The Future Isn't What It Used to Be: Biotechnology


Oct 23, 2013 (4 years and 8 months ago)



15.1 What Is Biotechnology?

Biotechnology can be defined as the use of technology to control biological processes
as a means of meeting societal needs

At its most basic level, biotechnology includes animal and plant breeding

Biotechnology is
a broad category that currently encompasses:


The production of transgenic organisms


Techniques to clone animals


The reprogramming of cells to become different types of cells


The use of biotechnology in forensics

15.2 Transgenic Biotechnology

transgenic o

is an organism whose genome carries one or more genes
from another species

Many biotechnology products are produced within transgenic organisms

The production of transgenic organisms makes use of recombinant DNA technology

This makes use of enzyme
s normally produced in bacteria


Restriction enzymes


DNA ligase

DNA from any organism (including humans) can be inserted into plasmid DNA

Plasmid DNA is isolated from bacteria

Researchers use the same restriction enzyme on both the human DNA of interest an
the plasmid DNA

Cutting both the target DNA and the plasmid DNA with the same restriction enzyme
gives complementary “sticky ends”, allowing splicing of the human DNA into the

This produces
recombinant DNA

cloning vector

is a self
agent that functions in the transfer of genetic


Plasmids are useful cloning vectors


Bacterial viruses (bacteriophages) are also useful cloning vectors

The same recombinant DNA techniques are used to make other transgenic organisms


Like golden ric
e enriched for beta carotene


or transgenic goats producing important proteins in their milk


or even cows producing hypoallergenic milk

3% of babies are allergic to cow milk and experience diarrhea and

15.3 Reproductive Cloning

A clone is a gene
tically identical copy of a biological entity

Reproductive cloning is the process of making clones of animals with a defined
genotype and phenotype

Many mammals have been cloned using this process

Dolly the sheep was the first animal cloned using cells fr
om an adult animal

Today, reproductive cloning of mammals is carried out through variants of the
process that was used with Dolly

This process is called somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT)


In SCNT, the nucleus of an egg cell is removed and the enucleated
cell is
fused with an adult cell containing a nucleus and the DNA of the adult cell


The fused cell then starts to develop as an embryo and is implanted into a
surrogate mother

The first cloned cat was named Copy Cat, CC for short

The first cloned dog was

named Snuppy

The adult cells came from a male Afghan named Taj

Only one pregnancy out of many gave a successful clone

Other mammals have been cloned

Including the endangered bateng

15.4 Cell Reprogramming

Most cells in the adult human body have undergon
e commitment, a developmental
process that results in cells whose roles are completely determined

Two promising methods exist for generating human cells that are needed to treat
victims of accident or disease:


Production from embryonic stem cells


n through induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS)


Both methods reprogram the cells to give the desired cell type

Embryonic stem cells

from the blastocyst inner cell mass can give rise to all
the different cell types in the adult human body

In stark co
ntrast, adult stem cells are rare, only found in certain tissues, and only
capable of producing one or a few different cell types

In 2007, two research teams developed a type of human stem cell not derived from an
embryo: the induced pluripotent stem cell
(iPS cell)

Initially, these were produced by introducing four developmental genes into the

of ordinary adult skin cells

We are learning more and more about these iPS cells and their capabilities

Although they seem to have some of the capabilities

of ESCs, there appear to be some
fundamental differences

More research is needed

15.5 Forensic Biotechnology

The identities of criminals, biological fathers, and the victims of disasters are often
established through the use of forensic DNA typing

lymerase chain reaction (PCR)

has proven to be incredibly useful for DNA

It allows the amplification of small amounts of DNA

Forensic DNA typing most commonly works by comparing short tandem repeat (STR)
patterns that are found in all human genomes

15.6 Controversies in Biotechnology

Progress in biotechnology often comes slowly because so many of the processes being
developed are not just new, but also controversial

One notable biotech controversy concerns genetically modified organisms (GMOs)

nents of genetically modified consumer products are concerned about their
effect on human health and the environment


There is no evidence so far that GM crops have had detrimental effects in
either area


But consumer resistance to the crops has sharply limi
ted both the types
being planted and the types being put into development


November 2012

Proposition 37 deals with possible mandatory labeling of
consumer products containing GMOs

Some biotech controversies are essentially ethical in nature

Among these a
re the controversies concerning embryonic stem cells and therapeutic

A more general controversy has to do with the question of what level of regulation
society ought to impose on the modification of living things