02 April, 2012

A-Z Blogging Challenge: Biotechnology

By Umberto Salvagnin, CC-BY-2.0. SOURCE.
Biotechnology, also called biotech, is the use of biological systems and living organisms, or their derivatives, for specific purposes.

It stems from chemistry, biology, physics, engineering, information technology, and other such scientific fields; the phrase "biotechnology" was coined by Karl Ereky in 1919, who was a Hungarian engineer. It is an applied science, which means, unlike some fields which commit to research to find an answer to a theory that may or may not have any industrial, manufacturing, or other commercial value, biotech research usually has specific goals in mind.

Some early examples of biotech include fermentation (for bread, wine, and beer), selective breeding of animals, and cultivation of crops (which was given a boost by Gregor Mendel, who is called the father of genetics), while more recent ones are cloning, biofuels (ethanol and biodiesel), nanobiotechnology (100,000 nanoparticles equals the thickness of a piece of paper), regenerative medicine (the growing of new organs and tissues), and agricultural biotechnology (ag biotech).

Notable Biotechnologist/Geneticist:

Francis S. Collins

Francis S. Collins. Public domain image. SOURCE.
Francis Collins was the director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, also known as the NHGRI, and became the director of the National Institutes of Health in 2009. He graduated from the University of Virginia with a B.S., from Yale University with a Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry, and from the University of North Carolina with an M.D.

He led the Human Genome Project, which aimed to sequence all 3 billion base pairs of human DNA. A draft of the genome was published in 2000, an analysis in 2001, and a reference sequence in 2003. Collins's research has led to the identification of genetic variations associated with Type-2 diabetes, and the genes that cause cystic fibrosis (buildup of mucus in the lungs and digestive tract in children and young people), Huntington's Disease (degeneration of nerve cells in the brain), and Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria Syndrome (accelerated aging in children).

He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2007 for his work in science/genetics; the medal is the highest honor given to a civilian in the USA.

A video about Francis Collins and his work:





Where do you think biotech will head next? Do you worry about genetic engineering and other newer fields?

-----The Golden Eagle


linda said...

Yay, that's my field! :D Also, I heard Francis Collins speak once. He did a seminar at Berkeley about his take on evolution (theistic evolution, I think it was). That was... interesting.

Shelly said...

I worry about Biotechnology, period. While it can help in some areas, it can also destroy. Cloning...scary stuff.


Jamie Gibbs said...

I did some biotech yesterday and baked my first loaf of bread (didn't turn out to bad either)

Nanobiotech I think is the way forward for us.

Jamie Gibbs
Fellow A-Z Buddy
Mithril Wisdom

Kimberlee Turley said...

I would love it if they could invent a way so that every strawberry tastes delicious and not just the ones on the top of the carton.

The grocery store is so sneaky in the way they arrange them... putting all the big juicy ones on top and then the ones underneath are smaller and bitter. It's unfair, I tell you!

All strawberries should be equally delicious.

Traci Kenworth said...

I would agree about the strawberries, except to add that the bottom or middle ones are often moldy as well. In a "fresh" carton?

Old Kitty said...

I'm all for the fermentation of beer and wine for scientific purposes! Yay! Take care

the writing pad said...

Hi Golden eagle - glad to see you're A-Z ing again! You always deliver my kind of science - interesting things, plainly put - shedding light on a world I know so little about I could write it all on a nanoparticle :-)
I'll be following along again, all the way to Z!

DeniseCovey_L_Aussie said...

Here Golden I'm back again to hope some of this high intelligence rubs off on me, lol! Well researched and authoritorial post.


Claire Goverts said...

Interesting post, if I had my studies to do over again I would prepare for something like biotechnology. Then again I'm a science nerd anyways.

So long as it's done responsibly I don't have an issue with bioengineering. Any technology really can be either misused or put to a good use.

And ditto on the strawberries, they should all be equally delicious. Which reminds me I need to transplant mine to a sunnier spot and get some netting for them.

Claire's Writing Log
Twitter: @ClaireGoverts

Karen Walker said...

Hello there, well, this is what I love about the challenge, learning about things I don't follow or don't know much about. Thanks for this.

Humpty Dumpty said...

This is a fascinating field! I also enjoyed your post on Astrophysics, yesterday. I love that you've included videos of people actually working in the field. Your subjects have been well-researched and science has always been an interest of mine. :)

As for the strawberry debate, I read somewhere recently, that if you rinse your berries in a mild vinegar solution as soon as you get them home from the store they will last a lot longer. I can't remember the 'recipe' for the solution off the top of my head, but someone might want to look it up. Apparently, it is mild enough so the berries won't taste funny but it kills the bacteria that causes mould.

Pat Hatt said...

It can help a lot for diseases and such, but humans will always take it to far, i.e. cloning, that crap needs to stop.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

That's a lot of DNA.

Clarissa Draper said...

Biotech gave us bread!? I love Biotech.

Where next? I hope they have more advances in medicine. A cure for cancer?

