Biotechnology is assigned with different colors denoting its different areas. The colors include red, yellow, blue, green, brown, dark, purple, white, gold and grey, each resembling a particular area of biotech activities. The color blue in biotechnology is assigned to aquaculture, coastal and marine biotech. This area of biotechnology exploits the diversity found in marine environments including the form, structure, physiology, and chemistry of marine animals. Blue biotechnology is more of a field that makes use of marine bioresources as the source of biological applications.
Blue biotechnology, in more specific terms, is the application of molecular biological methods to marine and freshwater organisms. Blue biotechnology is thus associated with applications such as preservation of a variety of marine species, restoring the aquatic wildlife to its original state of habitat, use of marine species to develop new medicines genetic study of plants to engineer other plants to become resistant to environmental extremes, et cetera.
The Applications of Blue Biotechnology
Here are various applications of the field of blue biotechnology.
One of the most conspicuous applications of marine biotechnology is securing food supply. It is essential to satisfy the growing demand for high quality and healthy products from fisheries and aquaculture in a sustainable way. Marine-derived food products and nutraceuticals are an integral part of human nutrition in many parts of the world. For instance, the omega-3 fatty acids derived from fish oil, marine algae and phytoplankton plays an important role in human diet and human physiology. Other nutraceuticals developed from marine environment are bioactive peptides, fish proteins, seaweeds, macroalgae, microalgae, amino acids and phytochemicals, chitin, chitosan, etc.
Alternative Energy Source
Another key application of marine biotechnology is ensuring the alternative sources of energy since the marine environment is a sustainable source of bioenergy. Production of biofuel from microalgae is quite promising. Algal biomass can be grown in artificial ponds or in bioreactors without competing with agricultural crops. This is an extensive field of research in today’s world. Studies have suggested that seaweeds could be suitable feedstocks for biorefineries.
Human and Environmental Health
Marine biotechnology is also securing human health and environmental health. There have been numerous development of novel drugs, painkillers, antibiotics, anticancer drugs and cosmetics from marine bioresources. They are derived directly or indirectly from marine flora and fauna. On the other hand, there’s emerging development of biotechnological approaches, mechanisms, and applications to address key environmental issues such as marine-derived antifouling strategies, marine habitat restoration, bioremediation of marine ecosystem and the use of high-resolution biosensing techniques to monitor the in situ marine environments.
Furthermore, industrial sectors are the largest beneficiaries of marine biotechnology since every product consumed by humans come from industrial biotech sector be it food, nutraceuticals or medicines, and pharmaceuticals. Proteins, enzymes, biopolymers, bio-adhesives, and biomaterials are produced in large scale from marine ecosystem. Notable examples of marine biotechnology products are Green Fluorescent Protein from jellyfish and luciferase enzyme from Vibrio fischeri, both being used in molecular biology as reporter proteins. Similarly, Shrimp alkaline phosphatase and other marine-derived enzymes with heat liable properties are used in various molecular applications such as PCR.
A transgenic fish is a genetically modified fish whose DNA has been altered using genetic engineering techniques. Gene delivery to marine animals is one of the most significant applications of marine biotechnology. The basic purpose of transgenesis in fish is to enhance their quality, growth, resistance, and productivity. They are kept as pets or in aqua-farming for food production by modifying the expression of growth hormone. They are also developed as indicators of environmental pollutants in an aquatic habitat. Genetically modified fish are used in scientific research and studies concerning various purposes like enhancing the traits of commercially available fish to produce important proteins, developing non-mammalian animal models and for functional genomics studies. AquAdvantage salmon is an example of US FDA approved GM animal for human consumption. Other common examples of GM fish are Atlantic salmon, tilapia, common carp, rainbow trout, mud loach etc. However, many controversies have come up regarding ethical concerns, ecological concerns and economic concerns given that GM techniques and GM organisms submit to Intellectual Property law.
Over 70 percent of Earth’s surface area is covered by the ocean, thus making the aquatic ecosystem much larger in terms of the biosphere (over 90 percent). However, a large part of coastal waters is turning unfit to sustain life forms because of human activities and pollutants. Thus, blue biotechnology is much on the rise to protect and revive the natural marine ecosystem. The richness of marine biodiversity and genetic diversity have provided with potential biotechnological applications related to bioprospecting, drug discovery, environmental remediation, increasing seafood supply and safety, and developing new resources and industrial process. Blue economy is largely enhanced by blue biotechnology since exploitation and preservation of the marine ecosystem is primarily in the hands of biotechnology. Thus, blue biotechnology is increasingly seen as a technical and commercially realistic direction of development.