INTRODUCTION TO BIOTECHNOLOGY
Zahra Naz 
 Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, Bahauddin Zakariya University, Multan, Pakistan
Biotechnology, as the word suggests, is combination of biology and technology. Biotechnology is the use of
technology to use, modify or upgrade the part or whole of biological system for industrial and human
Biotechnology is defined as:
1) “Biotechnology is the application of biological organisms, system or process to manufacturing and
service industries." (British or processes to manufacturing and Biotechnologist)
2) “Biotechnology is the integrated use of biochemistry, microbiology, and engineering sciences in order to
achieve technological (industrial) application of the capabilities of micro-organisms, cultured tissue cells.”
(European Federation of Biotechnology).
3) “Biotechnology is the controlled use of biological agents, such as microorganisms or cellular
components.”(US National Science Foundation)
Bio-Technology is the use of living things especially cells and bacteria for production of various products
for benefiting human beings. It is a combination of various technologies, applied together to living cells,
including not only biology, but also subjects like mathematics, physics, chemistry and engineering. Its
application ranges from agriculture (Animal Husbandry, Cropping system, Soil science and Soil
Conservation, Plant Physiology, Seed Technology etc and Crop Management) to industry (food,
pharmaceutical, chemical, byproducts, textiles etc.), medicine, nutrition, environmental conservation, Cell
Biology, making it one of the fastest growing fields. Biotechnology is to modify genetic structure in animals
and plants to improve them in desired way for getting beneficial products.
People were using biotechnology techniques thousands years before but they did not named their working
field as biotechnology. The name biotechnology was given by Hungarian engineer Karoly Ereky in 1919 to
describe a technology based on converting raw materials into a more useful product.
The ancient Egyptians made wine using fermentation techniques based on an
understanding of the microbiological processes that occur in the absence of oxygen.
Egyptians also applied fermentation technologies to make dough rise during bread-making. Due in
part to this application, there were more than 50 varieties of bread in Egypt more than 4,000 years
In wetter parts of the Nile Valley, Egyptians also bred geese and cattle to meet their society's
nutritional and dietary needs.
Yogurt was made at homes but the reason of the conversion of milk into yogurt was unknown to old
people. Later researches showed that yogurt is made due to the action of yeast added to milk; which
is also biotechnology as it uses a micro-organism for benefiting human.
People have used selective breeding to improve production of crops and livestock to use them for
food. In selective breeding, organisms with desirable characteristics are mated to produce offspring
with the same characteristics. For example, this technique was used with corn to produce the largest
and sweetest crops.
The Second World War became a major impediment in scientific discoveries. After the end of the second
world war some, very crucial discoveries were reported, which paved the path for modern biotechnology
and to its current status.
In 1953, JD Watson and FHC Crick for the first time cleared the mysteries around the DNA as a
genetic material, by giving a structural model of DNA, popularly known as, ‘Double Helix Model of
DNA’. This model was able to explain various phenomena related to DNA replication, and its role in
Dr. Hargobind Khorana was able to synthesize the DNA in test tube, while Karl Mullis added value
to Khorana's discovery by amplifying DNA in a test tube, thousand times more than the original
amount of DNA.
Using this technological advancement, other scientists were able to insert a foreign DNA into
another host and were even able to monitor the transfer of a foreign DNA into the next generation.
In 1997, Ian Wilmut an Irish scientist, was successful to clone a sheep and named the cloned sheep
In 2003, the Human Genome Project completes sequencing of the human genome.
In 1978, Boyer was able to isolate a gene for insulin(a hormone to regulate blood sugar levels) from
human genome using biotechnology. He then inserted it into bacteria, which allowed the gene to
reproduce a larger quantity of insulin for diabetics.
Structure of DNA by Watson and Crick (1953)
Modern biotechnology provides breakthrough products and technologies to combat rare diseases, reduce our
environmental footprint, feed the hungry, use less and cleaner energy, and have safer, cleaner and more
efficient industrial manufacturing processes. Currently, there are :
More than 250 biotechnology health care products and vaccines available to patients, many for
previously untreatable diseases.
More than 13.3 million farmers around the world use agricultural biotechnology to increase yields,
prevent damage from pests and reduce farming's impact on the environment.
