Scope and Applications of Biotechnology
- Biotechnology is an applied science and has made many advances in different fields. Pharmaceutical biotechnology is based on the production of antibiotics, vaccines, therapeutic proteins, hormones, vitamins, and other pharmaceuticals. It also includes a targeted drug delivery system, standardization of chemotherapeutic agents, production control using biosensors, enzyme immobilization, gene cloning technology, monoclonal antibodies, etc.
- Fields of medical biotechnology, agriculture biotechnology, environmental biotechnology, and marine biotechnology are linked with pharmaceutical biotechnology. Major developments are taken place in the field of pharmaceuticals in the last few decades because of extensive research and advancement in the field of biotechnology, biochemistry, organic chemistry, pharmacology, and new drug delivery systems.
- Recombinant DNA technology: The recombinant DNA technology is appreciated as a milestone in the development of pharmaceutical biotechnology. Different products are prepared by genetic engineering such as human insulin, erythropoietin, tumor necrosis factors, monoclonal antibodies, clotting factor, tissue plasminogen activator, interleukins interferons, antitrypsin, etc. The production of human insulin by recombinant DNA techniques was an early goal for the pharmaceutical industry This technique has been used to produce a number of natural proteins, vaccines, and enzymes Various diagnostic kits have been developed such as tumor kits, pregnancy testing, ovarian cancer-detecting test, immunoradiometric assay kits, etc.
- Gene therapy: Inserting a missing gene or replacing a defetive one in human cells is an important outcome of gene therapy. This technique uses a harmless vinus to carry the missing a new gene into the appropriate chromosome. Gene therapy has been used to treat patients with adenosine deaminase (ADA) deficiency, a cause of severe combined immunodeficiency disease (SICD), in which cells of immune system are missing or inactive Spliceosome-mediated RNA trans splicing (SMaRT) is a new technology for gene therapy that exploits the expressed genetic differences between riormal and diseaed cells This technology may be applied to a wide range of diseases that irvolve the expresion of unique or mutated genes. Cystic fibrosis, duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), spinal muscular atropy (SMA) diseases are easily treated by SMART gene therapy.
- Molecular markers: The last decade has seen great advances in the development of molecular biological reagents, robotics, arraying techniques, assay detection technologies and faster computers. This has made it possible to embrace comprehensive monitoring of complex biomolecular events at reasonable costs. The use of microarrays and other technologies has provided the ability to monitor the expresion of essentially the whole genome in the form of individual MRNA levels for a wide variety of situations and settings This has opened the door to use of molecular profiling or multi-variant biomarker strategies for every step in the drug discovery and development process. The use of large complex sets of genomic biomarkers, generally in the form of microarrays used to monitor the expression of large set of genes. It is used in the identification and validation of drug targets.Polymerase chain reaction (PCR), is also being used to more quickly and accurately identify the presence of infections such as AIDS, Chlamydias and other microbial diseases.
- Criminal forensic: DNA fingerprinting is the process of cross matching two strands of DNA. In criminal investigations, DNA from samples of hair, body fluids or skin at a crime scene is compared with those obtained from the suspects. It uses highly developed technologies with scientific evidence to investigate criminal cases involving robbery, kidnapping, rape, murder or identification of any missing relatives in any calamity. It has become one of the most powerful and widely known applications of biotechnology today.
- Monoclonal antibody: Antibodies are glycoproteins that can be made to specifically target the immunizing agent. They are invaluable for in-vitro and in-vivo diagnostic applications. They are also being used to detect allergies, anaemias and heart diseases. Monoclonal antibody diagnostic kits are available for drug assays, blood typing and infectious diseases such as hepatitis, gonorrhoea, syphilis, streptococcal infections, AIDS etc. The most important utilization of the hybridoma technology is the target oriented so as to attain cell specific delivery of drugs for cancer, HIV etc.
- Genetically engineered vaccine: The first genetically engineered vaccine was approved in US in 1986 for hepatitis B. Genetic engineering allows large scale production of the protein components of a virus. Many vaccines are under development for production of humans against influenza, rabies, hepatitis, herpes simplex, poliomyelitis etc.
- Plant tissue culture: Plant tissue culture is the technique of growing plant cells, tissues and organs in an artificially prepared medium under aseptic conditions. This technique has many applications for production of secondary metabolites. Many natural products are prepared by plant tissue culture such as vincristine, vinblastine, opium alkaloids, digitalis glycosides etc. Plant cells are also used in the process of biotransformation. It has potential for bioconversion of steroids, alkaloids, tannins etc. The method of immobilized plant cells has been found very effective for the production of secondary metabolites. Animal cell culture deals with the study of organs, tissues or individual cells in vitro. Antibodies, enzymes, hormones, cytokines etc. are produced by animal cell culture techniques.
