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Biotechnology

The CRISPR-Cas9 system has revolutionised gene-editing, from turning gene expression on and off to fluorescently tagging particular sequences.

BIOTECH RESEARCH

Biotechnology uses the DNA of living organisms to bioengineer new products artificially. Depending on the tools and applications, it often overlaps with the related fields of biomedicine, pharmacology, and genetic engineering. Modern biotech methods are used to manufacture existing medicines more easily, in order to treat human diseases. Further, biotechnology has enabled emerging techniques like gene therapy.

Agricultural biotechnology, and crop science in general, includes plant cross-breeding techniques, trait selection, and genetic engineering in some cases. Biotech crops can make farming more profitable by increasing crop quality and may in some cases increasing crop yields. Where biotech crops are grown in proximity to related plants, the potential for the two plant species to exchange traits via pollen must be evaluated. In fact, according to the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS), biotechnology crops as a percentage of total crop plantings in the USA were about 88 percent for corn, 94 percent for cotton, and 93 percent for soybeans. Herbicide-tolerant crops are particularly compatible with reduced-tillage commercial agriculture systems that help preserve topsoil from erosion.

Researchers may use biotechnology processes to discover things that may not be possible by more conventional means. This includes introducing new or improved traits in plants, animals, and microorganisms and creating new biotechnology-based products such as more effective diagnostic tests, improved farm animal vaccines, and better antibiotics. The USDA Economic Research Service (ERS) conducts research on the economic aspects of the use of genetically engineered plants, including the rate of adoption of biotechnology by farmers.

EDUCATION

Microbiologists need at least a bachelor's degree in microbiology or a closely related program that offers substantial coursework in microbiology, such as biotechnology or cell biology. Most microbiology majors take core courses in microbial genetics and microbial physiology and elective classes such as environmental microbiology and virology. It is important for prospective workers in biotechnology firms to have organic chemistry laboratory experience before entering the workforce. Students also can gain valuable lab experience through internships with drug manufacturers.

Industrial technologists, by comparison, study and solve problems related to industrial production processes. They may examine microbial growth found in the pipes of a chemical factory, monitor the impact industrial waste has on the local ecosystem, or oversee the microbial activities used in biotech production to ensure product quality. Stem cell research offers new hope in the areas of cancer treatment as well as life extension. The regulation of genetic engineering aims to assess and manage the risks of developing genetically modified organisms (GMO), including commercial food crops and fish.

CERTIFICATION

Certification programs enable electrical engineers to learn new skills and demonstrate their expertise to potential employers. To earn certifications, candidates often complete training programs followed by a written or oral exam.

The EIT certification is an important entry-level certification for engineers in a wide variety of fields. It's often the first step in earning a Professional Engineer (PE) certification. The National Council of Examiners for Engineering and Surveying administers EIT testing in all states during four periods each year. After passing the EIT exam, the candidate's state engineering board issues them the certification, which allows them to work as an entry-level engineer in their area.

The initial Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam can be taken after earning a bachelor's degree. Engineers who pass this exam commonly are called engineers in training (EIT) or engineer interns (EI). After meeting work experience requirements, EITs and EIs can take the second exam, called the Principles and Practice of Engineering exam. Each state issues its own licenses, although states recognize licensure from other states. Electrical and electronic engineers may advance to supervisory positions in which they lead a team of engineers and technicians.

SPECIALIZATION

Animal Biotechnology, including the development of transgenic animals for increased milk or meat production with resistance to various diseases. It also deals with in vitro fertilization of egg and transfer of embryo to the womb of female animal for further development. The animals and plants which have foreign gene in each of their cells are referred to as transgenic organisms and the inserted gene as transgene. Expression of human genes in these transgenic animals can be useful in studies, as models for the development of diabetes, atherosclerosis, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Medical Biotechnology deals with diagnosis of various diseases; large scale production of various drugs and hormones such as human insulin and interferon; vaccines for chicken pox, rabies, polio, and growth hormones, such as bovine. In the field of medical science, genetic engineering has helped in the large scale production of hormones, blood serum proteins; in the development of antibiotics, and other medically useful products. Immunological and DNA-based techniques like PCR (polymerase chain reaction) are used for early diagnosis of disorders. PCR and NAAT with microarray can be utilized for the diagnosis of many diseases, and it can detect mutations in genes.

Pharmaceuticals. With the applications of recombinant DNA technology, rapid development of mRNA vaccines was enabled. Emergency use authorization allowed the beginning of mass clinical trials. These recombinant products do not elicit unwanted immunological response which is observed when the product is obtained from other live or dead sources. Many of these therapeutics are approved for human usage, and many of them are in the development phase.

Environmental Biotechnology - detoxification of waste and industrial effluents, treatment of sewage water, and control of plant diseases and insects through the use of biological agents, such as viruses, bacteria, and fungi. As the new GM crops are entering the market, insect-resistant varieties are being prepared and used as Bt genes in corn and cotton crops, although there exists a risk of development of resistance insect population.

Plant Biotechnology is a combination of tissue culture and genetic engineering. It deals with development of transgenic plants with resistance to biotic and abiotic stress; development of haploids, embryo rescue, clonal multiplication, and cryopreservation. These techniques may be helpful in developing useful and beneficial plants. It overcomes the limitations of traditional plant breeding. The techniques of plant tissue culture, transgenics, and marker-assisted selections are largely used for selecting better yielding varieties and imparting quality traits in plants.

