Biotechnology is one of the most important fields of study in the 21st century. If you’re interested in how the amazing advancements in biotechnology can bring the scientific laboratory and the farming field into alignment, grab your bound lab notebook and start making notes. Here are six facts about biotechnology that you might not have known.
- Biotechnology isn’t as new as you might think. Students have been scribbling in a bound lab notebook about biotech for a while now. The year 1919 marks the first use of it, and it was around 1970 that the first recombinant-DNA experiment was successfully accomplished.
- Human DNA is unique: and it’s not. Our genes and the genes of chimpanzees are 98% the same. We share 92% of our genes with mice, 51% with fruit flies, and even 18% with the E. coli bacteria. 99.9% of the genetic coding in our bodies is identical to everyone else’s, too. All our amazing differences as human beings comes from that last 0.1%. What’s even weirder, though, is that some of your DNA isn’t actually you. Both viruses and bacteria are able to insert their DNA into our genome.
- Someone has made a living cell from scratch. Write this name down in your bound lab notebook: J. Craig Venter Institute. That’s where scientists created the first living cell that did not have a living parent. Of course, it did cost $40 million, but it’s really cool anyway and the implications are vast. It might be possible to one day build fully synthetic living organisms.
- Spider silk from…goats? Spider silk is incredible. It’s one of the most amazing things in nature, being far stronger for its size than it “should be,” while still be completely flexible. However, spiders are too territorial to allow us to effectively mass produce their silk, so biotech professionals at the University of Wyoming decided to take the gene from the spiders that makes the silk and put into goats. The goats’ milk now produces spider silk, which can be harvested.
- Spider silk from…goats? The first recombinant DNA tech food enzyme was produced in 1990 and called chymosin. It is from cows and is put into fungi and bacteria, who produces the enzyme faster than cows. About 90% of the hard cheese America makes is produced using this enzyme.
- Biotech insect warriors. In the battle to keep our food supplies safe while using a minimum of dangerous pesticides, biotech scientists are working on genetically engineered insects. Some are rendered sterile and then sent out into the natural environment to breed with others so that the number of offspring goes down. Some are bred to be parasitic, laying their eggs in, and eventually killing, crop-destroying caterpillars.
Biotech is an exciting field, and we’re just beginning to explore all the possibilities opening up to us as a result of all those notes and ideas carefully scribbled in a bound lab notebook, then brought to life in labs and research centers all over the country.