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Ever since the human population emerged and spread over the universe, the discoveries and inventions have been explored and growing steadfastly. Science has grown rapidly, transcending lot of obstacles. Technological breakthrough has comforted human by creating snugly facilities for the burgeoning population.
Due to spawning and astonishing population, the battle for food is also increasing. Diseases, extinction of rare species, destruction of potent beings, evacuating beneficial organisms have been the trend for the selfishness of human. So, there is a Biotechnology inclusion along with science and technology, to confront the challenges, addressing emerging issues and problems in human environment and men made ecological complications. Development of human resources in the aspect of Biotechnology became inevitable. Biotechnology has changed the quality of life through improved medicine, diagnostics, agriculture and waste management, to name a few.
The knowledge of biotechnology goes as far back as the beginning of human civilization and has been progressively practiced ever since. Most pronounced activities involving the use of biotechnology until the close of the 19th century were fermentation, curd making and brewing (Adapted from: BIO. "Biotechnology in Perspective." Washington, D.C.: Biotechnology Industry Organization, 1990). In the 20th century, the mankind witnessed most spectacular advances in biotechnology such as breeding of plants and animals, human genome sequencing, discovery and designing of drugs, cell tissue culture, DNA fingerprinting, genetically modified crops, stem cell therapy and the list goes on.
Adapted from: BIO. "Biotechnology in Perspective." Washington, D.C.: Biotechnology Industry Organization, 1990.
[This diagram represents the biotechnology at present and the future research possibilities].
Biotechnology-derived Health Products
recombinant blood products
tissue engineered products such as bone grafts, heart valves, xenografts, and collagen
agents used in gene therapies
molecular farming products
Diagnostic and preventative agents
Drugs and medical devices derived from biotechnology such as:
diagnostic test kits
viral, bacterial and rickettsial vaccines
radio labelled biotherapeutics used for diagnosis and imaging
bioremediation, the use of bacteria to clean up environmental contaminants, such as oil spills
biomass conversion, such as converting plant waste to ethanol for use as biofuels
biological enzymes, such as those used by the pulp and paper industry
biological drain cleaners and grease trap cleaners
Bio-based pest control products
(From the site www.hc-sc.gc.ca - health Canada)
Present Impact of Biotechnological Advances:
Stem cell research:
Stem cell research is one of the most important and most efficient methods of treating diseases by the application of biotechnology. It is used in the treatments of spinal cord injuries, diabetes, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, heart disease, baldness, replace dying red blood cells, immune system cells and creating a wide range of organs and tissues using embryonic stem cells (Wade, 2001). Normal, mature cells can only multiply about fifty times depending on the type of cell while the stem cells can multiply indefinitely (Alberts, 1998). Stem cells can also be cultured outside of the body now, which makes research much more convenient. They can either divide by binary fission, creating two stem cells, or through asymmetrical division, where they create one stem cell and one progenitor cell (Wade, 2001).
Genetically modified crops:
Another area of biotechnological advances which has more impact on human as well as animal health is production of genetically modified (GM) crops. This is known also known as modern food biotechnology, where the organisms, plants and animals are modified using recombinant DNA technology to produce food.
Rice strains with increased iron content and lowered anti- nutrients used to treat iron deficiency. Grains from transgenic rice plants contained three times more iron than normal rice (Goto et al., 1999; Potrykus, 1999).
Edible vaccines are injected in crops to eliminate disease.
Increased yield in Bt crops by insect pest resistance. Bt cotton farmers in China reduced pesticide spraying for the Asian bollworm by 70% (Huang et al., 2002).
Between 1997 and 2001, the number of south African cotton farmers who adopted the Bt cotton increased 16-fold (Bennett et al., 2003).
Biotechnology made it possible to detect, and treat diseases such as sickle-cell anaemia, Tay-Sachs disease, diabetes, and cystic fibrosis.
The use of biotechnology on animals improved the animal health by preventing viral and bacterial diseases by the use of monoclonal antibodies and improved the animal nutrition as well as the milk production and meat production.
By the application of tissue culture, resistant cultivars to disease and pests are produced. The plants have an increased growth rate and apparently healthier than other plants by defending themselves against harmful insects and diseases without the use of harmful pesticides.
Present-day applications of biotechnology in food processing are far more advanced than applications in the field of plant genetic engineering. It helps to eliminate toxic components and increase the nutritive value.
