Biotechnology basics

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What is biotechnology?

The term of biotechnology was first used in 1919 by Karl Erkey. In its widest sense, it refers to all technolgical processes that make use of living organisms in order to manufactor useful products or provide useful services for human exploitation. In his terms, this would include the mechanisation of farming and the selective breeding of plants and animals over generations.

Ancient biotechnology methods include yogurt-making, cheese-making, baking and brewing, which have been carried out for thousands of years.

in 1917, Chaim Weizmnn first used a pure culture of the bacterium Clostridium acetoybutylicum to produce acetone, needed to make explosives during World War One

Modern biotechnology is characterised by recominant DNA technology, and the US Supreme Court ruling in 1980 that a gentically modified Pseudomonas bacterium, developed to digest crude oil in oil spills, could be patented was a landmark.

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four affecting areas

In recent years, our growing understanding of genetics and ability to manipulate living organisms in a variety of ways has led to huge expansions in biotehcnological processses. Biotehcnolgy has applicationgs in four major areas that affect our lives;

  • Health care and medical processes-includes the production of drugs by microorganism and gene therapy to treat some genetic disorders
  • agriculture-includes micropropagation of plants and the development of genetically modified plants.
  • industry-includes genetically modifying organisms to produce enzymes.
  • food science-includes developing foods with improved nutrition or better taste, texture and appearance.

others include;

  • there is also blue biotechnology applied to marine and aquatic environments
  • the gentic engineering of crops to be herbicide-resistant and other manipulations of organisms
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Purpose of biotechnological processes

The production of foods-for exmaple cheese and yogurt making which uses bacterial (lactobacillus) growth in milk to generate a different food. These bacteria prevent the growth of other bacteria that would cause spoilage, and so preserve the food.-Mycoprotein-Growth of a specific fungus (Fusarium) in cluture. The fungal mycelium produced is separated and processed as food. Naturally brewed soya sauce-Roasted soya beans are fermented with yeast or fungi such as Aspergillus.

The production of drugs or other pharmaceutical chemicals-Penicillin, an antibiotic medicene-The fungus penicillium grown in culture produces the antibiotic as a by-product of its metabolism. Insulin, hormone used by diabetic patients whose own production of the hormone is not sufficient-Bacteria (E.Coli) are genetically modified to carry the human insulin gene. Organisms secrete the insulin protein as they grow.

The production of enzymes or other chemicals or cmmericial use-Pectinase, used in fruit juice extraction-The fungus, A.niger, grown in certain conditions produces and secretes pectinase enzyme. Calcium Citrate, used in detergents, The fungus A.niger, produces Citric acid as a by-product of its normal metabolism. Bio-gas fuel production-Methanogenic bacteria, grown on concentrated sewage, respire anaerobically and generate gases that can be used as fuel.

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Purpose continued..

The bioremediation of waste products-Waste water treatment-A variety of bacteria and fungi use organic waste in water as nutrients and make the waste harmless;for example Fusarium grown on corn steep liquor, a waste product of the corn milling industry.
The Use of Microorganisms in Biotechnology
Use of bacteria and Fungi in various processes is widespread as microorganisms;

  • Grow rapidly in favourable conditions, with a generation time, time taken for numbers to double, of as little as 30 seconds.
  • Often produce proteins or chemicals that are given out into the surrrounding medium and can be harvested.
  • can be geneicaly engineered to produce specific products.
  • Grow well at relatively low temperatures, much lower than those required in chemical engineering of similar processes.
  • can be grown anywhere in the world and are not dependent on climate
  • tend to generate products that are in a more ure form that those generated via chemical poricesses.
  • can often be grown using nutrient materials that would be otherwise useless or even toxic to humans.
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