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Particle accelerator for art revs up

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Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Awareness in the fields of IT, Space, Computers, robotics, nano-technology, bio-technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: AGLAE particle accelerator, ancient forum of Bavay

Mains level: Use of technology in analysing art


News

World’s only particle accelerator dedicated to art

  1. The world’s only particle accelerator dedicated to art was switched on at the Louvre in Paris
  2. It will help experts analyse ancient and precious works

About the accelerator

  1. The 37-metre AGLAE accelerator housed underneath the huge Paris museum will be now be used for the first time to routinely study and help authenticate paintings and other items made from organic materials
  2. It can determine the chemical make-up of objects without the need to take samples
  3. The AGLAE works by speeding up helium and hydrogen nuclei to speeds of between 20,000 to 30,000 km per second and then bombarding the object, which emits radiation that can be captured and analysed

Objects being tested

  1. Among the first objects to be tested by the newly configured accelerator were Roman votive statues of the household gods
  2. They were uncovered from the ancient forum of Bavay close to the border with Belgium

World’s first three-parent baby born- II

  1. Technique: A controversial new fertility technique that incorporates DNA from three people
  2. It allows parents with rare genetic mutations to have healthy babies
  3. The process: An approach called spindle nuclear transfer was used
  4. The nucleus from one of the mother’s eggs is removed and inserted into a donor egg that has its own nucleus removed
  5. The resulting egg, with nuclear DNA from the mother and mitochondrial DNA from a donor, is then fertilised with the father’s sperm

Discuss: In what way Medical Biotechnology and Bio-engineering are useful for technological development of India? [Mains 2008]

World’s first three-parent baby born- I

  1. Where? Mexico
  2. The baby is reported to be healthy at five months of age
  3. The boy’s mother carries genes for Leigh syndrome, a fatal disorder that affects the brain, muscles and nerves of developing infants
  4. Genes for the disease reside in DNA in the mitochondria, which provide energy for our cells.
  5. Three of the 4 earlier children of the couple were born with the same disorder
  6. Thus they decided to take help of this technique

Indian scientists unlock preterm birth mystery

  1. News: Indian researchers have made a major discovery by understanding the mechanisms by which preterm births occur
  2. Preterm birth: Between 28 and 32 weeks of gestation
  3. At 35%, India accounts for the highest burden of preterm births in the world
  4. How it happens? Gram-positive Group B Streptococcus (GBS) bacteria produce small balloons called membrane vesicles
  5. These vesicles contain toxins that kill both foetal and maternal cells and destroy the collagen that binds the cells together
  6. GBS bacteria: Normally found in human vagina and their numbers can shoot up in some pregnant women
  7. These have been associated with premature rupture of amniotic membrane and preterm birth

First-of-its-kind multiple organ transplant in U.S.- II

  1. The experience may open the way to further procedures combining vascularised composite allotransplantation (VCA) with organ transplants
  2. This is done in patients who have already accepted the need for lifelong immunosuppressive therapy
  3. VCA: Transplant procedures combining different types of tissues, such as skin, muscle, blood vessels, nerves, and bone
  4. Examples: Face transplantation is the best-known type, also hand transplantation

First-of-its-kind multiple organ transplant in U.S.- I

  1. Context: In a first-of-its-kind procedure, doctors in the U.S. have successfully transplanted multiple organs in a 55-year-old patient
  2. Transplants: A composite skull and scalp flap, along with kidney and pancreas
  3. The patient was suffering from a non-healing scalp defect and declining organ kidney and pancreas function
  4. Drawback: The need for immunosuppressive drugs to prevent the recipient’s immune system from rejecting the transplant

Virtual heart tool to predict sudden cardiac death Risk- II

  1. Earlier: In such condition, doctor needed to implant small defibrillator to save life
  2. It is difficult to decide which patients truly need the invasive, costly electrical implant
  3. New VARP technology is better than old one
  4. Technique: Computer-Modelling and MRI scanner to built digital replica of organ
  5. Uses: Prevent sudden cardiac deaths, allow patients to avoid unnecessary defibrillator implantation

