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The major Kenyan problems of interest to scientist are Poverty, HIV/AIDS and other diseases, Agriculture, Pollution, Health care, manufacturing /industrialization and crimes among others of political nature. Biotechnology involves the variety of techniques that involve the use and manipulation of living organism to make commercial products, while underlying these commercial manipulation of life are the powerful genomics technologies (gene mapping) that enable companies to quickly read, store, and go digital.
More than half the population in Kenya depends on Agriculture or farming for survival and for at least two meals a day. A disturbing fact is that 50 percent of hungry people are farming families. This is either by use of poor farming method and skills, poor variety of seeds or climatic changes pest and diseases among other. As a scientist this must be the fore front area to tackle in the following ways. Hunger / poverty and malnutrition the leading problem.
First and foremost is to improve crop variety traits in order to cope with harsh conditions of pest, diseases and improving quality. Bt-technology is where a small amount of genetic material from other organism through molecular technique is used. In this case a donor may be a bacterium, fungus or even another plant. The process begins by isolation of Bt- genetic material, insert gene into DNA carrier, vector carrier into the plasmid, plasmid inserts DNA into the plant of importance. Which is easily grown with resistance to pest. Maize the major staple food in Kenya can be improved by use of Bt-gene from naturally occurring soil bacterium, Bacillus thuringensis. The gene of interest produces a protein (Bt delta endotoxin) that kills Lepidoptera larvae, (European borer). Genomic helps in sequencing the organism’s gene make ups while biotechnology makes the whole package available to the farmers for commercial purposes.
Second most staple food in Kenya is rice. Rice can be genetically engineered to increase micronutrients such as Vitamin A, Iron, Zinc specifically to cope with ever increasing deficiency of pregnant mothers, nursing mothers and children. Bt-rice has accelerated photosynthesis, resist pests, increase grain size, tolerate herbicides, generate nutrients, and generate human proteins.
Third most staple food in Kenya is potatoes. Bt- gene potato is a genetically engineered potato that has a Bt gene protein added to produce insecticide against Colorado potatoes beetle (CPB). The CPB (Leptinotarsa decemlineata) is a major/notorious potato pest, it has ability to rapidly develop resistance to insecticides. It also feeds on eggplant, tomato, pepper and other plant in the nightshade family (solanaceae). Bt- tomatoes has an organic insecticide that uses the natural pathogenic bacteria, to kill insects before they are big enough to eat your plants. The insect first will consume it and the Bt cells germinate inside the insect or caterpillar causing death within a few days. The pest falls down causing no harm to the environment. Bt-cotton is a genetically enhanced with Bacillus thurigensis a beneficial bacteria that protect it against caterpillars pest, especially African bollworm which is the most destructive pest in cotton crop. This will increase the Kenya potential to produce estimated 260, 000 bales of cotton compared to current 28, 000. This will translate to raw material for local textile industry. Animal improvement and animal for food.
Biotechnology in animal provides new tool for improving human health, animal health as well as increasing livestock productivity. Biotechnology will improve the food we eat e. g. Meat, milk, and egg. And biotechnology will enhance environmental conservation as well. The animal includes, Livestock, poultry, fish and insects. Animal genomics characterizes the complete genetic make-up of an animal. To understand the basis for disease resistance, disease susceptibility, weight gain and determination of nutritional value we must understand the genome of animals.
In order to get benefit of genomes and biotechnology in animals we make transgenic animals. Transgenic animal has genetic material from another species added to its DNA. This technique allows scientist to precisely transfer beneficial genes from one species to another. In addition biotech animals produce therapeutic proteins in their milk and eggs, as well as produce human compatible transplant organs, tissue and cells that can be vital to enhancing human health. Farmers can now improve livestock herds breeding resulting in healthier herds and treatment practices that can prevent and treat disease. Biotech produces new vaccines, diagnostic tests while reducing food borne pathogens at the firm level.
Many species of flora and fauna are endangered. Conservation is limited due to lack of authentic information concerning genetic diversity. This causes long term effect on the security of plant and animal species. Today’s advancement in genomics has proved to play a role in conservation of plant and animal diversity. Genomics is understanding the genetic structure and composition of plant and animals in their habitat, it also allows collection of extensive information of phenotypic and ecological data from many species in numerous populations. The data help researchers to know the interaction between ecosystem and organism and among organisms. The information then extracted from the data base is used to develop methods for biodiversity conservations. Genetic studies will help to understand endangered animals and also increases diversity, leading to more understanding and healthier population of species.
