Biotechnology is made up of two words Bio+Technology. Biotechnology is nothing but the application of technology on biological substances. Making of bread,curd which is a microbe mediated process can be thought of as a biotechnological process. But , this is not the case, as the term biotechnology is usually used in a more restricted sense.
You must have heard of the terms in vitro fertilisation, gene therapy. Yes, they all are part of biotechnology.
Biotechnology Definition as given by European Fedeartion of Biotechnology (EFB):
‘The integration of natural science and organisms, cells, parts thereof, and molecular analogues for products and services’.
There are two techniques which lead to the birth of modern day biotechnology.
1. Genetic Engineering
It basically deals with altering the structure of DNA and RNA so as to change the observable characteristic of an organisms like hair color,height etc.
It is a process in which a sterile (Microbial Contamination free) atmosphere is maintained at a place so as to ensure effective environment for the growth of microbes so they can be used for the manufacture of vaccines,enzymes and antibiotics, etc.
4 Domains of Biotechnology or 4 applications of Biotechnology:
a) Biotechnology in Medicine: It is used in medicinal field to manufacture vaccines, therapeutic drugs which are more safer and effective today.
Some diabetic patients needs insulin dosages, this insulin was extracted from pancreas of slaughtered animals like cattle and pig. This Insulin was not that safe for human consumption as humans can develop different kind of allergies by using this Insulin. But, thanks to Biotechnology which helped in making Genetically Engineered Insulin possible.
Gene Therapy is used to diagnose hereditary diseases in an individual. This is achieved by introducing a gene in the cell or tissue of an organism or an embryo. The gene introduced is for a gene which is defective leading to a disease. This introduced gene acts as a corrective gene for that specific hereditary disease.
Generally a disease is identified by the concentration of pathogen (disease causing virus, bacteria or micro-organisms) in an organisms. Usually , the concentration needs to be higher in order to identify a particular disease. But, low concentration of a pathogen can be detected by amplifying the amount of nucleic acid by Polymerase Chain Reaction.
You can find details about transgenic animals in my previous article.
c. In Agriculture:
Plants have been genetically modified in order to ensure that they are tolerant to heat, salt, cold.The genetic modification of plants have resulted in enhancing the nutritional value of a food for example: golden Rice which is rich in Vitamin A.
It is also used in agriculture to have pest resistant crops. For example , you might have heard of Bt Cotton, Bt Brinjal.
d. Biotechnology for Biofuels:
It has been used to create enzyme which is used to ferment ethanol to create biofuels. These enzymes are usually used in sugarcane industries.