Chris Fries said...

Great post and topic! You're really doing some intense A-to-Z material -- I'm very impressed!

I think biotech and nanotech will eventually converge, or at least cross-mingle -- imagine being able to construct proteins and other cellular molecules on the fly WITHIN living organisms, instead of just tweaking DNA of reproductive cells and waiting for them to grow.

Cheryl Klarich said...

It's quite amazing isn't it? It's like the poetry of God when used for good- for life, for wellness...

S. L. Hennessy said...

I'm with Shelly...biotech can be on the scary side. But then again, bread and wine are pretty great, so maybe its not so bad.
Great post and happy A-Z blogging!

Tyrean Martinson said...

Interesting post! I don't often think of bread as being biotechnology . . .that said, I think it's interesting that this particular field of science is often found at the heart of postapocalyptic scare stories.

Tasha Seegmiller said...

I never thought about fermentation as biotech. Intriguing!

Margo Kelly said...

WOW. Biotechnology. Big topic!

Regarding Kimberlee's comment above: there is a simple solution to make every strawberry taste delicious ... grow them yourself and pick them when they're ripe. Just saying. I think we rely too much on the science of others when we could utilize our own basic skills. Not my intent for that to sound rude.

And, btw, I gave you an award! Stop by my 4/1/12 post to pick it up.

Charles Gramlich said...

Been involved in that field myself a bit.

Jen Chandler said...

What an awesome theme for the challenge. I'll be reading "A" as soon as I finish commenting :D

Hmmm, I'll have to remember that the next time I bake bread, or drink beer, I am participating in biotechnology!

Very interesting!

Krispy said...

Very cool! I always learn so much when you do the A-Z challenge. I'm not very into science myself, so your science-themed posts are always something different and new for me!

baygirl32 said...

did someone say beer??

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Practical and science - two words that don't always go together.
And cloning is very scary. (Despite the fact some people are convinced I have several.)

Peggy Eddleman said...

Biotechnology FASCINATES me! Especially as it relates to fiction. I sometimes wish I would've explored that as a career option.

Cherie Reich said...

I agree with Jamie about the nanobiotech. I definitely think it is the way forward.

L.G.Smith said...

The biotech in The Windup Girl freaked me out. Because I fear it could happen.

JOdy said...

Very interesting subject. All science intrigues me. I am amazed by the advances science has made in this area. About your question, you can bio-engineer a lot of things but what you can't create is a soul. To who/whom is the creation subject to? The laws and moral standards of it's creator? What if it's creator is evil?

The Golden Eagle said...

Linda: Cool!

Interesting. I didn't know he'd weighed in on evolution.

Shelly: Definitely true. Biotechnology has a dangerous side.

Jamie: Good for you! :)

Nanotechnology is the subject of one of my later posts.

Kimberlee: Yes, they should! I always flip over the clear plastic cartons to make sure the ones on the bottom aren't rotten; they often are.

Traci: Good point.

Old Kitty: Well, people have been doing it for centuries!

The writing pad: Thanks! I hope you enjoy this year's A-Z posts. :)

Denise: Thank you!

Claire: Hooray for the science nerds. :)

That's true; even everyday things can be extremely dangerous. Heck, even electronics.

You grow your own strawberries? Awesome. :)

Karen: You're very welcome! Thanks for coming by The Eagle's Aerial Perspective.

Humpty Dumpty: I'm glad you liked the Astrophysics post. I thought the videos might add something extra--I find it can be easier to get a grasp of a field of study if you can see the people working in it. :)

I know my mom used to rinse fruits and vegetables with a vinegar/water solution of 1/1.

Pat: Seems there's often some kind of crap associated with science; watching people push the boundaries of what can be done is interesting, but some people take it too far.

L. Diane: Yes, it is!

Clarissa: Yup. :)

That would be excellent. Not to say researchers aren't making progress at the moment, but it's slow . . .

Chris: Thank you!

I agree, efficient nanobiotech would be a significant breakthrough.

The Golden Eagle said...

Cheryl: Scientists can do some pretty amazing things with biotechnology. :)

S. L.: I know I love bread!

Thank you!

Tyrean: Yeah, it is. Common features of Dystopian include human-altered life gone wrong . . .

Tasha: Isn't it? :)

Margo: You make a good point. There are a lot of things that people could do on their own, without having to resort to buying it.

Really? Thank you so much!

Charles: That's cool!

Jen: Yes, you are! :)

Krispy: I hope you enjoy the rest of my A-Z posts.

Baygirl32: Just biotech. ;)

Alex: Well, you do zip around the blogosphere at a speed indicated there are several . . .

Peggy: It would be interesting to work in the field!

Cherie: There are all kinds of interesting things going on with regards to it. :)

L.G.: I really must read that book! Still in my TBR.

JOdy: Sounds like the beginning of a story to me. :)

Mikazuki said...

Biotechnology is so freaking cool! I can't wait to see what scientists come up with as the technology gets more advanced.

Lynda R Young said...

