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Biotechnologists study biology, the science of living things, associated with technology. They research and develop the use of biology to solve problems in areas such as health, pharmaceutical and chemical industries, agriculture, food production and environmental protection.
Biotechnologists play a vital role in health care, as they are involved in the production of hormones, vaccines and antibodies.
For example, they use their knowledge of genetics and biochemistry to produce, from genetically modified bacteria, artificial insulin, a hormone deficient in people suffering from diabetes.
They can use their knowledge of genetics to identify and code the genome of a disease-causing organism in that organism, allowing them to identify and code a gene that creates particular disease actions, for example, by inserting DNA so that the gene does not produce the proteins needed to develop the disease.
Biotechnologists also study hereditary diseases and identify the genetic factors involved in their development. This allows them to more accurately predict the likelihood of a person developing pathologies, such as Huntington's disease or breast cancer.
Biotechnology is playing an increasingly important role in environmental protection, including waste management, recycling and pollution control. For example, biotechnologists can use microorganisms to decompose wastewater.
The use of microorganisms to break down certain types of industrial waste and to remove chemical pollutants is now becoming more widespread.
Biotechnologists are researching and developing biodegradable plastics and have developed bioethanol and biodiesel, fuels produced from certain cereal crops, which could reduce the use of fossil fuels.
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The daily work of a biotechnologist may vary according to the area of biotechnology in which they are engaged. However, they almost always work in the laboratory with equipment such as microsyringes, automated pipettes, centrifuges and electron microscopes, and under controlled environments (e.g. under sterile conditions, and specific temperatures and humidities), and are involved in the maintenance and storage of cells and tissues.
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