Applications of Biotechnology

Contributor: Hannah Brooks. Lesson ID: 12526

When we build a model or skyscraper, we follow the directions. Biotechnologists can actually modify the directions that build living beings to make better products, from medicines to bigger apples!

categories

Life Science

subject
Science
learning style
Visual
personality style
Lion
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8), High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

Audio:

Remember the story of Jack and the Beanstalk? Do you see any connection to magic and the science of biotechnology?

In Jack and the Beanstalk, magic beans grow into a large plant that allows Jack to climb up above the clouds.

This story relies on the use of magic to enchant the beans to grow, but science could also lead to similar results. In the introductory lesson in our Biotechnology series, found under Related Lessons in the right-hand sidebar, you learned how biotechnology can be used to modify genetic sequences in plants and animals. While it is probably not possible to modify the genes so that a plant grows above the clouds, it is possible to create very large vegetables and crops that are resistant to pesticides and chemicals. The larger fruit in each image below was grown with a modified genetic sequence:

Now that you have an understanding of how biotechnology works, we will focus on the applications of biotechnology in the modern world.

Biotechnology is currently used in medicine, agriculture and food production, development of common household materials, and for improving plastics and fabrics. In medicine, it is used to develop new medications that are based on the genetic makeup of the patient, called "personalized medicine." This approach allows for more precision when treating medical disorders. It can also be used to conduct gene therapy, a process where doctors can target specific diseases by modifying the genetic sequence of the patient.

Biotechnology is also used in food production and agriculture. Researchers can modify the genetic sequence of crops to create plants that have desirable traits like drought resistance.

  • Why might drought resistance be an important trait in crops?

corn crops in a drought

Plants that are drought resistant can survive in more places on Earth! Biotechnology can be used to create more efficient biofuels — fuels that are created from plants like corn and wheat. These fuel choices can lower carbon emissions, and that reduces negative effects to the atmosphere!

There are many products in our homes that have been created and improved using biotechnology. Laundry detergents and dish soaps have been recreated using enzymes produced by living cells to break down grease and food materials. Plastics are used in thousands of ways, from bottles for water to writing utensils. Think about the number of plastic spoons currently on grocery store shelves. Biotechnology is being used to make these plastic products more biodegradable, which means less waste in our landfills.

plastic products

Biotechnology has so many uses in our world!

  • What are some ways you think biotechnology can improve your daily life?
  • What have you learned about the use of biotechnology in medicine?

Personalized medicine has the potential to revolutionize medical treatment. Agriculture and food availability have improved because of biotechnology processes. Researchers and scientists are using biotechnology to lessen human impact on the environment and living things.

Discuss what you have learned about biotechnology applications with a parent or teacher before moving to the Got It? section, where you will conduct some research to learn more about specific applications of biotechnology.

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