What is biotechnology? History and achievements of biotechnology
The discipline that studies how organisms are used to solve technological problems is what biotechnology is. To put it simply, it is a science that studies living organisms in search of new ways to meet human needs. For example, genetic engineering or cloning are new disciplines that are used with the same activity as organisms and the latest computer technology.
Very often, the concept of "biotechnology" is confused with genetic engineering, which arose in the XX-XXI centuries, and in fact biotechnology refers to a broader specificity of work. Biotechnology specializes in the modification of plants and animals through hybridization and artificial selection for human needs.
This discipline gave humanity the opportunity to improve the quality of food products, increase the life expectancy and productivity of living organisms - that is what biotechnology is.
Until the 70s of the last century, this term was used exclusively in the food industry and agriculture. And only in 1970, scientists began to use the term "biotechnology" in laboratory research, such as the cultivation of living organisms in test tubes or when creating recombinant DNA. This discipline is based on such sciences as genetics, biology, biochemistry, embryology, as well as on robotics, chemical and information technologies.
On the basis of new scientific and technological approaches, methods of biotechnology were developed, which consist of two main positions:
- Large-scale and deep cultivation of biological objects in a periodic constant mode.
- Growing cells and tissues under special conditions.
New methods of biotechnology allow you to manipulate genes, create new organisms, or change the properties of existing living cells. This makes it possible to more extensively use the potential of organisms and facilitates human activities.
History of biotechnology
No matter how strange it may sound, biotechnology takes its origins from the distant past, when people were just beginning to engage in winemaking, bread baking and other ways of cooking.For example, the biotechnological process of fermentation, in which microorganisms actively participated, was known in ancient Babylon, where it was widely used.
As a science, biotechnology began to be considered only at the beginning of the 20th century. Its founder was the French scientist, microbiologist Louis Pasteur, and the term was first introduced by the Hungarian engineer Karl Ereki (1917). The 20th century was marked by the rapid development of molecular biology and genetics, where the achievements of chemistry and physics were actively used. One of the key stages of the research was the development of methods for the cultivation of living cells. Initially, for industrial purposes, they began to grow only mushrooms and bacteria, but after a few decades, scientists can create any cells, completely controlling their development.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the fermentation and microbiological industry was actively developing. At this time, the first attempts are being made to establish the production of antibiotics. The first food concentrates are developed, the level of enzymes in products of animal and vegetable origin is controlled. In 1940, scientists managed to get the first antibiotic, penicillin.This was the impetus for the development of industrial production of drugs, there is a whole industry of the pharmaceutical industry, which is one of the cells of modern biotechnology.
Today, biotechnology is used in the food industry, medicine, agriculture and many other spheres of human activity. Accordingly, a lot of new scientific directions appeared with the prefix "bio".
To the question of what biotechnology is, the majority of the population will no doubt answer that it is nothing but genetic engineering. This is partly true, but engineering is only part of an extensive biotechnology discipline.
Bioengineering is a discipline whose main activity is aimed at strengthening human health by combining knowledge from the field of engineering, medicine, biology and their application in practice. The full name of this discipline is biomedical engineering. Its main specialization is the solution of medical problems. The use of biotechnology in medicine allows us to model, develop and study new substances, develop pharmaceutical preparations and even save a person from the congenital diseases that are transmitted through DNA.Specialists in this field can create instruments and equipment for carrying out new procedures. Thanks to the use of biotechnology in medicine, artificial joints, pacemakers, skin prostheses, cardiopulmonary bypass were developed. With the help of new computer technologies, experts in the field of bioengineering can create proteins with new properties using computer simulation.
Biomedicine and Pharmacology
The development of biotechnology has given the opportunity to take a fresh look at medicine. Developing a theoretical basis for the human body, experts in this field have the opportunity to use nanotechnology to change biological systems. The development of biomedicine gave an impetus to the emergence of nano-medicine, whose main activity is tracking, correcting and designing living systems at the molecular level. For example, targeted delivery of drugs. This is not a courier delivery from the pharmacy to the house, but the transfer of the drug directly to the diseased cell of the body.
Biopharmacology is also developing. She studies the effects that substances of biological or biotechnological origin have on the body.Research in this area of knowledge focuses on the study of biopharmaceuticals and the development of methods for their creation. In biopharmacology, remedies are obtained from living biological systems or body tissues.
Bioinformatics and bionics
But biotechnology is not only the study of the molecules of tissues and cells of living organisms, it is also the use of computer technology. Thus, bioinformatics takes place. It includes a set of approaches such as:
- Genomic bioinformatics.That is, methods of computer analysis, which are used in comparative genomics.
- Structural Bioinformatics.Development of computer programs that predict the spatial structure of proteins.
- Calculation.Creating computational methodologies that can manage biological systems.
In this discipline, along with biological methods, the methods of mathematics, statistical calculations and informatics are used. As in biology, the techniques of informatics and mathematics are used, so in exact sciences today they can use the theory of the organization of living organisms. Like in bionics.This is an applied science, where principles and structures of living nature are applied in technical devices. We can say that this is a kind of symbiosis of biology and technology. Disciplinary approaches in bionics consider from a new point of view both biology and technology. Bionics examined the similar and distinctive features of these disciplines. This discipline has three subspecies - biological, theoretical and technical. Biological bionics studies the processes that occur in biological systems. Theoretical bionics builds mathematical models of biosystems. A technical bionics applies the theoretical bionics to solve various problems.
