Outcome: Key Technologies

List key technologies enabling modern uses of biology.

Biotechnology is the use of biological agents for technological advancement. Biotechnology was used for breeding livestock and crops long before the scientific basis of these techniques was understood. Since the discovery of the structure of DNA in 1953, the field of biotechnology has grown rapidly through both academic research and private companies. The primary applications of this technology are in medicine (production of vaccines and antibiotics) and agriculture (genetic modification of crops, such as to increase yields). Biotechnology also has many industrial applications, such as fermentation, the treatment of oil spills, and the production of biofuels (Figure 1).

The left side of this image is an old black and white photo of a mailbox plastered with an advertisement reading “Penicillin cures gonorrhea in four hours. See your doctor today.” The right side of the image shows a petri dish streaked with bacteria. Bacteria grow everywhere on the plate except where discs containing antibiotic have been placed. These areas are completely devoid of bacterial growth

Figure 1. Antibiotics are chemicals produced by fungi, bacteria, and other organisms that have antimicrobial properties. The first antibiotic discovered was penicillin. Antibiotics are now commercially produced and tested for their potential to inhibit bacterial growth. (credit “advertisement”: modification of work by NIH; credit “test plate”: modification of work by Don Stalons/CDC; scale-bar data from Matt Russell)

In this outcome, we will learn about some modern technologies used in biology today.

What You’ll Learn to Do

  • List basic techniques to manipulation genetic information (DNA and RNA).
  • Recognize technologies used for molecular, cellular, and reproductive cloning.
  • Understand the basics of genetic engineering.

Learning Activities

The learning activities for this section include the following:

  • Reading: Basic Techniques to Manipulate Genetic Material
  • Reading: Cloning
  • Reading: Genetic Engineering
  • Self Check: Key Technologies