- Genetically engineering plants: Genetically engineering plants are also poised to produce vaccines. A few hundred acres of genetically engineered banana plantation can enough vaccine to immunize 120 million children every year that need to be protected against common diseases. Bacillus thuringiensis produce proteins that kill certain insects such as lepidopterans (tobacco budworm, armyworm), coleopterans (beetles) and dipterans (flies, mosquitoes). B. thuringiensis forms protein crystals during a particular phase of their growth. These crystals contain a toxic insecticidal protein. The Bt toxin protein exist as inactive protoxins but once an insect ingest the inactive toxin, it is converted into an active form of toxin due to the alkaline pH of the gut which solubilise the crystals. The activated toxin binds to the surface of midgut epithelial cells and create pores that cause cell swelling and eventually cause death of the insect. Bt toxin gene has been cloned from the bacteria and been expressed in plants to provide resistance to insects without the need for insecticides
- Genetically engineered animals: One of the future sources of cheap protein-drugs in the coming years, would be genetically engineered animals who would secrete these drugs in their milk. They will be available at a cost of three or more times lower than the current cost. Animals that have had their DNA manipulated to possess and express an extra (foreign) gene are known as transgenic animals. Transgenic rats, rabbits, pigs, sheep, cows and fish have been produced, although over 95 per cent of all existing transgenic animals are mice. Transgenic animals can be specifically designed to allow the study of how genes are regulated, and how they affect the normal functions of the body. Many transgenic animals are designed to increase our understanding disease. These are specially made to serve as models for human diseases such as cancer, cystic fibrosis, rheumatoid arthritis and Alzheimer’s so that investigation of new treatments for diseases is made possible. Transgenic animals that produce useful biological products can be created by the introduction of the portion of DNA which codes for a particular product such as human protein (a-1-antitrypsin) used to treat emphysema. In 1997, the first transgenic cow, Rosie, produced human protein-enriched milk.The milk contained the human alpha-lactalbumin and was nutritionally a more balanced product for human babies than natural cow-milk. Transgenic mice are being developed for use in testing the safety of vaccines before they are used on humans. Transgenic mice are being used to test the safety of the polio vaccine. Transgenic animals are made that carry genes which make them more sensitive to toxic substances than non-transgenic animals. Toxicity testing in such animals will allow to obtain results in less time.
- Pharmacogenomics: Pharmacogenomics is the study of how the genetic inheritance of an individual affects his/her body’s response to drugs. The term is derived from the root of the word “pharmacology” and the word “genomics”. The vision of pharmacogenomics is to be able to design and produce drugs that are adapted to each person’s genetic makeup Using pharmacogenomics, pharmaceutical companies can create drugs based on the proteins, enzymes and RNA molecules that are associated with specific genes and diseases. These tailor-made drugs not only to maximize therapeutic effects but also to decrease damage to nearby healthy cells. The discovery of potential therapies will be made easier using genome targets. Genes have been associated with numerous diseases and disorders. With modern biotechnology, these genes can be used as targets for the development of effective new therapies, which could significantly shorten the drug discovery process.
- Bioinformatics: Bioinformatics is an emerging interdisciplinary area of science and technology encompassing a systematic development and application of IT solutions to handle biological information by addressing biological data collection and warehousing, data mining, database searches, analyses and interpretation, modeling and product design. Being an interface between modern biology and informatics it involves discovery, development and implementation of computational algorithms and software tools that facilitate an understanding of the biological processes with the goal to serve primarily agriculture and healthcare sectors with several spinoffs. In the pharmaceutical sector, it can be used to reduce the time and cost involved in drug discovery process particularly for third world diseases, to custom design drugs and to develop personalized medicine. Computer- aided drug design (CADD) is a specialized discipline that uses computational methods to simulate drug-receptor interactions.CADD methods are heavily dependent on bioinformatics tools, applications and databases.
- Human Genome Project (HGP): The Human Genome Project (HGP) is an attempt to map completely the entire spectrum of genetic materials that can be found in all human beings. It is used to determine the complete sequence of the DNA from a typical human cell and it provides information and resources to understand some of the critical differences that make us individuals and that often contribute to diseases. Technology and resources promoted by the Human Genome Project are starting to have profound impacts on biomedical research and promise to revolutionize the wider spectrum of biological research and clinical medicine. It is expected that the development in biotechnology will lead to a new scientific revolution that could change the lives and future of the people.