The essay explains the impact of biotechnological advances on world health in next century. The main world health problems are: immunization to children, communicable diseases, obesity, environmental hazards, death due to poverty and malnutrition, epidemics and bioterrorism. Biotechnology can provide solution to these problems. Biotechnology has mainly five main categories, such as, plant biotechnology, environmental biotechnology, food biotechnology, pharmaceutical biotechnology and chemical biotechnology.
Plant biotechnology with the help of genetic engineered plants and microorganisms provide solution to environmental, health and malnutrition problems. Environmental biotechnology with help of transgenic plants, microorganisms and plant derived products solve environmental issues. Whereas, pharmaceutical biotechnology can solve health issues with the help of recombinant DNA technologies and latest advances in diagnostics, proteomics, nanobiotechnology, medical devices and implants.
Likewise, main aim of food biotechnology is to increase world food securities with the application of gene splicing techniques and rapid advances in molecular breeding. Probiotics and prebiotics are also used to decrease malnutrition. Similarly, advances in biotechnology are applied to chemical industries. Here, molecular biology techniques and principles of genetic engineering are used to obtain desired chemicals and products.
Advances in these biotechnology fields will have many positive effects on world health in next century. These advances will be used to solve most of the world health issues. On the other hand, biotechnology may also have negative impact on world health in next century. One of them is Bioterrorism. Therefore world authorities and governments should unite against this threat and help each other in solving these world health issues.
The impact of biotechnological advances on World health in the next century
In next century for solving most of the health problems, we require the proper understanding of community health. Immunizations to children, communicable diseases, obesity, environmental hazards, deaths due to poverty and malnutrition, epidemics and bioterrorism require a society based solution. Biotechnology can definitely provide solution to most of these problems. Biotechnology has potential to revolutionise agriculture and health industries. Due to advancement in molecular biology, DNA-based technologies, and more involvement of developing countries like India, Brazil and Cuba biotechnology has great role to play in improving world health in coming centuries.
However, advances in biotechnology could have both positive and negative impacts on world health in next century. This essay will explain both positive and negative impacts of biotechnological advances on world health.
In today's highly interconnected world where each and every part of world is connected by different modes of transport there is a great risk for spread of highly contagious diseases. In 2006 approximately 2.1 billion passengers travelled by airlines. So, infectious diseases can spread geographically within few hours from one place to another. Moreover, due to advances in science and technology nuclear and toxic threats are also increasing. Infectious diseases are now emerging faster as compared to previous years. The example and categories of some of them are given below.
Epidemic -prone diseases
Emerging viral diseases such as Ebola, Marburg haemorrhagic fever, HIV and Nipah virus are threat to global public health. Diseases which are supposed to be eradicated by authorities have come back in last few years. Some of them are Cholera, Yellow fever and Epidemic meningococcal diseases. Therefore, all these diseases required new methods to curb them. Furthermore increase in spread of drug resistant and antimicrobial resistance diseases causing great concern. Some examples are Tuberculosis (XDR-TB), Diarrhoeal diseases, Malaria, Respiratory tract infections and Meningitis. Due to mutation and gene transfer between different strains of bacteria, bacteria have become resistant to antibiotics.
Food borne diseases
Recognition of new variant of Creutzfeldt- Jakob disease associated with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) is causing great concern.
Accidental and Deliberate outbreaks
Accidental release of dangerous pathogens from biological research laboratories have happen in United States of America in 2001 when anthrax letters were found outside laboratories. Diseases which were eradicated several years back can be use as bioterrorism threat. The global eradication of Smallpox was certified in 1979; however it is assume that Smallpox is stored by some countries and terrorist group for creating bioterrorism. The spread of SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) in 2003 is also an example of bioterrorism.
Malnutrition, Deaths and Environmental Issues
In today's time people around the globe are getting richer and healthier. However, in some countries children and people are still dying due to unavailability of proper food and malnutrition. Degradation in Environmental conditions is also an important issue for which we have to look after.
These are some of the diseases and problems which world is facing today and which directly affects the world health in next coming century. Biotechnology can provide solution to these problems, if used in a proper way.
Biotechnology in broad terms can be divided in the following categories.
* Plant Biotechnology
* Environmental Biotechnology
* Pharmaceutical biotechnology
* Food biotechnology
· Chemical biotechnology
Advances in Biotechnology
Genetically modified plants are used as food and for producing industrial enzymes and recombinant proteins. Plants are also used in cleaning environment (phytoremediation) and as bioreactors for producing antibiotics and drugs. Main aim of biotechnology is to produce plant varieties with greater yields of carbohydrates, vitamins, proteins, oils, etc., and plants with higher resistance to plant pathogens also which are more tolerant towards environmental stress like climate variations.
Genetic engineering is making amazing changes in our food supply as now we can have frost-free vegetables plants and grains that grow in desert. This not only helps in improving food supply but contribute to food security also. Vitamin C (ascorbic acid or ascorbate) is derived from vegetables and fruits and is an essential part of our daily requirement. Due to genetic engineering technologies concentration of ascorbate has been increased to two folds in Arabidopsis thaliana with the help of a newly discovered enzyme in strawberries.
