The term biotechnology refers to a branch of biology concerning the use of living beings to obtain goods or services useful to humanity.
The term microbiology derives from the Greek βίος, bìos = “life”, τέχνη, téchne = “art”, in the sense of “expertise”, “knowing how to do”, “knowing how to operate”, and λόγος, lògos = “study”.
In general biotechnology is the technological application that uses biological systems, living organisms or derivatives of these to produce or modify products or processes for a specific purpose.
In biotechnology, integrated use is made of biochemistry, microbiology and the sciences of genetic engineering to create technological applications starting from the properties of microorganisms, cell cultures or other biological agents.
In other words, it deals with the industrial production of substances processed by living organisms, bacteria, yeasts, plant and animal cells.
The main sectors of application of biotechnology are: healthcare (production of human proteins, vaccines); agro-food (use of enzymes to improve the yield and quality of food products, production of fertilizers, pesticides); chemical (fine chemistry, catalytic processes, recovery of basic production by-products); environmental (biological treatment of waste, biosensors to detect pollution); energy (use of agricultural waste material, solar energy).
Biotechnology also represents one more method available to agriculture: since they make it possible to insert specific genes into plants, even from very different species, whose function is known to transmit information in subsequent generations. Genetic improvement is therefore nothing more than a system to optimize natural selection and increase the yield and resistance to diseases. Biotechnology is not an invention strictly linked to our times, but has originated and used for many centuries for the fermentation of wine and beer or for leavening.
In general, biotechnology is classified into approximately 10 branches, most of which are identified in international jargon, by convention, with one of the colors of the rainbow:
– Red biotechnology or “medical, pharmaceutical and veterinary biotechnology”: it is the biotechnology sector that deals with biomedical and pharmaceutical processes. It deals with the discovery, extraction, isolation or manufacture of active ingredients, the production of vaccines and the development of new techniques for the analysis and diagnosis of diseases and related gene and cell therapies (in particular the use of the CRISPR method for gene therapy and l use of stem cells for regenerative medicine) to be applied both on humans and on other animals. Its sub-branches are the “molecular biotechnologies” and the “cell biotechnologies”, identified with the same color;
– Green biotechnology or “agricultural or vegetable biotechnology”: it is the biotechnology sector that deals with agricultural processes. He dedicates himself to the development of GMO products, antioxidants, bioreactors and bioinsecticides and to the development of new cultivation techniques (such as for example micropropagation) and methods to improve fermentations;
– Yellow biotechnology or “food biotechnology”: it is the biotechnology sector that deals with studying foods, their composition and their properties, with particular interest in human and animal health. It also searches in them for the presence of contaminants and toxic substances and is dedicated to the study of aspects of their supply chain. Finally, it can target the production of particular foods, such as GM foods, functional, gluten-free, lactose-free and light (i.e. with a reduced content of saturated fatty acids). Green biotechnology and yellow biotechnology are often considered together as “agro-food biotechnology” and identified with the color green;
– White biotechnology or “industrial biotechnology”: it is the biotechnology sector that deals with processes of industrial interest. The main applications in this sector involve the use of enzymes in order to accelerate chemical reactions and improve their yield;
– Gray biotechnology or “environmental biotechnology”: it is the biotechnology sector that deals with the safeguarding and protection of the environment and biodiversity. It focuses on the detection, traceability and removal of pollutants, xenobiotes and harmful contaminants from the various ecosystem environments, on the bioremediation and recycling of waste, mainly using enzymes or using organisms such as bacteria, fungi or plants. He is also dedicated to the development of biofuels. Brown biotechnology or “soil biotechnology” is one of its sub-branches that deals with the reclamation of soil, in particular arid and desert ones, drawing on species that are highly resistant to these types of soil;
– Blue biotechnology or “marine biotechnology”: it is the biotechnology sector that deals with applying the knowledge and techniques of molecular biology to marine and freshwater organisms in order to develop useful goods and services for society;
– Gold biotechnology or “bioinformatic biotechnology and nanobiotechnology”: this is the sector concerning bioinformatics, a discipline aimed at creating databases to be used for the conservation and research of biological information for multiple purposes. This sector also includes nanotechnology, both related to biotechnology;
– Black / Dark biotechnology or “bioterrorist biotechnology”: this is the biotechnology sector linked to bioterrorism. Study the properties of microorganisms and substances to use them in the production of biological weapons or to neutralize their harmful effects;
– Violet biotechnology or “legal and ethical biotechnology”: this is the sector that focuses on the study of the legal, moral and ethical aspects that concern biotechnology;
– Orange biotechnology or “popular biotechnology”: it is the biotechnology sector that deals with spreading the knowledge, discoveries and notions of this discipline towards society and training in this sector.