As can be seen, the achievements of biotechnology are widespread in modern medicine and public health, but this is only the tip of the iceberg. As already mentioned, biotechnology began to develop from the moment a person began to prepare their own food, and after that it was widely used in agriculture for raising new breeding cultures and bringing new breeds of domestic animals.
One of the most important methods in biotechnology is gene and cell engineering, which are focused on creating new cells.With these tools, humanity was able to create viable cells from completely different elements belonging to different species. Thus, a new set of genes that does not exist in nature is created. Genetic engineering enables a person to get the desired qualities from modified plant or animal cells.
The achievements of genetic engineering in agriculture are especially appreciated. This allows you to grow plants (or animals) with improved qualities, the so-called breeding species. Selection activity is based on the selection of animals or plants with pronounced favorable signs. After these organisms cross and get a hybrid with the desired combination of useful traits. Of course, in words everything sounds simple, but it is quite difficult to get the desired hybrid. In reality, an organism can be obtained with only one or several useful genes. That is, only a few additional qualities are added to the source material, but even this has made it possible to make a huge step in the development of agriculture.
Breeding and biotechnology have enabled farmers to increase yields, make the fruit larger, tastier, and most importantly, resistant to frost.Does not bypass side selection and livestock activities. Every year there are new breeds of domestic animals that can provide more livestock and food.
In creating plant breeding scientists distinguish three waves:
- The end of the 80s.Then scientists first began to remove plants that are resistant to viruses. To do this, they took one gene from species that could resist diseases, “transplanted” it into the DNA structure of other plants and forced it to “work”.
- The beginning of the 2000s.During this period, plants began to be created with new consumer properties. For example, with a high content of oils, vitamins, etc.
- Our days.In the next 10 years, scientists plan to launch vaccine plants, drug plants and biorekkatkor plants, which will produce components for plastics, dyes, etc.
Even in animal husbandry, the prospects for biotechnology are amazing. For a long time already animals have been created that have a transgenic gene, that is, they possess some functional hormone, for example, growth hormone. But these were only initial experiments.As a result of research, transgenic goats have been bred that can produce a protein that stops bleeding in patients suffering from poor blood clotting.
In the late 90s of the last century, American scientists were closely involved in cloning animal embryo cells. This would allow to grow cattle in test tubes, but now this method still needs to be improved. But in xenotransplantation (transplantation of organs of some species to animals by another), scientists in the field of applied biotechnology have made significant progress. For example, pigs with the human genome can be used as donors, then there is a minimal risk of rejection.
As already mentioned, the original methods of biotechnological research began to be used in food production. Yoghurts, sourdoughs, beer, wine, bakery products are products obtained using food biotechnology. This segment of the research includes processes aimed at changing, improving or creating specific characteristics of living organisms, in particular bacteria.Specialists in this field of knowledge are engaged in the development of new methods for the manufacture of various food products. Seek and improve the mechanisms and methods of their preparation.
Food that a person eats every day should be rich in vitamins, minerals and amino acids. However, as of today, according to the UN, there is a problem of providing a person with food. Almost half of the population does not have the proper amount of food, 500 million starve, a quarter of the world's population eat insufficient quality food.
Today, 7.5 billion people live on the planet, and if you do not take the necessary actions to improve the quality and quantity of food, if you do not do this, then people in developing countries will suffer from disastrous consequences. And if you can replace lipids, minerals, vitamins, antioxidants with food biotechnology products, then it is almost impossible to replace protein. More than 14 million tons of protein each year is not enough to meet the needs of humanity. But here come biotechnology. Modern protein production is based on the fact that artificially formed protein fibers.They are impregnated with necessary substances, give shape, appropriate color and smell. This approach makes it possible to replace almost any protein. And the taste and appearance is no different from the natural product.
An important area of knowledge in modern biotechnology is cloning. For the past several decades, scientists have been trying to create identical descendants without resorting to sexual reproduction. In the process of cloning should get an organism that is similar to the parent, not only externally, but also with gene information.
In nature, the cloning process is common among some living organisms. If a person has identical twins, then they can be considered natural clones.
Cloning was first carried out in 1997, when Dolly the sheep was artificially created. And at the end of the twentieth century, scientists began to talk about the possibility of human cloning. In addition, a concept such as partial cloning was investigated. That is, you can recreate not the whole organism, but its separate parts or tissues. If you improve this method, you can get the "ideal donor."In addition, cloning will help preserve rare species of animals or restore extinct populations.
Despite the fact that the fundamentals of biotechnology can have a decisive influence on the development of all mankind, the public is not very responsive to this scientific approach. The overwhelming majority of modern religious figures (and some scholars) try to warn biotechnologists against overuse of their research. This is particularly acute for issues of genetic engineering, cloning and artificial reproduction.
On the one hand, biotechnology seems to be a bright star, a dream and hope that will become real in the new world. In the future, this science will give mankind many new opportunities. It will be possible to overcome the deadly diseases, physical problems will be eliminated, and a person, sooner or later, will be able to achieve earthly immortality. Although, on the other hand, the constant use of genetically modified products or the appearance of people who have been created artificially can affect the gene pool. The problem of changing social structures will appear, and it is quite likely that we will have to face the tragedy of medical fascism.
That's what biotechnology is.Science, which can give brilliant prospects to humanity by creating, changing or improving cells, living organisms and systems. She will be able to give a person a new body, and the dream of eternal life will become a reality. But for this you have to pay a considerable price.