Nutritional qualities of staple foods are improved using transgenic methods compared to what can be accomplished using conventional breeding.
Pre-implantation diagnostics - Biotechnology has also proven useful for following genetic markers in plant and animal breeding, to predict a phenotypic property, crop's expected resistance to an infectious plant disease (Biotechnology and Development Monitor - Dr Gerd Junne).
The impacts of biotechnology
(TIBTECH - JUNE 1987 [Vol. 5])
New forms of treatment
New forms of diagnosis
Major diseases such as heart disease,
diabetes managed more efficiently:
overall impact on mortality arguable.
More rapid intervention: more
reproductive advice possible: risks of
anxiety/stigma if done carelessly
Substitution for existing
New forms of agricultural
Surplus capacity: loss of markets for some
farmers if diversification fails
Shift away from the land: regional
relocation: more industrialized, less
seasonal production: jobs displaced to
New solutions available to major waste
problems: some treatment processes
cheaper: possible job creation
Volume of 'traditional' effluent increased:
new problems created, such as plasmid
Diversification into/uptake of biotechnology strengthens a general trend
towards flexible production. More
processes based on fermentation; risks of
explosion, toxic gases and liquids
reduced: novel fermentation safety
problems arise: more shift-working in
areas where continuous processes now
Changes in patent law influence what
counts as private property. More genetic
data kept on file, much of it of debatable
value. Attitudes towards re-cycling and the use of renewable resources change.
Future of biotechnology on world health:
The future for biotechnology is a chest of ineffable promise for quality of life improved, diseases expunged, hunger terminated, and poverty reduced. Biotechnological advances offer highly promising new therapies. The determination of the physical structure of the DNA molecule became the foundation for modern biotechnology, enabling scientists to develop new tools to improve the future of mankind.
Progress in biotechnology is currently working on environmentally-friendly biodegradation processes for a cleaner and healthier planet. Microbes have the ability to digest compounds and are being produced to help reduce the pollution. More research works on waste assessment, treatment and wastes recycling are under progress to keep the environment clean.
Innovative biotechnologies currently being developed include:
Pathway and systems biology
Genetic data banks
Stem cell based therapies
New sensors and diagnostic technology
(OECD - future projects on the bioeconomy to 2030).
Gene therapy may well become the method whereby we correct congenital disease caused by faulty genes. Stem cell research may prove the panacea for Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, and muscular dystrophy.
(FUTURE OF BIOTECHNOLOGY Anna Treohan; 1993, Woodrow Wilson Biology Institute)
The recent emphasis on various kinds of diseases has made the scientists to find solutions for better and safer living conditions. The scientists are forced to work on biotechnological advances on diseases such as AIDS, tuberculosis and gonorrhoea which are major threats in today's world.
The Human Genome Project - a major biotechnological endeavour is developed to make a detailed map of human DNA. This project is estimated to take 15 years for completion. The chromosome maps are being developed in various laboratories worldwide and the genetic markers for over 4000 diseases caused by single mutant genes have been mapped. This project is likely to reduce most of the human diseases and improving the human health.
With the progress seen thus far in the fight against deadly diseases such as polio and small pox, it is not beyond reason that biotechnology may hold the promise for effective treatments or even cures for, say, cancer and AIDS. Human genome sequencing could be used for discovering and designing of drugs.
Recombinant DNA biotechnology, a major application of biotechnology, has influence in fields like agriculture, medicine, human and animal health, food production, etc. In medicine faster and more efficient diagnosis and treatment of diseases such as cystic fibrosis, cancer, sickle cell anaemia, and diabetes are soon to be developed [Recombinant DNA safety considerations¿½ Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)]. Recombinant organisms will be used in industry to produce new vaccines, solvents, and chemicals of all kinds.
The more exciting frontiers of biotechnology include protein based "biochips" which may replace silicon chips. It is believed that biochips would be faster and more energy efficient. Biochip implants in the body could deliver precise amounts of drugs to affect heart rate and hormone secretion or to control artificial limbs. Biosensors are monitors that use enzymes, monoclonal antibodies, or other proteins to test air and water quality, to detect hazardous substances, and to monitor blood components in vivo. New monoclonal antibodies will be isolated for use in cancer treatment, diagnostic testing, bone marrow transplantation and other applications.
