Do you want to create an amazing science fair project on biotechnology ? You are in the right place. Read the below given article to get a complete idea on biotechnology: 1. Origin of Biotechnology 2. Meaning of Biotechnology 3. Definition 4. Modern Facts 5. Principles 6. Applications 7. Roles 8. Improving Areas 9. Impacts 10. Ethical Perspective 11. Achievement 12. Future.
- Science Fair Project on the Origin of Biotechnology
- Science Fair Project on the Meaning of Biotechnology
- Science Fair Project on the Definition of Biotechnology
- Science Fair Project on the Modern Facts of Biotechnology
- Science Fair Project on the Principles of Biotechnology
- Science Fair Project on the Applications of Biotechnology
- Science Fair Project on the Roles of Biotechnology
- Science Fair Project on the Improving Areas of Biotechnology
- Science Fair Project on the Impacts of Biotechnology
- Science Fair Project on the Ethical Perspective of Biotechnology
- Science Fair Project on the Achievement of Biotechnology
- Science Fair Project on the Future of Biotechnology
Science Fair Project # 1. Origin of Biotechnology:
The origin of biotechnology goes back to 6000 B.C with the story of the use of biological systems for the fulfilment of human needs, when Sumerians and Babylonians fermented a kind of beer.
Beginning with fermentation of beer, the use of biological processes then experienced has undergone many changes over the centuries. But greatest revolution has taken place in the 1970’s and 1980’s, when a product of interaction between the science of biology and technology came into wider existence.
This relationship thus got the name Biotechnology. The origin of biotechnology can be traced back to prehistoric times when microorganisms were already used for processes like fermentation, formation of yoghurt and cheese from milk, vinegar from molasses, production of butanol and acetone from starch by Clostridium acetobutylicum.
Fast forward to modern biotechnology in the last few hundred years: Some of the most important modern biotechnologies were the development of vaccines and antibiotics such as the production of antibiotics like penicillin from Penicillium notatum.
Jenner, 1795, is credited with invention of vaccination in Western medicine. Jenner found that vaccination with cowpox virus makes people immune to smallpox, which is caused by smallpox virus (though of course the germ theory of disease and the concept of viruses did not come until much later).
Sometime between 1795 and 1930, the cowpox virus used for vaccination against smallpox was replaced with vaccinia virus, a contaminant of unknown origin that is not the same as cowpox virus. The terms vaccinia and vaccination are based on the Latin name for cow (vacca).
In the 1960s and 70s, our knowledge of cell and molecular biology reached the point where we could begin to manipulate organisms at those levels. Essentially, we learned how to move genes around, at will. Manipulating organisms to our advantage is not new.
What is new is how we are manipulating them. The key to new technology was recombinant DNA; the term biotechnology implied the use of recombinant DNA. But the meaning of the word has become broader by the use of cells and biological molecules to solve problems or make useful products.
Nowadays it can mean almost anything that has to do with biology and technology. Defenders of the use of genetically engineered plants and animals are fond of the point that biotechnology is not new and of the idea that manipulating organisms to our advantage (by selective breeding) is not new.
We will focus on other aspects of biotechnology i.e. human health, which experts estimate is the aim of more than 80% of biotech research funds (but that is difficult to measure). Biotechnology makes its contribution in all fields related to health care, especially in the fields of Microbiology, Genetics, Biochemistry and Immunology which have principal contribution to the medical field for many years.
Biotechnology research is aimed towards:
i. Diseases caused by infective agents, including viruses
ii. Diseases due to imbalance in body’s natural chemistry
iii. Genetic disorders
iv. AIDS, Tumor and Cancer Therapy
v. Organ Transplantation
The numerous tools and sciences that are the basis for biotechnology are kind of overwhelming, but remember no one person knows everything about all of this which are also fundamental to success in biotechnology.
Through the centuries with the increase in population of the world and consequently increase in the demand for food supply, various novel methods have been used to increase the production of food and also improve the quality and there by fulfil the demands of the increasing population.
Since plants are the key to life on earth, they directly supply 90% of human calorie intake, and 80% of the protein intake and the remainder being derived from animal products, although these animals have also derive their nutrition from plants.
Of the three thousand plant species which have been used as food by man, the world now depends mainly on around twenty crop species for the majority of its calories, with 50% being contributed by eight species of cereals.
Minerals and vitamins are supplied by a further thirty species of fruits and vegetables. Most important of the staple foods are the cereals, particularly wheat and rice, with more than one-third of all cultivated land used to produce these two crops.
As the population continues to expand, there has been a concern over the large number of people that the world agriculture can support. It has been calculated that the earth can support about 15 billion people on a strictly vegetarian diet, or five billion on a mixed diet. The population is expected to be fifteen billion by 2025. The farming practices and crops cultivated today have developed over a relatively short time span.
Crop plants of today have changed in a number of ways so that they now bear very little resemblance to their wild type ancestors. These changes have come about through selection, either conscious or unconscious, for traits which are advantageous to the people growing the crops. Thus modern wheat does not disperse their seeds or legumes do not have pods which burst open.
Today, varieties are the result of generation of plants cultivated under ideal conditions from the man’s point of view. From the beginning of crop cultivation to the late nineteenth century, all improvements in the species used were brought about by those who were directly involved, i.e. farmers themselves.
In the following 100 years, the laws of genetic inheritance and rules governing species variation were laid down by Mendel, Darwin and others which redefined the breeding techniques by making them predictable and therefore quicker, more precise and more productive. Furthermore, despite the implementation of breeding techniques, the time taken to produce and test varieties is an important limiting consideration.
Similar to the improvements in plant production, there has been a considerable advance in animal production, such as breeding animals for disease resistance, high productivity of milk in bovine animals, etc.
Microorganisms have been extensively used in various industries for the production of vaccines for various diseases, production of antibiotics, in fermentation processes etc. Biotechnology thus consists of a variety of techniques, designed to genetically improve and/or exploit living systems or their components for the benefit of man. Infact, biotechnology is the product of interaction between sciences of biology and technology.
However, biotechnology got a boost in the 1970’s with the discovery of restriction enzymes which led to the development of a variety of gene technologies and is thus considered to be the greatest scientific revolution of this century. The prokaryotes, eukaryotic algae, glycophytes and halophytes all are likely to contribute in commercially viable future propositions.
Therefore Biotechnology is the application of biological organisms, systems or processes to manufacture and service industries, comprises a number of technologies based upon increasing understanding of biology at the cellular and molecular level.
The following are the Areas of applied biotechnology:
In 1885, a scientist named Roux demonstrated embryonic chick cells could be kept alive outside an animal’s body. For the next hundred years, advances in cell tissue culture have provided fascinating glimpses into many different areas such as biological clocks and cancer therapy. Monoclonal antibodies are new tools to detect and localise specific biological molecules.
In principle, monoclonal antibodies can be made against any macromolecule and used to locate, purify or even potentially destroy a molecule as for example with anticancer drugs.
Molecular biology is useful in many fields. DNA technology is utilised in solving crimes. It also allows searchers to produce banks of DNA, RNA and proteins, while mapping the human genome. Tracers are used to synthesise specific DNA or RNA probes, essential to localising sequences involved in genetic disorders.
With genetic engineering, new proteins are synthesised. They can be introduced into plants or animal genomes, producing a new type of disease resistant plants, capable of living in inhospitable environments (i.e. temperature and water extremes).
When introduced into bacteria, these proteins have also produced new antibiotics and useful drugs. Techniques of cloning generate large quantities of pure human proteins, which are used to treat diseases like diabetes. In the future, a resource bank for rare human proteins or other molecules is a possibility.
For instance, DNA sequences which are modified to correct a mutation, to increase the production of a specific protein or to produce a new type of protein can be stored. This technique will be probably playing a key role in gene therapy.
