Do you know that refreshing cup of our morning tea is gift of biotechnology? Brewing, Cheese making and Bread-Idli-Tofu are processes which are known to man since centuries. Our ancestors were not aware of the science behind brewing or fermentation but they were using it as an integral part of their daily life. Let's call them biotechnologists! We have developed biotechnology with time by expanding its applications in various fields from Military to Agriculture. We have ultra-modernized it by gene cloning and gene therapy.
Biotechnology is very fruitful combination of biology and technology. Biological sciences like Microbiology, Physiology, Zoology, Botany, Ecology and technological concepts of Engineering together constitute Biotechnology. Living things (Plant/animal/microbe) and tools under in vitro or in vivo conditions makes up efficient biotechnological application. The following paragraphs illustrate profound applications of biotechnology techniques used till date for 1` progress of mankind.
Medicine: It's all started at the end of 18th century when scientists like Edward Jenner and Louis Pasteur introduced the concept of vaccination. Louis Pasteur dared to vaccinate himself by rabies virus when he did not get a volunteer for vaccination. On the other hand Alexander Fleming discovered Penicillin from discarded plate of Penicillium. Selman Waksman isolated antibiotic producing bacteria from soil. These foundations led scientists to synthesize antibiotics active against highly resistant nosocomial bacteria.
Gene therapy is very precious outcome of genetics and engineering. The 2 words, Gene and Therapy reflect a source of power and practically consist of tedious network of protocols to set up a gene therapy selectively for a particular genetic disorder. The protocol may include gene walking, gene identification, isolation, cloning, sequencing, formulation, trial, troubleshooting and application. It is very promising approach to cure rarest genetic diseases.
Agriculture: Everyone is familiar to word 'Fertilizer' and if suffix 'Bio' is added at start, it becomes 'Biofertilizer' which clearly denotes the biological agent being used as fertilizer. Biofertilization was routinely practiced by Russian farmers since 17th century to accelerate crop productivity. Today, biotechniques have provided us with efficient and sensitive tools to identify and isolate useful microbes from soil and find their role in plant growth. Once it is known that what interaction goes in between microbe and its host plant, and then next step is to multiply and formulate microbial mass on large scale for field application. Biotechnology has rendered us to identify various plant beneficial activities of microbes such as phosphate solubilization, nitrogen fixation, growth hormone production and antibiotic synthesis. Now we can synthesise phosphate biofertilizer or nitrogen biofertilizer depending upon plant's need and treat their deficiency diseases. Some microbes are able to identify deleterious microbes/weeds/insects and also have specific mechanisms to eradicate them for plant's benefit. They are natural disease controllers of plant and we synthesise them in biotech laboratory as biocontrol agents. So apply them instead of pesticides, herbicides or insecticides and save your money. Biotechnology has provided us techniques for breeding plants and animal for higher yield, disease resistance and ability to sustain extreme environmental conditions. We can also propagate plants in laboratory by tissue culture techniques. Many farmers are now growing tissue cultured plants and get benefits like higher production, reduced growth cycle and disease resistance. Plant tissue culture and breeding are now main branches of Agriculture Biotechnology.
Military: Wonder drug like penicillin had saved many soldiers in World War I and II. On the contrary, one of the discoveries of biotechnology, Bioweapons, is being feared to be used by terrorists for destruction. This would be a black side for this wonderful application in future.
Environment: Environmental biotechnology deals with conservation of present flora and fauna, animals on the verge of extinction like tiger and panda, medicinal plants and rare forest species. It has also given us an opportunity to clone sheep and some day dinosaurs and mammoth will reappear on earth! It is helping to clean polluted water, soil and air. We can degrade oil, sewage, plastic and also can reuse and recycle the things just because of biotechnology.
Industry: Laboratory synthesis of precious metals like gold and silver is now known, credit goes to biotechnology! Pulp and paper, cloth, dyes industries thrive on biotechnology. Biocatalysts enzymes along with bioinformatics have been highly productive biotechnological applications.
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