Virtual heart tool to predict sudden cardiac death Risk

  1. Context: A new technique which helps doctor to decide risk related to heart rhythm is developed by scientists
  2. It is a non-invasive, 3-D virtual assessment tool
  3. Helps doctor to determine whether a patient faces a risk of life-threatening arrhythmia
  4. Arrhythmia: It is a condition when heart rhythm is abnormal or irregular

Artificial comet decodes life’s origin on Earth

  1. News: Researchers have shown that ribose may have formed in ice on comets
  2. Significance: Ribose is a key step in understanding the origin of RNA and of life
  3. The genetic material of all living organisms on Earth, as well as of viruses, is made up of nucleic acids, DNA and RNA
  4. Ribose: It is a sugar that is one of the building blocks of genetic material in living organisms

Dept. of Biotechnology launches fund to tackle anti-microbial resistance

  1. News: The Dept. of Biotechnology to start an India-focussed seed fund to help groups in India to compete for UK’s Longitude Prize
  2. Agency: Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council
  3. Reason: To encourage biotechnology start-ups as well as tackle the threat faced by India from resistance to antimicrobial drugs
  4. Future: The National Biotechnology Development Strategy, laid down in Dec 2015, seeks to build a $100-billion industry by 2025
  5. The strategy expects to launch 4 missions in healthcare, food and nutrition, clean energy and education

Learn about BIRAC

  1. About: New industry-academia interface and implements its mandate through a wide range of impact initiatives
  2. Founded in: 2011
  3. Context: BIRAC was incorporated in 2012 as a Section 25, Not for Profit Company
  4. Objectives: Providing access to risk capital through targeted funding, Technology transfer
  5. Intellectual Property management and handholding schemes that help bring innovation excellence to the biotech firms and make them globally competitive

Dept. of Biotechnology launches fund to tackle anti-microbial resistance

China_vaccine_2782554f


  1. News: Department of Biotechnology (DBT) — through Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC) has invested an initial $1,00,000
  2. Why? To start an India-focussed seed fund to help groups in India compete for the Longitude Prize
  3. Longitude Prize: This is a £ 10 million prize offered by Nesta, a U.K. charity, to any individual group anywhere in the world
  4. That develops an affordable, effective diagnostic test to detect resistance to microbes

World’s first food grade DNA/RNA stain

  1. Context: Azooka Life Sciences has built the world’s first food-grade DNA/RNA stain
  2. Benefit: This might cut the time taken to diagnose conditions such as HIV to a day, from 45 days at present
  3. Azooka Life Sciences: A science start-up, incubated at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru
  4. Present method: Diagnostic labs need to culture bacteria in a blood test to identify disease & this can take from 3 to 45 days
  5. Once the bacteria is identified, doctors start the treatment with the right medication

What is canSAR database?

  1. The canSAR database is an important part of the overall drive to use Big Data approaches to understand and treat cancer more effectively.
  2. canSAR is an integrated knowledge-base that brings together multidisciplinary data across biology, chemistry, pharmacology, structural biology, cellular networks and clinical annotations.
  3. It applies machine learning approaches to provide drug-discovery useful predictions.

World’s largest database for cancer drug discovery goes 3D

The database has already collated billions of experimental measurements mapping the actions of one million drugs and chemicals on human proteins.

  1. Scientists have revolutionised the world’s largest database for cancer drug discovery.
  2. By adding 3D structures of faulty proteins and maps of cancer’s communication networks, paving the way for more effective treatments.
  3. The new version of canSAR database uses artificial intelligence to identify nooks and crannies on the surface of faulty cancer.
  4. It allows scientists to identify communication lines that can be intercepted within tumour cells, opening up potential new approaches for cancer treatment.
  5. The growing database now holds the 3D structures of almost three million cavities on the surface of nearly 110,000 molecules.

Centre counts on Big Data to grow biotech

The National Biotechnology Development Strategy, by 2020, expects to launch 4 missions in healthcare, food and nutrition, clean energy and education; create a technology development and translation network.

  1. By harnessing the power of Big Data and promoting the manufacturing of laboratory equipment.
  2. Department of Biotechnology (DBT) expects biotechnology to be at the foundation of a $100-billion industry by 2025.
  3. Two critical pieces of legislation championed by the DBT — the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India Bill and the Human DNA Forensic Bill — are yet to make it to Parliament.
  4. The BRAI Bill is hanging fire over doubts whether the body would be a disinterested arbitrator of genetically modified products.
  5. The DNA Bill over controversies it has caused about violating individual privacy.

