Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Biotechnology --- an Instrument of Next Revolution

Ours is an age of revolution---Green Revolution, Information Technology-cum Communications Revolution and Biotechnology. Gone are the days when political revolutions made headlines and held the attention of people at large. Whereas, in the success of political upheavals the seeds of their failure also lay hidden, the revolutions that technology and biology are going to bring about, their positive aspects effecting human race, are writ large across the horizons. An evil mind here and there may play mischief with these technological wonders, but they are certainly going to change both the face and face of those who know how and when to strike when the opportunities knock at the door. We may be minnows yet, compared to the US (Biotech turnover in 2000: $ 20 billion) but India is finally o the fast track. Already, a slew of Indian companies are working on a range of areas that may provide both big break-through and also big buck.
Man has been exploiting biotechnology for thousands of years to make bread, to foment alcohol, to produce cheese and for shorter periods to treat sewage. But the term biotechnology was coined during late 1970s. It is a multi-disciplinary subject evaluated from the integrated use of life science, chemical sciences and engineering sciences.  An elegant and expedient definition of biotechnology is the manipulation of living organism and biological processes to provide useful products, to manufacturing industries. It is the technological exploitation and control of biological systems and micro-organisms or their components to provide certain goods and services. Biotechnology takes the application of scientific and engineering principles to the processing of materials by biological agents. These biological agents are enzymes, micro-organisms, unicellular or multi-cellular plants and animals. Now these biological agents are again being modified through genetic engineering or recombinant DNA technique, to suit the needs of mankind.
Biotechnology includes various types of technologies, namely Recombinant DNA Technology for Genetic Engineering, Protoplast fusion, Hybridism technology, Cell culture, Tissue culture, Germplasm development, Embryo transfer technology, Enzyme and protein engineering, Fermentation, Bio-conversion and immobilization of cells and cellular products.
Biotechnology has immense potential for use in agriculture, forestry, horticulture, medicine, health, chemical industry, pollution control and environment. The modern world has laid its future hopes on this technology for subsistence and all-round progress and development. Residents of this planet are facing many problems and it is hoped that if the same progress be followed in the approach towards curtailing the prevailing conditions, then it will go on enhancing further. First and foremost is the problem of over-population, we have to fetter it. Food consumption is far below the required standard in developing countries. Environmental quality is deteriorating every fraction of the time known. Agricultural soil is also getting deteriorated widely. Energy resources are going away from our treasury. So we need non-fuel minerals for the purpose. Mankind is facing new damages to human health through microbial and non-microbial diseases like cancer and AIDS. Biotechnology has promised some alternatives or solutions to the problems mentioned about.
Probable application of biotechnology include the development of better and cheaper drugs, better anti-fertility agents, hormone production, immunologist kits, vaccines for cancer, gene probe and gene therapy, Monodonal antibodies MABs  are used in the diagnosis of sexually transmitted diseases and cancer in connection of drug overdose, treatment of cancer. Different pharmaceuticals like interferon, insulin and other hormones, anti-biotic, human virokinose, etc., have been produced by recombinant DNA Technology. Production of interferon which is a wonder protein drug for cancer and viral disease and human insulin which is a hormone required to rectify diabetes has been revolutionized through bio-technological applications. A hormone, somatostatin 5mg of which was produced from half a million sheep brains can now be produced from a 9 liter bacterial culture.
Gene therapy and development of multi-disease vaccines are the other areas where biotechnology is expected to yield wonder. It might be possible to rectify the hereditary diseases through gene therapy with the recent achievement in laboratory animals,, producing large size mice by transfer of growth hormone gene, the possibilities of eugenic-crating desired humans are seen bright. What is considered an imagination today might turn out to be reality in not too distant future.
Man derives food mainly from plant and animal resources. Biotechnology holds a tremendous potential in improving these resources in various ways. Improvement of crop plants through genetic manipulation would go a long way in meeting the escalating necessities of food. Some useful traits like herbicide drought, frost and pest resistances might be transferred to important crop species already been made in transforming the frost resistance genes into crop plants. Work is being done on increasing growth rate, photosynthetic ability and nitrogen fixation in plants through genetic tools of biotechnology.
The production of microbial proteins has been practiced since World War I, when Debouch in Berlin developed Drawers Yeast on a large scale. The cells were mainly incorporated into soups and sausages. It is known as SCP (Single Cell Protein). It is potential protein source food for humans and animals. For human use, microbes used are primarily, “Sacharomyces Cerevisiae” and “Condidia Utilis”. Further, biotechnology has marked impact in the sweetener industry. Baker’s yeast wine bear, sour hunch bread, yoghurt, cheese, vinegar are some of the foods and beverages obtained from micro-organisms.
Recently a protein that increases milk production in dairy cows and improves feed utilization has been produced with the help of genetic engineering techniques in USA. This protein is expected to be commercialized in a couple of years to increase the economy and efficiency of dairy forming all over the world.
The variety of toxic and no-toxic wastes expelled every day by industries is posing serious threat to human life through environmental pollution. One of the patent methods of eliminating these wastes is through biodegradation. A super bug, pseudomonas Putida, created by an Indian scientist in USA, Dr. A. Chakravarty, through such techniques can scavenge oil in sea. Many other such organisms could be created to degrade and detoxify a variety of harmful chemicals in the environment. The communicable diseases can be prevented through vector-control. Biogas generation from wastes has proved its utility in various ways. Sewage treatment is carried out by aerobic and anaerobic micro-organisms. The effluent from yeast oil and cider breweries, from dairies and from potato starch factory can be efficiently processed by an anaerobic process in produces less residual sludge as well as offensive odors. This would avoid the possible ill-effects on human health had such animal and plant species as are useful to mankind. Productions of fine chemicals from agricultural wasters high microbial processes, plant cells, animal cells, production of antibiotics, vitamins, amino acids, biofuel employing microbial transformation and preservations of industrial products from spoilage are some of the major applications of products from spoilage are some of the major applications of biotechnology in industry. The existing petro-chemicals and other sources of energy are depleting fast with the advancement of modern world. The solution to this problem seems to come through biotechnology. Processes have been developed for generating liquid and methane among gaseous (biogas) bio-fuels constitutes important alternatives to coal, wood, oil petroleum and other existing sources of energy. Various waste materials are being used for bio-converting them into bio-fuels by such micro-organisms.