Over the past few years a number of methodologies have come that would seem to have much more to offer in terms of advancing current research in the plant sciences, and exploiting the knowledge gained to develop new crops. The first of these areas is concerned with manipulation and subsequent growth of cells, tissues, organs and naked plant cells (protoplasts) in tissue culture.
The second field is genetic engineering or recombinant DNA (rDNA) technology which has grown out very fast from the work initially carried out on microorganisms. With genetic engineering, scientists have more exact methods for breeding better livestock and crop varieties.
This technology allows for the detailed manipulation of genes. These two areas of research have in recent years become associated with the general field of biotechnology and are potentially applicable to a wide variety of plant species, as well as offer a precision in manipulating genetic material.
Recombinant DNA techniques in particular have already contributed much to the elucidation of basic mechanisms in plants at the molecular level. The term genetic engineering refers to a number of new techniques involving the transfer of specific genetic information from one organism to another.
These techniques do not rely on sexual methods, but instead involve genetic manipulation at the cellular and molecular levels. These are the nonsexual methods for gene transfer.
The technique includes recombinant DNA manipulations, monoclonal antibody preparation, tissue culture, protoplast fusion, protein engineering, immobilised enzyme, cell catalysis, sensing with the aid of biological molecules, etc.
Biotechnology is still in the process of early development. Only in last fifteen years progress have been made by microbiologists and genetic engineers, and we are hopeful to solve many fold problems of the present day, specially energy and food crisis to cater the need of growing population of the world.
Science Fair Project # 2. Meaning of Biotechnology:
Biotechnology deals with the techniques of using live organisms or enzymes from organisms to produce products and processes useful to human, e.g., in vitro fertilisation leading to a test-tube baby, developing DNA vaccine or correcting a defective gene are all parts of biotechnology.
Modern biotechnology is the term used in a restricted sense to refer to such processes/production technologies that involve Genetically Modified (GM) organisms. The European Federation of Biotechnology (EFB) has defined biotechnology as the integration of natural science and organisms, cells and molecular analogues for the products and .services. The term ‘Biotechnology’ was coined by Karl Ereky in 1919.
Biotechnology is that portion of microbiological science which deals with the possible utilization of micro-organisms in industrial processes, or in processes in which their activities may become of industrial or technical significance.
Thus, biotechnology may be defined as the use of microorganisms, animal or plant cells, or their components to generate products and services useful to human beings. However, the use of complete animals and plants is not generally included in biotechnology.
For several decades it has been known that numerous kinds of yeasts, moulds and other lower fungi, and several types of groups of bacteria have direct relation, to certain types of economic processes carried out in connection with industrial or factory operations, such as brewing, wine making, cheese making, etc.
However, people did not know that microorganisms were involved in these processes. Micro-organisms were used for the first time to produce some organic compounds like citric acid in the beginning of twentieth century. Thereafter, micro-organisms were employed to generate a variety of products, including antibiotics.
In all such processes, only the natural capabilities of the organisms and cells are exploited. All such activities carried over by micro-organisms were grouped under old biotechnology.
In recent years revolution in biology has occurred due to the potential of biotechnology. Techniques have been developed to produce rare and medicinally valuable molecules, to change hereditary traits of plants and animals, to diagnose diseases, to produce useful chemicals, and to clean up and restore the environment. Thus, biotechnology has great impact in the fields of health, food, agriculture and environmental protection.
During 1970, the technique of recombinant DNA technology was developed. Recombinant DNA technology is popularly known as genetic engineering. Recombinant DNA technology is responsible for the isolation of desired gene from any organism, and its transfer and expression into the organism of choice.
In most of the developed countries, the recombinant DNA technology has become one of the major thrusts. The United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) has recognised the potential of genetic engineering and bio-technology for promoting the economic progress of the developing countries.
Transgenic micro-organisms are produced to obtain novel pharmaceutical proteins, such as human insulin is commercially produced from a transgenic Escherichia coli (bacterium) strain that contains and expresses the human insulin gene. Proteins produced by transgenes are called recombinant proteins.
Many valuable recombinant proteins also have been produced by use of transgenic animal cell lines and transgenic plants. However, the recombinant proteins cannot be naturally produced by the concerned cells or organisms. The production technologies based on genetic engineering are grouped under modern biotechnology.
In India, in 1988, a full-fledged Department of Biotechnology (DBT) has been set up, in the Ministry of Science and Technology for planning, promotion and co-ordination of various biotechnological programmes.
Recombinant DNA technology has made it easier to detect the genetic diseases and cure before the birth of a child. In genetic engineering programmes, it has become possible to map the whole genome of an organism. Gene bank and DNA clone bank have been constructed to make available different types of genes of its known function.
Science Fair Project # 3. Definition of Biotechnology:
The term ‘biotechnology’ has been defined in various ways depending on its fundamental meaning and diversified applications. Sometimes, this term has been defined rather loosely.
A few definitions are as follows:
Biotechnology is the application of microorganism and biological systems to the production of goods and services that are beneficial to human welfare. It is an integration of several disciplines including microbiology, biochemistry, genetics and biochemical engineering.
Biotechnology is the application of recombinant DNA, cell and tissue culture, and other methods used to develop new and improved plants and plant products.
Biotechnology is the application of scientific and engineering principles to the processing of materials by biological agents to provide goods and services.
Genetic engineering refers collectively to a number of very new techniques for changing plants genetically-techniques that do not rely on pollination, but instead involve genetic manipulations at the cellular levels.
Genetic engineering in the direct manipulation of isolated genetic material, in the form of purified DNA. Biotechnology includes any techniques, that the living organisms use or substances from organisms, to make or modify a product, to improve plants or animals or to develop microorganisms for specific uses.
Biotechnology consists of a gradient of technologies, ranging from the long established and widely used techniques of traditional biotechnology (e.g., food fermentation, biological control) through to modern biotechnology, which is based on the use of new techniques of recombinant- DNA technology (often called genetic engineering), monoclonal antibodies, and new cell and tissue culture methods.
Science Fair Project # 4. Modern Facts of Biotechnology:
Now we will be looking at the various facts about biotechnology, the perception of public and its global impact. Biotechnology is said to be the third wave in biological sciences and represents such an interface of basic and applied sciences, where gradual and subtle transformation of science into technology can be witnessed.
Consequently, the new term “biotechnology” has emerged which includes processes that exploit versatile metabolic machinery or components of living organisms to produce valuable metabolites from renewable resources. This is very timely since due to the increasing human population, the supply of many valuable raw materials is diminishing.
The new technology can be used to create novel resources and materials. Biological systems can now be exploited at many new frontiers. The objective of studying the modern facts is that we will be able to know the different fields in which the biotechnology works and what are the perceptions of the public regarding the biotech products.
