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Introduction to Biotechnology

The root words of biotechnology are ancient Greek:
• Bios: “life”
• Technikos: “Skillfully made “tool”
• Logos: “Study of,” “word,” “essence”
Biotechnology- “The study of living tools”- is used in agriculture, food processing, industrial
production, environmental cleanup and medicine.
A set of modern tools that utilize living organisms or parts of it cell or tissue or genes/DNA to make
or modify or improve plants or animals or develop microorganisms for specific use or their large
scale production.
“Utilization of organisms or its organells or biological process to make product or to solve problems
for the welfare of mankind.”
The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD, 2000) biotechnology means “any technological
application that uses biological systems, living organisms, or derivatives thereof, to make or modify
products or processes for specific use”.
Biotechnology – production of goods and services using biological organisms, systems and process.

History of Biotechnology:
Biotechnology seems to be leading a sudden new biological revolution. Biotechnology is NOT new.
Man has been manipulating living things to solve problems and improve his way of life for millennia.
The term biotechnology was coined in 1919 by Karl Ereky, an Hungarian engineer. At that time, the
term meant all the lines of work by which products are produced from raw materials with the aid of
living organisms. Although now most often associated with the development of drugs, historically
biotechnology has been principally associated with food such as malnutrition and famine. The history
of biotechnology begins on brewing techniques for beer.
Early agriculture concentrated on producing food. Plants and animals were selectively bred and
microorganisms were used to make food items such as beverages, cheese and bread. The ancient
Egyptians made wine using fermentation techniques based on an understanding of the
microbiological processes that occur in the absence of oxygen. Egyptians also applied fermentation
technologies to make dough rise during bread making.
The late eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth century saw the advent of
vaccinations, crop rotation involving leguminous crops, and animal drawn machinery.
The end of the nineteenth century was a milestone of biology. Microorganisms were discovered,
Mendel’s work on genetics was accomplished, and institutes for investigating fermentation and other
microbial processes were established by Koch, Pasteur, and Lister.
Biotechnology at the beginning of the twentieth century began to bring industry and agriculture
together. In 1928, Alexander Fleming discovered the mold Penicillium. In 1940, penicillin became
available for medicinal use to treat bacterial infections in humans. The biotechnical focus moved to
pharmaceuticals. In 1953, James Watson and Francis Crick’s were discovered the structure of DNA.
The field of modern biotechnology is generally thought of as having been born in 1971 when Paul
Berg’s experiments in gene splicing had early success. Herbert W. Boyer and Stanley N. Cohen

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significantly advanced the new technology in 1972 by transferring genetic material into a bacterium,
such that the imported material would be reproduced. In 1978, Boyer was able to take pieces of
human DNA and isolate a gene for insulin using biotechnology. In the 1980s, testing of
biotechnology-derived foods began, and after its FDA approval in 1994, the FlavrSavr® tomato gave
consumers a more flavorful tomato that stays fresh longer. Today’s biotechnology has its “roots” in
chemistry, physics, and biology.

Traditional and New Biotechnology:
Although the term biotechnology is of recent origin, the discipline itself is very old. Man began
employing microorganisms as early as 5000 BC for making wine, vinegar, bread etc. Some aspects of
biotechnology are as ancient and familiar as adding yeast to bread dough; others are as recent and
unfamiliar as genetic engineering.
Traditional: Biotechnology has been employed by humans for millennia. The ability of
microorganisms to produce acids and gasses as a result of normal cell metabolism has been taken
advantage of to make new and exciting foods for generations. Examples include production of beer,
cheese and bread.
New Biotechnology: Recent developments in molecular biology have given Biotechnology a new
meaning, new horizon and new potential through use of recombinant DNA technology. New
biotechnology to modify the genetic material of living cells to produce new substances or perform
new functions. Gene technology or genetic engineering allows the biologist to take a gene from one
cell and insert it into another cell which may be plant, animal or microbial (bacterial or fungal), or to
produce new combinations of genes.

Basic Techniques of Biotechnology:
The two basic techniques used in biotechnology are

1. Tissue culture(Soft Biotechnology)
2. Genetic engineering (Hard Biotechnology)

 

Scope & Importance of Biotechnology:
Biotechnology has rapidly emerged as an area of activity having a marked realized as well as
potential impact on virtually all domains of human welfare, ranging from food processing, protecting
the environment, to human health. As a result, it now plays a very important role in employment,
production and productivity, trade, economics and economy, human health and the quality of human
life throughout the world. This is clearly reflected in the creating of numerous biotechnology
companies throughout the world, and the movement of noted scientists, including Nobel laureates, to
some of these companies. The total volume of trade in biotechnology products in increasing sharply
every year, and it would soon become the major contributor to the world trade. Many commentators

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are confident that the 2l century will be the century of biotechnology, just as the 20 century was the
era of electronics.