Sugarcane, banana, vegetable crops and orchids have already been commercially produced using tissue culture in India. And in the time to come tissue culture technology will also be applied for bamboo, mustard, rice, sandalwood and other agricultural fields. From nutritional point of view, plant proteins suffer from amino acid imbalances. By genetic engineering, it may be possible to correct the imbalance of amino acid profiles in seed proteins.
The process of biological nitrogen fixation is carried out by free living and symbiotic micro-organisms. The symbiotic micro-organisms from association with other plants to fix nitrogen. By the presence of these micro-organisms in the root nodules of leguminous, plants result in improving grain yield. In the veterinary field, bio-technological applications include utilization of hybridism technology for animal breeding through genetic engineering at gametes orgdnod level transgenic animals, production of fish growth hormone by DNA technology, etc. And in animals, it provides a cheap, fast and simple method with few side effects; these techniques will have an impact on efforts to reduce the population of low grade genetic stock of little economic value.
The application of biotechnology in the area of animal husbandry increasing production efficiency, through manipulation and control of physiology and for promoting better health care through bio-pharmaceuticals is worth nothing. Embryo transfer technology will behave animal production in the years to come. It would also boost animal productivity by improved new feeds and fodder through bio-conversion process, tissue culture and other genetic techniques respectively. Along with this a number of non-conventional food constituents like single cell proteins, sweeteners, edible oils, etc., and food additions like vitamins, amino acids, etc., have been and can be secreted through bio-technological processes. It can also be used for better processing of food.
Today among the most pressing problems faced by our country is the population explosion. What we have got to do is to adopt family planning. Towards this numerous programmes have been opened up with different techniques. Now a novice program called “Immunological Approach to fatality control” have been devised. The objectives of this project are to develop safest, cost-effective, efficacious, long lasting and reversible contraceptive vaccines using immunological approaches. The National Institute of Immunology has developed a candidate vaccine for the failure of pregnancy. 
The powerful potential implicit in these revolutionary techniques has focused everyone’s attention on the biotechnology industry and significant investments have been made in this area since the early eighties. The impact is being realized with a range of products and processes being introduced in such area as agriculture, forestry, horticulture, medicine, health chemical industry, food industry, pollution control and environment. There is a promise of further technological progress but the question marks about the sustainability of this progress in view of the fragility of our environment and biological heritage call for novel technological solutions in an eco-friendly manner.
During a four day International Conference on “New Horizons in Biotechnology”, held at Thiruvanathapuram from April 18 to 21, 2001, Prof. J. Klein (Technical University, Braunschweign, Germany) emphasized the scientists, both Indian and foreign, present at the Conference, particularly in their respective countries. During the conference it was felt that the Third World was 10 to 15 years behind in biotechnology research. 
A wide variety of transgenic plants, able to resist pests and disease, have enabled to development of value-added crops and super treed closer to reality. Two institutes in India are currently working on the development of draught resistant crops, suitable for arid lands. Transgenic animals for stock development have also, become a reality. Conservation of biological resources through the risk of biotechnology tools would ensure sustainable development and creation of wealth. The setting up of bio-technological parks, on the pattern of Information Technology Parks in various States of India, would give a big boost to this sector.
Hunched over computers, scanning through thousands of genes from the human genome database, calculating complex data from computerized models of enzyme functions, Indian scientists are on the hunt for candidate genes that predispose one to diabetes. The idea: If you know where the problem lay you could ultimately find a way of treating it. Not to be left behind in the race that would finally lead to the making of Biotechnology Revolution. India Companies are working on transgenic crops that triple crop yield and use less pesticides and fertilizer. Others are working on DNA----based vaccines that could provide cheaper and more effective measures to prevent diseases like cholera, hepatitis and rabies. They are also looking at data from the genes of large close-knit families and looking at data from the genes of large close-knit families and communities that may reveal how some major diseases are transmitted.
Biotechnology, like IT, is knowledge-intensive. India has a very good pool of scientific talent. An English speaking population is the other advantage that both IT and BT have over other developing countries like China. Besides, there is synergy: biotechnology requires good IT infrastructure and knowledge which is available in India. As a result, multinationals looking for ways to reduce research costs through outsourcing is seriously considering India as an option.
It is the domestic demand that has fuelled the biotechnology growth in India so far. In medicine, the vaccines market has been growing at 20 per cent annually. Diagnostics is another growing field for biotechnology products. More than half the diagnostic kits in this country are imported, expensive and often ineffective as they are not designed for Indian climatic conditions or variant Indian strains of microbes. Another big growth area where biotechnology will impact daily lives most is agriculture. According to Kailash Bansal, Principal Scientist at IARI, Delhi, Scientists are working on enhancing the nutritional value of everyday foods such as rice, potatoes, mustard oil, by inserting genes that will increase levels of vitamin A, iron and anti-oxidants such as Vitamin E.
Biotech business is increasing exponentially with major thrust into human health, agriculture, veterinary, medicine and environmental biotechnology. The opportunities have arrived. All that is required is proper channelization of resources and knowledge.


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