Marine biotechnology is a term that has been creating quite a buzz in the research industry over the past decades. Essentially, marine biotechnology is an emerging area that enables the valorisation of new processes and products with enormous potential for marine innovation and economic growth. While considered by many to be a complex and challenging field of research, marine biotechnology has the prospect of very innovative and interesting discoveries, such as food additives, cosmetics, and antibiotics. To learn more about this emerging field that has been fascinating to numerous researchers in recent years, read on as this article explores what exactly marine biotechnology is and its different applications.
What Exactly is Marine Biotechnology?
Marine biotechnology, which is also sometimes called “blue biotechnology,” essentially refers to the exploitation of the diversity found in marine environments, specifically in terms of the physiology, chemistry, structure, and form of marine organisms, most of which do not have equivalent on land, in ways which allow new materials to be realised. To put it simply, marine biotechnology is the process of creating processes and products from marine organisms through the application of cell and molecular biology, bioinformatics, and biotechnology.
So far, the field of marine biotechnology has already dealt with ocean exploration for the development of essential products, such as new pharmaceutical drugs, enzymes, and chemical products. It has also been dealing with the advancement of seafood and aquaculture safety, biofuels, and bioremediation, among others. Indeed, marine biotechnology has numerous potential applications that make it a promising field of research for today’s generation as well as the generations to come.
The Different Applications of Marine Biotechnology
As mentioned earlier, marine biotechnology is currently poised as a promising field of research with various applications across numerous industries. It is recognised by many policymakers and the business sector as offering important possibilities to fill market gaps for new processes and products. Among the different industries that are benefiting from the potential of marine biotechnology today are the aquaculture and fishery, biomedical, pharmaceutical, plastics and bioplastics, and alternative energy sources sectors.
- Aquaculture and Fishery: Aquaculture and marine biotechnology are two terms that now seem to be interrelated with each other. Marine biotechnology basically has the potential to provide solutions to several problem areas in the aquaculture sector, including fish reproduction, nutrition, health management, and growth promotion. Among the essential connections between aquaculture and marine biotechnology are the production of uniparental, mono sex, and polyploid populations, the use of synthetic hormones in induced breeding, and the development of natural products from marine organisms.
- Biomedical: The emergence of jellyfish collagen is one of the crucial contributions of marine biotechnology to the biomedical sector. This type of collagen is increasingly becoming a significant alternative in different industries because of the safety concerns associated with the use of mammalian-derived collagen. An essential application of jellyfish collagen nowadays is its utilisation as a matrix of cell cultures to replicate human diseases.
- Pharmaceutical: Like the biomedical sector, the pharmaceutical industry is also currently benefitting from the application of marine biotechnology. For instance, based on a study conducted by Dawrin Pech-Puch et al., marine organisms, such as ascidians and sponges, collected in the Yucatan peninsula demonstrate antiviral activity against human adenovirus in nearly 17% of the antitumor activity and extracts against tumour cell lines in about 37% of extracts. In another study done by Han Zhang et. al., on the other hand, the analgesic potential of novel conopeptides taken from Conus quercinus, a carnivorous cone snail, was shown.
- Plastics and Bioplastics: Marine pollution that results from the irresponsible disposal of plastics is becoming an increasing environmental and societal concern. As such, more and more researchers have been finding ways to biodegrade microplastics with the aid of marine biotechnology, among others. So far, among the most effective methods they have come up with to achieve this objective is the use of marine Actinobacteria, marine fungi, and jellyfish mucus, which provides a breakthrough bioremediation potential for microplastics.
- Alternative Energy Sources: One of the best marine biotechnology applications has something to do with the development of alternative energy sources. One such source is bioethanol, which is currently becoming a significant renewable energy source that can eventually replace fuel. So far, marine biotechnology research studies have found that seaweed biomass has a promising potential for efficient bioethanol generation.
Marine Biotechnology in Ocean Conservation
Marine biotechnology applications are essentially diverse and numerous, as evidenced by the fact that it is currently utilised across different industries, such as the aquaculture, biomedical, pharmaceutical, bioplastics, and alternative energy sources sectors. However, the most significant application of marine biotechnology these days is arguably in the area of ocean conservation. Particularly, the potentials of marine biotechnology have been increasingly maximised for the enhancement of marine ecosystem conservation.
So far, marine biotechnology research has already contributed to the design and development of marine ecosystem adaptation approaches, specifically in conservation planning, through ecosystem monitoring and bioremediation. One important example is the development of bionic corrals with the aid of CRISPR (“Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats”) gene editing technology. Samples from marine organisms used in marine biotechnology research, specifically in genomics studies, are also essential information sources for sequence analyses, especially for endangered and critically endangered species.
In 2019, a conservation non-profit group called Revive & Restore also discovered that a new series of interventions can cultivate a healthier ocean for the future with the help of marine biotechnology. Some of these intervention approaches are detailed in a 168-page report they presented during the 2019 Breakthrough Dialogue, which is basically a culmination of long months of research with more than 100 experts in genomics, ocean ecology, and biotechnology.
The said report describes how biotech and genomic innovations – including biobanking, genomic sequencing, genetic engineering, and advanced reproductive technologies – can tackle some of the biggest threats to the world’s oceans, from overfishing and coral bleaching to island biodiversity and invasives, all the while supplementing traditional remediation and conservation strategies. Ultimately, while ocean biotechnology is still at its developmental stage at present, it already poses promising alternative solutions to the problems threatening to degrade the world’s oceans.
There is no question as to the potential of marine biotechnology in helping to resolve a number of problems across various industries, including ocean conservation. With the initiative of groups like Revive & Restore, the use of ocean biotechnology in conservation is becoming increasingly known and slowly growing in acceptance among environmental groups, conservation scientists, and policymakers. With the steady development of these kinds of initiatives, it is reasonable to expect marine biotechnology to eventually dominate the field of ocean conservation the way it currently does in the areas of aquaculture, biomedical, pharmaceutical, bioplastics, and alternative energy sources.
About Maritime Fairtrade
Maritime Fairtrade is a reputable, independent online news platform that seeks to provide the public with the most recent and relevant news about the Asian maritime trade. We take pride in delivering the most complete, comprehensive, and truthful updates on regulatory changes as well as insightful analyses of the new trends within the maritime industry. Feel free to explore our maritime guide in Singapore to remain updated about the latest occurrences in the shipping sector. Aside from this, our website also provides a wealth of information on different aspects of the industry, including reliable suggestions for the best shipping courses in Singapore.