Types of Biotechnology
Biotechnology is the application of biological processes in the development of products. These products may be organisms, cells, parts of a cell, or chemicals for use in medicine, biology, or industry.
History of biotechnology
Biotechnology has been used by humans for thousands of years in the production of beer and wine. In a process called fermentation, microorganisms such as yeasts and bacteria are mixed with natural products that the microorganisms use as food. In winemaking, yeasts live on the sugars found in grape juice. They digest these sugars and produce two new products: alcohol and carbon dioxide.
Early in the twentieth century, scientists used bacteria to break down, or decompose, organic matter in sewage, thus providing a means for dealing efficiently with these materials in solid waste. Microorganisms were also used to produce various substances in the laboratory.
Hybridization—the production of offspring from two animals or plants of different breeds, varieties, or species—is a form of biotechnology that does not depend on microorganisms. Farmers long ago learned that they could produce offspring with certain characteristics by carefully selecting the parents. In some cases, entirely new animal forms were created that do not occur in nature. An example is the mule, a hybrid of a horse and a donkey.
Hybridization has also been used for centuries in agriculture. Most of the fruits and vegetables in our diet today have been changed by long decades of plant crossbreeding. Modern methods of hybridization have contributed to the production of new food crops and resulted in a dramatic increase in food production.
Words to Know
DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid): A nucleic acid molecule (an organic molecule made of alternating sugar and phosphate groups connected to nitrogen-rich bases) containing genetic information and located in the nucleus of cells.
Hybridization: The production of offspring from two parents (such as plants, animals, or cells) of different breeds, species, or varieties.
Monoclonal antibody: An antibody produced in the laboratory from a single cell formed by the union of a cancer cell with an animal cell.
Recombinant DNA research (rDNA research): A technique for adding new instructions to the DNA of a host cell by combining genes from two different sources.
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