The world from 20th century has been experiencing problems of environmental pollution, In 21st century these problems are escalating. These are rapidly brought about by industrial growth which has led to elevated discharges of toxic chemicals and nutrient in water bodies. Industries such as textiles, mining, tanneries, pesticides, ore refineries, petrochemicals, and paper manufacturing. These greatly contribute to soil, sediment, air and water pollution. Most of these chemicals are biodegradable and therefore tend to accumulate in tissues and bioaccumulation in the food chain, resulting in health problems, contaminating aquatic waters and the air we breathe.
Many indigenous microbes cannot degrade certain type’s chemicals that are highly and toxic. Radioactive compounds kill microbes thus preventing biodegradation Applying genetic engineering microbial strain will enable scientist to create genetic microbes that are capable of improving bioremediation process. The process uses microorganism or their enzyme to promote degradation and/or removal of contaminants from the environment. In other words it’s the use of microbial metabolic pathways. It provides economic and safe alternative compared to other physiochemical methods.
In this 21st century, Kenya is advancing in health sector, but still serious public health concerns remains unattended. The health prioritized in Kenya are Maternal and child health, as well as communicable diseases like malarial and Tuberculosis. Mothers and children are safe and healthier to improvement in delivery procedures. Despite good report on HIV/AID reduction, and maternal deaths, infectious diseases and non- communicable diseases e. g. cancer are rising in Kenya.
Developing countries in general have been left behind in the development of new technologies. Molecular diagnosis is a most promising biotechnology tool for infectious diseases. It is a test used to analyze biological markers in the individual genetic code, generally involves manipulation and analysis of DNA, RNA, protein, and Lipids. It provides rapid less cumbersome and less costly for diagnostic of infectious pathogen-associated molecule. Recombinant vaccine is a broad category vaccine made via DNA manipulation. Where DNA encoding antigen (bacteria surface protein) is inserted in mammalian cell that stimulates an immune response. Engineering malarial resistance in mosquitoes is genetically modifying the parasite (Anopheles) mosquitoes that causes malaria and mating with wild type mosquitoes. The parasite is genetically modified to immune boost activity in their midgut while suppressing malarial causing plasmodium which will transfer the resistance to offspring’s. The success of the strategy will help reduce disease transmission to Humans and reduce the deaths.
Personalization of medicine is another approach to detect manage and cure non communicable diseases that are caused by genetic or lifestyle factors. The four are cardiovascular diseases, cancers, diabetes and chronic respiratory diseases. Personalization of medicine is about making treatment as individual as the disease, it gives the ability to predict an individual’s susceptibility to disease. Individuals may vary from what they eat, exposure to environment, type and amount of stress and their DNA. Therefore this entails identifying genetic information of individual, which allows the predictions to be made about a person’s susceptibility of developing diseases, its response to treatment and course of disease. It also assists in studying why some drugs works well in one individual and not another. Biotechnology and genomics in solving social crimes.
If and only if Kenya would develop a National DNA data base more crimes would be solved. DNA data base is a data base of DNA profiles which can be used in the genetic disease, genetic finger printing and criminology. This is so because our DNA is found in the environment starting from pen we use, through skin cells, hair and saliva. The crimes are on the rise where the culprit go loose. Establishing the Forensic department will solve crimes by using all available information about, and evidence from, a crime scene. The information is then used by police and prosecutors to bring a criminal to justice. A number of situations can be solved including perpetrators of violent crimes such as murder and sexual assault, and identifications of remains of missing persons or victims of mass disasters. Crimes will automatically go down. Maternal and paternal testing for relatedness of lineage is also a DNA typing method that use Autosomal, mitochondrial or Y chromosomal DNA marker. It can also solve family relationships and Forensic cases that might have otherwise be left unsolved.
Manufacturing and industrialization. Industrial biotechnology are processes aimed to reduce cost of production create new markets, while protecting the environment. Biotechnology if applied to industrialization processes transforms how we process products and gives us new products all all together that are difficult to imagine about. Biotechnology companies produces enzymes that removes stains from clothing better than phosphates replacing the polluting phosphate material. Microbial yeast to fermenting grapes to make beer, fermentation of cheese, yoghurt. Other enzymes like meat tenderizers, and other which act like biocatalysts for speeding up complex biochemical reactions.
Industrial biotechnology uses many specialized technique to find natures enzymes. The information earlier studied from genomics studies on microorganisms help researchers to extensively capitalize on the wealth of genetic diversity in microbial world. The process involves first finding the microorganism in its natural habitat, and then DNA probe is used to search molecular level for genes that produces enzymes with specific biocatalysts. Then the isolation and identification of each enzyme superiority and use in industrial processes is researched. Newer finding currently is the use of whole-cell processes with advantages of introducing multiple enzymes to a single step, while cost on extraction and purification of enzymes are not required, and enzymes are more stable.
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