Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Synthetic biology

Synthetic biology, as the name suggests utilizes chemistry and molecular biology to redesign or reconstruct biological parts, create new devices and systems, and most important of them all create new targeted organisms for specific purpose.
The various applications of this novel field are:
Human application in medicine
a) novel drugs and antibiotics, vaccines: to tackle antibiotic resistant micro-organisms, increase efficacy, decrease side effects.
For example: Hybridoma technology for rituximab (anti CD 20) for Rheumatoid
arthritis, Hepatitis B vaccine. (rDNA technology)
b) ligand targeted delivery systems: to treat certain cancerous tumors
c) Role in genetic and degenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinsonism, etc. For example, three parent gamete fusion to remove mitochondrial diseases, stem cell therapy for pancreatic islet cells (diabetes mellitus)
Food security: pesticide resistant varieties (Bt cotton), high yielding varieties, protein or mineral enriched cereals, single cell protein, delay in rotting with better
quality and colour. These can enable to meet demands of rapid growing
population and decreasing farmland and environmental risk concerns.
However, just like another face of coin, this technology possesses certain risks with ethical issues. For Ex.
1) toxicity and allergens: allergenic properties of donor can be transferred to recipient.
2) affecting genetic diversity and ecological balance: being exotic species can wipe out native species, leading loss to significant genetic pool and new risks of novel viruses and bacteria due to horizontal gene transfer.
3) These transgenic genes can jump over to cause new diseases or unknown cancerous conditions.
4) Most important of all Bioterrorism/ biological weapons, as earlier done by using anthrax and botulism toxin.

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