Asian elephant has a gene known to inhibit cancer

The captive elephant from Bandipur National Park provided blood samples, which Indian scientists used to sequence the entire genome of the Asian elephant for the very first time.

  1. A closer look at genes revealed that like their African counterparts, elephants in subcontinent, too, have a particular gene known to inhibit cancer.
  2. Most mammals have only a single copy of this gene, making them more susceptible to cancer.
  3. Among the more interesting observations was that the Asian elephant’s smell was keener than that of the dog.
  4. There are over 4,000 olfactory receptors in the Asian elephant, double that of a dog which is considered to have the sharpest sense of smell.

Anti-cancer molecules ‘discovered’ by varsity in MP

In a major breakthrough in cancer treatment which is inspired by the all-time tested properties of turmeric.

  1. A state-run varsity in Bhopal claimed to have discovered anti-cancer molecules which will bring a revolution in fighting the dreaded disease in an effective manner.
  2. This molecule targets and destroys only cancerous cells and caused no damage to other vital cells of the body.
  3. The molecules code named CTR-17 and CTR-20 elicits anticancer activity through a mechanism which involves obstruction of cancer cell division by inhibition of tubulin.
  4. The molecules also showed strong synergistic effects in combination with paclitaxel (an anti-cancer drug in clinical use) on multidrug-resistant cells.

This is a significant discovery when cancer has become world’s dreaded killer disease accounting for 8.2 million deaths (around 13 per cent of all deaths) in 2012 as per the World Cancer Report.

World’s first biologically powered chip created

The advance has opened the door to creating new artificial systems that contain both biological and solid-state components.

Biologicallypoweredchip


  1. Researchers at Columbia Engineering have harnessed the molecular machinery of living systems to power an integrated circuit.
  2. They achieved by integrating a conventional solid-state complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS) integrated circuit with an artificial lipid bilayer membrane containing adenosine triphosphate (ATP)-powered ion pumps.
  3. In living systems, ATP is used to transport energy from where it is generated to where it is consumed in the cell.
  4. In combining a biological electronic device with CMOS, to create new systems not possible with either technology alone.

Detecting cancer with proton therapy

  1. The multi-national research team is working on the Proton Radiotherapy Verification and Dosimetry Applications project.
  2. An instrument that will produce the detailed 3-D images of a patient’s anatomy, using protons rather than x-rays.
  3. It will use the same high energy particles that are used to destroy a tumour during proton therapy treatment.
  4. As compared to x-rays, protons cause less damage to healthy tissue in front of the tumour greatly reducing the side effects of radiation therapy.
  5. Proton therapy is rapidly gaining momentum as a cancer treatment.

World’s deadliest superbugs

A new superbug gene called mcr-1 was found to be widespread in Enterobacteriaceae (a bacterial strain) taken from pigs and patients in south China

  1. Chinese researchers discovered a new superbug gene called mcr-1.
  2. That enables bacteria to be highly resistant to polymyxins, the last line of antibiotic defence the world has left.
  3. The researchers found strains with epidemic potential.
  4. The polymyxins were last class of antibiotics in which resistance was incapable of spreading from cell to cell.
  5. Until now, colistin resistance resulted from chromosomal mutations, making the resistance mechanism unstable and incapable of spreading to other bacteria.

Some of antibiotic resistant genes discovered over the years, MRSA and Penicillin Resistance, New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase-1 (NDM-1), MDR Salmonella Typhi.

Blood-based biopsy to improve cancer detection

A new blood-based biopsy that requires analysing a sample equivalent to one drop of blood can make cancer detection a lot simpler.

  1. Using this new method for blood-based RNA tests of blood platelets, researchers able to identify cancer with 96 per cent accuracy.
  2. It proves that blood-based biopsies have an immense potential to improve early detection of cancer.
  3. Blood platelets could constitute a complete and easily accessible blood-based source for sampling.
  4. Hence, it used in diagnosing cancer and in the choice of treatment method.

Scientists developed 3-D printing method to produce embryonic stem cells.

