The term biotechnology is concerned "with the exploitation or processing of biological agents (living or dead) or their components (cells, tissues) or constituents (enzymes, proteins, toxins) with the application of scientific engineering principles, in order to generate useful products or services to enhance human welfare."
By the very definition, it is clear that the most exploited biological agents are microorganisms, and one has to work at cellular and subcellular levels to get results.
The word "exploitation" in the definition itself conjures up both positive and negative connotations.
Contributing to the global economy, biotechnology is responsible for advancements in agriculture, medicine, pharmaceuticals, marine/aquatic life, industrial processes as well as consumable goods and so is of a daily impact in our lives.
One of the most essential tools contributing to it's success is the microscope.
Microscopy techniques and applications are evolving and improving to meet the need for biotechnological advancement. In order to detect microorganisms, their form and structures, the use of a microscope is essential.
The discipline of biotechnology although seems to be of recent origin, it has its base from when man began to use microorganisms to make wine, vinegar, curd etc.
Thereafter, man used microorganisms for the production of chemicals on a commercial scale as in the use of acetone, butanol, citric acid and antibiotics like penicillin etc.
In all honesty, a clear hindrance to human welfare is man's greed. History tends to repeat itself, as we well know.
Consequently, man has continued to exploit biological agents for his own benefit and scientists are moving forward in their research and contribution but are also acutely aware of the potential hazards on a global scale.
Only stringent and appropriate regulations worldwide along with patent protection can gain any semblance of control over this very profitable industry.
However, the following points constitute biotechnology's outright purpose:
Improving the natural capabilities of various biological agents.
Making microorganisms capable of novel processes
Discovering microorganisms with newer capabilities
Recombinant DNA technology has now been developed allowing man to successfully modify microorganisms. Thus, microorganisms are formulated to become valuable, new and with naturally nonexistent capabilities.
Animal breeds and different crop varieties have been created with completely novel and advantageous traits.
As a sophisticated range of techniques like recombinant DNA technology, hybridoma technology, enzyme technology and engineering have been developed, simultaneously there isdevelopment and improvement in severalmicroscopy techniques also.
Electron microscopy imaging with 2D and 3D application have advanced biotechnology revealing intricate biological processes and events at biomaterial-tissue levels.
Definite benefits that could considerably impact the numerous fields pertaining to nanotechnology and biotechnology become apparent with successful utilization of transmission electron microscopy (TEM) as well as scanning electron microscopy (SEM). The goal in microscopy is to use the method that has an increased contrast and prolonged imaging times with fewer artifacts.
Exploring and analyzing a variety of biological events is extremely beneficial to scientists.
As a result, improved biomaterials with increased functionality and reliability can be potentially designed.
Thus, Microscopy is rapidly evolving and improving and is of importance to many branches of biological research.
Moreover, rapid technological advances mean that microscopy is constantly needing to change, leading to a continual demand for ever-more sophisticated and more costly equipment.
Light/Optical microscopy is entering a new and exciting era, with many new imaging techniques allowing unparalleled resolution and precision. Resolution is the "buzz word" in microscopy circles - the higher the better!
As more advanced, reactive and faster microscopes are developed, the amount of data generated also increases.
Digital microscopy has become imperative enabling data to be properly stored, protected and easily retrieved.
Multitouch microscopes are being designed and developed which will allow for high resolution imaging of a slide along with zooming and panning of it on a touch screen monitor.
Biotechnology research can only benefit and so any innovations in microscopy can take advancement to new heights. Although, the question remains, do we worry about the potential hazards?
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