By Faranak Bakhtiari

Marine biotechnology nascent, growing in Iran

February 18, 2022 - 17:31

TEHRAN – Marine biotechnology is one of the nascent scientific fields that are likely to grow, due to the country’s northern and southern coasts and also the high biodiversity in the Oman Sea and the Persian Gulf.

Biotechnology has been intertwined with life since the beginning of life on Earth. But it emerged as a scientific field at the end of the 19th century.

Marine biotechnology, also called Blue Biotechnology, uses resources from aquatic living organisms (fresh water and marine) to develop new commercially viable products or applications.

With the oceans covering 70 percent of the surface of the globe and hosting 99 percent of the biosphere, there is unprecedented biodiversity in the oceans. It is estimated that up to 1 million eukaryotic species, e.g., microalgae, seaweed, fungi, fish, invertebrates such as starfish, or mollusks, and also hundreds of millions of prokaryotes, such as bacteria, live in the oceans.

These organisms are used as biomass or even more importantly, to be utilized as producers of different end-products or substances, such as e.g., pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, nutraceuticals, agrochemicals. This sub-sector is very young and is currently being driven and developed through National and EU projects that support and encourage this vital research-intensive area.

Hoda Khaledi, Ph.D. in marine biotechnology, said that marine biotechnology is the use of aquatic organisms such as sea bacteria, algae, oysters, and fish to obtain new medicine and identify specific genes that produce valuable biological products.

“For example, we identify the active ingredient in a marine organism and measure its effect on bacteria or on the production of a substance required for human health or nutrition. Either we amplify a gene through transmitters such as some viruses and insert it into a living organism, or isolate that chemical or metabolite, to find out which component is effective,” she explained.

“Iranian biotechnologists can obtain a variety of biological materials from the sea, including diagnostic kits for diseases, pesticides, medicines, cosmetics, foods, and enzymes.

One of the advantages of this new science is related to the ancient life in the sea. We see biological processes in the body of marine organisms that are not similar to those on land, and on the other hand, the stable environmental conditions of the sea allow marine organisms to experience specific pathways for the production of metabolites in their bodies,” she said.

This field trains students up to the doctorate degrees, she concluded.


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