More than 50 biorefineries are being built across North America to test and refine technologies to
produce biofuels and chemicals from renewable biomass, which can help reduce greenhouse gas
Fields in biotechnology
Famous biotechnological fields are:
1) Genetic engineering
Genetic engineering, also called genetic modification, is the direct manipulation of an organism's genome
Genes are the chemical blueprints that determine an organism's traits. Moving genes from one organism to
another transfers those traits. Through genetic engineering, organisms can be given targeted combinations of
new genes, and therefore new combinations of traits that do not occur in nature and, indeed, cannot be
developed by natural means. Such an approach is different from classical plant and animal breeding, which
operates through selection across many generations for traits of interest.
Biotechnology in Medical
Biotechnology in industry
2) Tissue culture
Tissue culture, a method of biological research in which fragments of tissue from an animal or plant are
transferred to an artificial environment in which they can continue to survive and function. The cultured
tissue may consist of a single cell, a population of cells, or a whole or part of an organ. Cells in culture may
multiply; change size, form, or function; exhibit specialized activity (muscle cells, for example, may
contract); or interact with other cells.
Cloning describes the processes used to create an exact genetic replica of another cell, tissue or organism.
The copied material, which has the same genetic makeup as the original, is referred to as a clone. The most
famous clone was a Scottish sheep named Dolly.
There are three different types of cloning:
Gene cloning, which creates copies of genes or segments of DNA
Reproductive cloning, which creates copies of whole animals
Therapeutic cloning, which creates embryonic stem cells. Researchers hope to use these cells to grow
healthy tissue to replace injured or diseased tissues in the human body.
Impact of Biotechnology
Biotech is helping to heal the world by harnessing nature's own toolbox and using our own genetic makeup.
Biotech improves crop insect resistance, enhances crop herbicide tolerance and facilitates the use of more
environmentally sustainable farming practices. Biotechnology is:
Reducing rates of infectious disease;
Tailoring treatments to individuals to minimize health risks and side effects;
Creating more precise tools for disease detection Combating serious illnesses and everyday threats
confronting the developing world
Improving manufacturing process efficiency
Reducing use of and reliance on petrochemicals;
Using biofuels to cut greenhouse gas emissions
Decreasing water usage and waste generation
Generating higher crop yields with fewer inputs;
Lowering volumes of agricultural chemicals required by crops-limiting the run-off of these products
into the environment;
Using biotech crops that need fewer applications of pesticides
Developing crops with enhanced nutrition profiles that solve vitamin and nutrient deficiencies;
Producing foods free of allergens and toxins
Improving food and crop oil content to help improve cardiovascular health.
So, we can say that Biotechnologists have a broad scope. They can:-
Help in increasing productivity and in improving energy production and conservation by conducting
research and development work.
Work with chemical processes, genetic engineering, textile development cosmetic development etc...
Exploit and control the potential of micro-organisms and living systems for the benefit of mankind as
by using micro-organisms in the production of drinks, bread, cheese and yogurt.
Find new ways to design and use antibiotics and pesticides
Use genetic modification and genome mapping to improve crop production or crop resistance to
pests and diseases.
Combating environmental pollution by developing the use of biosensors for early detection of
Find new ways to treat industrial waste for recycling of sewage sludge.
Carry out their work in the laboratories, as it is a scientific research oriented field.
Help medical professionals in improving in the methods of diagnosis, medicines and vaccinations for
Drawbacks of biotechnology
Debates over the ethics of biotechnology have been ongoing for decades. The question mostly lies in the
morality of various practices employed in research and development. Ethics-related concerns include
cloning, xenotransplantation, stem cell research, fetal tissue use, and genetic modification of organisms.
The biggest concern over biotechnology is the uncertainty in its long term effects. The immediate
advantages are clear in many circumstances, but they may directly or indirectly impact the future in
Balancing benefits of biotechnology with cost, especially in the field of medicine, can be one tricky
aspect. In terms of investment, the value of biotech products is often miscalculated with failure to
include the factors of risk and product development periods, which can ultimately lower the return on
profit. Thus far, biotech products are often more expensive and less practical than alternatives.
Too much altering of crops is destroying tha soul of natural farming
Genetically modified species can damage the natural ecosystem.
In short, Today’s biotechnology is continuing to help improve the way we live, and it helps us do so more
The result of biotechnology is a diverse and nearly endless set of practical biotechnology products helping
us live longer and healthier lives, have a more abundant and sustainable food supply.
Biotechnology has brought humanity to this level of comfort; the next question is, where will it take us?
Biotechnology has both beneficial and destructive potentials. It is, WE who should decide how to use this
technology to help humanity rather than to destroy it.
Biotechnology & plants
Yeast responsible for bread & curd formation
Product of biotechnology, The DOLLY sheep