Biotechnology: An amalgamation of genetic engineering, biochemistry, and microbiology is unparallel expansion of applied biology. With its use, practically all the processes right from simplest process of fermentation by yeast to the most advance recombinant DNA (Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid) technology are exploited. Watson, Crick and Wilkins who made the beginning of DNA, were awarded Nobel Prize in 1962. Subsequently various scientists are in the process of spectacular development in biotech field.
DNA structure: The human genome has approximately 3 billion pairs of bases and 30,000 genes. Incidentally all organisms have similarities in DNA sequences and insights gained from non-human genomes have probably led to new knowledge about human biology. The genomic mapping of these sequences has enabled to develop new preventive and therapeutic approaches to the treatment of disease and understand the mechanics of cell biology. The storage of genes is possible for conservation of seeds, tissues, or animals. DNA fingerprinting is used to establish paternity or maternity with high degree of certainty. It is also used to diagnose inherited disorders and possible proper treatment in both prenatal and new born babies. The new bio-tech field has commenced a boundless and multiplex revolution in all the fields through the miraculous role of insignificant microbe.
Health care: Some of the prominent developments include vaccines against virus and pathogenic bacteria through genetic vaccination; diagnosis tests and cure for genetic and hereditary defects through gene therapy; replacement of defective organs through cloning (an identical copy of an original organism); large production of insulin in bacterial factories for the benefit of diabetic patients; test tube babies or surrogate births; sperm banks established in US to have babies of choice; (one woman delivered her baby three years after the death of her husband) stem cells and grafting of mostly all important human organs. The first animal clone was a tadpole in 1952; subsequently many cloning activities took place. The scientists? next goal may be human cloning and cloning of extinct and endangered species.
Agriculture: Large and qualitative production in certain items like banana, potato, rice through transgenic system; genetically modified food or tissue culture; plants can have increased flavour and shelf life; plants resistant to herbicides have been produced; disease prevention and hybrid production with the use of human genes into animal and animal genes into plants and hence many hybrids are possible; seeds containing hirudin (chemical substance produced by leeches) is used as anti-blood coagulant in cardiac patients are some of the noticeable advances.
Industry: Genetic science has potential of extracting noble metals, petroleum and other useful minerals through bio-leaching without the usage of expensive machineries; production of bio-degradable plastics; ethanol or gasohol (mixture of petrol and ethanol) through microbes for the use of vehicles; methane and hydrogen as alternative source of energy; scientists say that bio-chips may replace silicon chips in computers. Genetic science has also a potential in controlling pollution.
Further developments: 21st century may bring new lease of research: Asia'sfirst DNA bank (second in the world) is established in Lucknow in 2008 for human exhaustive DNA information to be used by police; BT or genetically modified brinjal, rice, okra and tomato similar to that of cotton to be insect repellent will hit the Indian market soon; Spanish scientists? breakthrough on the mice may help prolong human life; US scientists? breakthrough with embryonic stem cells for growing vats of red blood cells may provide limitless sources of blood; it is found that synthetic molecules are able to kill cancer cells and stop them from spreading; Australian firm will be world'sfirst to get permit for cloning human embryos; A German researcher has carried out operation of suppressing AIDS in patient through bone marrow transplant from HIV resistant donor; Pig-human tissue is allowed in New Zealand for diabetics; Melbourne scientists have claimed that a wild grass gene resistant to stem and leaf rust may protect wheat crop; Japanese scientists have used the dead cell of a mouse preserved at minus 20 degrees celsius with hopes for paving way to restore extinct animals like the mammoth.
Transgenic creature will act as a pharmaceutical or industrial factory and no need to spend on large factories. The scientists may bring out in future a single tree with different fruits on it or they can have hybrid animal. There are going to be many surprises by the end of 21st century. First for the would-be 10 to 12 billion population, food and other necessities may fall short but the scientists are in process of obtaining ample GM crops to be grown anywhere in the world without bothering for fertility of the soil, temperature or water etc. Man has started interfering with natural process of life and death of living bodies and only time will decide whether the new development is a boon or a curse.
(The author is a former Project Management Consultant for local and abroad civil construction activities and [email protected])