Biotechnology and medicine


Biotechnology is one of the most widely used disciplines in the field of medicine, more precisely in genetics. It is one of the revolutionary areas today because many innovations have been made based on the principles of biotechnology. In general, biotechnology is classified into 4 major wings, they are; Red biotechnology, Green biotechnology, White biotechnology and Blue biotechnology. Let us discuss the Medical biotechnology in detail. From a long time, many medicines and therapies are known to be a contribution from biotechnology. Medical biotechnology is defined as the application of principles and tools of biotechnology to produce medical products used for the treatment the prevention, diagnostics and treatment of diseases. The best-known products of medical biotechnology are antibiotics that are used to treat bacterial infections, nevertheless, it has been used in many ways.




Medical Biotechnology

Health care has been blessed by various biotechnological inventions from time to time. Most common drugs used for diabetes, infections and some major disorders work on the basis of principles of biotechnology especially with the help of recombinant DNA technology. Two of the most important ones are the insulin and broad-spectrum antibiotics. Modern biotechnology has evolved itself into a new discipline as a result of a series of discoveries and it has become even strobger ahen it is used along with the genetic therapies. Some of the areas where biotechnology is extensively used are the genomics, pharmaceuticals, DNA sequencing, test-tube babies, tissue culture, interference RNA, and genome editing.  This post is intended to delineate some of the most common Medical innovations based on the principles of biotechnology.


Genetically Engineered Insulin 

Insulin is a hormone naturally secreted by the pancreas. It is very essential for glucose metabolism as the blood sugars are maintained at the optimal levels( 80-120grms/DL) in its presence. But the pancreas is most vulnerable for infections resulting in its irreversible damage.Such a damage can irrebversibly cease the production of insulin , consequently, person becomes vulnerable for diabetes. To counteract , biotechnology has made possible to prepare the genetically engineered insulin through artificial means. Insulin in its natural form is a hormone, however, it can be artificially manipulated through biological means , so that, it is easy to manage adult-onset diabetes.  By using many extractive techniques, insulin can be extracted from animals and then it is genetically modified to make it compatible enough to inject it into the human body. Some allergic reactions are apparent in the beginning, but they are manageable.


Preparation of genetically engineered insulin

Insulin consists of two short polypeptide chains namely, alpha chain (A) and beta-chain (B) and an extra stretch, C. The 2 chains (A and B) are interlinked by disulphide bridges. Insulin is a prohormone (pro-insulin) that require some processing before using it on the body. Therefore, the chain C- peptide is manually removed to assure only A and B chains remain in place. For the first time, in the year 1983, an American company prepared A and B chains of insulin and injected them into the plasmids of E. coli. The procedure has made it easy to produce complete insulin chains. After the chains have been produced, disulphide bonds were introduced manually to make it ready for injecting. Followed by this, the human insulin gene has been introduced into the plasmid of a vector cell (bacterial DNA). In the next phase a recombinant DNA containing both the bacterial and human insulin were prepared artificially ( For details read this). The recombinant genome was subjected to fermentation to artificially induce the insulin production. The insulin extracted is artificially harvested in a medium to amplify it and then it was filled into collection bottles- ampoules.


Gene Therapy and biotechnology

Gene therapy is the process of either replacing a defective gene or reconstructing the wrongly expressed sequence. Genetic disorders are are the consequence of the manipulation of the genome by induced mutation or any other means. read here for more information on the genetic therapy.


Molecular Diagnosis

Molecular diagnostics is the use of the principles of genetics in the field medical diagnosis to identify the diseases at an early stage. It is a collection of techniques used to analyze biological markers in the genome and proteome.  2 of the most commonly used  diagnostic techniques in the molecular diagnostics are explained below.


i) Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR)

The use of Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) is vital in detecting many illnesses at the molecular level itself. The early diagnosis aid in the appropriate treatment of the condition before it could get complicated. The underlying technology in the PCR involves amplification of pathogen’s nucleic acid that helps to trace the type and nature of pathology at an early stage of incubation period. This in turn helps doctors to treat the disease at an early stage. The early detection of cancer cells and ELISA test  used in the detection of HIV are the 2 best exampels of PCR .  


iii) In Situ Hybridisation

The technique involves tagging a single-stranded DNA or RNA with a radioactive molecule (probe). In situ hybridisation is a type of hybridisation that uses a labelled complementary DNA, RNA or modified nucleic acids strand to localize a specific DNA or RNA sequence in a portion or section of tissue or if the tissue is small enough, in the entire tissue, in cells, and in circulating tumour cells.



Read more


Differences between DNA and RNA


Amino Acids


Introduction to plant nutrition


Recommended dietary allowance


Check your understanding

  1. What is a green biotechnology?

  2. What is the contribution of biotechnology in the field of medicine?

  3. What is insulin? where does this produced in our body?

  4. Explain the structure of biologically prepared insulin.

  5. What is PCR, explain its application?




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