Concepts of Biotechnology
The term “Biotechnology” was first coined in 1919 by Karl Ereky which means products are produced from raw materials with the aid of living organisms. Biotechnology is NOT new. Man has been manipulating living things to solve problems and improve his way of life for millennia. Early agriculture concentrated on producing food. Plants and animals were selectively bred and microorganisms were used to make food items such as beverages, cheese and bread. The late eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth century saw the advent of vaccinations, crop rotation involving leguminous crops and animal drawn machinery. The end of the nineteenth century was a milestone of biology. Microorganisms were discovered, Mendel’s work on genetics was accomplished and institutes for investigating fermentation and other microbial processes were established by Koch, Pasteur and Lister.
Biotechnology at the beginning of the twentieth century began to bring industry and agriculture together. During World War I, fermentation processes were developed that produced acetone from starch and paint solvents for the rapidly growing automobile industry. Work in the 1930s was geared towards using surplus agricultural products to supply industry instead of imports or petrochemicals. The advent of World War II brought the manufacture of penicillin. The biotechnical focus moved to pharmaceuticals. The “cold war” years were dominated by work with microorganisms in preparation for biological warfare as well as antibiotics and fermentation processes (Goodman, 1987).
Biotechnology is currently being used in many areas including agriculture, bioremediation, food processing and energy production. DNA fingerprinting is becoming a common practice in forensics. Production of insulin and other medicines is accomplished through cloning of vectors that now carry the chosen gene. Immunoassays are used not only in medicine for drug level and pregnancy testing, but also by farmers to aid in detection of unsafe levels of pesticides, herbicides and toxins on crops and in animal products. These assays also provide rapid field tests for industrial chemicals in ground water, sediment and soil. In agriculture, genetic engineering is being used to produce plants that are resistant to insects, weeds and plant diseases.
Bio means life and technology means the application of knowledge for practical use ie., the use of living organisms to make or improve a product.
Other definitions for the term Biotechnology
The use of living organisms to solve problems or make useful products.
The use of cells and biological molecules to solve problems or make useful products. Biological molecules include DNA, RNA and proteins.
The commercial application of living organisms or their products, which involves the deliberate manipulation of their DNA molecules.
Make a living cell to perform a specific task in a predictable and controllable way.
Biotechnology has been described as “Janus-faced”. This implies that there are two sides. On one side techniques allow DNA to be manipulated to move genes from one organism to another. On the other, it involves relatively new technologies whose consequences are untested and should be met with caution. Stages of biotechnology development
Ancient biotechnology – 8000-4000 B.C Early history as related to food and shelter; includes domestication
Classical biotechnology – 2000 B.C.; 1800-1900 AD Built on ancient biotechnology; fermentation promoted food production and medicine 1900-1953: Genetics 1953 – 1976: DNA research, science explodes
Modern biotechnology – 1977
Manipulates genetic information in organism; Genetic engineering
Biotechnology is a collection of various technologies that enable us to improve crop yield and food quality in agriculture and to produce a broader array of products in industries.
Various technologies and their uses
Genetic Engineering (Recombinant DNA) Technology The use of cellular enzymes to manipulate DNA Transferring DNA between unrelated organisms
Protein Engineering Technology Improve existing/create novel proteins to make useful products
Antisense or RNAi Technology Block or decrease the production of certain proteins
Cell and Tissue Culture Technology Grow cells/tissues under laboratory conditions to produce an entire organism, or to produce new products
Bioinformatics Technology Computational analysis of biological data, e.g., sequence analysis macro molecular structures, high-throughput profiling data analysis
Functional Genomics (the -omics) The use of genome-wide, high-throughput approaches to determine the biological function of all of the genes and their products.
High-throughput technologies (the -omics)
• Transcriptomics (e.g. microarray expression profiling)
• Proteomics (e.g. structures/modifications/interactions of proteins)
Proteins are responsible for an endless number of tasks within the cell. The complete set of proteins in a cell can be referred to as its proteome and the study of protein structure and function and what every protein in the cell is doing is known as proteomics. The proteome is highly dynamic and it changes from time to time in response to different environmental stimuli. The goal of proteomics is to understand how the structure and function of proteins allow them to do what they do, what they interact with and how they contribute to life processes.
• Metabolomics (e.g. metabolite profiling, chemical fingerprinting, flux analysis)
Metabolomics is one of the newest ‘omics’ sciences. The metabolome refers to the complete set of low molecular weight compounds in a sample. These compounds are the substrates and by products of enzymatic reactions and have a direct effect on the phenotype of the cell. Thus, metabolomics aims at determining a sample’s profile of these compounds at a specified time under specific environmental conditions
• Transgenomics (e.g. knock-out, knock-in, gene tagging, mutagenesis)
• Translational genomics