What Is Blue Biotechnology? - Applications & Examples

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Elizabeth Friedl

Elizabeth, a Licensed Massage Therapist, has a Master's in Zoology from North Carolina State, one in GIS from Florida State University, and a Bachelor's in Biology from Eastern Michigan University. She has taught college level Physical Science and Biology.

Blue biotechnology is the use of biological methods and technology on aquatic organisms to gain knowledge or benefits. Explore examples of blue biotechnology applications on humans, animals, and the environment. Updated: 01/19/2022

Blue Biotechnology

You may not realize it, but many of the products and services that you use on a daily basis are the result of biotechnology. Simply put, this is biology-based technology. Things like plastics, food and beverages, fabrics, medicines, and even personal care products are derived from or use living organisms. Blue biotechnology is biotechnology using aquatic organisms—think ''blue'' for the water that these organisms live in. We already utilize many aquatic resources such as fish, shellfish, sponges, and petroleum reserves. But blue biotechnology goes beyond this, utilizing an incredible variety of organisms from Earth's oceans, lakes, rivers, and streams for many different purposes.

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  • 0:04 Blue Biotechnology
  • 0:54 Human Applications
  • 3:37 Other Applications
  • 4:37 Lesson Summary
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Human Applications

The applications of blue biotechnology are not new; we were extracting substances from sponges decades ago that have been used in things such as treatment for the AIDS virus. Cod liver oil has been used as a supplement since the 19th century. However, blue biotechnology feels like a modern field because it's flexible, adaptive, and constantly moving forward. Let's take a look at some examples of how blue biotechnology has been used more recently for the benefit of humans.

1. Targeted Pain Relief

Many painkillers that are commonly prescribed have the unfortunate side effect of drowsiness. They also tend to slow down your body in general, such as your respiration. A substance called ziconotide, which comes from the venom of cone snails, may prove to be a better alternative.

Ziconotide works as a painkiller that, when injected directly into your spinal cord, is both far more powerful than morphine and also only acts in specific regions of the spinal cord. This means that unlike other painkillers, it doesn't affect your entire nervous system and doesn't cause drowsiness. And like many other blue biotechnologies, ziconotide can also be created synthetically.

2. Algae

In addition to medical products, blue biotechnology can also be used for cosmetic products. Take for example a company that makes cosmetics from algae known as sugar kelp. They grow, harvest, and ferment the algae, extracting a variety of things such as minerals, sugars, and iodine, and create products, including perfumes and facial and body care products.

Algae has a variety of other applications as well. It's a food source for both people and fish. It's used in antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal treatments. It's a source of biofuel, and it's even being researched as a possible contraceptive.

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