Biotechnology: Biotechnology includes a wide range of procedures for modifying living organisms for useful human applications. This ranges from domestication of animals, cultivation of plants, and breeding programs that employ artificial selection and hybridization. More recently, genetic engineering and recombinant DNA technology is being used more frequently.
Pioneers in biotechnology: The ancient Egyptians made wine using fermentation techniques that occur in the absence of oxygen and using microbes. They also applied fermentation technologies to make dough rise during bread making. There were more than 50 varieties of bread in Egypt more than 4,000 years ago! In the process of brewing beer, malted grains (containing enzymes) convert starch into sugar. Specific yeasts are added to produce the beer. In 1864, French chemist Louis Pasteur developed the process called pasteurization, which uses heat to destroy harmful microorganisms in products. This technique enabled milk to be transported and stored without spoiling.
Louis Pasteur: In 1864, French chemist Louis Pasteur developed the process called pasteurization, which uses heat to destroy harmful microorganisms in products. This technique enabled milk to be transported and stored without spoiling.
Gregor Mendel: In the mid-1800s, an Austrian monk, botanist and plant scientist called Gregor Mendel studied the principle of heredity by experimenting with garden peas. Mendel successfully cross-bred traits, such as pea color, plant height and pod size. He showed that differences, such as a plant's height or color, could be attributed to the passing of traits through genes.
Hybridization: In the early 20th century, agricultural expert Henry Wallace applied hybridization to develop new, higher-yielding seeds. Hybridization is considered the precursor to more advanced cross-breeding and eventually biotechnology, to create plant varieties with more favorable traits.
DNA: DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid, was discovered and the process of replication was understood only in the 1950s. British scientist Rosalind Franklin's DNA research formed the foundation for James Watson and Francis Crick's 1953 discovery of the structure of DNA, the ladder-like double helix. Cells are the basic unit of living matter in all organisms, and DNA carries the information determining what traits a cell will have. With biotechnology, scientists could express favorable traits by lending DNA from one organism to another.
Stanley Cohen and Herbert Boyer: In 1978, Herbert Boyer was able to take pieces of human DNA and isolate a gene for insulin using biotechnology. He then inserted it into bacteria, which allowed the gene to reproduce a larger quantity of insulin for diabetics. This was a useful procedure for developing insulin for people with diabetes.