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Biotechnology – the tools of genetic engineering

Samantha Hopley

  Biotechnology is the use of technology to modify organisms so that they are more useful for humans. Common uses of biotechnologies include

     * Improving pest/disease resistance in species harvested for food;

     * Curing genetic diseases and disorders;

     * Producing human proteins in different organisms, such as bacteria producing human insulin.

  Biotechnologies often include the use of natural biological processes for human purposes. These types of biotechnologies include the use of restriction enzymes, polymerase chain reactions and CRISPR.

  The earliest form of biotechnology was selective breeding of domestic animals and food crops to improve desired characters.

  For example, individuals with the desired phenotype, such as high wool production in sheep, were bred together. Over a number of generations, the offspring would consistently show the desired phenotype. Sheep with fast growing fleece, cows with high production of milk, citrus trees that produce larger fruit with fewer seeds, etc. Most of the different breeds of domestic animals and plants were developed in this way.

  Biotechnologies can also be used for genetic engineering directly changing gene sequences in living cells.

Some common biotechnologies

  * Restriction enzymes

  * DNA Ligase

  * Polymerase chain reaction (PCR)

  * Gel electrophoresis

  * CRISPR/Cas9