Biotechnology is applying and manipulating living organisms or bio-molecules as a tool for humanity. Biotechnology can be applied for medical, environmental, agricultural and industrial purposes.

Biotechnology has a range of applications and far reaching implications. Some of this applications include: food (fermentation to create cheese),drink (fermentation to create alcohol), medicine (using medicine found in plants and using microbes to produce medicines), agriculture (adding anti-fungal and anti-pest genes to plants), fuel (naturally derived fuel sources) and cleaning (enzymes from microbes).

Plasmids are small circular loops of DNA which are found in microbes. They code for accessories to micro-organisms. For example, anti-biotic resistance is found in numerous microbes, it is coded for by a plasmid which is passed around microbes. This naturally occurring plasmid is problematic for modern medicine.

However, plasmids can also be incredibly useful in biotechnology. We can insert the human gene for insulin production into a plasmid and insert the plasmid into a microbe which will then produce insulin for human use.

DNA cloning is the process by which we amplify the number of copies of DNA. The first approach to this was to use bacterium’s and isolate the plasmid. However, it was later discovered that polymerase chain reaction (PCR) could be used to clone DNA quicker and easier. This involves three steps initiation, elongation and termination.

Recombinant DNA is when we recombine DNA from one organism and put it into another organism. This creates a genetically modified organism (GMO) which has numerous ethical questions.

We have tools for playing with DNA these include thermostable polymerase extracted from Archae which can be used to replicate DNA, restriction enzymes which come from virus’ and can be used to cut DNA at certain points. As well as T4 ligase which comes from virus’ and is used to paste DNA strands together.

Vaccines are vital to collective human health and save over 3 million lives each year. Some vaccines use recombinant DNA to produce antigens to train the body to fight an infection. Antigen presenting vaccines use GMO’s tp produce proteins which are found on the surface of virus’. As is the case for hepatitis B which uses (S. cerevisiae) a fungus, to produce antigens for it.


Question 1.

Evaluate the importance of microbes in biotechnology, using examples of specific fungi (S.cerevisiae) and bacteria (E.coli)

Question 2.

Explain what a plasmid is, and their roles in nature and biotechnology

Question 3.

Using an example define “DNA cloning”, “recombinant DNA”, “GMO”

Question 4. (module 6 and 7 overlap question)

Discuss why vaccines are important, and how recombinant DNA methods can be used to make them

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