New method used extrusion-deposition based 3-D printing technology to produce a grid-like 3-D (three dimensional) cell structure to grow embryoid body.

  1. Scientists from China and US have developed a 3-D printing method to produce highly uniform ‘blocks’ of embryonic stem cells.
  2. This 3D printed embryoid body demonstrated cell viability and rapid self-renewal for 7 days by maintaining high pluripotency.
  3. Cells are capable of generating all cell types could be used as the ‘Lego bricks’ to build larger structures of tissues , tissue constructs and even micro-organs.
  4. Technique can be enhanced for providing the basic building blocks for tissue regeneration and for drug screening studies.

Indian scientists seek to prove genetic basis of Ayurvedic Prakriti

Study shows phenotypic classification by traditional Indian medicine has a genetic basis and ancient medicine in a way is personalized medicine

Previous efforts to link Prakriti classification with genetic information and variations have not made much way. Photo: Laxman


  1. Researchers conducted a genomewide Single Nucleotide Polymorphism (SNP), analysis on 262 men.
  2. A thorough assessment of normal individuals and put one million genetic markers to analyse and segregate on the basis of Prakriti.
  3. Vata, Pitta and Kapha are based on physical, psychological, physiological and behavioural traits.
  4. In Ayurveda, a person’s treatment is based on her Prakriti.
  5. A gene called PGM1 correlates with the phenotype of Pitta, as is described in the ancient Ayurvedic text of Charak Samhita.

Ayurgenomics is a nice marriage to use old knowledge and define it further using modern tools.

Researchers learn how to steer the heart with light

Using computer-generated light patterns, researchers were able to control the direction of spiralling electrical waves in heart cells.

  1. Researchers first time used light to precisely control electrical waves that regulate the rhythm of our heartbeat.
  2. Both cardiac cells in the heart and neurons in the brain communicate by electrical signals, and these messages of communication travel fast from cell to cell as ‘excitation waves’.
  3. For heart patients there are currently two options to keep these waves in check: electrical devices (pacemakers or defibrillators) or drugs (eg beta blockers).
  4. A protein called channelrhodopsin was delivered to heart cells using gene therapy techniques so that they could be controlled by light.
  5. Now models can compare to experiments with real cells, potentially improving our understanding of how the heart works.

Optogenetics uses genetic modification to alter cells so that they can be activated by light. Until now, it has mainly been used to activate individual cells or to trigger excitation waves in tissue.

Stem-cell therapy for foetuses to fight brittle-bone disease

Brittle-bone disease is genetic in origin and it is caused by a defect in a gene that produces collagen, a fibre-like protein crucial for strengthening bone.

  1. Foetuses burdened with a crippling form of brittle-bone disease will receive stem-cell treatment.
  2. Stem cells will be injected into the foetuses to help strengthen bones.
  3. Children with severe forms of the condition, called osteogenesis imperfecta, suffer repeated fractures throughout the skeleton, leading to painful disability.

Nobel Prize in Chemistry for DNA repair studies

 

Mapped how several of DNA repair systems function at a detailed molecular level.

  1. The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 2015 is awarded to Tomas Lindahl (UK) , Paul Modrich (USA) and Aziz Sancar (USA)
  2. Tomas Lindahl discovered a molecular machinery, base excision repair, which constantly counteracts the collapse of our DNA.
  3. Aziz Sancar has mapped nucleotide excision repair, the mechanism that cells use to repair UV damage to DNA.
  4. Paul Modrich has demonstrated how the cell corrects errors that occur when DNA is replicated during cell division.
NYT

Mao-era project helped Tu discover artemisinin

Ms Tu’s research involved finding an alternative cure for malaria as the standard chloroquine treatment was fast losing effectiveness to the parasites which developed a resistance

  1. Youyou Tu on became the 12th woman to receive the Nobel Prize for Medicine for her discovery of a novel treatment for Malaria.
  2. She started work in the 1960s, during China’s Cultural Revolution and zeroed in on a plant called Artemisia annua, commonly known as sweet wormwood.
  3. The effect of herb on fever was well established 1,700 years ago.
  4. Ms. Youyou Tu is the first one to elucidate and extract the biologically active component from the herb.
  5. Method still involves conventional culturing of the plant Artemisia annua, and the other involves a semisynthetic step (photoactivation and crytallisation) to get better concentration of the drug.