QUALITIES FOR SUCCESS

Ask yourself if you can see yourself being a biotech engineer or microbiologist, working with technical concepts and complex equipment. While classes and internships will prepare you well, certain innate qualities that you bring to bear will help you succeed.


Biotechnology
Microbiologists typically work on research teams and thus must work well with others toward a common goal. Many also lead research teams and must be able to motivate and direct other team members.
Complex mathematical equations and formulas are used in biotech research. Therefore, engineers need a broad understanding of math, including calculus and statistics.
Microbiologists must be able to conduct scientific experiments and analyses with accuracy and precision, drawing conclusions from experimental results through sound reasoning and judgment.
Microbiologists use scientific experiments and analysis to find solutions to complex scientific problems. Microbiological research involves substantial trial and error, so a reserve of patience is required.
Microbiologists usually need to meet deadlines when conducting research and laboratory tests. They must be able to manage time and prioritize tasks efficiently while maintaining their quality of work.

Molecular Visualization of DNA


Using computer animation of DNA molecular interactions, we can see the process of replication. The dynamics and molecular shapes were based on X-ray crystallographic models and other published scientific data sets.

Sickle-cell Disease


Sickle-cell disease is one of the most common genetic conditions worldwide, with more than 6 million people living with the disease. Three-quarters of them are in sub-Saharan Africa, where childhood mortality due to sickle cell remains high.

Blood Typing in Seconds


Blood type matching is important for pregnancy, blood transfusion, and bone marrow transplantation. Zhang et al. developed a blood typing assay based on the color change that occurs when a common pH indicator dye reacts with blood.

RNA Interference


RNA interference (RNAi) is an important process, used by many different organisms to regulate the activity of genes. This animation explains how RNAi works and introduces the two main players: small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) and microRNAs (miRNAs). This animation shows how genes are transcribed to make messenger RNA (mRNA) and how RNAi can silence specific mRNAs to stop them from making proteins.

STEM CELLS

Stem cells may develop into many different cell types in the body during early life and growth. In addition, in many tissues stem cells serve as a sort of internal repair system, dividing essentially without limit to replenish other cells. When a stem cell divides, each new cell has the potential to develop into a more specialized structure, such as a muscle cell, a red blood cell, or a nerve cell. Unlike muscle cells or nerve cells, however, stem cells may replicate many times. A starting population of stem cells that proliferates for many months in the laboratory can yield millions of cells. If the resulting cells continue to be unspecialized, the cells are said to be capable of long-term growth.

Research on adult stem cells has generated a great deal of excitement. While embryonic stem cells can be grown relatively easily in culture, adult stem cells are rare in mature tissues, so isolating these cells from an adult tissue is more challenging. Scientists now know that stem cells exist in the brain and the heart, two locations where adult stem cells were not expected. If the differentiation of adult stem cells can be controlled in a biological laboratory, these cells may become the basis of organ transplantation surgery. Some important treatments include regenerating bone using cells derived from bone marrow stroma, developing insulin-producing cells for type 1 diabetes, and repairing damaged heart muscle after a heart attack.

DNA STRUCTURE

DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) consists of two biopolymer strands, coiled around each other to form a double helix. These two DNA strands are called polynucleotides since they are composed of several monomer proteins. Each nucleotide is made up of nitrogen-containing cytosine (C), guanine (G), adenine (A), or thymine (T), one deoxyribose sugar molecule, and a phosphate group. The nucleotides are joined to one another in a chain by covalent hydrogen bonds between the sugar of one nucleotide and the phosphate of the next, resulting in an alternating sugar-phosphate backbone, according to base-pairing rules. The total amount of DNA in all living organisms is estimated to weigh 50 billion tons (Wikipedia). That's a lot of DNA, especially as protein molecules are microscopic and thus invisible to the naked eye.

The DNA backbone is resistant to cleavage, unless there is a mutation, and both pieces of the double-stranded structure store the same biological information. When a cell divides, it RNA transcription must replicate the DNA in its genome so that the two daughter cells are afforded an exact copy of the genetic information stored in the parent cells. The double-stranded structure of DNA provides a simple mechanism for DNA replication. The two strands are separated and then each strand's complementary DNA sequence is recreated by an enzyme called DNA polymerase. A large part of DNA (almost 99% in humans) is non-coding, meaning that these sections do not serve as patterns for protein sequences, but rather perform little-known functions.

JOB OUTLOOK

Employment of microbiologists is projected to grow 8 percent annually to 2026. More microbiologists will be needed to contribute to basic research and solve problems of industrial production, and develop new medicines, such as vaccines and antibiotics. In addition, pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies will need to hire experts in order to develop drugs that are produced with the aid of microorganisms.

Aside from improving health, other areas of research and development are expected to provide employment growth for microbiologists. Many companies, from food producers to chemical companies, will need microbiologists to ensure biotech product quality and production efficiency. Efforts to find more clean sources of energy will involve microbiologists, such as mycologists and industrial microbiologists, who research and develop alternative energy sources such as biofuels and biomass. In agriculture, microbiologists will be needed to help develop genetically engineered crops (GMO) that provide greater yields or require less pesticide and fertilizer.

Engineering Organizations

Whether you’re a civil, environmental, manufacturing, mechanical or other type of engineer, there’s an industry trade group ready to offer training, networking opportunities and other specialized resources that can help you stay current in your field and manage your career.

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