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Applications of biotechnology
Biotechnology is concerned with the exploitation of biological components for production of useful bioproducts. They are cheap and environment friendly but at the same time harmful as every coin has dual aspects.
The traditional biotechnology refers to the conventional biotechnology which has been used for the centuries. It includes the processes that are based on the natural capabilities of microbes. Beer, wine, cheese and many such foods have been produced using traditional biotechnology. The traditional biotechnology has established a huge and expanding world market.
The modern biotechnology uses methods of genetic modification of the basic cell pattern in an organism. The utilization of genetic machinery for the production of any special substance is called genetic engineering or biotechnology. Genetic modification can be brought about by simple recombination or genetic manipulation
Use of microbes
Louis Pasteur demonstrated that fermentation is carried out by microbes. Yeast ferments carbohydrates efficiently into alcohols. The cost of raw material in the process affects the cost of the products.
Following are the uses of alcohol:
i) Ethanol is used as a solvent. It is used as the raw material for the synthesis of many products and solvents of dyes, pharmaceuticals, lubricants, detergents, pesticides etc.
ii)Ethanol is used in alcoholic beverages like wine, beer and rum.
iii) N-Butanol is used in the manufacture of brake fluids and petrol additives.
iv)Glycerol is used in pharmaceutical and food industry.
v) Alcohols are used as liquid fuel cells called gasohol. Biomass derived from agriculture or municipal wastes can be converted into alcohol for commercial use.
Antibiotics are the living substances which kill or inhibit the activity of microbes that are harmful like penicillin, stretomycin etc. The first antibiotic was discovered by Alexander Fleming in 1929. Almost 50% of them are obtained from streptomyces, a variety of soil bacteria.
Enzymes are proteins that facilitate biochemical reactions.Microbial enzymes have the following advantages than those produced synthetically:
i) Firstly, they are economical and can be produced on a large scale within a limited span of time.
ii) Secondly, microbes are capable of producing a wide variety of enzymes.
iii) Thirdly, they can be grown and cultivated in a wide atmospheric conditions.
iv)They possess genetic flexibility and can be manipulated to producea higher yield.
All microbes during their active growth phase synthesize vitamins and other growth stimulating compounds. When their synthesis exceeds their requirement, they are stored in cultures form where they are recovered. Some of the basic vitamins that are produced are carotene, Riboflavin, Sarbose and Vitamin B-complex
Vaccine is a disease producing organism in tis weak or inactivated state. When the vaccine is administered in an individual, it induces hi, to produce an antibody to combat the pathogen. The administration of vaccine in an individual is called the immunization.
Insulin plays a major role in human life. It is used in treating osteoporosis, diabetes and AIDS.
Bioremediation refers to the process of degrading waste matter using microbes. This can be done by introducing nutrients to stimulate the activity of bacteria or adding new bacteria to the soil. This can either be done by introducing bacteria at the place of deposition of waste called in-situ bioremediation or by carrying the wastes to a place where they can be safely degraded called ex-situ bioremediation. The ability of a surface bacteria is dependent on the following:
i) the concentration of the compounds
ii) duration of the bacteria exposed to the contamination.
Oil and other compounds containing hydrocarbons are very harmful as they are insoluble and floats over water. There are several dangers attached to the contamination of the water bodies with oil as in a oil spill:
i) Oil cuts the supply of sunlight reaching the deeper layers of the water bodies such as ocean or sea and hinders with the photosynthesis of planktons and algae.
ii) Several migratory birds who come in contact with the oil fall prey to the predators as their wings gets heavy and stick to each other due to oil.
iii) Oil causes many physical impacts such as smothering and suffocation.
iv) Oil also reduces the camouflaging of the animals and small organisms like polar bears etc.
There are two methods of bioremediation of hydrocarbons:
i) By using a mixture of potential bacteria.
ii) By using genetically engineered stains.
Potential of biotechnology
Human Genome project
The human genome project has helped to determine the exact sequence of DNA chemical sequence in every human cell. Using this sequence has the following advantages:
i) Doctors could drip droplets of our gene into a biochip to figure out if we have a cancer that could kill or a disease that would respond to a particular drug.
ii) Scientists could analyze selective genes from parents and could design babies even before conception.
The role of biotechnology in the filed of medicines is:
i) Prevention of diseases through vaccines
ii) Drugs and pharmaceuticals.
iii) Delivery system and diagnosis.
iv) Eradicating disease and creating new medical technologies
v) Products like human insulin, human growth hormone, interferon and Hepatitis-B vaccine can be produced.
vi) Another important product is the Tissue Plasminogen Activator. It is being used to dissolve blood clots and thus to control heart attacks.
vii) It has been found that genetically engineered mice cells can be used for curing brain tumors.
viii) Gene Therapy is also fast evolving that is used in certain diseases like Thalassemia, for which no other treatment is available.
Improving human life
i)Biotechnology can be used in the production of high yielding seeds by using gene therapy.
ii) Animal husbandry is likely to benefit from a variety of complex methods like cloning, embryo transfer etc.
iii)It also helps in the development of many new technologies like methods for the treatment of air pollution, treatment of effluents, treatment of oil spills etc.
iv)It is a great asset in the field of health for the immunodiagnostic kits for the detection of diseases as soon as possible.
v)Biomining or bioleaching is the process by which metals are dissolved by microbes for their extraction from the earth. It shall make metals easily available and also cheaper in the market as the cost of extraction shall be minimized.
Disadvantages of biotechnology
i) Biotechnology interferes with the normal life or growth cycle of plants.
ii)Some argue that the fruits and vegetables grown with the help of microbes can be potentially dangerous to the human health. It is feared that they causes sterility.
iii) Processes like bioleaching though economically viable are very slow and time consuming.
iv) There is no sense in the argument that microbes degrade oil and hydrocarbons as we are polluting the sea while cleaning it one way.
Read related articles: Biotechnology Use of Microbes
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