USFDA approves ‘breakthrough’ drug to fight lung cancer

US authorities approved a “breakthrough” drug to treat advanced non-small cell lung cancer, signalling a paradigm shift in the way the deadliest of all cancers is treated.

  1. The drug Keytruda (pembrolizumab) was tested on approximately 500 patients with non-small cell lung cancer.
  2. Keytruda, a drug that has proven to extend the lives of people with advanced melanoma, is an antibody that targets the protein PD-1, which is expressed by immune cells.
  3. When it binds to another protein called PD-L1, PD-1 acts as an immune checkpoint, dampening the immune system’s T cells which otherwise could attack cancer cells.

The Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) is a federal agency of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, one of the United States federal executive departments.

Nobel Prize for Medicine 2015

  1. Campbell and Ōmura win for their work on a therapy against roundworm.
  2. Shared the prize with Tu for her work on a therapy against malaria.
  3. Youyou Tu discovered one of the most effective treatments for malaria while working on a secret military project during China’s Cultural Revolution.
  4. The Nobel award for medicine is given to persons whose discoveries have significantly enhanced the understanding of life or the practice of medicine.

 

How genetically modified mosquitoes fight dengue

India is the worst in the world in terms of dengue cases. This mosquito (Aedes aegypti) is by far the most prevalent in India.

  1. Oxitec Ltd, a UK-based biotechnology firm, has been working with India’s privately held health and agriculture firm GBIT since 2011 on a UK-India funded project, ‘Sustainable Dengue Prevention’, under the India-UK Collaborative Industrial Research and Development Programme.
  2. The biotechnology evaluated by these two companies now awaits the approval of the genetic engineering approval committee (GEAC) under the ministry of environment, forest and climate change.
  3. Situation is getting worse because insects are becoming resistant to chemicals. But also, the species is very invasive.

Indian scientists decode Tulsi plant genome

  1. The plant synthesises a wide range of bioactive compounds, known for anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-pyretic and anti-cancer properties.
  2. Entire genetic make-up of Tulsi deciphered,a herb widely used for therapeutic purposes.
  3. These compounds are metabolites,used for plant self-defence.
  4. These metabolites are very poorly understood because of lack of genomic information.
  5. “The sequence reveals the interesting pathways used by Tulsi to make ursolic acid, a medically important compound.

First effective dengue drug soon

  1. Discovered dengue virus NS1 protein acts as a toxin in the body.
  2. The WHO ranks it as the most important mosquito-borne viral disease in the world.
  3. Dengue causes a debilitating fever,progresses to potentially fatal dengue hemorrhagic fever and dengue shock syndrome.

Researchers one step closer to cracking Alzheimer’s puzzle

  1. Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive form of dementia that is characterised by loss of short-term memory, deterioration in behaviour and intellectual performance.
  2. It may occur in middle age or in old age.
  3. Scientists have caught a glimpse of the molecule during its attempt to enter a cell membrane, using a new method involving laser light and fat-coated silver nanoparticles.
  4. It is a rare protein and is difficult to probe.
  5. It was slightly fortuitous that we found it, using a modified version of Raman Spectroscopy.
  6. Usually the signal from this is weak, but we mimicked the cell’s outer layer by encasing silver nanoparticles in a fat membrane.

What is Raman Spectroscopy?

Victory over Ebola


 

  1. The research communities eagerness to find a safe and efficacious vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus has borne fruit.
  2. WHO sponsored vaccine has shown 100% efficacy after 10 days of vaccination.
  3. The clinical trial used “Ring methodology” to provide vaccination to high risk population.
  4. The ebola virus killed many, devastated economies and caused the health-care systems to collapse in the 3 countries.

Vaccine developed to fight Ebola

  1. The vaccine has been developed by the Public Health Agency of Canada and the trials were conducted in Guinea which showed 100% efficacy.
  2. A dummy virus (vesicular stomatitis virus, or VSV) was designed with diluted elements of Ebola.
  3. This risk-free virus when injected into the human body alarms the immune system, which kills the VSV as well as the deadly ebola virus.


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