Long before the term "biotechnology" was coined for the process of using living organisms to produce improved commodities, people were utilizing living micro-organisms to produce valuable products.
History of Biotechnology (Refer pg 2 text bk.).
Our ancestors used microorganisms and used fermentation to make bread, cheeses, yogurt, alcoholic beverages etc.
A natural gene in simple bacteria such as Escherichia coli ( E. coli ), a bacterium living in intestines that has become the model organism for much of biotechnology, if found in this bacterium, scientist can have this bacterium make a lot of the protein coded for by the gene, regardless its source.
Recombinant DNA technology has led to hundreds of applications including development of disease resistant crops with greater yield and nutrient value or genetically engineered bacteria able to degrade environmental pollutant (Discussed under bioremediation).
Hence the mid-eighties and early-nineties, it became possible to transform (genetically modify) plants and animals that are important for food production. "Transgenic" animals and plants, including cows, sheep, tomatoes, tobacco, potato, and cotton have now been obtained.
Recombinant DNA technology and genetic engineering led to release of genetically altered organisms into the environment, this part of biotechnology is quite strictly regulated at government levels (Biotechnology regulation will be discussed).
C ompleted in 2003, the Human Genome Project (HGP) was a 13-year project coordinated by the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Institutes of Health. During the early years of the HGP, the Wellcome Trust (U.K.) became a major partner; additional contributions came from Japan, France, Germany, China, and others.
The following lists the main areas and application of Biotechnology from which all others stem:
This is, historically, the most important area in biotechnology. There has been extensive development in progress with new products such as medically important drugs, solvents, protein enhanced foods, etc.
This area is used for the catalysis of extremely specific chemical reactions to create specific molecular converters (bioreactors). Products formed include amino acids, high fructose syrup, semi-synthetic penicillins, starch and cellulose hydrolysis, etc.
This has a long array of historical importance, but now emphasis is on the coupling of this field with the conservation and recycling of resources. Examples would include foods, fertilizers, and biological fuels.
The first product of modern biotechnology made use of insulin, a protein hormone produced in the pancreas that the body uses to regulate the concentration of blood sugar (glucose).
To accomplish this, the piece of foreign DNA is first inserted into a plasmid a small circle of DNA which serves as a carrier. The new "recombinant" plasmid carrying the human gene is then reintroduced into another bacterial cell, as shown in the figure above.
Genetically modified foods - produce plants that yield more food, produce new types of food, plants prone to diseases and severe weather; increase the disease resistance, size and growth rate of animals, in medicine and industry.