Biotechnology Definitions, Applications in Medicine, Uses

Biotechnology is a broad subject and it comprises a collection of techniques or processors that are use living organisms, cells and biological molecules. It is the use of living systems and organisms to develop or make useful products. It has so many uses in medicine applications. In this tutorial, we will discuss followings about biotechnology.

Written by: M. Jithmika Piyumika, (undergraduate), Ayurweda Medicine and Surgery, Institute of Indegenous Medicine, University of Colombo

  • What is bio technology?
  • Main fields using biotechnology and uses
  • What is GFP gene, transgene?
  • What is molecular diagnostic?

What is Biotechnology?

Biotechnology is a specific technology. It is the use of living systems and organisms to develop or make useful products.

What is Biotechnology?

What are the two main fields using biotechnology?

It is depending on the tools and applications, is often overlaps with fields of,

  • Bioengineering (Genetic engineering)
  • Biomedical engineering

What are the uses of biotechnology?

Enhancing and improving food supply, health, environment and more.

What are the aims of biotechnology?

  • To develop
    • Higher yield
    • Nutrient rich crops
    • Livestock

  • To produce
    • New medicines
    • Vaccines
    • Disease diagnostics tools

Development of Biotechnology

Term "Biotechnology" was coined by Hungarian agriculturist Karl Ereky. Two major branches of biotechnology according to technology are given below.

  1. Traditional Biotechnology
  2. Modern Biotechnology

Traditional Biotechnology

This technology use of processes of living organisms. (use entire organism or part of the organisms)

What are the examples for Traditional Biotechnology?

  • Use of fermentation processors for production of bread, wine, cheese and beer.
  • Production of vaccines and antibiotics.
  • Tissue culture in livestock breeding and agriculture.
  • Use of microorganisms and enzymes in agriculture and pharmaceutical industries.

Modern Biotechnology

Use to improve that particular organism.

  • Genetic engineering
  • Gene technology
  • Recombinant DNA technology

Modified DNA molecule was created by combining DNA form two unrelated organisms.

Method of modern biotechnology

What are the major types of Modern Biotechnology?

  • Organismic Biotechnology
  • Molecular Biotechnology

Organism Biotechnology

This system is changing of an organism without altering genetic material. This technology uses natural genetic variation of a complete organism to change their features.

This technology use to improve it to be more productive. (Example - Cloning).

What is the cloning?

Cloning is the producing a new organism from cells of an existing organism. These new organisms will be genetically identical to the exiting organism.

Example for cloning - Dolly the female sheep - Cloned from an adult somatic cell.

How to clone animal

Molecular Biotechnology

What is Molecular Biotechnology? - Changing the genetic material of an organism.

Technique : Genetic engineering

Specific trait of an organism isolated, cut and moved in to a cell of another organism. Organisms created by genetic engineering is called as "TRANSGENEIC". Example for Transgenic organisms is genetically modified plant.

This gene basically used in scientific research in medicine. Special gene - GFP -(Green Fluorescent Protein)

Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP)

GFP gene is frequently used as reporter of expression.

Example for GFP - Monkeys were engineered to have the gene for neurodegenerative genetic disorder Huntington's Disease, The gene was tagged with GFP (Green Fluorescent Protein).

What is Transgene?

Transgenic is a segment of DNA containing a gene sequence. It has been isolated from one organism. Then it is introduced into a different organism by means of genetic engineering technique.

Introduction of a transgenic has the potential to change the phenotype of an organism.

Applications of Biotechnology?

  • Medical Biotechnology
  • Agricultural Biotechnology
  • Environmental Biotechnology

Medical Biotechnology

Mainly used for Therapeutic Diagnostics. It helps to identify cause of disease, prevent and cure the disease.

Major uses of Medical Biotechnology

What is the Molecular diagnostics?

This is a DNA or RNA based diagnostics. By using this technique we can diagnosis of infectious diseases and genetic disorders.

What are the examples for Molecular diagnostics?

  • Genetic disorders - Thalassemia, Hemophilia, certain breast cancer types etc.
  • Bacterial or viral infections- Tuberculosis, Dengue, Hepatitis, Malaria.
  • DNA fingerprinting in forensics

How we can diagnosis of Infectious Diseases?

Each organism has unique DNA regions. Such unique regions are selectively PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) amplified to detect the presence of organism in a clinical specimen.

How diagnosis infectious disease

What are the Genetic disorders which can be detected by DNA/ RNA methods?

  • Adenosine delaminate deficiency
  • Sickle-cell anemia
  • Hemophilia A and B
  • Phenylketonuria
  • Haemochromatosis
  • Familial hypercholesterolemia
  • Certain breast cancer types
  • Cystic Fibrosis
  • Huntington's disease
  • Duchene's Muscular dystrophy
  • Thalassemia
  • G-6-PD deficiency
  • Retinoblastoma

What are the advantages of Molecular diagnostics?