There are various modern facts regarding biotechnology which are as follows:
Over 200 million people worldwide have been helped by more than 80 biotechnology drug products and vaccines approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
i. There are more than 350 biotechnology drug products and vaccines currently in human clinical trials and hundreds more in early development in the United States. These medicines are designed to treat various cancers, Alzheimer’s, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, AIDS, obesity and other conditions.
ii. Biotechnology is responsible for hundreds of medical diagnostic tests that keep the blood supply safe from the AIDS virus and detect other conditions early enough to be successfully treated. Home pregnancy tests are also biotechnology diagnostic products.
iii. Consumers are already enjoying biotechnology foods such as vine-ripened, longer-lasting tomatoes and better-tasting carrots and peppers. Hundreds of bio-pesticides and other agricultural products are also being used to improve our food supply and to reduce our dependence on conventional chemical pesticides.
iv. Environmental biotechnology products make it possible to more efficiently clean up hazardous waste without the use of caustic chemicals.
v. Industrial biotechnology applications have led to cleaner processes with lower production of wastes and lower energy consumption, in such industrial sectors as chemicals, pulp and paper, textiles, food and fuels, metals and minerals and energy. For example, much of the denim produced in the United States is finished using biotechnology enzymes.
vi. DNA fingerprinting, a biotech process, has dramatically improved criminal investigation and forensic medicine, as well as afforded significant advances in anthropology and wildlife management.
vii. Market capitalisation, the amount of money invested in the U.S. biotechnology industry, increased 4 percent in 1998, from $93 billion to $97 billion.
viii. Approximately one-third of biotech companies employ fewer than 50 employees. More than two-thirds employ fewer than 135 people.
ix. The U.S. biotechnology industry currently employs more than 153,000 people in high-wage, high-value jobs.
x. Biotechnology is one of the most research-intensive industries in the world. The U.S. biotech industry spent $9.9 billion in research and development in 1998. The top five biotech companies spent an average of $121,400 per employee on R&D. This compares with an average of $31,200 per employee for the top pharmaceutical companies.
xi. The biotech industry is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Science Fair Project # 5. Principles of Biotechnology:
The two core techniques that enabled birth of modem biotechnology are:
i. Genetic Engineering:
It is a modification of chemical nature of genetic material (DNA/RNA) and their introduction into another organism to change the phenotypic characters of the host organism.
ii. Sterilisation Methods:
These methods are used to maintain the growth and manipulation of desired microbes or cells. It required to get large quantities of products e.g., vaccines, enzymes, antibiotics, etc., in sterile conditions required for the chemical engineering processes.
Principles of Genetic Engineering:
Genetic engineering is a process of manipulation of genetic material by man in vitro. The technique includes formation of recombinant DNA (rDNA), use of gene cloning and gene transfer.
A piece of DNA, which is introduced into the alien (foreign) organism would not be able to multiply in an organism by its own but when it get incorporated into the genetic material of recipient, it gets inherited along with the host and multiply.
A specific DNA sequence called origin of replication is present in a chromosome, which is responsible for initiating replication. Thus, this foreign DNA is consequently linked with the origin of replication, so it can replicate and make multiple, identical copies of itself in the host organism. This is also called cloning.
Thus, basic steps in genetic engineering include:
i. Identification of DNA.
ii. Introduction of DNA into suitable host to form recombinant DNA (rDNA).
iii. Maintenance of DNA in particular host and gene cloning.
iv. Gene transfer.
Science Fair Project # 6. Applications of Biotechnology:
The applications of biotechnology include therapeutics, diagnostics and Genetically Modified (GM) crops for the agriculture, processed food, bioremediation, waste treatment and energy production.
Three critical research areas of biotechnology are:
i. To provide the best catalyst in the form of improved organisms, usually a microbe or a pure enzyme.
ii. To create optimal conditions through engineering for a catalyst to act.
iii. Downstream processing technologies to purify the organic compounds.
I. Applications in Agriculture:
Food production can be increased by applying techniques of biotechnology in the following ways:
i. Agro-chemical based agriculture.
ii. Organic agriculture.
iii. Genetically engineered crops.
The Green Revolution succeeded in enhancing the food supply to its three fold but yet it is not enough to feed the rapidly growing human population.
It increased the yield of crops mainly due to:
i. Use of improved varieties of crops.
ii. Use of agrochemicals (fertilisers) and pesticides.
iii. Use of better management practices.
Agrochemicals (pesticides and fertilisers) have harmful effects on the environment and are expensive for the farmers in developing countries and also the further increase in yield with existing varieties is not possible using conventional breeding. Therefore, the best solution to overcome from all these issues is that the genetically modified (GM) crops should be developed.
Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs):
The plants, bacteria, fungi and animals whose genes have been altered by the manipulation are called Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). GM plants are useful in many ways.
Genetic modification has done the following changes to the phenotypic expression of the plants:
(i) Crops become more tolerant to abiotic stresses like cold, drought, salt and heat.
(ii) Dependence on chemical pesticides has reduced, i.e., pest-resistant crops.
(iii) Helped to reduce postharvest losses.
(iv) Efficiency of mineral usage increased in plants, preventing early exhaustion of fertility of soil.
(v) Enhanced nutritional value of food, e.g., vitamin-A enriched rice.
GM has been used to create tailor-made plants to supply alternative resources to the industries, in the form of starch, fuels and pharmaceuticals.
Some applications of biotechnology in agriculture has led the production of pest-resistant plants, which could decrease the amount of pesticides being used. Bt toxin is produced by a bacterium called Bacillus thuringiensis.
Bt gene has been cloned from the bacteria and been expressed in plants to provide resistance to the insects without the need for insecticides and so named as bio-pesticides. For example, Bt cotton, Bt corn, &rice, Bt tomato, Bt potato and Bt soya bean.
Bt cotton is created by using some strains of a bacterium. Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt is a short form). This bacterium produces a protein that kills certain insects such as Lepidopterans (tobacco, budworm, and armyworm), Coleopterans (beetles) and Dipterans (flies, mosquitoes).
B. thuringiensis forms protein crystals (Cry) during a particular phase of their growth. These crystals contain a toxic insecticidal protein.
Bt toxin protein exists as inactive pro-toxins, but once an insect ingests the inactive toxin, it is converted into an active form of toxin due to the alkaline pH of the gut which solubilize the crystals.
The activated toxin binds to the surface of midgut epithelial cells and create pores that cause cell swelling and lysis leading to the death of an insect.
Specific Bt toxin genes were isolated from Bacillus thuringiensis and incorporated into several crop plants like cotton, tomato, rice, soya bean, etc.
The proteins encoded by the following cry genes control the pest given against them:
(i) cry IAc and cry IIAb control cotton bollworms.
(ii) cry lAb controls corn borer.
(iii) cry IIIAb controls Colorado potato bettle.
(iv) cry IIIBb controls corn rotworm.
Several nematodes infect a wide variety of plants and animals including human beings:
i. A nematode Meloidegyne incognitia infects the roots of tobacco plants, which reduces the production of tobacco.
ii. The strategy adopted to prevent this infection is based on the power of RNA interference (RNAi). RNAi takes place in all eukaryotic organisms as a method of cellular defense. This method involves silencing of a specific mRNA due to complementary dsRNA molecule that binds to and prevents translation of mRNA.
iii. Agrobacterium vectors are used to introduce nematode-specific genes into the host plant. It produces both sense and antisense RNA in the host cells. These two RNAs are complementary to each other and form a double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) that initiate RNAi and hence silence the specific mRNA of the nematode.
iv. Thus, the parasite cannot survive in transgenic hosts, so prevents the plants from the pests. The transgenic plant thus gets itself protected from the parasite. These are developed by using biotechnological processes.
II. Applications of Biotechnology in Health Care:
Biotechnology which has emerged as harbinger of new drug development in the 1990’s and this decade can be called as the decade of Biotechnology. The advent of genetic engineering and hybridioma technology has led to the production of many newer drugs such as genetically engineered proteins and peptides which include hormones, enzymes, interferon’s, vaccines and monoclonal antibodies.
The different classes of drugs obtained from biotechnology are:
i. Anticoagulants/Thrombolytics agents Prourokinase for the treatment of heart attacks.
ii. Colony stimulating factors (CSF) Granulocyte CSF, for the treatment of AIDS, leukemia and a plastic anemia, and granulocyte Macrophage CSF, for same indications as above and Hodgkin’s disease.
iii. Erythropoietins to treat anemia
iv. Interferons several types are under study to treat cancer, AIDS, herpes and rheumatoid arthritis.
v. Interlocking Interleukin-2, for cancer immunotherapy.
vi. Monoclonal Antibodies For variety of cancer conditions as well as in the treatment of septic shock and to control heart and liver transplant rejection.
vii. Peptides Endogenous peptides are under investigation to treat autoimmune diseases and congestive heart failure.
viii. Vaccines to treat hepatitis B, Hemophilus influenza type B, Cancer, Malaria and AIDS.