The genetic improvements made with crop yield and nutritive value, world hunger and malnutrition may witness their denouement with the continual advancement of biotechnology. Research on disease and herbicide resistant crops, disease resistant animals, seedless fruits and rapidly growing chickens are going on.
GM crops: There are many controversies going on for the consumption of genetically modified crops. With the advances in biotechnology this constraints can be overcome and the GM crops can be consumed safely. Below are some of the methods to enhance the quality of GM crops in future for safe consumption.
The development of GM crops with agronomic traits such pest, disease and virus resistance in a broader range (Thompson 2003).
Altered nutrition and composition - vitamin A enhanced rice and maize varieties (Potrykus 2000).
Improved protein content - in staple vegetables and enhanced levels of amino acids.
Increased antioxidant content- increased level of lycopene and lutein content in tomato improves health and prevents disease (WHO 2000c).
Removing allergens and antinutrients - cassava contains high level of cyanide and it can be reduced by modern biotechnology; insertion of invertase gene from yeast in potato reduces the level of glycoalkaloid toxin (Buckanan et al. 1997).
Tolerance to environmental stresses through genetic modification (PIFB 2001).
The biotechnological advances also can improve the quality of life of patients through more efficient and effective treatments, making remote diagnosis and treatments possible and reducing treatment times. Research can be done to find out the personalized medicine for individual patients based on individual genotype.
Of all of the possible technical developments that may have as great of an influence as the revolutions in information technology and biotechnology, the one with the greatest potential impact is nanotechnology. As nanotechnology would continue to advance, it would move from the level of tissue repair to the level of operation in the interior of cells. Cell repairing
machines much smaller than a cell could work as "nanosurgeons"; they would reach into cells, sense damaged parts, repair them, close up the cells, and move on to others. Cellular damage caused by chemicals or radiation could be repaired, and viruses such as HIV that
attach to genetic material within cells could be killed. Genetic surgery would become a simple procedure that might only require the patient to swallow a pill. Ultimately, many of the effects of aging may be countered or repaired (DM. November 1999).
"Living machines" may be used not just to treat wastes but also to grow food, produce biofuels, heat and cool buildings, and produce by-products for use in the manufacture of materials ranging from paper products to advanced composite construction materials.
During the next 20 years, these developments will converge in a bio industrial revolution that will help the United States and other nations achieve continuing economic prosperity while sharply reducing the environmental impacts of development (DM. November 1999).
The biotechnological advances are likely to have huge impact on world health and the next decade can probably be named as "Age of Biotechnology."
"Biotechnology and genomics will produce new generations of antibiotics during the coming decade that will help arrest a potential global health crisis that may be caused by the proliferation of bacteria that are resistant to conventional antibiotics"(science direct- DM. November 1999).
Over the past 50 years, advances in genetics and molecular biology have enabled the development and commercial release of GMOs with traits that transcend the species barrier. The traits borne by GMOs may potentially bring significant benefits to the production of food. Fast growing GM salmon and GM cattle expressing increased levels of protein are in an advanced stage of development (world health organization, Department of food safety, 1 June 2005).
The world population is projected to reach 8 billion by 2025, and it is estimated that most of this growth will occur in developing countries (FAO 2002). Feeding and housing an additional 2 billion people will cause considerable pressure on land, water, energy and other natural resources. To augment domestic production and maintain adequate food supply, the countries should rely on improved farming and application of new technologies- increase yield, reducing fertilizer usage, resistance to drought, pests and diseases, increase the nutrient content and delivering vaccines.
GM foods currently available on the international market have undergone risk assessments and are not likely to present risks for human health any more than their conventional counterparts (world health organization, Department of food safety, 1 June 2005).
Research institutions in developing countries should focus on widening the crop base and on enhancing the yield and nutritional value of crops that are important.
Two fundamental drivers of biotechnology may play pivotal roles in the future of biotechnology. First, the extent to which technological integration proceeds may strongly impact the way society uses and perceives biotechnology. Second, the degree to which the public eventually accepts biotechnologically derived products and processes as legitimate and reliable alternatives to current products may shape both market demand and public policy (Technological Forecasting & Social Change 68 (2001) 109-129).
The future innovations are likely to have impact on treatment options to be more specific to patients, more rapid response to vaccines, and to enable drugs more effectively. These developments may contribute to better health care systems at social level.