CHARACTERISTICS OF MICROORGANISMS USED FOR BIOTECHNOLOGICAL PROCESSES

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As one of the world’s most research-intensive industry, biotechnology corporations are high-profit making enterprises that seek to increase their economic base while obtaining high returns from their investments. Research and development (R&D) spending in the biotechnology industries of most nations including the United States of America runs into billions of dollars. Recombinant human insulin for example was the first biotechnologically developed therapy for humans to receive approval by the Food and Drug administration (FDA) in 1982. This development led to the expansion of different biotech industry (that produces a wide array of human therapies and other non-therapeutic products) that produces similar products that help to sustain and improve mans living standard. Biotech industries across the globe have helped to create millions of jobs, and such corporations must be sustained through the use of improved strains of microorganisms that meet certain qualities which ensure improved industrial and commercial release of desired products into the market. It is noteworthy that virtually all biotech companies are profit-making ventures that capitalize on the ability of their raw materials (including microorganisms) to yield their desired products under the most minimal time and cost. Thus, microorganisms for biotechnological applications must meet certain criteria that qualify them to be used continuously to produce sustainable goods and services.

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The criteria are as follows:

  • The microorganisms should be resistant to attack by predators such as bacteriophages.
  • The microorganisms must lend itself to suitable method of product harvest at the end of the process.
  • The microorganisms must be stable to unwarranted mutations.
  • It should be able to grow vigorously and rapidly in the medium under use.
  • The microorganisms must be able to grow in simple growth medium without requiring extra growth factors.
  • It must not produce toxic products as end-products.
  • The microorganisms must have a stable physiological state and genome that is not easily changed due to environmental pressures.
  • The microorganism should be easily manipulated through molecular biology techniques geared towards strain improvement.

REASONS FOR USING MICROORGANISMS FOR BIOTECHNOLOGICAL PROCESSES

Several reasons abound why microorganisms are often the organisms of choice in many biotechnological processes. Some of these reasons are highlighted in this section.

  • Microorganisms have a high growth rate.
  • They have simple nutrient requirement which are easily accessible.
  • Microorganisms possess a wide variety of potentially useful metabolic pathways and biochemical processes that can be manipulated for improved industrial applications.
  • They have simple genetic systems that can be altered through genetic engineering techniques.
  • Their systems are simple and their regulatory processes have been well documented.
  • Microorganisms are very amenable to genetic manipulations.
  • They are cost-effective.
  • Microbes are easily sourced from the natural environment for industrial production.

Further reading

Cooper G.M and Hausman R.E (2004). The cell: A Molecular Approach. Third edition. ASM Press.

Das H.K (2010). Textbook of Biotechnology. Fourth edition. Wiley edition. Wiley India Pvt, Ltd, New Delhi, India.

Davis J.M (2002). Basic Cell Culture, A Practical Approach. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK. 

Mather J and Barnes D (1998). Animal cell culture methods, Methods in cell biology. 2rd eds, Academic press, San Diego.

Noguchi P (2003).  Risks and benefits of gene therapy.  N  Engl J Med, 348:193-194.

Sambrook, J., Russell, D.W. (2001). Molecular Cloning: a Laboratory Manual, 3rd edn. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, New York.

Tamarin Robert H (2002). Principles of Genetics. Seventh edition. Tata McGraw-Hill Publishing Co Ltd, Delhi.     

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