According to a survey made by PhRMA (Pharmaceuticals Research and Manufacturers of America) in 1995, the number of biotechnological drugs under clinical trials has grown by 64 percent in 1.5-year time. Till now, 24 drugs have been approved by American FDA (Food and drug Administration). There are about 1100 biotechnology companies in America.
According 1991 prediction, the US pharmacy Market is supposed to generate about one billion US$ and also the market is estimated to grow at a rate of 25 percent per year throughout this decade. In this millennium, the sales are predicted to reach 11 billion US$. Clearly biotechnology has made a significant contribution to the health care sector over the last decade and the same trend is supposed to continue in future.
In this class, the first product to get FDA approval was Insulin. The other hormones are human growth hormones.
It is first product from genetic engineering to get approval by FDA. The production of human insulin is done by two methods, both using rDNA technology. In the first method, the two chains of insulin (α and β) are produced by separate fermentations and were joined together.
In the second method, proinsulin is prepared, which has a third c-peptide, which hold alpha and beta chains together. Enzymatic cleavage of c-peptide results in the active insulin. Multicenter clinical studies have shown no difference between the two products.
Up to 1995, the source of growth hormone was the pituitary gland. In 1985, a genetically engineered analogue of human growth hormone (hGH) came to market (company, Genentech). It was called a Somaterm. This has an extra methionine at the end of molecule. This drug got FDA approval in 1985.
In 1987, another drug somatropin (Humatrope) manufactured by Eli Lilly got approval. This was identical with growth hormone from pituitary. Genetech has forwarded an application to FDA for the use of protropm in retarded growth and sexual development, a condition called as Turner’s syndrome.
The first antibody-derived product to get approval by FDA was digoxin immune Fab (Digibind) manufactured by Burroughs welcome, in 1986. This product is for utilisation in digitalis toxicity. An antigen is created by conjugating digoxin molecule to human serum albumin. The conjugate is injected to sheep to produce digoxin specific antibodies.
The antiserum of sheep with high affinity and specificity for digoxin specific Fab fragments. These are purified by affinity chromatography. Hybridoma technology is used to produce monoclonal murine antibodies. When injected into a digitalis toxic patient, these Fab fragment bind to digoxin and this complex is excreted through kidneys.
The treatment gives no adverse effects. The first therapeutic application of MAbs was in development of immunosuppressant drug muromonab, CD3 (OKT3). This is used for treatment of renal transplant rejection. OKT3 is murine antibody directed to a glycoprotein on the surface of T cells, which is essential for T cell function. This glycoprotein has 20000 molecular weight and is called CD3.
It is associated with antigen recognition structure of T cell and is essential for signal transduction. In a study OKT3 reversed 94 percent of rejection, whereas therapy with steroids demonstrated only 75 percent reversal. MAbs are the leading category of all the biotechnological products. But till now, only one product has been approved.
In 1986 hepatitis B vaccine (Recombivax HB-Merck, Rahway) received FDA approval this was the first vaccine developed by recombinant DNA technology. Before 1986, the vaccine was obtained from plasma of healthy HbsAg (surface antigen of hepatitis B virus) carriers.
But the genetically engineered product was obtained by cloning of gene responsible for HbsAg into fungi, Saccharomyces cervisiae. After the expression of protein, it is purified, absorbed into aluminum hydroxide and can be used as vaccine.
In 1989, SmithKline Beecham received FDA approval for recombinant version of the vaccine Engerix B, which is similar to recombivax HB in all aspect-dosing regimens. In 1988, Haemophilus influenza type B vaccine (Hibtiter proxis biological) got approval.
The original vaccine was derived from polyribosyl ribitol phosphate (PRP), a capsular polysaccharide from the bacteria. The problem with this vaccine was its limited immunogenecity in children below 2 years. The immunogenecity was improved by conjugating the vaccine with the diphtheria toxoid protein, which act as a carrier. The combination has shown a good response.
The first thrombolytic to enter into market is Activase (Genetech), a recombinant tissue plasminogen activator (TPA). It is indicated for the treatment of myocardial infraction. But this product has no cost benefit ratio when compared to other Thrombolytics. All Thrombolytics act by the activation of plasminogen to plasmin, which degrades fibrin clots, as shown below.
This is also degrades fibrin located throughout systemic circulation. This leads to excessive bleeding. Thus attempts are being made to produce a clot specific agent, which will not produce plasmin activity outside the clot many tissues produce proteases, which activate plasminogen. The gene that codes for such tissue plasminogen activator can be cloned into vector and expressed to produce TPA. The drug had clot specificity in vitro, but it was not found when given to humans.
TPA has been compared to many Thrombolytics. One such study compared TPA to streptokinase (SK), produced by β-hemolytic streptococci. TPA cleaves plasminogen directly to plasmin whereas SK forms 1:1 complex with plasminogen to plasmin. The production cost of SK is very low.
Hence the advantage of TPA is to be determined. Another thrombolytic agent introduced in the market is an isolated plasminogen activator complex (APSAC). This product gives a thrombolytic activity by timed release supply due to complex dissociation.
It is compared to TPA and SK. All these have shown to be equally effective in mortality reduction. TPA is only genetically engineered product and it has also received approval for treatment of pulmonary embolism. There is another recombinant DNA product, factor VIII, for the treatment of clotting disorder in hemophilic patient.
These patients suffer internal bleeding due to deficiency of factor VIII the treatment can be given by infusion of this protein derived from human blood. But by this method, there are chances of getting HIV infection. The rDNA product is 100 percent HIV free and has greater purity. The gene for factor VIII is isolated and cloned in mammalian cells to get the protein, which can be purified by affinity chromatography. The FDA is reviewing this product for approval.
Tumor Necrosis Factors:
These substances serve as intercellular messengers to trigger an immune response against tumor cell. The blood supply to tumor cells is cut off, blood vessels to the tumor cells are destroyed and they are deprived of nutrition. Many products of this category are under early clinical stage.
The recombinant human DNAase got approval in 1993. This is used in treatment of cystic fibrosis, a lung disease characterised by viscous purulent secretions. Large amount of DNAase responsible for this condition Bovine pancreatic DNAase was used to treat this condition. Genetech has produced human DNAase by recombinant DNA technology. This product has shown in much improvement in lung function after inhalation.
Interferons are the first substances in the class of lymphokines and cytokines to receive FDA approval in 1986, a-interferons came to market. These are the protein, which act as messengers between the cells to help coordinate an immune response against foreign substances.
In cancer the communication between the cells is cut off and in such situation cytokines help to establish an immune response against tumor cells. The interferon’s are of basically three types namely α, β and γ. Within the a class there are at least 16 subtypes.
Two important types that got FDA approval are α-2a and α-2b. Interferon’s α-2a is manufactured by Hoffmann laRoche (Referon-A) and interferon α-2b is by Schering- plough (Intron-A).
These two are indicated for the treatment of hairy cell leukemia. Intron A and Alferon N (Interferon α-n3) are approved for use in the treatment of genital warts (in 1988 and 1989) Intron A and Referon A are approved for the treatment of AIDS related Kaposi’s sarcoma in 1988. Interon A is also approved for the treatment of chronic hepatitis B and non-A and non-B hepatitis.
Application is also submitted for the use of Intron A in basal cell carcinoma and superficial bladder cancer. In 1990, Actimmune (Interferon-1b, Genetech) got approval for reducing the frequency and severity of infections associated with chronic glaucomatous disease in a study among 63 patients treated with interferon, 14 had serious infections whereas among 65 patients treated with placebo, 30 got the disease. Phase III clinical studies are going on for utilisation of act immune in small cell lung cancer and atopic dermatitis.
