Biotechnology is huge; its exact boundaries cannot be defined. European scientists have divided biotechnology into two categories: Red biotechnology and Green biotechnology. Red biotechnology deals with medicine while green biotechnology deals with food. Some scientists have further divided biotechnology into blue and white biotechnology. White biotechnology, also referred as industrial biotechnology, utilizes natural methods such as enzymes and fermentation to generate products that were formerly produced by chemicals. Some examples of white biotechnology include bio-plastics made from starches and vegetable oil instead of petroleum. Blue biotechnology deals with marine genomics. Research, driven by desire, to find appropriate solutions for modern-day problems have formed the core of biotechnology today.
Genetic Engineering- Tay-Sachs Disease
Genetic engineering falls under red biotechnology. It is the process of testing the DNA of a person to check whether the person is carrying a gene that could lead to a potential disease. The first, wide-scale and successful, genetic engineering was conducted by Michael kaback, a pediatric neurologist in 1971. He gave an enzyme to nearly 1,800 people to determine if they were carrying Tay-Sachs disease gene. Tay-Sachs disease is a fatal genetic disorder, which causes nervous system atrophy resulting in death by age 5. The test conducted was both reliable and inexpensive and identified nearly 50,000 gene carriers in few years.
Biotechnology in fertility field has various viewpoints. Louise Brown born on July 25, 1978, was the first live-born baby conceived via in-vitro fertilization (IVF). IVF began gaining momentum and by 2006, nearly 3 million babies were born via IVF across the globe.
Following the success of IVF, pre-implantation genetic selection (PGS) became possible.
- The PGS process tests for certain genetic diseases including Tay-Sachs, cystic fibrosis, and
- Down syndrome. PGS process is also used for testing tissue and gender matching.
A key biotechnological growth area is called pharming, also called molecular farming bio-pharming, which involves gene insertion into crops to produce pharmaceutically potential products. The harvested crop is either refined as pharmaceutical product or consumed for its medicinal properties. Protein is the genetic material that is introduced predominantly introduced into these organisms. Scientists and researchers are positive about pharming primarily because the process targets both symptoms and the disease.
This could potentially result in cheap but highly- effective treatments.
Plant-made pharmaceuticals (PMP) have helped malnourished people in most of the developing nations. For example, the pharming product Golden Rice 2 is rich in pro-vitamin beta carotene that is converted into vitamin A by the body. In parts across the globe where staple foods are low in beta carotene, this pharming product aids in alleviating vitamin
A deficiency. Currently, scientist are conducting research of a wide array of pharming applications, including potatoes, which contain hepatitis C vaccine; safflowers, which contain insulin; and alfalfas, which contains a vaccine for influenza. ToBio, Virginia-based tobacco farmers group, collaborated with CropTech and has produced tobacco containing altered proteins that is used in vaccines and pharmaceuticals.
Biopharmaceutical products that result from the pharming process such as milk of goats, cows, or sheep forms another area of growth. In this process, the animal is genetically altered and then cloned taking advantage of its altered genome. The protein recombinant human antithrombin (ATryn) contains both anti-inflammatory and anti-coagulant properties produced from a transgenic goat's milk. This drug is used in treating people who suffer from acquired antithrombin deficiency or hereditary antithrombin deficiency, which could result from liver failure, sepsis, and cardiopulmonary bypass surgery.
There was mass starvation after World War II. World nations were unable to feed their starving population. This is when Mexico started producing sufficient wheat to feed not only its population but also started exporting to other countries as well. This quick turnaround by Mexico is considered as Green revolution. The plant geneticist Borlaug was the first to conduct experiments with wheat crossbreeds producing disease resistant and high-yield varieties. Following Mexico's success, India and China started attaining food security. Borlaug's revolution in food has reportedly saved more than 1 billion people from starvation.
Technology has typically originated from the developing world but with low economic incentives this was a distant dream. But things have changed now. Developing countries have begun embracing green technology and are growing rapidly aiming to play a vital role in feeding the world.
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