Monday, September 22, 2008

What is Biotechnology?

Biotechnology is an applied science, aimed at harnessing the natural biological capabilities of microbial, plant and animal cells for the benefit of people. It couples scientific and engineering principles with commercial considerations to develop and improve products and processes made from living systems. According to the office of Technology Assessment, United States congress, biotechnology is "any technique that uses living organisms or substance from those organisms to make or modify a product to improve plants or animals, or develop micro-organisms for specific purposes".

Biotechnology is not new as some people discovered over 9000 years that microorganisms could be used to make bread, brew alcohol and produce cheese. What is new, however, is the extent of applications and sophistication of biotechnology techniques currently employed. Researchers can manipulate living organisms and transfer genetic materials between organisms. Genetic engineering itself is the specific modification or transfer of genetic materials under lies modern bio-technical innovations.

Application of biotechnology are predominantly practiced in a wide range of activities of social and economic importance, as highlighted below:

1. Agriculture
  • Plant breeding;
  • Mass propagation of plant clones;
  • Bioinsecticide development;
  • Modification of plants to improve nutritional and processing characteristics; to mention but few.
2. Medicine
  • Development of Novel Therapeutic molecules for medical treatment;
  • Production of new antibiotics, vaccines for malaria and improved ways of insulin;
  • Diagnostic test for detecting serious diseases such as hereditary cancers;
  • Drug delivery;
  • Tissue Engineering of replacement organs; and
  • Gene therapy, to mention a few.
3. Veterinary Practice
  • Vaccine Production;
  • Fertility Control; and
  • Breeding to mention a few.
4. Food Industry
  • Production of baker's yeast, cheese, yogurts and fermenting foods such as vinegar etc.
  • Brewing and wind making; and
  • Production of flavours and colour agents. etc.
5. Chemical Industry
  • Production of bulk chemicals and solvents such as ethanol, citric acid, acetone and buthanol.
  • Synthesis of fine specialty chemicals such as enzymes, amino acids, alkaloids and antibiotics.
6. Environment
  • Bioremediation of soil and water polluted with toxic chemicals;
  • Sewage and other organic waste treatment;
Conclusively, biotechnology has significantly impacted and improved the quality of life for people of this planet. And this does not end there, complementing the creative endeavours of researchers and engineers in the efforts to commercialize biotechnology products with input of business, management and marketing personnel.

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1 comment:

Ayodeji Odusami said...

Femi, more power to your elbow