There are large numbers of lymphokines and related products under development, which include interferons, interleukins and colony stimulating factors (CSF). The two major types of colony stimulating factors are granulocyte monocyte CSF (GM-CSF) and granulocyte CSF (G-CSF). There are some differences between the two types both these have different clinical profile. GM-CSF has shown significant effect on chemotherapy-induced myelosuppression.
Group of 19 patients who have undergone chemotherapy for breast cancer or melanoma and autologous bone marrow support were treated with GM-CSF. Leucocyte counts obtained 14 days after the transplantation and they were 3120+1744 (32mcg drug/kg/day) and in control group, the count was 863+645/pl. Treatment with GCSF before chemotherapy of transitional cell carcinoma has shown dose dependent neutrophilis count.
This drug got approval in 1989 for use in anaemic kidney dialysis patients. Erythropoietin is a glycoprotein hormone produced in kidney and is responsible for the regulations of RBC Production.
Erythropoietin production is induced in kidney due to hypoxia, a result of anemia. In chronic renal failure; blood flow to the kidney is decreased continuously resulting in persistent hypoxic state due to incomplete erythropoietic response to anemia associated with chronic renal failure.
Before the advancement of genetic engineering, erythropoietin was obtained from human urine and sheep plasma. The amount is very small in both. The gene for erythropoietin was isolated in 1983 and it was cloned in Chinese hamster ovary cell and allows expressing itself to produce erythropoietin. Clinical trails began in 1986 using Epogen and shown a good increase in the number of RBCs in end stage renal disease.
The clinical trails proved that epogen was effective, safe, well tolerated drug for treatment of anaemic patients with end stage renal disease. This also reduces the need for blood transfusion and the risk associated with it. Epogen can be used to treat other types of anemias like the one caused in AIDS patients treated with a zidothymidine.
Designing of Drug Delivery Systems:
The most existing development in the field of medicine during 1980’s has been the development of biotechnology methods to produce newer drugs and also to make known chemotherapeutic agents available in clinically useful quantities.
The important techniques of biotechnology include hybridoma technology recombinant DNA technology tissue culture technology and fermentation technology. Using these different techniques, many drugs are produced. Most of the drugs obtained from biotechnology are peptides and polypeptides.
The major challenge to a pharmaceutical scientist is the designing of suitable dosage forms or drug delivery systems for these products. A pharma scientist will come across a number of problems in designing the dosage form. There are three major challenges in this aspect the first challenge is the assurance of purity and potency of these complex molecules.
The second challenge is the maintenance of potency and purity of these products as they offer many stability problems. The last challenge is the development of method to improve the absorption of these larger molecules, and prompting their transport and diffusion across the membranes.
The proteins and peptides are highly susceptible to both physical and chemical instability. This poses a lot of problems in purification, storage, formulation and delivery of these products. Chemical instability leads to the formation or cleavage of bonds, thereby forming new chemical entities. Physical instability involves changes in secondary, tertiary or quaternary structure of the molecule. Both Physical and chemical changes can lead to loss of biological activity.
III. Applications in Energy Sector:
With regard to the energy sector, one area of considerable importance is the enhanced production of ethanol, either as industrial alcohol or in the brewing and food or beverage industries.
The consumption of ethanol in the United States is expected to rise sharply because of the curtailment in the use of lead in gasoline, since ethanol can increase the octane rating by several points as a 10% blend with gasoline. The use of such gasohol has been encouraged for several years, and may assume some importance in the future, depending upon the price of crude oil and its availability.
About 80% of the fuel-grade alcohol in the U.S. is obtained by fermentation with yeasts, and considerable enhancement of such fermentation can be accomplished by genetic engineering.
For example, yeasts are poor starch digesters, and in the fermentative production of ethanol from starch, enzymes such as a-amylase and glucoamylase are routinely added as pretreatment of the starch to convert it to linear oligomers and ultimately to glucose units, that are then fermented by the yeasts.
Such fermentative production of ethanol can be considerably enhanced at a cheaper rate if the genes for such enzymes can be cloned in yeast so that the enzymatic pretreatment steps can be avoided. Toward this end, yeast strains containing Aspergillus glucoamylase genes have been constructed where the enzyme is not only glycosylated but is also excreted into the medium.
Further improvements of this strain may allow economical fermentation of ethanol directly from starch by genetically engineered yeasts. Another avenue for enhanced production of ethanol by yeasts would be to use cheaper substances such as whey, a by-product of cheese making, or agricultural biomass such as cellulose or hemicellulose.
Considerable progress in the enhanced degradation of pentose sugars from hemicellulose has been reported; while the cellulase genes have been cloned from a number of sources, the development of efficient cellulolytic yeast is still several years away because of the involvement of a number of enzymes (both endo and exo-glucanases and β-glucosidase) in cellulose degradation.
On the other hand, lactose degrading yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae has recently been constructed by cloning into non-lactose fermenting S, cerevisiae strains the structional gene for p- galactosidase as well as the lactose permease gene. Thus future possibilities for providing ethanol from bulk waste materials look promising.
In addition to the quantity of fuel, the quality of fuels can also be improved by genetic engineering and biotechnology. For example, high sulfur coal and oil, when burned for power generation, often lead to large scale environmental pollution in the form of acid rain.
Biotechnological approaches to reducing the concentrations of organic and inorganic sulfur from high sulfur coal and oil have received some attention recently, although large scale processes for the desulfurisation of coal or oil remain a long-term goal.
Microbial enhancement of oil recovery, similarly, has been a subject of much discussion, although formidable problems remain to make a microbial process for oil recovery a reality.
A major cause of environmental pollution now-a-days is the release of highly toxic chemical compounds in the form of herbicides and pesticides, solvents, refrigerants and industrially useful compounds such as PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) in the environment. Many of these compounds are highly chlorinated, and are extremely persistent in nature.
The persistence of highly chlorinated, synthetic compounds is believed to be due to a lack of utilisation of such compounds by natural microorganisms, where the primary route of metabolism is bacterial co-oxidation, a slow non-energy yielding process.
Recently, however, considerable efforts have been directed towards developing microbial strains either by genetic selection or by gene cloning that allows degradation of a number of highly chlorinated compounds. Genetic studies with microorganisms capable of degrading simple chlorinated compounds have demonstrated that the degradative genes are often located on plasmids.
Cloning of the degradative genes for a synthetic compound such as chlorocatechol and the nucleotide sequence homology of the degradative genes with those involved in the degradation of natural analogous compounds such as catechol have demonstrated considerable sequence homology among these genes, suggesting that new degradative functions against synthetic chlorinated compounds may have evolved by recruitment of genes encoding degradation of analogous compounds and then introducing mutational divergence to alter the substrate specificity of the gene products.
The concept that genes encoding the degradation of synthetic chlorinated compounds evolve by recruitment and mutational divergence of genes encoding degradation of their natural structurally-analogous counterparts has allowed us to develop a strain of Pseudomonas cepacia under strong selection in presence of plasmid gene pools in a continuous culture, that can utilise a persistent compound such as 2, 4, 5-Trichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2, 4, 5- T) as its sole source of carbon and energy at a rapid rate.
This strain can not only completely dechlorinate 2, 4, 5-T and its metabolic intermediate 2, 4, 5-trichlorophenol, but a number of other chlorophenols including pentachloro- phenol.
The strain is also very effective in removing large quantities of 2, 4, 5-T from contaminated soil within a few weeks, suggesting that such strains may be of practical value in removing the toxic chemicals from contaminated sites. An interesting feature of the 2, 4, 5-T degrading strain is its ability to form surface active compound (s) that would emulsify 2, 4, 5-T.
