Biotechnology has influenced the medicine industry all around the world directly and indirectly in ways unimaginable. It has penetrated this sector like no other. The process starts from diagnosis to treatment to prevention, and biotechnology has revolutionized all of them. This has made healthcare economical in some respects and astounding in the rest.
Today, if someone who was genetically blind is able to see their surroundings, you only have biotechnology to thank. The expectancy of human life has risen, and the credit goes to the aforementioned miracle.
Diseases like AIDS, tuberculosis are nearly labeled fatal these days. But, the spread of these diseases can be overcome by an early and accurate diagnosis of them. Modern biotechnology now comprises of molecular diagnostic tools. These tools only require a small volume of the sample to identify the DNA sequence of the pathogen. This makes the test even more sensitive and costs effective at the same time.
The second way in which this technology has helped the medicine industry is vaccination. It has not only improved the quality of vaccines but has also brought a change in the way the vaccines are administered. Everybody knows how a vaccine works, right? A small quantity of the virus is infused in the body in a way that it does not infect the person. The body produces antibodies in its defense, which will later protect the vaccinated person if they come in contact with the virus later. Smallpox has successfully been eradicated from the world, and this stands as the greatest testimony to the success of vaccines. Scientists all over the world are currently working on a recombinant vaccine for tuberculosis. A recombinant vaccine is a vaccine produced from recombinant DNA technology which involves inserting the DNA encoding antigen that stimulates an immune response.
Another development in the vaccination process is in terms of its administration. The industry is moving forward from injections since the needles are mishandled very often. The risk of transmission of communicable diseases rises as the needles are often misused by pathologists and even doctors. In the latest technology, vaccines can be administered through the use of a high jet speed of gas. Besides this, we have skin patches, rubbing gels, nasal sprays and inhalers being used to administer the vaccine.
Malnutrition has taken a massive population of children in its ugly clutches. But, biotechnology has facilitated the growth of genetically modified crops. A very popular example of this is Golden rice which has vitamin A in it induced artificially. Potato is being produced with elevated levels of starch so that they soak up less fat during frying. Soybean, oilseed, and oil palm are still under research and development. Another aspect under this is the use of biotechnology on animals to increase their productivity and quality of their products. Though I am not in a position to comment on the ethical connotations related thereto.
Till now, we talked about the direct impact of biotechnology on the health industry. At the same time, biotechnology is helping in curing the environment. It uses microorganisms that treat and biodegrades hazardous waste. This measure might not seem very economical, but the advantage of using this approach is that it does not have any potential to create corollary damage. It’s a full-proof environment-friendly method to reduce pollution, be it soil pollution or air pollution.
In the beginning, as I mentioned biotechnology curing genetic blindness. This is done through a stem cell therapy that initiates the production of living cells naturally. Bernard Gilly, CEO, Gensight explained, the gene therapy is used to introduce a light-sensitive protein within neurons in the optic nerve. A pair of goggles then “helps redirect and concentrate the light toward the modified cells, which will then convert it into a signal for the brain.”
Biotechnology is extremely relevant in the present era, but if we were to talk about its relevance right now, in the pandemic, people would like to know if it can cure the COVID-19 virus. Here’s an insight on that: “Seven patients got the umbilical cord stem cells, three got placebos. All seven of the patients who were treated – and these are severe and critically severe patients – every last one of them got off the ventilator and walked out of the hospital,” said Dr. Scott Faulkner, Grand River Hospital in Rifle, Colorado.
What are they waiting for? is the question now. Well, FDA’s approval requires a series of tests that they’ll have to go through. Cutting down on red tape is not an option here, thus the world needs to wait for now.