Friday, December 19, 2008

Introduction to Biotechnology

The term Biotechnology was used before the twientieth century for traditional activities such as making dairy products such as cheese and curd as well as bread, wine, beer etc. But none of these could be considered  biotechnology in the modern sense. Genetic alteration of organisms through selective breeding plant cloning by grafting etc do not fall under biotechnology. The process of fermentation for the preparation and manufacturing of products such as alcohol, beer, wine dairy products, various types of organic acids such as vinegar, citric acid, amino acids and vitamins can be called classical biotechnology or traditional biotechnology. Fermentation is the process by which living organisms.

Modern biotechnology is similar to classical biotechnology in utilizing living organisms. So what makes modern biotechnology modern? it is not modern in the sense of using various living organisms, but in the techniques for doing so. The introduction of a large number of new techniques has changed the face of classical biotechnology forever. These modern techniques, applied mainly to cells and molecules, make it possible to take advantage of the biological process in a very precise way. For example, genetic engineering has allowed us to transfer the property of a single gene from one organism to another. 

Definitions of Biotechnology:

There are several definitions of biotechnology. One simple definition is that it is the commercialization of cell and molecular biology. According to United States National Science Academy, biotechnology is the "controlled use of biotechnical agents like cells or cellular components for beneficial use". It covers both classical as well as modern biotechnology . More generally, biotechnology can be defined as "the use of living organisms, cells or cellular components for the production of compounds or precise genetic improvement of living things for the benefit of man".

Even though biotechnology has been in practice for thousands of years, the technological explosion of the twentieth century, in the various branches--physics, chemistry, engineering, computer applications and information technology--revolutionized the development of life sciences which ultimately resulted in the evolution of modern biotechnology. 

Supported by an array of biochemical, biophysical and molecular techniques besides engineering and information technology.. life scientists were able to develop new drugs, diagnostics, vaccines, food products, cosmetics and industrially useful chemicals. Genetically-altered crop plants, which can resist the stress of pests, diseases and environmental extremes were developed. New tools and techniques to extend the studies on genomics and proteomics, no only of man but other organisms were also developed. The involvement of information technology and internet in biotechnology particularly genomics and proteomics has given birth to a new branch in biotechnology--the science of bioinformatics and computational biology. The skills of biotechnology, like any other modern science are founded on the previous knowledge acquired through the ages. If one wants to understand biotechnology, one should also know the history of its development.

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