It is likely that during recruitment and evolution of the 2, 4, 5-T degradative genes, the genes for the formation of the emulsifier were also recruited to facilitate the uptake of this compound. Normally, highly chlorinated compounds such as PCBs, TCDD (2, 3, 7, 8- tetrachloro-dibenzo-p-dioxin) etc. are very hydrophobic, and are unavailable to the bacterial cells because of their insolubility in water.
The hydrophobic nature of most highly chlorinated compounds must have contributed to the persistence of the compounds, since microorganisms need not only to evolve the degradative genes for these compounds, but also genes for the synthesis of appropriate emulsifiers to facilitate their uptake in an aqueous environment.
This situation is reminescent of the microbial degradation of hydrocarbons present in crude oil, most of which are also highly hydrophobic.
Science Fair Project # 7. Roles of Biotechnology:
I. Role of Biotechnology in Industry:
Industrial biotechnology involves the commercial exploitation of a variety of processes and techniques related to microorganisms, plants, animals and human beings.
i. Improvement in Fermentation Products:
This achievement can be done in different ways—by selection of improved strain, by transgene application into the microorganism, by using cheaper raw material, by manipulation of medium constituent as well as by simulation of the reactor (adjustment of different cultural conditions like pH, temp., etc.).
Products of microbial fermentation include primary metabolites, secondary metabolites, enzymes, proteins, capsular polysaccharides and cellular biomass (single cell protein). Organic compounds of microbial fermentation include ethanol, acetone, butanol, gluconic acid, etc.
ii. Microbial Production of Synthetic Fuels:
Important fuels can be produced by using many microbes which include ethanol, methane, hydrogen and hydrocarbons. Zymomonas mobilis produces ethanol twice as rapidly as yeasts from carbohydrates. Methane which is used in various industrial purposes can be produced by Clostridia, Bacteriodes, Sclenomonas, Butyrovibrio, etc. from the waste.
iii. Microbial Mining or Bioleaching:
The process of bioleaching recovers metals from ores which are not suitable for direct smelting because of their low content. The application of bioleaching process is of particular interest in case of uranium ore. Thiobacillus ferroxidans is the commonest organism which is involved in case of copper and uranium ore processing.
iv. Production of Bio-Pesticides and Bio-Fertilizers:
Environment friendly, non-toxic, cost effective pesticides are commercially produced from bacteria (Bacillus thuringiensis), fungi (Beauveria netahizium) which have been successfully tested for several crops.
Several N2 fixing baceria (Rhizobia, Azotobactor, Azospirillum) blue green algae (Anabaena, Nostoc, Aulosira), mycorrhizae and phosphate solubilising bacteria (Bacillus, Thiobacillus) are important commercially used bio-fertilizers.
v. Microbial Biomass and Single Cell Protein Production:
Microbial product of commercial significance is the microbial biomass (the microbial cells themselves), e.g., commercially produced yeast cells, bacteria (Methylophilus methylotrophus), flavouring cheese from fungal biomass (Penicillium roquefortii).
Single cell proteins are the dried cells of microorganisms such as algae, certain bacteria, yeasts, moulds and some higher fungi. The protein percentages for various single cell proteins are high.
vi. Production of Antibiotics:
About 100 antibiotics are produced commercially by microbial fermentation process (Table 25.1).
vii. Production of Enzymes:
Bulks of the enzymes are obtained from microbial source by fermentation process. Now several plant enzymes are being used like ‘papain’ from Carica papaya, ‘bromelain’ from Ananas comosus, ‘ficin’ from Ficus glabrata.
These enzymes are used in meat tenderizing, as protein hydro-lysates in beer industry, in clinical application, etc. Amylase used in textile industry, protease in leather industry, cellulase and xylanase in paper industry, catalase, pectinase, invertase, lactase in food industry are produced through biotechnology.
viii. Production of Secondary Metabolites from Cultured Plant Cell:
In recent years it has been shown that spectrum of compounds can be produced in culture which is beyond the ability of whole plants. By using different precursors several novel compounds of biomedical importance can be obtained.
Pharmaceutical compounds like shikonin is being produced as secondary products with the use of two-stage bioreactor by stimulating the growth phase with the application of different growth regulators. Serpentine can be obtained from Cathcircinthus, pseudoephidrine from Ephedra.
Plant cells also can be used to accomplish certain changes in the structure and composition of some industrially important chemicals. This conversion by means of a biological system is termed as biotransformation, e.g., digoxin, a cardiovascular drug, produced from digitoxin obtained from Digitalis lanata.
II. Role of Biotechnology in Agriculture:
Biotechnological research is increasingly contributing to the improved production and propagation of new cultivated varieties of plants that have a direct role in agricultural practices in relation to nutritional quality, food output and other useful substances.
Mass propagation of crop and forest plants is an important application of micro-propagation technique. The development of embryos from somatic cells in culture resulted in artificial seed production.
This technique involves three stages:
(a) Establishment of culture.
(b) Regeneration of plants.
(c) Transfer of plants from test tube to soil.
Regeneration of plantlets in cultured plant cell and tissues has been achieved in many trees of high economic value. Many of the studies are aimed at large scale micro-propagation of important trees yielding fuel, pulp, timber, oils and fruits. Therefore, clonal forestry and horticulture are gaining an increasing recognition as an alternative for tree improvement.
In recent years, the interest has aroused in commercializing the in vitro propagation of forest trees. This will bring about refinement in the existing procedures to make micro-propagation more cost effective. For betterment and improvement of tree plants of high economic value, genetic transformation and in vitro regeneration have been done in many angiospermic and gymnospermic plants.
2. Induction and Selection of Mutant:
Different physical and chemical mutagens are used in the plant explants of different species to generate mutants. Now the mutants can be used to select out the variant cell lines which are resistant to antibiotics, amino acid analogues, chlorate, nucleic acid base analogue, fungal toxin, environmental stresses (salinity, chilling, high temperature, aluminium toxicity) and herbicides, etc.
Single cell or the protoplast culture systems have proved to be valuable for mutagenesis since the presence of discrete cells in these substances is more effective to cause mutation, and isolation of mutant line is more easier.
3. Production of Somatic Hybrids:
The protoplasts can undergo fusion under certain favourable conditions and the fused product can give rise to somatic hybrid plant which offers:
(i) The possibility of hybrid formation of widely unrelated forms,
(ii) An asexual means of gene transfer either of whole genome or of partial genome.
Through successful production of somatic hybrid plants at the tetraploid and hexaploid levels, both for inter-and intra-specific fusions, characters from sexually incompatible wild species are transferred to the cultivar. Other approaches to genetic manipulation include the irradiation of donor protoplasts with useful characters, to fragment their genomes, followed by fusion to tetraploid acceptor protoplasts.
Protoplast fusion also provides a means of transferring cytoplasmic traits into another genomic background. Inter-generic somatic hybrids have been produced in many genera like ‘Raphanobrassica’, obtained through fusion between Raphanus sativus and Brassicci campestris, ‘Solanopersicon’, obtained through fusion between Solarium tuberosum and Lycopersicon esculentum, etc.
The technique of cybrid production has been utilized for transfer of cytoplasmic male sterile character, as has been done in case of Nicotiana, Brassica and Petunia.
4. Production of Transgenic Plants:
Genetic engineering can be used to introduce genes into a plant, which do not exist in any member of the same plant family.
If genetically engineered plants are to be used commercially, then the following criteria are to be satisfied:
(a) Introduction of the gene(s) of interest to all plant cells;
(b) Stable maintenance of the new genetic information;
(c) Transmission of the new gene to subsequent generations;
(d) Expression of the cloned genes in the correct cells at the correct time.
