  • Green Revolution
    Green Revolution
    Green Revolution refers to a series of research, development, and technology transfer initiatives, occurring between the 1940s and the late 1970s, that increased agriculture production around the world, beginning most markedly in the late 1960s....

  • Kelvin probe force microscope
    Kelvin probe force microscope
    Kelvin probe force microscopy , also known as surface potential microscopy, is a noncontact variant of atomic force microscopy that was invented in 1991. With KPFM, the work function of surfaces can be observed at atomic or molecular scales...

  • List of biotechnology articles
  • List of biotechnology companies
  • List of emerging biotechnologies
  • NASDAQ Biotechnology Index
    NASDAQ Biotechnology Index
    The NASDAQ Biotechnology Index includes securities of NASDAQ-listed companies classified according to the Industry Classification Benchmark as either Biotechnology or Pharmaceuticals.- Criteria :...

  • SWORD-financing
    SWORD-financing
    SWORD-financing is a special form of financing invented to help young biotech companies access capital to finance their R&D via establishing SPE ....

  • History of Biotechnology
    History of Biotechnology
    Biotechnology is the application of scientific and engineering principles to the processing of materials by biological agents to provide goods and services. From its inception, biotechnology has maintained a close relationship with society...

  • Technobiology
    Technobiology
    Technobiology refers to the application of technology to biological issues.- References :* 1. J. M. Tien and P. J. Goldschmidt-Clermont, “Engineering Healthcare As A Service System”, in Engineering the System of Healthcare Delivery, Edited by William B. Rouse and Denis A. Cortese, Amsterdam,...

  • National Industrial Biotechnology Facility
    National Industrial Biotechnology Facility (NIBF)
    The National Industrial Biotechnology Facility is based at the Centre for Process Innovation Wilton, Redcar, England. The facility allows firms to replace traditional chemical processing techniques with green, environmentally friendly methods through Industrial Biotechnology.Owned and operated by...



Further reading

Viviana Zelizer Best Paper in Economic Sociology Award (2005–2006), American Sociological Association.

External links