WHAT IS BIOTECHNOLOGY (BT)

Biotechnology involves the use of cellular and molecular processes to make useful products. By ‘cells’ one also means human cells. And guess what, we’ve been doing it since the Stone Age. We’ve used microorganisms since millennium to make useful products like bread, cheese, curds and mankind’s most profitable BT product till date – booze.

So what now? Well, over the past two decades, our understanding of biology has reached a point where we can actually program the smallest parts of organisms, their cells and biomolecules, to do what we want them to do.

Actually biotechnology is a multi-disciplinary field, a collection of various technologies, ranging from biology, physics and chemistry all the way to ‘hard’ mathematics, statistics, electronics and IT. It is truly the technology of life.

BT Applications

These are awesome and staggering in their scope and impact. Fanatics are convinced BT can accomplish anything. One tends to agree.

Here are just a few of the new BT applications

Monoclonal Antibody Technology can create highly specific antibody cells that can seek and find cancer cells and diagnose infectious diseases in humans and do it fast.

Cell Culture Technology can grow cells outside of living organisms. Its applications alone would fill a library. We can, for example, grow plant cells and harvest potent drugs from them at will.

Biosensor Technology combines biology with microelectronics, to produce astonishing detecting devices that could, in principle, perform any diagnostic test you care to name.

Recombinant DNA Technology is what really catches everyone’s fancy. We actually can modify and combine genes at the molecular level and many people don’t like that. For Recombinant Technology can literally change the face of mankind. Currently, we use it to produce new vaccines, treat some genetic diseases, develop new drugs, increase crop yields, develop biodegradable plastics and improve food nutritional value among many other things, including ‘blasphemy’ like cell cloning.

Proteomics will be used to improve existing proteins, especially enzymes, and to create proteins not found in nature. The chemical, textiles, pharmaceutical, paper, food, metal and energy industries have already benefited from cleaner, more efficient production made possible by BT.

Let’s take our first step into the big bad world of BioTech. We start with:

The Cell

Humans, like all other creatures, are made up of cells. Each of us has one hundred trillion cells (100, 000,000,000,000) in our body. With the exception of red blood cells, each of these cells has:

A Nucleus

This is where it all happens. The nucleus contains a very complex substance called Deoxyribonucleic acid, alias DNA. Your DNA is -you. It has all the information needed to build you. Your DNA decides everything – your looks, your bald head, the shape of your nose, the size of your … never mind. It determines to a large extent, when and how you will die. Your DNA is your fate.

Your fate comes from your parents who give you…

Chromosome

which look like shoelaces. Each chromosome contains the DNA for thousands of individual genes, the units of heredity. It’s a lot of information. In fact, each nucleus contains six feet of DNA.

DNA is Life. It’s made of two strands twisted around each other in a double helix. Each DNA strand contains a long sequence of four molecules – Adenine (A), Thymine (T), Guanine (G) and Cytosine (C). These four compounds – or bases – are literally the building blocks of Life. The bases on one DNA strand form interlocking pairs with bases on the opposite strand – but A pairs only with T; G pairs only with C. The Code of Life, you see, has only four letters – ATCG. Why? God knows.

Each DNA helix has millions of such base-pairs, which makes the Code very difficult to crack. DNA has two properties that are unique in the known Universe: It can duplicate itself and it can, in an exact way, control the making of proteins.

Proteins

Are indispensable components of all cell activities. Proteins are the catalysts of Life. Without proteins, Life cannot exist. Insulin for example, is a critical protein that regulates blood sugar. Protein function and structure is determined by the 50,000 to 100,000 genes that make up DNA.

Genes

Are not made by Levi Strauss. Each gene is a segment of double-stranded DNA that holds the instructions for making a specific protein. We say it ‘codes’ for a particular protein. The total set of genes in the nucleus is called a genome. A single mistake in the Genome (for eg. T in place of A) can cause genetic disaster. Virtually all major ailments have been linked to small errors in the Genome. Even death is programmed into the Genome.

Biotech Trove’s Disclaimer :  The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the views of  Biotech Trove as an entity.

Sanjoy Gupta

The Editor

Biotechtrov’s ‘ Blog


Courtesy  :  chillibreeze.com

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2 Comments on “WHAT IS BIOTECHNOLOGY (BT)”


  1. WHAT IS BIOTECHNOLOGY BT Applications Chromosome Proteins


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