A number of useful traits, mostly single gene, that have been transferred to get the transgenics for various purposes are:
(a) Insect-Pest Resistance Plants:
Using gene transfer technique the Bt gene (Cry I protein from Bacillus thuringiensis) has been transferred to many crop plants like rice, cotton, tomato, potato, etc. and insect resistant plants (Bt crops) have been developed.
(b) Herbicide Resistant Plants:
Using biotechnological approaches many herbicide resistant crop plants have been obtained as in Brassica, tomato, corn, cotton, soya-bean, etc. which are resistant against glyphosate (Roundup®), L-phosphino-thricin (Basta®), etc.
(c) Virus Resistant Plants:
Viral coat protein genes can be introduced to get the virus resistant plants as has been done in tomato, potato, squash, papaya, etc.
(d) Resistance against Bacterial and Fungal Pathogens:
Several examples are available where the transgenic plants against bacterial and fungal pathogens have been developed. The chitinase gene has been introduced in tobacco to get the resistance against brown spot; acetyl transferase gene has been introduced in tobacco to get the resistance against wild fire disease.
(e) Improvement in Nutritional Quality:
Nutritional quality can be improved by introducing the genes for production of cyclodextrins, vitamins, amino acids, etc. Transgenic potato has been obtained to produce cyclodextrin molecule; the transgenic rice named as ‘Golden rice’ has been obtained to produce pro-vitamin-A which has opened the way for improving the nutritional standards; Ama-I gene has been introduced in potato. Starch content has been increased in transgenic potato.
(f) Improvement of Quality of Seed-Protein and Seed-Oil:
Recombinant DNA technology has been used successfully for improvement of protein quality in seed as has been done in pea plant which is rich in sulphur containing amino acids; lysine rich cereals have also been produced.
Oilseed rape has been made transgenic which has the modified seed oil quality, i.e., low erucic acid. Reduced linolenic acid containing flax and high stearic acid containing soya-bean and safflower also have been produced.
(g) Improvement of Quality for Food-Processing:
‘Flavr-Savr’ variety of tomato has been raised which shows bruise resistance as well as delayed ripening.
(h) Male Sterility and Fertility Restoration in Transgenic Plants:
Male sterile transgenic plants have been produced with ‘barnase’ gene which has the cytotoxic product tagged with anther specific TA-29 promoter, and another set of plants have been produced to restore the fertility factor with the help of ‘barstar’ gene tagged with the same promoter. F1 hybrids from these two sets of transgenics should facilitate the hybrid seed production for crop improvement.
(i) Production of Stress Tolerant:
Several projects are going on for transgene application to develop the tolerance against different abiotic stresses, e.g., cold (tobacco), drought (mustard), salt (rice).
Science Fair Project # 8. Improving Areas of Biotechnology:
In recent years revolution in biology has occurred due to the potential of biotechnology. Techniques have been developed to produce rare and medicinally valuable molecules, to change hereditary traits of plants and animals, to diagnose diseases to produce useful chemicals and, to clean up and restore the environment. In this way biotechnology has great impact in the fields of health, food/agriculture and environmental protection.
Due to rapid development the present situation is that there is no difference between pharmaceutical firms and biotechnology industry. However, approved products in the pipeline and renewed public confidence make it one of the most promising areas of economic growth in future. India offers a huge market for the products as well as cheap manufacturing base for export.
Following are some of the areas where biotechnology has done the best:
i. Health Care:
The maximum benefits of biotechnology has been utilised by health care. Biotechnology derived proteins and polypeptides form the new class of potential drugs. For example, insulin was primarily extracted from slaughter animals. Since 1982, human insulin (Humulinl8) has been produced by microorganisms in fermenters.
Similarly, hepatitis B vaccines viz., Recombivax HB@, Gunil8>, Shanvac@, etc. are the genetically engineered vaccines produced biotechnologically; since 1987, the number of biotechnology derived new protein drug has surpassed the new chemical drugs. Currently there are about 35 biotechnology derived therapeutics and vaccines approved by the USFDA alone for medical use, more than 500 drugs and vaccines to reach in market.
Biotechnology is making new ground in the food/agriculture area. Current public debate about BSTC, bovine somatotropin (a hormone administered to cows to increase milk production) typifies an example of biotechnology product testing public acceptance.
Food biotechnology offers valuable and viable alternative to food problems and a solution to nutritionally influenced diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, cancer, heart diseases, arthritis, etc. Biopesticides are coming to the market and their sales are increasing.
iii. Molecular Pharming:
It is a new concept where therapeutic drugs are produced in 11 animals, for example therapeutic proteins secreted in goat milk.
The natural biodegradability of pollutants present in environment has increased with the use of biotechnology. The bioremediation technologies have been found to be successful to combat with pollution problem.
Science Fair Project # 9. Impacts of Biotechnology:
Biodiversity today is the result of 3.5 billions years of evolution. All the living organisms we know today, as well as those that ever lived before, have developed from one original micro-organism through the processes of mutation and selection. Separate species arose when mutations between relatives no longer allowed for interbreeding, for instance after geographic separation.
The vast majority of species that arose, probably more than 99%, disappeared again. In the long-term view there has been no such thing as sustainability, only change. Clearly however today, with man’s massive influence on the globe, change and the loss of biodiversity is much faster than at any time before, making concern with sustainability important.
Biodiversity can be distinguished at three different levels, ecosystems, species and genes. But there is no generally accepted definition of biodiversity and there is no general consensus on how to appreciate changes in biodiversity from scientific, political and/or normative perspectives.
The number of species of animals, plants and micro-organisms today is probably 10 million or more, of which only 1.4 million have yet been named. Virtually all the 40,000 vertebrate animals and most of the 250,000 higher plant species are known.
On the other hand there are likely to be over a million species each of fungi and nematodes (thread-like worms), and several million insects, of which only 70,000, 13,000 and 950,000 respectively have been identified.
Only about 5,000 bacteria and viruses have been identified individually, yet their total number may also be well in excess of one million. The various species of plants and animals do not live an independent existence but are associated in specific communities and ecosystems to form more or less stable associations.
One such association, for instance, is the tropical rain forest which is generally thought to have the highest degree of biodiversity. Biodiversity needs to be considered both in terms of the number of species present and also of how many individuals there are of each of the species. Often the number of species in a given ecosystem is taken as a measure of the biodiversity of that system because other criteria are more difficult to apply.
In addition, it is still not clear whether the total amount of living matter at a given location, the biomass, is generally dependent on biodiversity: some researchers claim that loss of species is not compensated by additional growth of other species and thereby leads to a reduction in total biomass. In agriculture, some 7,000 species of plants are used by farmers throughout the world, but only 30 species provide 90% of our calorific intake, the top three crops being wheat, rice and maize (corn).
Within the predominant crop species there are many hundreds of thousands of varieties (landraces) adapted to local climates and farming practices. Much of this large crop diversity is important for providing starting material for breeding. However, the genetic diversity in crops is much less broad than that of plants or animals living in the wild which indicates the importance of wild species for agricultural breeding programmes.
Growth of Population:
The world population has risen from 2.5 billions in 1950 to 6 billion today and is expected to reach some 9 billion in 2050. 800 million people are currently undernourished. Over 95% of the expected population increase will be in the less developed’ countries (LDCs) and most will occur in their cities, requiring more living space, water, energy, wood, food and services.
For 1995 to 2020 the largest relative population increase (80%) is expected in sub- Saharan Africa rising from 500 to 900 million. Whether the HIV/AIDS epidemic in this region will substantially affect population dynamics is not clear as most of those currently infected are in the reproductive age range.
Loss of Biodiversity:
Loss of biodiversity can be measured by a loss of individual species, groups of species or by decreases in numbers of organisms. The major threats to global biodiversity are, firstly, habitat loss (mostly through expansion of cultivated land and of cities and roads) and, secondly, the introduction of exotic species.
