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Biotechnology in Biology

By HWA | Publish On: August 24, 2011 | Posted In:

Biotechnology in Biology

About 99 percent of our DNA is exactly the same as everyone else’s. if we compared our DNA with our friends’, about 29.7 billion nucleotides of the two sequences would be identical. The remaining 30 million or so are sprinkled throughout our chromosomes mainly as single nucleotide differences.

The sprinkling is not entirely random; some regions of DNA vary less than others. Such conserved regions are of particular interest to researchers because they are the ones that most likely to have an essential function. When a conserved sequence does vary among people, the variation tends to be in particular nucleotides. A nucleotide difference carried by a measurable percentage of a population, usually above 1 percent, is called a single-nucleotide polymorphism, or SNP.

Alleles of most genes differ by single nucleotides and differences in alleles are the basis of the variation in human traits that makes each individual unique. Thus, SNPs account for many of the differences in the way humans look, and they also have a lot to do with differences in the way our bodies work – how we age, respond to drugs, weather assaults by pathogens and toxins and so on.

In 1950s, excitement over the discovery of DNA’s structure gave way to frustration: No one could determine the order of nucleotides in a molecule in DNA. Identifying a single base among thousands or millions of others turned out to be a huge technical challenge. A seemingly unrelated discovery offered a solution. Viruses called bacteriophages infect bacteria by injecting DNA into then. Some bacteria are resistant to infection, and special enzymes inside these bacteria chop up any injected viral DNA before it has a chance to integrate into the bacterial chromosome. The enzymes restrict viral growth, hence their name, restriction enzymes.

The discovery of restriction enzymes allowed researchers to cut gigantic molecules of chromosomal DNA into manageable and predictable chunks. It also allowed them to combine DNA fragments from different organisms. This allowed researchers to develop what was called recombinant DNA. This recombinant DNA was the first step in DNA cloning. DNA cloning is a set of laboratory methods that use living cells to mass-produce specific DNA fragments into plasmids.

Biotechnology has applications in four major areas such as healthcare, crop production, non food uses of crops and other products and environmental uses. There are several branches of biotechnology which are as follows:

Bioinformatics: Bioinformatics uses computational techniques to store and analyze biological data.

Green Biotechnology: Green biotechnology, as the name suggests is applied in agriculture for improving the crop yield and strengthening crops against various disease-causing viruses and bacteria.

There are other applications in the field of medicine such as drug production, pharmacogenomics, gene therapy, genetic testing, etc.

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