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These are but some of the examples where biotechnology has made notable contribution.
Table1. Some selected contributions of biotechnology to human welfare.
Products Remarks

Medical Biotechnology: Produced by hybridoma technology.
Monoclonal antibodies (used for disease diagnosis, e.g.,
venereal diseases, hepatitis B and other viral diseases, cancer,
etc.)

DNA probes (used for disease diagnosis, e.g. kalazar, sleeping Produced by genetically engineered
sickness, malaria etc.) bacteria.
Synthetic vaccines (cleaner, safer; e.g. human hepatitis B Produced by genetically engineered
virus, E. coli vaccines for pigs, rabies virus etc.) bacteria.
Valuable drugs like human insulin, human interferon, human Produced by genetically engineered bacteria
and bovine growth hormone etc.

Gene therapy to cure genetic diseases, e.g., Hunting- ton`s Techniques still in the developing stages.
chorea, Thalasemia, cystic fibrosis.
Babies of specified sex (artificial insemination with X-or Y- lt is feared that this may unfavorably change
carrying sperms prepared by sperm separation techniques). the sex ratio in the population.

Identification of parents/criminals using DNA finger-printing. Very accurate and reliable; from even blood
or semen stains, hair roots etc.

Industrial Biotechnology: Produced by microorganisms, mainly
Production of useful compounds, e.g., ethanol, lactic acid, bacteria, from less useful substrates.
glycerin, citric acid, gluconic acid, acetone etc.
Production of antibiotics, e.g., Penicillin, Streptomyein, Produced by fungi, bacteria and
Erythromyein, Mitomycin, Cycloheximide etc. actinomycetes as secondary metabolites.

Transformation of less useful and cheaper compounds into Generally, by microorganisms or
more useful and valuable ones, e.g., steroid hormones from immobilized enzymes in aerobic fermenters.
sterols, sorbose from sorbitol etc.

Production of enzymes, e.g. α-amylase, proteases, lipases etc. From fungi, bacteria etc for use in
detergent, textile, leather, dairy etc.
industries, and in medicines.

Single cell proteins (SCP) from bacteria, yeast, fungi or algae In fact, SCP is the total microbial biomass
for human feed and animals feed (as supplements). freed from toxins and contaminatants, if

any.
Fuel (mainly ethanol, sometimes biogas) production from Produced through fermentation by
cheap, less useful and abundant substrates, e.g., sugarcane microorganisms. Cowdung-based biogas
bagasse, wood etc.(biofuel & bioenergy) being popularized in India/Bangladesh.
Mineral extraction through leaching from low grade ores, e.g., Due to action of microbes, mainly bacteria.
copper, uranium etc.(bioleaching/microbial mining)

Immobilization of enzymes for their repeated industrial More attractive than the use of whole
application. microorganisms.
Protein/enzyme engineering to change the primary structure of Extensive use of computers for generating
existing proteins/enzymes to make them more efficient, models of protein molecules. It is hoped to

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change their substrate specificity, e.g., successes with T4 change RUBIS-CO so as to minimize its
lysozyme, trypsin, subtilisin, lactate dehydrogenase etc. affinity for O2.

Production of immunotoxins by joining a natural toxin with a These destroy specific cell types; may
specific antibody. provide a potent treatment for cancer.

Animal biotechnology: Couples suffering from infertility can have
Test tube babies in humans; involves in vitro fertilization and babies.
embryo transfer.
Hormone-induced superovulation and / or embryo splitting in For rapid multiplication of animals of
farm animals; involves embryo transfer and, in many cases, in superior genotype.
vitro fertilization.
Production of transgenic animals for increased milk, growth Transgenic mice, pigs, chicken, rabbits,
rate, resistance to diseases etc. and production of some cattle, sheep produced.
valuable proteins in milk/urine/blood.

Environmental Biotechnology: Efficient strains of micro-organisms
Efficient sewage treatment, deodorization of human excreta. developed.
The use of organisms, usually microorganisms, to break down
pollutants in soil, air or groundwater.
Degradation of petroleum and management of oil spills. A strain of Psedomonas putida. Genetically
Detoxification of wastes and industrial effluents. Biocontrol of engineered microbes. Environment friendly;
plant diseases and insect pests by using viruses, bacteria, avoids the use of pesticides etc., which
amoebae, fungi etc. cause pollution.