For transgenic expressions Tobacco is a model plant. Transgenic plants are a novel system for expression and oral delivery of subunit vaccine antigens. Food plants can be used as a source of edible vaccines. This has been shown when hepatitis B surface antigen (HbsAg) was expressed in transgenic tobacco plants.
Techniques for the propagation of plants cell was developed way back in 1950s. It was then realized that can cells can be used in formation of low molecular weight molecules. Moreover plants cell are higher eukaryotic cells they are capable to carry out post-translational modifications that occur in human cells. Since they cannot harbour human pathogens and also not able to produce endotoxins they are basically safe.
Several plant varieties, such as varieties of rice are modified accordingly so that people can have more nutrition in small amount of food. These are few of the advances in plant biotechnology which have positive effect on world health in next century. As these plant varieties help in improving world health by providing drugs orally, more nutrients in small amount of food and also saves money.
To maintain ecological stability alternatives to agrochemicals (herbicides, pesticides and synthetic fertilizers) are required. Some of the prospective alternatives to agrochemicals are chitosan (from crustaceans), fermentation sludge and cyanobacteria.
Herbicide use has been reduced by the use of Herbicide-tolerant crops. Organic bioinsecticides are used to kill predators. Some of them are plant-derived biopesticides, repellents and pheromones.
It is expected that in coming year renewable materials will replace non-renewable materials on large scale. Soybean oil based composite materials are as strong as metal and much lighter than metal. Moreover, they are also much cheaper than the plastic material vinyl ester. Plants are used for industrial purposes. In industries, such as, detergents, solvents, lubricants, soil conditioners, cosmetics, textiles plant derived products are utilized. Some of the plant derived products used in these industries are, sugar, oil, enzymes, proteins, starch and fatty and other acids. The use of such biodegradable products has positive impact on environment condition, as they help in saving energy and waste reduction.
Biofuels are considered as a substitute to fossil fuels. Examples of biofuels are ethanol from plants rich in sugar and starch (beets, cereals and potatoes), ethyl-tertiary-butyl ether (ETBE), methanol from rapeseed, organic wastes and wood. Biofuels does not pollute environment as they release only CO2 that they have bound recently, so they are more eco friendly as compare to non renewable fuels. Microalgae are also used as potential biofuels. Microbial Fuel Cells (MFC) are use to convert chemical energy of chemical bonds in organic compounds to electrical energy. MFC is a bioreactor and uses microorganism under anaerobic conditions. It utilizes their catalytic reactions to produce electrical energy. They are also useful in waste water treatments to breakdown complex organic compounds.
Bioplastics or microbial polyhydroxybutyrate are used on industrial scale for packaging purposes. Bioleaching or uses of biotechnological methods in mining are also very important in saving environment. Moreover, these methods are cheaper than usual mining methods.
Microorganisms are also employed as monitoring devices. They are applied to bioprocess systems as biosensors and bioassays. They can assist in pollution prevention. Biosensors or Bioassays are based on enzymes, tissues and microorganisms or on receptors, antibodies and nucleic acids. Living organisms, such as, molluscs, lichens, larvae and plants are also used as pollution indicators.
Microorganisms are capable of biodegradation and biosorption. Biotechnological techniques such as genetic engineering can definitely increase their capabilities to clean the environment. Plants such as, Thalspi caerulescens (cadmium and zinc), Thalspi rotundifolium (lead), Zea mays (lead) and Alyssum (nickel) have capacity to absorb heavy metals. Moreover, Bioremediation and Phytoremediation are very cost efficient as compared to usual environmental cleaning methods. Moreover biofertilizers and methods of bioremediation are used in oil recovery from oil spills. Adequate aeration can further increase the process of oil recovery.
Some of the technologies included in pharmaceutical biotechnology are proteomics, nanobiotechnology, gene sequencing, genomics, bioinformatics, screening, functional predictions, gene therapy, cytomics, cellular cloning, organ and tissue culture. Pharmaceutical biotechnology have very important role to play in modern drug discovery, therapeutics, diagnostics, medical devices, preventing process of aging and in implants. Most of the pharmaceutical biotechnology inventions include Recombinant DNA methods using plasmids. Monoclonal antibodies are also an important product of pharmaceutical biotechnology.
Genetic manipulations produce recombinant DNA organisms for human therapy and also produce products such as, human insulin, human growth hormones, interleukins, interferons and other bioactive proteins.
Table 1 Range of biotechnology- derived pharmaceuticals
A variety of expression systems are used in deriving pharmaceuticals. Some of them are Escherichia coli, yeast, mammalian, plant or insect cells, transgenic animals or other organisms. Due to the different glycosylation preferences of expression system used the glycosylation pattern of protein products is likely to differ from the endogenous human form. Stem cells technology and advances in immunology, regenerative medicines and nanobiotechnology will definitely affect world health in a beneficial way
Food biotechnology includes the application of gene splicing techniques and rapid advances in molecular breeding. Food biotechnology aims to increase food security, heals or eliminates diseases and hence leads to a healthy society.
