Tuesday, 20 June 2006

Biotechnology and Healthcare

Biotechnology may be defined as ‘any technological application that uses biological systems, living organisms, or derivatives thereof to make or modify products or processes for specific use’.  No matter what tools or techniques like DNA marker, gene manipulation, gene transfer, invitro culture, embryo transfer  etc are used, biotechnology like any other technology must give rise to certain products, processes or innovative services. Genetic engineering is the pivot of modern biotechnology. Recombinant drugs like Insulin, Interferon, Growth hormone and a host of others have already been produced through bacterium like E. coli by inserting gene from human and animal sources. And in the advanced countries a revolution has already taken place  with biotechnological products.

 Within this short span of time recombinant DNA technology which was hitherto considered a primarily fundamental subject has proved beyond doubt its applicability in many areas of human welfare. biotechnology has been playing vital role in plant improvement, animal health and development, fermentation technology, environment protection and waste management. In healthcare  development is spectacular. By now more than 400 newly engineered human pharmaceuticals have been approved for testing in USA alone. By now more than 300 new genetically engineered human pharmaceuticals have been approved for human clinical testing by U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Many are now awaiting FDA marketing approval. The genetically engineered pharmaceuticals already marketed in US and other western countries include blood factor VIII:C, human insulin, human growth hormone, tissue plasminogen activator. alpha interferon, hepatitis B vaccine and monoclonal antibody to prevent kidney transplant rejection   Some new products marketed/under marketing includes: Tissue Plasminogen activator (t-PA): used for heart attack patients for commercial use, .Erythropoiethin (EPO): used for cancer., Interleukin-2(IL-2): used for cancer, Monoclonal antibodies for detecting and treating cancer cells, Monoclonal antibodies against septic shock: The antibodies are destined to eliminate toxic products of infectious bacteria, which persists even if the bacteria are killed. Septic shock is a common cause of death of patients who become infected with antibiotic resistant bacteria in hospitals, AIDS treatment: Recombinant alpha interferon, gamma interferon, IL-2, granulocyte macrophage colony stimulating factor (GM-CSF), tumour necrosis factor (TNF), EPO and CD4 (a T-cell receptor protein to sop up AIDS treatment). More than ten vaccines against AIDS and AIDS related diseases are in various stages of development in the United States, As mentioned recombinant products for health like  recombinant beta interferon, gamma interferon, bloods clotting factor VII:C and GM-CSF etc are in the market since  1990. Recombinant DNA techniques are being used to produce genetically engineered proteins and designing smaller molecules that might act on the proteins. Compounds that block the action of viral proteins, cell receptor proteins, or specific enzymes become easier to design. Both the multinational companies as well as smaller companies are actively engaged in the area.
The rapid advent of biotechnology since the world war two has been made possible through realization of the fact that this technology has a twin faceted central core which is concerned with the obtaining of the best possible biocatalyst( living organisms genetically modified or not or part of it for a particular process and with the construction of the best possible environment for the catalyst to discharge its function. The second facet of biotechnology embraces bioreactor design with appropriate environmental conditions in terms of media, pH, temperature control and overall process control for optimised productivity.
The multidisplinary approach has resulted in new and unique   interdisciplinary area in which molecular biology, different  branches of engineering, electronics etc have played pivotal role in making products, processes and services of the modern biotechnology within reach. of common man. From application point of view, like twin strands of a double helix, biotechnology and electronics are joining forces in a technological explosion that will dwarf what will be possible by either one of them. These aspects will be highlighted in the paper

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