Biotechnology as the name indicates is the assemblage of technology in science of biology. Modern Biotechnology initiated with the discovery of double helical structure of the DNA. Subsequent investigation that helped in unraveling the process of inheritance pattern provided impetus to biotechnological research. The elaborative information on gene structure, function and regulation laid the formulation of biotechnology on a firm footing. Reverse transcription discovered in certain organisms paved the way for a new field of science, namely genetic engineering and the comprehensive utilization of the technique in biotechnology.
It soon becomes evident that by the use of suitable plasmid and bacteriophage vectors that transformation and transduction of foreign genes into heterologous hosts could be achieved. This led to the production of therapeutic proteins, transgenic plants and development of many novel vaccines.
There are many reasons for world-wide race in biotechnology. The different advancements of biotechnology are discussed below:
1) Genetic engineering
The utilization of genetic machinery of life for production of any special substance is called "genetic engineering" e.g., Cloning of penicillin G acylase gene. The latter converts penicillin G into G-APA (6 amino acid penicillanic acid). This 6 APA is a useful substrate for the production of synthetic penicillins. 6APA through genetic engineering is transferred in E.coli strain ATCC 11105. It is cloned in plasmid PBR 322 found.
a) In E.coli strain, which amplifies the penicillin acylase gene 50 times per cell, while the enzyme production was enhanced 6 fold. This increase of 6 fold has importance in antibiotic industry.
b) Cloning of (nif) nitrogen fixation genes
Microbes are capable of fixing atmospheric nitrogen for supply to agricultural lands e.g., Klebsiella neumoniae (free living). Rhizobium (symbiotic) nif region of Klebsiella neumoniae consists of a DNA segment consisting of seven operons including 15 genes clustered together. Cloning of this nif region was achieved in the form of plasmid called PWK 120 which imparts nitrogen fixation capacity to E.coli.
c) Cloning of Urokinase gene
Urokinase is an enzyme useful for dissolution of blood clots. Bacterial starins have been used for cloning purpose.
d) Cloning of human leukocyte interferon gene
mRNA that produces interferon was isolated and used for production of complementary DNA. This cDNA is cloned in plasmid vector p BR 322. This resulted in the production of biologically active interferon, at the arte of 10,000 units of interferon activity per gram of cells.
e) Cloning of hepatitis B virus (HBV) gene
HBV causes primary liver cancer. HBV-DNA was cloned in PBR 322 and propagated in E.coli. Antigens produced reacted with hepatitis B core antibody (HBCAB).
f) Cloning of genes of human peptide hormones (insulin and human growth hormone-HGH)
DNA fragment from human genome representing insulin gene was fused to an E.coli galactosidase gene and clone din plasmid pBR322. Here the gene could be transcribed and translated giving a stable protein, which is used to obtain human insulin.
g) Cloning of clotting factor VIII C (Haemophilia)
The DNA cloned for VIII C expressed in mammalian cell lines producing protein VIII C; the latter is responsible for clotting of human blood and is absent in patients suffering with haemophilia, which is a sex-linked disorder.
Besides, above mentioned strategies, biotechnology (Genetic Engineering specifically) has helped in the production of vaccines.
h) Monoclonal antibodies and hybridomas
Shikonin a red dye is one such compound, which has been obtained by culturing plant cells in bioreactors.
Humulin is the first genetically engineered human insulin produced by the American firm Eli lilly. It is the result of pig insulin concerted to human insulin.
i) Human growth hormone
It is another pharmaceutical product made through genetically engineered bacterium. This product became available in 1985 and is being used to treat children with pituitary dwarfism and other conditions related to growth hormone deficiency.
j) Recently, a genetically engineered malarial vaccine SPF-66 has been produced.
2) In Medicines
One of the most impressive achievements of science has been the explosion of knowledge about the chemical composition of organisms and the way these chemicals interact to create the phenomenon of life. Organisms are sometimes compared to chemical factories, the strength of this analogy lies in its emphasis on the chemical nature of life-the fact that growth, development and reproduction all depend on chemical reactions. However, the analogy does obscure some of the fundamental characteristics of organisms, many of which are directly relevant to biotechnology.
3) Diagnosis and Cure of Disease
Biotechnologists are paving the way for a massive assault on many more of world's devastating diseases including arthritis, cancer, diabetes, sleeping sickness, malaria, neurodegenerative diseases etc.
The four classes of antibodies the penicillin, the tetracycline, the cephalosporin and erythromycin are superb examples of the art of biotechnology.
4) Cell Fusion
It is one way of bringing together unaccustomed partners protein coding genes ad control regions. When cells are fused particularly, if they are closely related strains of microbes, pieces of DNA from each of the original cells will sometimes swap places. In particular, a control region from cell A may displace one from cell B, and this might lead to the expression of a previously dormant gene in cell B.
It is an advanced technique for drug delivery in parasitic diseases, Leishmaniasis etc. and has become a prominent feature of many areas of biotechnology. Tiny globules of fat-like material, known as liposomes can deliver potent poisons to cells infected with leishmania parasites. Liposomes offer a major advance in terms of safety.
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