Advances in food biotechnology include development of foods that are temperature independent and can be preserved while maintaining functionality, structure and function of macromolecules in foods. Expression systems are developed for lactic acid bacteria which allow them to be used as food-grade cell factories for the production of function molecules in bioreactors, food products or gastro-intestinal tract upon consumption. Neutraceuticals are novel functional foods which can produce vitamins. Furthermore, new strains of bacteria such as, lactic acid bacteria are designed that contain foreign epitopes and hence used as live vaccines.
Probiotics are viable microorganisms or microbial food supplements which can improve the intestinal microbial balance of host. They are health enhancing functional food and can be used therapeutically to prevent module immunity, diarrhea and lactose tolerance. They can also prevent cancer and lower cholesterol levels. Some of the bacteria which can exert such effects are Lactobacillus, Enterococcus and Bifidobacterium.
Prebiotics are non viable entities or non-digestible food that beneficial selectively stimulates the growth of one or a limited number of bacteria in the colon of host. Hence beneficially affect the intestinal flora. Moreover, when Probiotics and Prebiotics are used in combination, they are termed as ‘symbiotic'.
Chemical industry can be sub categorized in four parts: basic chemicals, speciality chemicals, consumer care products and life science products. The products of basic chemical industry are generally use in process application, such as, pulp and paper, oil refining, metals recovery, raw materials for production of other speciality chemicals, consumer products and raw material for manufactured goods (automobiles, textiles, etc.).
Speciality chemicals are used in lesser volumes as compared to basic chemicals. However, they are derived from basic chemicals and are more technologically advanced. Some of them are: adhesives, coatings, plastic adhesives and catalysts.
A consumer care product includes bleaches, laundry aids, fragrances, soaps, skin care products, detergents, etc. Life science products normally contain products of crop protection, products of modern biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.
Chemical engineering employs two major biotechnological areas. Biocatalysis and metabolic engineering are the driving transformation of the conventional chemical industry. Molecular biology techniques and genetic engineering are used to get desired modified enzymes. With the help of metabolic engineering transgenic microorganisms are obtained that help in production of chemicals. Genetically enhanced ethanol tolerant microorganisms that can rapidly ferment sugars to ethanol are used in chemical industry.
Cosmetic and toiletries industries uses enzymes such as, laccase is used in hair dyeing products. Bio-mass derived feed stocks and enzymes are used in soaps and detergents. Lipase, cellulases and proteases are produced by genetically modified microorganisms and are used in detergent industries.
Positive impact of Biotechnological advances on world health in next century
Biotechnology has large number of positive impacts on world health in next century. Genetic modified plants with qualities like increase amounts of vitamins and other nutrients will be used as food. Therefore help in solving problem of malnutrition. Frost free vegetables and grain that can grow in arid regions can help in using land areas which are unfit now for growing food and hence will help in increasing food securities. Genetic engineered plants will be used as edible vaccines, producing industrial enzymes and recombinant proteins. So, helps in immunization children and controlling communicable diseases.
Transgenic plants microorganisms will be used on large scale for cleaning environment. Genetic engineered plants and microorganisms will be used as alternative to agrochemicals (herbicides, pesticides, and synthetic fertilizers). Some of these products used as alternative to agrochemicals are: plant derived pesticides, repellents and pheromones. Hence, these can reduce amount of harmful chemicals in fruits, vegetables and in ground water tables. Bioplastics or microbial polyhydroxybutyrate, bioleaching, microbial fuel cells, plant derived products will be used in soap, detergent and cosmetic industry.
Advances in pharmaceutical biotechniques and new inventions in drug designing, drug delivery, therapeutics, diagnostics, medical devices and in implants will directly cause the improvement in world health.
Development of temperature independent food, use of neutraceuticals, probiotics, prebiotics and use of food as live vaccines definitely causes decrease in malnutrition and hence improves world health. More and more use of biodegradable enzymes and products in chemical industries cause decrease in pollution and therefore contributes to world health.
All these methods will help in improving environmental conditions and world health.
Negative impact of Biotechnological advances on world health in next century
Advances in biotechnology can have little negative impact on world health in next century. As, all developed and developing countries are making new inventions in biotechnology there is a increasing risk of use of these technologies against society which in turn harm world health. Due to development in genetic engineering there is an increasing threat of bioterrorism. We have examples of bioterrorism in past few years, where microorganisms are used against human population. Therefore, world authorities and government of each country should unite against this threat.
In the final analysis, main health problems can faced by world in next century are immunization to children, communicable diseases, obesity, environmental hazards, death due to malnutrition and unavailability of food, epidemics and bioterrorism.
Biotechnological advances in this century will have both positive and negative impact on world health in next century. Most of the health issues are expected to be solved by biotechnological methods. However, there is an increasing threat of bioterrorism for which we have to prepare. As, bioterrorism can be very harmful for world health therefore world authorities should unite against this threat.
* The world health report (2007) Available from: http://www.who.int/whr/2007/whr07_en.pdf (October 31st 2009)
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