Plant Biotechnology: The first two applications are the most
Embryo culture to rescue otherwise inviable hybrids, to remarkable.
recover haploid plants from interspecific hybrids,
micropropagation of orchids etc.
Rapid clonal multiplication through meristerm culture, e.g., of Very high rates of multiplication;
many fruit and forest trees, such as, teak. conventional rates very low, e. g., in mango.

Recovery of virus and other pathogen-free stocks of clonal Very useful in clonal crops; particularly for
crops; meristerm culture is generally combined with germplasm exchange.
thermotherapy.
Germplasm conservation through storage in liquid nitrogen at- Particularly useful in clonal crops,

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l96 C (cryopreservation) or through slow growth. especially in those producing tubers, storage

roots etc.
Rapid isolation of homozygous lines by chromosome doubling Very successful in variety development in
of haploids produced through anther culture/interspecific China, e.g., in rice and wheat.
hybridization.
Molecular markers, e.g. RFLPs and RAPDs for linkage A powerful tool for indirect selection for
mapping and mapping of quantitative trait loci. quantitative traits; several other important

applications.
Isolation of stable somaclonal variants with improved Many examples of successful isolation;
yield/yield traits/disease resistance/resistance to cold, many variations are stable and heritable;
herbicides, metal toxicity, salt and other abiotic stresses. often due to gene mutations, which may,

sometimes, be novel.
Gene transfers (genetic engineering) for insect resistance, Mainly using the Ti plasmid of
protection against viruses, herbicide resistance, storage protein Agrobacterium; also through particle gun,

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improvement etc. free DNA uptake, electroporation etc.; A
revolutionary development in crop
improvement.

Branches of Biotechnology:
Red Biotech: is applied to medical processes. Some examples are the designing of organisms to
produce antibiotics, and the engineering of genetic cures through genomic manipulation.

White/Grey Biotech: applied to industrial processes. An example is the designing of an organism to
produce a useful chemical.

Green Biotech: applied to agricultural processes. An example is the designing of transgenic plants to
grow under specific environmental conditions or in the presence (or absence) of certain agricultural
chemicals.

Blue Biotech: used to describe the marine and aquatic applications of biotechnology, but its use is
relatively rare.

Biotechnology research Disciplines:
 Biochemistry

 Cell Biology

 Molecular Biology

 Microbiology

 Genetics

 Immunology

 Engineering

 Materials Science

 Computer Science

 Mathematics

Present Status of Biotechnology in Bangladesh:

 Plant Biotechnology
l. Soft Core Biotechnology

 Tissue Culture
 Bio-fertilizer
 Vermiculture etc.

2. Hard Core Biotechnology
• Genetic Engineering
• Recombinant DNA technology
Plant Biotechnology

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 Micro-propagation of ornamental, medicinal, timber, flower and fruit plants. e.g. banana,
orchids, strawberry, pointed gourd, gladiolus etc.

 Production of doubled haploid plants in banana through anther culture.

 In vitro micro-tuber production in potato.

 Transgenic sugarcane with stem borers and red rot resistance genes.

 Improvement of wheat using breeding and in vitro techniques.

 Agrobacterium-mediated genetic transformation systems in tobacco, potato and papaya have
been established.

 Agrobacterium mediated transformation in lentil and peanut for fungus resistance.

 Genetic transformation in rice and maize with PRP gene(s)

 Genetic improvement of Jute for abiotic stresses.

 Development of a genetic map and stem rot resistance of jute.

 Transformation of rice for Salinity tolerance.

 DNA marker to help breeding for salt tolerance in rice.

 Development of nine Bt brinjal varieties and two LBR potato varieties.

 Development of arsenic resistance in crop plants through genetic engineering to combat food
chain contamination in Bangladesh.

Microbial Biotechnology

 Mass scale production Of Spirulina (BCSlR)

 Production of bio-fertilizer.

Bioenergy:

 BCSIR is leading the project

 30,000 biogas plant installed by 2010

 100,000 more is the process of installation

National Committee on Biotechnology (NCB) product Development:
“ln September l993, a national committee on Biotechnology product development was formed and
finally the following products were selected.”

 Rhizobial inoculation for use as bio-fertilizer

 Yeasts as protein supplement of poultry feed.

 Tissue culture based foot and mouth disease vaccine.

 Bamboo sapling by ex-vitro and in-vitro methods.

 Biogass technology for fuel, fertilizer and environmental pollution control.
 Production of high quality potato seeds using tissue culture.

 

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