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Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering

Updated on October 17, 2019
Adedeji Omotayo profile image

Adedeji is a noble entrepreneur with experience in content writing. He loves to share practical experience and content advisor at HFPM.

Introduction

The development and regulation of biotechnology have triggered many discussions from several academic fields, such as economics, law, politics and even history. Specifically, however, the genetic engineering of living cells, plants, animals and human beings has brought ethical concerns and issues to the foreground. Mediatic announcements such as the creation of genetically engineered tomatoes or soya, the cloning of the sheep "Dolly", the deciphering of the human genome or research on "cloning" human embryos have been followed by many reactions in the name of ethics. Diverging views have been expressed, as representations of our "natural" world were being challenged. The manner in which the public perceives any new technology, including biotechnology, will have important influences on the timing and direction of innovation, and in the rate of uptake or degree of discrimination against the technology, its products, and services. Public perception of biotechnology; genetic engineering will also be influenced by geographical location, which will reflect several variables, for example, economic affluence, level of education, cultural and religious values and tradition, together with social and institutional ways of participation.

Brief History Of Biotechnology

Biotechnology is the application of scientific and engineering principles to the processing of materials by biological agents to provide goods and services. From its inception, biotechnology has maintained a close relationship with society. Although now most often associated with the development of drugs, historically biotechnology has been principally associated with food, addressing such issues as malnutrition and famine. The history of biotechnology begins with zymotechnology, which commenced with a focus on brewing techniques for beer. By World War I, however, zymotechnology would expand to tackle larger industrial issues, and the potential of industrial fermentation gave rise to biotechnology. However, both the single-cell protein and gasohol projects failed to progress due to varying issues including public resistance, a changing economic scene, and shifts in political power.

Yet the formation of a new field, genetic engineering, brought biotechnology to the forefront of science in society, and the intimate relationship between the scientific community, the public, and the government would ensue. These debates gained exposure in 1975 at the Asilomar Conference, where Joshua Lederberg was the most outspoken supporter for this emerging field in biotechnology. By as early as 1978, with the development of synthetic human insulin, Lederberg's claims would prove valid, and the biotechnology industry grew rapidly. Each new scientific advance became a media event designed to capture public support, and by the 1980s, biotechnology grew into a promising real industry. In 1988, only five proteins from genetically engineered cells had been approved as drugs by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but this number would skyrocket to over 125 by the end of the 1990s.

Relations Of Biotechnology and Genetic engineering

Genetic Engineering is when you apply engineering principles to biological systems in order to solve problems. Problems may involve sustainable food, materials, energy, and health. The engineered organisms or the products they are engineered to create are considered a technology - biotechnology.

Genetic engineering, also called genetic modification, is the direct manipulation of an organism's genes using biotechnology (the broad area of biology involving any technological applications that use living organisms to modify a product for use). Genetic engineering is a set of technologies used to change the genetic makeup of cells, including the transfer of genes within and across species boundaries to produce improved organisms.

An organism that is generated through genetic engineering is considered to be genetically modified (GM) and the resulting entity is a genetically modified organism (GMO).

Genetic modification is the process of altering the genetic makeup of an organism. This has been done indirectly for thousands of years by controlled, or selective, breeding of plants and animals. However, modern biotechnology has made it easier and faster to target a specific gene for a more-precise alteration of the organism through genetic engineering.

The above image shows a relation of genetic engineering and biotechnology whereby a DNA containing gene removed from a cell are reproduced creating a larger number with new characteristics.

Applications

The application of modern biotechnology to food and food production (GM food) presents new opportunities and potential benefits, as well as challenges in ensuring consumer protection. Recent developments have posed concerns, both real and perceived, about these technologies. Bacteria, the first organisms to be genetically modified, have plasmid DNA inserted containing new genes that code for medicines or enzymes that process food and other substrates. Genetic engineering majorly has applications in Medicine, Research, Industry, and Agriculture.


  • In medicine, genetic engineering has been used to mass-produce insulin, human growth hormones, Follistim (for treating infertility), human albumin, monoclonal antibodies, antihemophilic factors, vaccines, and many other drugs.

  • In research, organisms are genetically engineered to discover the functions of certain genes

  • Industrial applications include transforming microorganisms such as bacteria or yeast, or insect mammalian cells with a gene coding for a useful protein. Mass quantities of the protein can be produced by growing the transformed organism in bioreactors using fermentation, then purifying the protein.

  • In agriculture, genetic engineering has been used in the creation of genetically modified crops or genetically modified livestock to produce genetically modified food.


Other Applications

In conservation and natural area management whereby gene transfer through viral vectors has been proposed as a means of controlling invasive species as well as vaccinating threatened fauna from disease.

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