Modern Biotechnology Applications
Modern biotechnology has been applied in a wide range of areas with considerable economic and social impacts. These include:
Numerous pharmaceuticals on the market today are developed through modern biotechnology. In fact, almost all bio-therapeutic agents in clinical use today are developed through modern biotechnology. An example here is the production of human insulin from genetically modified microorganisms. According to a recent report by the World Health Organization (WHO), diabetes is one of the top five causes of death in Swaziland. Traditionally, insulin used to treat diabetics was extracted from pig and beef carcasses. However, use of this sometimes resulted in serious immune responses due to some slight but significant differences between human and porcine or bovine insulin. The gene for human insulin has been inserted into microorganisms to enable them to produce large amounts of human insulin enabling millions of diabetics around the world to manage their condition.
Food Processing aids
Genetically modified microbes are also used in the food processing industry to produce a wide range of products. Examples here include:
- Cheese making: Cheese making requires enzymes produced by young mammals to coagulate the milk. These have traditionally been obtained from the stomach lining of calves. Genetically modified bacteria that produce chymosin which is similar to rennin have been developed for use in cheese making. All cheese on the shelf in the country have been produced with such enzymes.
- Clarification of beverages: Beverages such as beer and fruit juices are now treated with enzymes produced by GM microbes which digest pectins and cellulose to remove the cloudy appearance leaving a clear juice.
- Digestion of starch: Enzymes obtained from genetically modified microorganisms are used in the food processing sector to produce products such as glucose syrup, fructose and dextrose from digestion of starch. The products of starch breakdown are widely used in food processing.