Biotechnology is defined as the industrial application of living organisms and their biological processes such as biochemistry, microbiology, and genetic engineering, in order to make best use of the microorganisms for the benefit of mankind.
Different types of biotechnology
I. Green biotechnology: Green biotechnology is defined as the application of biological techniques to plants with the aim of improving the nutritional quality, quantity and production economics. It is done by implanting foreign genes to plant species that is economically important. This contains three main areas: plant tissue culture; plant genetic engineering and plant molecular marker assisted breeding.
II. Red biotechnology: Red biotechnology is concerned with the discovery and development of innovative drugs and treatments. A key prerequisite was an increasing understanding of how proteins function, their roles in communication between and within cells, and the diseases caused when these proteins malfunction. This includes: Gene Therapy, Stem Cells, Genetic Testing, etc.
III. White biotechnology: This field of biotechnology is connected with industry. White biotech uses moulds, yeasts, bacteria and enzymes to produce goods and services or parts of products. It offers a wide range of bio-products like detergents, vitamins, antibiotics etc. Most of the white biotech processes results in the saving of water, energy, chemicals and in the reduction of waste compared to traditional methods.
IV. Blue biotechnology: Blue biotechnology is concerned with the application of molecular biological methods to marine and freshwater organisms.It involves the use of these organisms, and their derivatives, for multiple purposes, the most remarkable are the identification process and development of new active ingredients from marine origin.
V. Yellow biotechnology: Yellow biotechnology’ refers to biotechnology with insects — analogous to the green (plants) and red (animals) biotechnology. Active ingredients or genes in insects are characterized and used for research or application in agriculture and medicine.
Terminologies associated with the biotechnology
Cell: The cell is the basic structure of the body. The human body is built of billions and trillions of cells. Each cell contains the hereditary material and can make copies of themselves by reproducing and multiplying. After a specific life span the old cells die off. Parts of the cell are called organelles.
DNA: Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is a molecule that encodes the genetic instructions used in the development and functioning of all known living organisms.
GENE: A gene is a segment of nucleic acid that contains the information necessary to produce a functional product, usually a protein. The genes are made up of a coding alphabet of 4 nucleotides made up of 4 bases:- Adenine (A), Thymine (T), Guanine (G) and Cytosine (C) present in DNA.
Genetic engineering: Techniques to alter the chemistry of genetic material (DNA and RNA), to introduce these into host organisms and thus change the phenotype of the host organism.
Gene Therapy: This is in a way, genetic engineering of humans, which would allow a person suffering from a disabling genetic disorder to lead a normal life.
Genome Resource Bank: Genome Resource Bank (GRB) is a frozen repository of biological materials, including sperm and embryos, tissue, blood products and DNA. It is going to being used as a conservation tool for protecting and preserving biodiversity.
Human Genome Project: The aim of the Human Genome Project was to identify all the genes (approx. 25,000) in human DNA and to determine the sequence of the three billion chemical base pairs that make up human DNA. Efforts were made to create databases to store this information and develop tools to do comprehensive data analysis.
Bioinformatics: Bioinformatics is an independent discipline which merges the field of molecular biology and computer science. This mainly involves the transformation of biological polymers such as nucleic acids molecules and proteins into sequences of digital symbols. The symbols and their meaning for the protein sequences have also been generated.
Bioremediation: Bioremediation is the use of microorganisms for the degradation of hazardous chemicals in soil, sediments, water, or other contaminated materials. It uses naturally occurring bacteria and fungi or plants to degrade or detoxify substances hazardous to human health and/or the environment.
Biosensors: Biosensors are biophysical devices which can detect the presence of specific substances e.g. sugars, proteins, hormones, pollutants and a variety of toxins in the environment.
Bioreactors: Bioreactors can be thought of as vessels in which raw materials are biologically converted into specific products, individual enzymes, etc., using microbial plant, animal or human cells.
Bioprospecting is an umbrella term describing the process of discovery and commercialization of new products based in biological resources, typically in less-developed countries. Bioprospecting often draws on indigenous knowledge about uses and characteristics of plants and animals. In this way, bioprospecting includes biopiracy, the exploitative appropriation of indigenous forms of knowledge by commercial actors, as well as the search for previously unknown compounds in organisms that have never been used in traditional medicine.
Biopiracy is a situation where indigenous knowledge of nature, originating with indigenous people, is used by others for profit, without permission from and with little or no compensation or recognition to the indigenous people themselves.
Green consumerism refers to recycling, purchasing and using eco-friendly products that minimize damage to the environment. This involves decisions such as using Energy Start appliances that consume less power, buying hybrid cars that emit less carbon dioxide, using solar and wind power to generate electricity and buying locally grown vegetables and fruits.
A Comprehensive Environmental Pollution Index (CEPI) is a very useful tool to capture the health dimensions of the environment including air, water and land. The CEPI is intended to act as an early warning tool and can help in categorising the industrial clusters/areas in terms of priority of planning needs for interventions.
Bioregionalism is a political, cultural, and ecological system or set of views based on naturally defined areas called bioregions, similar to ecoregions. Bioregions are defined through physical and environmental features, including watershed boundaries and soil and terrain characteristics. Bioregionalism stresses that the determination of a bioregion is also a cultural phenomenon, and emphasizes local populations, knowledge, and solutions.
Bioethics: Bioethics is the branch of ethics, philosophy, and social commentary that deals with the biological sciences and its impact on the society.
Vaccine: A preparation that contains an agent or its components, administered to stimulate an immune response that will protect a person from illness due to that agent. A therapeutic (treatment) vaccine is given after disease has started and is intended to reduce or arrest the progress of the disease. A preventive (prophylactic) vaccine is intended to prevent disease from starting. Agents used in vaccines may be whole-killed (inactive), live-attenuated (weakened) or artificially manufactured. It can be created using the recombinant DNA process.
Vector: A vehicle that carries foreign genes into an organism and inserts them into the organism’s genome. Modified viruses are used as vectors for gene therapy.
Virus: A submicroscopic particle that can infect other organisms. It cannot reproduce on its own but infects an organism’s cell in order to use that cell’s reproductive machinery to create more viruses. It usually consists of a DNA or RNA genome enclosed in a protective protein coat.
Stem cell: A fundamental cell that has the potential to develop into any of the 210 different cell types found in the human body. Human life begins with stem cells, which divide again and again and branch off into special roles, like becoming liver or heart cells. They are an important resource for disease research and for the development of new ways to treat disease.
Amniocentesis: A procedure used in prenatal diagnosis to look at the chromosomes of the developing fetus. A flexible needle is inserted into the mother’s uterus through the abdomen to remove a sample of the fluid surrounding the fetus (amniotic fluid). This sample can then be analysed by karyotype to look for changes in the chromosomes. The procedure can be done after 15 weeks of pregnancy. There is a 0.5% risk of miscarriage associated with this procedure, which means one in 200 women will miscarry following this procedure.
Embryonic stem cells: Cells that are removed from the early embryo and are able to become any of the 210 cell types found in the human body. Researchers are looking at the great potential stem cells have in developing new treatments for disease and injury.