Biotechnology can be defined as the use of biological processes to manipulate living organisms to develop and create products useful in medicine, agriculture and more.
Biotechnology has been around since ancient times. Back in prehistoric times, yeast was used to help raise bread, and to ferment alcoholic beverages. Bacterial cells have been used to make cheese and yogurt. Plants and foods which require a longer shelf life use methods of biotechnology to prolong their usefulness. Methods used to turn cream into butter and grapes into wine are rooted in biotechnology.
There are several different types of biotechnology. White Biotechnology, which is also called grey Biotechnology, deals with industrial processes. Green Biotechnology is applied to agricultural processes, and red Biotechnology is applied to medical processes.
Red Biotechnology is the specific process of using organisms to improve health care. Examples of Red Biotech include: designing organisms to produce antibiotics, and vaccines; and genetic engineering, where cures are found through manipulating an organism’s genetic material. This biotechnology helps the body fight illness and disease. Medical science can genetically modify yeast and bacteria to produce new drugs that would otherwise be difficult, if not impossible.
Genetic engineering, as it is called allows for the manipulation of DNA (genetic material). This DNA contains genes which code for all our human traits. Using the genetic engineering process, new drugs can be created that can increase maximum effects without damaging nearby cells. If a person’s genetics are known, more accurate methods can be determined to give a correct drug dosage. Also, better and safer vaccines can be made. It is hopeful that new vaccines can be made that lower the risk of infections and be inexpensive to use.
Genetic engineering has become revolutionized to the point that scientists use a procedure known as gene splicing, where a gene from one organism is transferred to another. If this new DNA is taken into the second organisms own genetic material, then you get what’s known as recombinant DNA. Thus the genetic makeup of an organism is changed because its protein is changed. These types of procedures can get very complicated. Some type of vector (carrier) is necessary to carry the spliced gene from one place to another. Then you have genetically engineered a chance, hopefully for the better.
One such use of Red Biotechnology is the use of recombinant DNA protein insulin needed for type 2 diabetes. By transferring some human insulin genes to E. coli bacteria, more insulin can be produced. Another genetically engineered protein is known as tPA, or Tissue Plasminogen activator, a protein cloned in hamster cell cultures. This enzyme is used to help prevent blood clots in people who have had a heart attack.
Red Biotechnology is helpful in vaccine production. Genetically altered cowpox is now being used against influenza, hepatitis and herpes. Although science has come a long way with Red Biotechnology, the investment into the research is costly, around $50 million and around 8-9 years in time. This includes: developing, testing and patents. While most people react positively to this technology, there are those who fear that disease-producing organisms in some DNA experiments may become infectious, causing a world wide epidemic. Although things are promising, Red Biotechnology has a ways to go.