Biotechnology Examples


Microscope

Most Proteins are molecules that serve as the machinery and the catalysts that make cells function. Many useful Biotech products are also proteins or are made by proteins. Since DNA encodes for RNA that programs Protein synthesis, you can change a Protein by changing the DNA. Molecular Biology is advanced sufficiently so that making changes in DNA is very easy in many systems. However, Biotech is still in its infancy and we are still learning all the "rules" in the lab and in the real world.



EXAMPLE OLD METHOD NEW METHOD AVOIDS PROBLEMS LIKE
Golden Rice Take a supplement pill Add a metabolic pathway for making Vitamin A to a rice plant Blindness, expensive vitamin pills
Pesticide-Free Crops

Outside LinkPotato
expensive - use poisons to kill pests Add a gene encoding a "safe" insecticidal protein to crop plant Crop losses / toxic residues & wildlife loss / wasting money
BulletInsulin pig pancreas extract Put human insulin gene into bacteria Diabetes, allergic response, new diseases
Growth Factor cadaver brain extract Put human growth factor gene into bacteria Dwarfism / spread of brain diseases
Diagnosis of Disease (e.g. Phenylketonuria) Wait until disease occurs & treat symptoms Sensitive quick assays to avoid the disease Progression of disease / unprepared parents
Outside LinkSuper Laundry Soaps Use bleach, hot water Find & clone designer enzymes Dirty or shrunken clothes / polluting with chlorine


A Basic Analogy
Biological Systems

compare to

Computer Systems

DNA in nucleus

arrow software, programs on a hard drive
RNA

arrow
random access memory (RAM)
ribosomes

arrow
central processing unit (CPU)
Proteins

arrow
hardware like printers, screens, CD-burners, speakers


If you have a computer (a cell), you can load a program (DNA encoding a gene product = a protein) onto the hard drive (nucleus). If you activate that program (gene), then an information-containing message via RAM (RNA) is sent to the CPU (ribosome). Now the various components of your computer system start performing various functions like: screen displays an image, speakers make sound, and the printer makes hard-copies (proteins can digest food, make your muscles move, or help you think a thought, plus much more!).

If you load a different program (gene), then you will be able to have other functions (proteins). A major emphasis, but not the only goal, of biotechnology is to re-program or alter the genetic material of plants, animals, and microorganisms.



Additional Information and Tools About Biotechnology


Outside link Animated basics of DNA, genes, and heredity


Outside link Multimedia guide to some genetic diseases


Outside link Amgen - About Biotechnology


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