  • It has high specificity and accuracy - exact pathogen will be identified.
  • It has high sensitivity- Trace amounts of pathogen in any clinical specimen can be detected.
  • We can early diagnosis diseases.
  • It has throughput - Analysis of large number of samples simultaneously.
  • We can be identified multiple pathogens.
  • Drug therapy can be monitored by using this diagnostic method.
  • We can be detected drug resistant strains.

What is the latest method of molecular diagnostics? - DNA chips

Method of DNA chips

Tagged DNA on a microchip made of glass or silicon. Then allows thousands of genes to analyze on a single chip.

Therapeutics of Medical Biotechnology

What are therapeutics? - It help products to prevent diseases and maintain good health.

Action of therapeutics of medical biotechnology is,

  • Disease intervention
  • Development of gene based therapeutics
  • Understanding the functions of genes.
  • Determine the role of faulty genes in causing diseases.

Method of gene based therapeutics?

Production of proteins to be used as therapeutic drugs or vaccines .There are two systems for that. (gene therapy and stifling a harmful gene.) Introduction of normal gene to replace a defective gene is called gene therapy and blocking the action of a harmful gene is called stifling a harmful gene.

Method of gene therapy?

This therapy is used to replacement of a defective gene with a normal gene. Examples for that are applied in ADA (Adenosine demitasse) deficiency, HIV, cancer, Cystic fibrosis etc. Example is given below.

Method of gene therapy

Stifling a harmful gene

Stifling a harmful gene means how to block the action of a harmful gene. We can do it by using fake promoters to divert transcription factors and binding anti-sense RNA to stop protein synthesis.

Production of proteins as medicine

production of human insulin

Genetically engineered animals as living pharmaceutical

The Food and Drug Administration has approved the first drug produced in the milk of genetically engineered animals.

first drug produced in the milk of genetically engineered animal

Stem cell

It is unspecialized cells that have ability to become other cell types. It is having capability specializing themselves into another type.

Major types of Mammalian Stem cells?

  • Embryonic stem cells (inner cell mass of blastocysts)
  • Adult stem cells (found in various tissues)

Stem- cell therapy

It is an intervention strategy that introduces new adult stem cells into damaged tissue in order to treat disease or injury. Restoration of organ function achieved by the injection of Healthy Functional replacement manufactured from human stem cells.

Stem-cell promise

It still in experimental stages or costly.

  • Cancer
  • Type 1 diabetes mellitus
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Huntington's disease
  • Celiac disease
  • Cardiac failure
  • Muscle damage and neurological disorders

What is agricultural biotechnology?

It is plant biotechnology. It improves plants and plant products. It is used for the creation of transgenic plants.

creation transgenic plant

Traditional plant breeding Vs genetic engineering

traditional plant breeding and genetic engineering

Agrobacterium medicated transformation?

Agrobacterium tumefactions - Causative agent for crown gall disease (the formation of tumors)

It is caused by the insertion of a small segment of DNA (T-DNA, for 'transfer DNA'), from a plasmid, into the plant cell.

What plants are modified?

  • Soybean
  • Corn
  • Cotton
  • Canola
  • Potatoes
  • Tomatoes
  • Banana

What are the goals of Genetically Modified plants?

  • It uses to produce plants resistance to: Disease, Pests, frost, drought, salinity etc
  • Plants with healthier and increased crop.
  • Enhances - taste, nutritional quality, Enhances shelf life.
  • Reduce-the cost of the production.
  • As a factory for pharmaceuticals.

What is needed to enhance nutrition?

Problem: Areas with a shortage of dietary vitamin A, a deficiency which is estimated to kill 670,000 children under 5 each year.

How enhancing nutrition?

As an example, Golden Rice can be given and many developing countries staple food is Rice. Genetically engineered rice is rich with more nutritious with additional vitamins.

Creation of Golden rice - Golden rice was designed to produce a precursor of vitamin A, beta-carotene, in the edible part of rice, the endosperm.

Created by transforming rice with two beta-carotene biosynthesis genes:

  • Spy (photogene syntheses) from daffodil (Narcissus pseudo narcissus)
  • Ctrl (carotene desaturase) from the soil bacterium (Erwinia uredovora)

The psy and ctrl genes were transformed in to the rice nuclear genome and placed under the control of an endosperm- specific promoter, so they are only expressed in the endosperm.

Potential Social Concerns of Biotechnology?

  • Today most people are concerned about the safety of genetically modified LGM foods, because it is against nature.
  • Biotechnology reduces natural genetic diversity, because it is leaving the traditional varieties out.
  • Biotechnology has limited availability to poor countries, because genetically modified products are very expensive.
  • Biotechnology has ethical issues because humancy or genetically modified humans.
  • Biotechnology undermines traditional agricultural practices. Today people have a big problem " Are genetically modified products harmful to other organisms or the environment". So people are unlikely to use genetically modified products.