Biotech – short for ‘biological technology’ – reduced to its simplest form, is any form of technology that utilizes a living organism to make something. The prefix ‘bio’ comes from the Greek word meaning ‘life’. Technology, as defined by Merriam-Webster, is “the practical application of knowledge especially in a particular area.”
Biotech sounds vague and complicated at first, and it can be, but some of the oldest and most recognized forms of biotech are brewing beer and baking bread. In both of these examples, one takes a living organism, yeast, and uses it to convert the ingredients into the final product.
The modern variety of biotech has uses in four major areas: Industrial, medical, agricultural, and environmental. There is a myriad of applications within each of those categories, and each one is changing lives. According to Saar Pilosof, here are 5 examples of how biotechnology changes lives.
- Upping the Aesthetics
Not everything has to save to world to be considered life changing. Enjoying the beauty of nature has immense health benefits, physically, mentally, and emotionally. One application of biotech in agriculture is simply improving the color, smell, and various aspects of flowers to make them more aesthetically pleasing.
Stopping to smell the roses can turn a bad day around and provide mental clarity. Having flowers that are so gorgeous they make people stop and notice can have a mild anti-anxiety effect and promote mindfulness.
- Crops to Withstand it all
The aesthetic sort of genetic modification is closely related to the application of biotech that helps crops and other plants survive harsher weather, yield more produce, and resist pests and diseases. Some crops have even been modified to provide a more nutritious variety.
It cannot go without saying how important biotech is to the food industry. GMOs – genetically modified organisms – can provide a more stable, steady, and bountiful harvest. They can also provide more nutrition and keep people healthier. This technology keeps food prices steadier and puts more food on more tables.
Life changing and life-saving.
- Preparing for the Next Pandemic with Designer Proteins
Scientists have no doubt that there will be a next pandemic. The question is: When? Biotech is hurtling towards a solution that will save countless lives whenever that time comes. Currently, the flu vaccine and medications like Tamiflu are available. Biotech is responsible for the development of those as well, and there’s more on the way.
Flu vaccines need to be targeted to the specific influenza strain and administered prior to exposure to allow the immune system time to build up antibodies. In a pandemic, the time needed to develop, manufacture, distribute, and administer vaccines would put people at risk.
In order to combat this, scientists are developing computer software that designs antiviral proteins like the ones already in the human body. These proteins are programmed to shut down viruses and do not require the immune system the way vaccines do. Scientists went a few steps further than the human body, and designed proteins that are geometrically superior than what the body can produce.
They show incredible promise in treating influenza, Ebola, and HIV. The ability to combat such lethal infections quickly and aggressively will change everything about how society handles the next pandemic.