Habitats can also be damaged by flooding, lack of water, climate changes etc., natural or man-made. Since tropical humid forests are particularly rich in biodiversity, their destruction is disproportionately damaging. It is estimated that only half of the original 16 million km2 of these forests a century ago are left, with about one million km2 being destroyed every 5 to 10 years.
Biodiversity is not homogeneously distributed but rather there are areas with particularly plentiful biodiversity (“hotspots”) of particular interest for conservation. Imported plant and animal species threaten the native ones by being highly competitive and often by lacking local predators.
One of the most extreme examples is seen in the pampas of Argentine, flat grassland with a moderate climate, from which nearly all the native grasses have disappeared and have been replaced by European plants. This invasion was brought about by European farmers, bringing animals and crops, as well as accidentally spreading many different weeds and was already noted in 1833 by Charles Darwin.
Islands are particularly threatened by invaders, as is well documented for Hawaii, New Zealand or the Galapagos Islands. Biological control agents are often introduced into agricultural ecosystems intentionally to control pests or weeds without resorting to chemical controls.
Whilst there have been many welcome successes, such systems may also go wrong. One example is the introduction of the seven-spot ladybird which was intended to control the Russian wheat aphid in the US. This proved to be a competitor of the native ladybird, which then disappeared.
The mongoose, an Indian mammal, was introduced to several islands (Fiji, Mauritius, and Hawaii) to keep rats and snakes under control: it lead to the extinction of several endemic birds, reptiles and amphibians. Introduced wasps have been seen to kill and possibly extinguish endemic butterflies.
Are transgenic plants as such prone to spread? In the longest term experiment so far, four different crops (oilseed rape, potato, maize and sugar beet) were grown in 12 different habitats and monitored over a period of 10 years.
In no single case were the genetically modified plants found to be more invasive or more persistent than their conventional counterparts. However, one would not expect this to be the case unless the transgene increased its fitness in the wild.
There is no plausible reason why crops that have for centuries depended for survival on human care should become weeds because of the addition of one or a small number of well-characterised genes, in addition to the many thousands of genes they already carry.
Even so, monitoring of transgenic crops needs to continue for more than ten years. Large acreages of a single variety without rotation should be avoided with any crop, since monocultures are more prone to disease and pest outbreaks.
Strategies for Conservation:
Conservation may be in situ in a more or less natural or habitat or ex situ in some purpose-built environment depending on the particular case. In situ conservation involves the maintenance and protection of natural habitats while botanical gardens, seed banks and zoos are used for ex situ conservation.
Conserving a substantial fraction of the tropical rain forests would still allow half or so of their indigenous species to be preserved by selection of the most appropriate “hot spots”. Protecting large tracts of land poses major socio-economic and political problems.
How forests can be kept free from encroachment by hungry people in search of potential farmland is far from clear. A viable strategy may be to find sustainable livelihoods for rural populations compatible with conserving tropical rain forests and this is being attempted with mixed success. Policing alone will not be successful over vast territories, as seen in the combating of drugs.
Conservation also embraces agricultural biodiversity such as crop varieties, land races (local varieties), semi-domesticated varieties and crop relatives. The role of indigenous communities in maintaining agrobiodiversity is stressed by the Global Biodiversity Assessment and the Leipzig Plan of Action, two recently concluded international agreements.
Science Fair Project # 10. Ethical Perspective of Biotechnology:
From an ethical perspective, Biotechnology is challenging for three reasons:
i. Risks to world views and “slippery slope” risks (series of events that build and move like an avalanche).
ii. Risks associated with social and economic impacts
iii. Risks to animal health and human health and the environment ion-style medicine may be a reality.
Following are some possible problems that may result from recent and future developments in Biotechnology:
i. Lowering genetic diversity and overpopulation because of cloning, in other words, reducing the likelihood of natural human evolution which may cause us to be more susceptible to harmful things.
ii. Use of genetic information for improper purposes
iii. Manipulation of genetic information to create “designer” babies.
iv. Genetic testing and genetic determinism (should insurance companies grant/deny coverage based on genetic information?)
v. Improper inferences from genetic information (Genetic discrimination?)
vi. The question “Who owns the genetic information?” will be asked and debated.
The HGP may be destined to result in the mass ownership of genetic information and living organisms. Is owning genetically engineered organisms any different from owning non-modified forms of these organisms? Should humans go patent or trademark their genetic material to protect themselves from possible exploitation by biotechnology companies?
Science Fair Project # 11. Achievement of Biotechnology:
In genetic engineering programmes, it has become possible to map the whole genome of an organism to find out the function of the genes, cut and transfer into another.
Owing to the success achieved from gene cloning, many products have been obtained through genetically engineered cells, and hopefully many can be produced during the present decade. Biotechnology has caused a revolution in agricultural science.
Cell culture and protoplast techniques have resulted in hybrid plants through inter-generic crosses which generally are not possible through the conventional hybridisation techniques.
For the protection of environment and abatement of pollution, treatment of sewage, transformations of domestic wastes and xenobiotic chemicals have drawn much attention in recent years. To combat these problems such bacterial plasmids have been developed that could be used to degrade the complex polymers into non-toxic forms.
Strains of cyanobacteria, green algae and fungi have been developed which could be used for the treatment of municipal and domestic sewage and industrial discharges into nontoxic forms and renew them as source of energy.
Biotechnology has helped the bio-industries in producing the novel compounds and optimisation, and scale up products, for example alcohols, acids, antibiotics and enzymes and single cell protein and mycoprotein.
Technologies have also been developed to seek an alternative source of energy from biomaterials generated from agricultural, industrial, forestry and municipal sources. In recent years, techniques have been developed to culture the plant cell, tissue, and organs. In vitro grown cultures (e.g. plantlet, apical meristem culture, etc.) are stored.
Storage of in vitro grown cultures has many advantages over the others such as:
i. Requirement of less space
ii. Cheap in maintenance
iii. High propagation potential
iv. Least problem of genetic erosion of stock,
v. Maintenance of pathogen free stock.
Nonspecific defences are very effective against a wide range of pathogens, but in some cases the pathogens can – evade the nonspecific defenses and the body needs an additional defence system for these cases. This is where the specific immune response comes into play. The set of reactions carried out by the immune system following the detection of a foreign invader in a healthy human.
These recognitions can occur in the bloodstream or in the lymphatic system, which is a group of vessels similar to veins and arteries that are responsible for draining’ and cleaning excess tissue fluid (mostly water) before returning the fluid back to the blood.
Monoclonal Antibody Technology:
Scientists have always been looking for new ways to use the things that are naturally produced by organisms. Scientists are looking for ways to mass-produce antibodies and use those antibodies to our advantage.
In fact, things such as disease diagnosis tests and home pregnancy tests take full advantage of our knowledge of antibodies and how specific they are. A whole area of Biotechnology, called monoclonal antibody technology, is furthering the development of antibody use.
Science Fair Project # 12. Future of Biotechnology:
i. The future of biotechnology promises many advances in drugs, drug delivery systems, diagnostic kits, and other pharmaceutical specialties, including polypeptides, proteins and antibiotics.
ii. It also provides a basis for understanding the mechanisms & processes involved in diseases like causes of cancer, neurological, neuromuscular and cardiac diseases can be better understood. This understanding helps in better treatment and prevention of diseases.
iii. Biotechnology provides new avenues for improvement of quality of human life. Thus, biotechnology is helping the world to move towards a future, which is safer & healthier.
iv. The process of drug synthesis has been made easy by biotechnology.
v. Many of the reactions can be carried out biologically by the use of plant or animal tissue cultures and microorganisms.