Apex of life science | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, August 10, 2010 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, August 10, 2010


Apex of life science

The DNA molecule which is the molecule of life governs all the characteristics of a living being having all the information encoded in it to do so

STARTING from the ancient time, Biotechnology has been illuminating its beauty nowadays through the advancement of Genetic engineering. Genetic engineering is the latest branch of Biotechnology which takes into account gene manipulation, genome sequencing and finding solutions to genetic diseases, creating better life forms etc.
Life Science answers questions about nature and life. It searches the origin of life and hypothesizes life's origin in the ancient shallow sea. Biotechnology originates later after life's creation, to benefit life, specially the human being. Biotechnology can be defined as the application of science and engineering to the processing materials by biological agents to provide goods and services for human benefit.
One can find biotechnology in everyday life, from baking of breads to pharmaceutical industries producing life saving drugs. So, biotechnology is not new at all. Man has long been manipulating living things to solve problems and improve his way of life. The biotechnological science can be categorized as Agricultural Biotechnology, Environmental Biotechnology, Microbial Biotechnology, Food Biotechnology, Industrial Biotechnology, Fermentation Biotechnology, Animal Biotechnology, Pharmaceutical Biotechnology, and Medical Biotechnology and, in modern days, Genomics, Proteomics and Bioinformatics.
The ancient Egyptians made wine using fermentation techniques based on microorganisms 4000 years ago and they applied yeast to make dough rise during bread making. Apart from this very ancient example of beer production, agricultural biotechnology came second place to meet the need of food. The selective breeding techniques were common among farmers as they were in search of better varieties of crops which give higher yield and in this way, food production was being increased with the population growth, especially in developing countries. Then genetic engineering became necessary to shorten the time of getting better varieties with a combination of high yield, drought tolerance, salt tolerance, pest resistance, flood tolerance and so on. Without these technologies, it would have been really difficult, if not impossible, to cope with the increasing demand of food and meet the need of this hunger-stricken world.
Food and Fermentation Biotechnology fall among the ancient biotechnological solutions. Early agriculture concentrated on producing food. Animal agriculture was done also for better meat quality and higher milk production by conventional breeding among better varieties.
Environmental Biotechnology helps us to find ways of minimizing pollution by applying bioremediation and other techniques. It finds clean energy sources to make a greener world.
Microbial Biotechnology comes with the thought of applying them and their products for human welfare. SCP (Single Cell Protein) can be a solution to increasing protein demand.
Animal Biotechnology provides us with better fish, meat and milk by biofarming. Some animals even can be used as bioreactors to produce useful proteins to be used as drugs and inside the animals, the proteins are targeted to be secreted in urine, blood and milk and finally extracted and purified to be prescribed for human.
Medical Biotechnology with the extraction of valuable compounds from plants and production of chemical compounds from microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi and ascomycetes, helped us to lead a better life and increased our life expectancy.
Pharmaceutical Biotechnology provides life saving drugs like insulin and blood clotting factors. These are now produced commercially and in a cost-efficient manner to make these accessible to more patients.
Bioinformatics, representing a marriage between Information Science and Biotechnology, has emerged as the latest branch of genetic engineering where numerous biological data can be analyzed in silico and helps in genome sequencing, creating synthetic drugs and modeling biological systems. All these sciences emerged from Biotechnology and rightly so Biotechnology is reaching the apex of Life Science in this century.
The writer is Lecturer, Biotechnology Dept, BRAC University.

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