Human beings, always striving for the best, are in search of a relatively comfortable life. To achieve this, man has to manipulate his natural surroundings in an appropriate direction.
This manipulation, however, requires an insight view and complete understanding of the nature, its manipulation and the consequences expected from this intervention.
Biotechnology, in the same way, is also the skillful manipulation of living systems. It has its roots in history. Thousand years ago, when man started agriculture and then used micro¬organisms for fermentation etc, was biotechnology. Today this technology is more directed, fast and in some cases the only option for this manipulation.
The aim of biotechnology is to develop qualitatively and quantitatively improved crop varieties and animal breeds, improve health facilities through gene therapy etc. and also to manipulate micro-organisms for bio remediation. A few applied fields of biotechnology are Recombinant DNA Technology, Gene therapy, Pharmacogenomics, Forensic DNA technology, Bio remediation and the most controversial Cloning.
Recombinant DNA technology, Genetic Engineering or Transformation is the introduction of transgenes (foreign genes) to an organism for its expression. Thus through this method, genes are transferred from one organism to the other, regardless of the taxonomic position. The underlying principal is based on the Biochemical Unity existing all organisms. This has broadened the scope of such manipulations which is not possible the conventional breeding. A good example to be stated, is that of Luciferase gene transferred from firefly (an insect) to tobacco plant to make it lightening. Such transgene organisms are called Genetically Modified Organisms. A large number of transgenic have been evolved in both crops and anima for various traits like better resistance in biotic and a biotic stresses, higher yield efficient growth and improved qualities. B cotton, Bt. maize and Bt. soybean, golden rice and Flavor Saver tomato are few to t mentioned.
Many plants and animal transgenic are currently under experiments, which will serve as Bio reactors, providing tissues, organs an hormones etc. to the mankind. Need not worry if you have lost your heart, you can have it back, as predicted by Ghalib.Another important area of biotechnology is that of gene therapy, the introduction of disease curing or preventing genes (health; genes) to the diseased cells. This technique is called germ cell therapy.
It may be introduce to somatic cells like totipotent cells having ability to be differentiated into any cell) stem cells. The introduction of stem cells to paralysis patient's body for regeneration may be used to be differentiated into nerve cells. The main requirement for this will be the identification of disease related genes, which may be provided through Human Genome Project.
Regarding medical therapy, each individual has his own reaction to various medicines. Pharmacagenomicy, another area of medical biotechnology, investigates the association of individuals' genetic makeup and his reaction to medical therapy. This knowledge will help to develop a more individual oriented therapy. Bio Technology can be used in criminal investigations. The technology of Forensic DNA is more valuable, even a hair left at the site of crime or a drop of saliva in telephone set or on letter envelope, can be used to detect the culprit through this new and exciting technology. This can also be used to investigate the paternity.
Biotechnology may be used for in vivo and in suite preservation to avoid species extinction, thus reducing problems of biodiversity. It may also be used to develop plants and micro-organisms with the ability of salinity and plastic pollution reclamation, as well as for production of bio plastic.
Keeping the mysterious potential of biotechnology, it will be a mistake to ignore or completely oppose this technology. Although various concerns about the technology are present, out of which some are realistic, but most are due to lack of appropriate knowledge and understanding and perception about the technology in the public community. Still some technical hurdles exist in the way. Various concerns are those regarding cloning, use of biotechnology for bio terrorism, gene and GMOs patenting and about the privacy of genetic information of individuals. Human cloning may raise even further moral, social and ethical issues.
Therefore, we need to evaluate public perception case by case. Media should play its role in this regard.Probably any technology, if left as such, will be misused. Biotechnology is no exception. Integrity asks for intellectual and justified use of this new technology. A preplanned, objective oriented research is thus indispensable, aiming for the betterment of humanity and not for specific political groups or multinational companies.