Future biotech is both exciting and a worry. There's always the question of ethics and how far scientists are willing to go.

Sarah Pearson said...

It's not biotech that worries me, it's what the wrong people might do with the results.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I had no idea the term biotech had been around so long. But I guess not as long as fermentation of grains and fruits.

Alleged Author said...

Hurrah for biotech because it gives me beer and wine! Not that I drink, of course. :P

Ciara said...

I'm not even going to pretend that I know anything about biotechnology. I'll just nod and smile. :)

Leon Kennedy said...

check out craig venter's research

Susan Kane said...

We live near UCSD, La Jolla, CA; two of our kids graduated from there. The research that comes from there and all the bio-research companies that cluster around the University constantly amaze me. Their discoveries are the stuff of science fiction (from my younger years).

It is so exciting to see your science blogs.

Jaye Robin Brown said...

The science of beer and wine? I'm so in to this one.

Carolyn Abiad said...

I think putting the name "biotechnology" on something makes it scary. As you point out, plenty of things we take for granted are good examples of biotech done well. And I too would like all the strawberries in the container to be ripe - but I think the best way to guarantee that is to go pick them yourself. :)

Rusty Webb said...

I do worry about it some. Things like genetically altered crops that are sterile (so you have to keep buying them each season from a firm. Sounds like a recipe for disaster to me.

But that's just an example, and the tip of the iceberg, lots more ambitious things could lead to serious eco disasters.

I shiver.

Christine Rains said...

Intriguing. I think we're off in a direction we'll never guess. Well, at least certainly not me!

Carrie Butler said...

How educational. :) Thanks for sharing, Eagle!

Tomara Armstrong said...

oOoo Biotechnology. This is one of my favorites and fuel to many of my stories. I'm happy to see you participating again this year :-).

Tomara Armstrong said...

fuel "for" many rather... ugh. My apologies.

Nas Dean said...

Interesting to read about BioTechnology!

Great article, thanks.

Rob-bear said...

We've come a long way from Shakespeare's "Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble." I find it all fascinating.

Interesting you should mention genetic engineering. A couple of weeks ago I did a presentation on ethical issues in genetic research for a group of university scientist and their students. Fascinating.

DWei said...

Reminds me of Biochem. Good lord that was a horrible and painful class to take.

Elaine AM Smith said...

Biotechnology and Nanotechnology open endless possibilities.
I like to think our scientists are above making mistakes, we have lots of reasons to have confidence there *worries.

Rachel Morgan said...

Yay! A topic I actually know something about! And imagine being the guy who led the whole of the Human Genome Project. Epic. (I wish I remembered more about all the genetics I studied... It was super interesting...)

Josh Hoyt said...

This is a fascinating field. It will be interesting to see what the world is like in a few years.

The Golden Eagle said...

Mikazuki: Me, neither. :)

Lynda: Agreed. I'm sure some scientists would know when to stop or not pursue a line of research, but there are always destructive individuals.

Sarah: That's always a worry.

Susan: Nope! Humans have been doing that for a long time. :)

Alleged Author: Those two seem to be popular uses of biotechnology.

Ciara: Hopefully you know a bit more after having read my post, right? :)

Leon: I've never heard of him . . . but from a Google search, it seems like he's done a lot!

Susan: I have to wonder what technology will be like even two decades from now--things change so fast.

Jaye: Yup, there's a science to it!

Carolyn: Indeed. And it's fun to buy things outside of a supermarket.

Rusty: It certainly doesn't lead to as much security as crops that can reproduce on their own--and if the genetically-modified ones don't work, then the farmers must be in trouble.

Christine: Not me, either. :P

Carrie: You're very welcome!

Tomara: Those sound like interesting stories.

I'm glad to be back in the A-Z Challenge swing!

No worries. We all make typos here and there.

Nas: You're welcome. :)

Rob-bear: Yes--and a bit thankfully, on my part. Eyes of newts never seemed very pleasant . . .

That must have been an interesting presentation! I should have asked you to speak as a Notable Biotechnologist.

DWei: It's too bad about your class. :(

Elaine: It would be nice to be able to put faith in the scientific community, but even well-meaning scientists can make mistakes; or inadvertent discoveries that lead to other people taking advantage of them.

Rachel: It must have been amazing to be at the forefront of the field. :)

Josh: I agree!

Anonymous said...

So many examples just swirling through my brain now. Overload!

The Golden Eagle said...

Joshua: Sorry! But it is a wide field. :)

Craig Edwards said...

Biotechnology and me: I worked on the movie Virus - which had an alien energy field taking over a Russian research ship - and combining the ship's gear with the humans on board - the result were some nasty and messy monsters, to be sure!

The Golden Eagle said...

Craig: Wow. Just counting your comment on Astrophysics and Biotechnology, it sounds like you've worked on a lot of movies!

Mixtures of humans and technology never seem to come out well, do they?

Market Reports said...

very nice blog..which provide brief introduction on biotechnology..and no.of fields in which it is used
Thanx for the great article