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What is Biotechnology? Discuss the use of genetically modified microbes to make new products.

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Introduction

What is Biotechnology? Discuss the use of genetically modified microbes to make new products. Biotechnology involves using the biological processes of microbes, and of plant and animals, for the benefit of mankind. It has been around for thousands of years, ever since man started manipulating the environment in which he was situated. Essentially it is a method of enhancing an organism, making it more suitable for the job intended, by incorporating desirable traits. For example selective breeding in cattle, in order to produce a higher yield of milk. It is important to note though that the organism doesn't benefit from this modification. The molecular evolution that Biology has witnessed has found its heart in biotechnology. "Blue Skies" research is a thing of the past and advancements in Biology all stem from research grants with the promise of a commercial application at the end of the day. The discovery of the mechanisms behind protein synthesis has lead to a much more precise, predictable and faster method of incorporating desirable traits into organisms. Thus the revolution of genetic engineering came about. This is arguably the future of biotechnology, as it allows traits from different species to be combined, thus pooling nature's resources. As you can see the potential for biotechnology as a tool is huge. It is not only able to provide products such as alcohol in the brewing industry, but services also such as cleaning up oil spills, where the process is more important than the product. ...read more.

Middle

This has lead them to search for new methods of extraction. Predictably nature already has the answer. Many minerals of commercial interest are contained within metal sulphides. It just so happens that certain strains of bacteria are able to leach these minerals out of the ore into a form that can easily be extracted. This "bacterial leaching" is becoming increasingly important in the copper industry as it provides a cost effective, pollution free solution to the problem. Currently 25% of all copper worldwide, worth more than $1 billion annually, is produced through bioprocessing. This ranks it as one of the most important applications of biotechnology today. The process of bioleaching is, at first complex, but here is a summary of the method before we delve into the chemistry behind it. Thiobacillus ferooxidans, which is naturally present in certain sulphur-containing materials, gets energy by oxidizing inorganic materials, such as copper sulphide minerals. This process releases acid and an oxidizing solution of ferric ions, which can wash out metals from crude ore. Poor quality copper ore, which is bound up in a sulphide matrix, is dumped outside a mine and treated with sulphuric acid to encourage the growth of T. ferooxidans. As the bacteria chew up the ore, copper is released and collected in solution. The sulphuric acid is recycled. The solubilisation by bacteria of metals from ores proceeds by either "direct leaching" or "indirect leaching." Thiobacillus ferooxidans uses both methods. It is an acidophillic organism (acid loving) and this is due to the environment in which it lives. ...read more.

Conclusion

So the search for a rapidly growing multi-metal-tolerant thermoacidophilic bacteria was on. Scientists at the Saurashtra University in India took up this challenge and began screening. They took samples of soil from hot springs around Rajkot city, the probable location of thermophillic bacteria, and upon analysis discovered 72 strains that were able to oxidise FeS2. This was much greater than anticipated. The performance of each of these strains was measured against differing concentrations of heavy metals. From the above 16 strains were selected, their FeS2 solubilisation ranged from 64% to 78% at temperature and pH ranging from 58oC to 65oC and pH 2 to 3 respectively within 8 to 10 days. Then using a process of natural selection and adaptation, a process that is greatly enhanced by the fast multiplication rate of microbes, 3 strains were refined. The so-called Th-VI-2, Th-V-6 and Th-II-26 were capable to complete the oxidation of FeS within five days with 87.8%, 82.6% and 87% efficiency respectively. These values are much greater than the effectiveness of Thiobacillus ferooxidans, which cannot even operate at these temperatures, heralding an even more cost effective solution to the problems of obtaining copper from low-grade ores and reducing pollution. I think that this really emphasizes a point made earlier that "nature has already found the solution to all mans' problems," and microbes are the organisms that are giving us the most help. ?? ?? ?? ?? Chris Holland Dr Sarah Gurr 12/12/2000 Jesus College - 1 - ...read more.

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