Innovations in Biotechnology and Medical Sciences

Aug, 28, 2018

A universal flu vaccine identified

Note4students

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: Flu virus, potential vaccine

Mains level: Incidence of flu, the reasons behind it and possible remedies


News

Potential vaccine for flu

  1. Scientists have identified a potential universal influenza vaccine that could protect people against most strains of the virus
  2. The candidate vaccine elicited a strong antibody response to a structure on the surface of flu viruses, called the hemagglutinin (HA) stalk
  3. It has the potential to be developed into a universal flu vaccine, which — unlike the current seasonal flu vaccines — could be given a few times over a lifetime to provide protection potentially similar to a tetanus vaccine

Current usage of vaccines

  1. Modern viral vaccines typically use lab-grown viral proteins to elicit an immune response that protects people against future exposures to a virus
  2. Seasonal flu vaccines provide temporary protection against the flu
  3. This is why they need to be updated every year
  4. On the whole, this approach has not worked well against influenza viruses
Jul, 14, 2018

[op-ed snap] The whole picture

Note4students

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: Hybrid pixel detector technology (Medipix3), Large Hadron Collider

Mains level: LHC experiment key findings and avenues that it has opened up for further research


Context

The next wave in medical imaging

  1. The hybrid pixel detector technology which the Large Hadron Collider used to track accelerated particles has been used to produce the first three-dimensional colour images of the human body
  2. A chip of the Medipix family developed by CERN, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, has been used to take colour see-through images of body parts which are a generation ahead of the currently available technology

Current technologies and their shortcomings

  1. The traditional radiological practices are complementary
  2. Techniques based on X-rays suffer from the deficit that they can sharply visualise only hard tissues
  3. The shadows of soft tissues are less precise
  4. Blood vessels and other conduits are imaged with invasive dyes
  5. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) provides a slightly different picture, based on the difference in water and fat content in tissues
  6. Positron emission tomography (PET) finds widest use in oncology

New Technology and its advantages

  1. The Medipix3 promises a single solution superior to its predecessors
  2. Using algorithms to model very accurate spectroscopic data in three dimensions, it shows all tissues with equal clarity, in colour
  3. In the case of a fracture, for instance, not only would it show physical damage to a bone — which is what an X-ray depicts — but it would also reveal trauma to surrounding tissue and reveal if blood and nerve supply is compromised
  4. Also, it would depict structures exactly as they are, and not all of us are built exactly the same
  5. In the near future, when medical care will be customised to the individual, this exactitude would make a difference to the efficacy of care
  6. If a complete image of a human were taken by a future iteration of this technology, it might even be possible to 3D print a lost limb or a malfunctioning organ
  7. Researchers have already used Medipix to image cancerous tissue, bones and joints and the blood supply to the heart
May, 09, 2018

Rajasthan institute comes up with new sheep insemination technique

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Germplasm

Mains level: Importance of the new technique


News

New insemination technique for sheep

  1. Scientists at the Central Sheep and Wool Research Institute (CSWRI), Avikanagar, have come up with a new laparascope-assisted insemination technique for sheep

Why important?

  1. The new technique has resolved the difficulties involved in freezing of semen and inability to transit the tortuous reproductive tract of the ruminant mammals kept as livestock
  2. The success with frozen semen in the sheep was earlier very low because of its poor freezability

How can the new technique help?

  1. The new technique would help achieve up to 60% survival in the birth of lambs and would have an immense potential for rapid multiplication of elite germplasm
  2. As many as 40 females can be inseminated from a single ejaculate using the technique
  3. The new technique’s invention would be of great help in the breed improvement programmes

Back2basics

Germplasm

  1. Germplasm are living genetic resources such as seeds or tissues that are maintained for the purpose of animal and plant breeding, preservation, and other research uses
  2. These resources may take the form of seed collections stored in seed banks, trees growing in nurseries, animal breeding lines maintained in animal breeding programs or gene banks, etc.
  3. Germplasm collections can range from collections of wild species to elite, domesticated breeding lines that have undergone extensive human selection
  4. Germplasm collection is important for the maintenance of biological diversity and food security
May, 02, 2018

IIT-Roorkee scientists develop app to monitor patients at risk of heart failure

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Name of the app and its working

Mains level: India has about 10 million patients at risk of heart failure. These kinds of innovations are very much needed.


News

Mobile app for monitoring Heart Failure

  1. IIT Roorkee have developed a mobile app that can remotely monitor patients at risk of heart failure and provide them with medical assistance
  2. Name of the app: ‘Dhadkan’ 

Particulars of the app

  1. It can automatically send notifications to both the doctor and the patient, in case of any drastic changes in patient’s data indicating possibility of imminent heart failure
  2. The mobile app has been designed to be ‘easy-to-use’ so that people in rural areas can also benefit
  3. The app also provides for two-way communication between doctors and patient
  4. In addition, patients have the freedom to send ECG reports to the doctor if needed

Working

  1. It collects patient’s data (at any desired interval) on blood pressure, heart rate, and weight, and transmits it to the authorized caregiver (a doctor, nurse or paramedic) who is linked to the patient during the initial registration
Mar, 31, 2018

Scientists report previously-unrecognised anatomical structure in the human body

Image source

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | developments & their applications & effects in everyday life

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Collagen, elastin

Mains level: Research in Medical sciences


News

Connective tissue proteins discovered

  1. Researchers have reported a previously unrecognised structure in the human body which may have implications in the mechanisms of major diseases
  2. The study reveals that layers below the skin’s surface, which were long thought to be dense, connective tissues are instead interconnected, fluid-filled compartments
  3. This series of spaces, supported by a meshwork of strong (collagen) and flexible (elastin) connective tissue proteins, may act like shock absorbers that keep tissues from tearing as organs, muscles, and vessels squeeze, pump, and pulse as part of daily function

How is this new find helpful?

  1. These anatomic structures may be important in cancer metastasis, oedema, fibrosis, and mechanical functioning of many or all tissues and organs
  2. This finding has potential to drive dramatic advances in medicine, including the possibility that the direct sampling of interstitial fluid may become a powerful diagnostic tool
Mar, 31, 2018

In Haryana, the making of an Indian brain template

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | developments & their applications & effects in everyday life

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Indian Brain Template (IBT), glutathione, Alzheimer’s disease, National Brain Research Centre (NBRC)

Mains level: New developments in medical sciences and their effects


News

Database of brain images

  1. A group of scientists is preparing a one-of-its-kind database of brain images that, when compiled together, could result in a so-called Indian Brain Template (IBT)
  2. The research is being carried out at National Brain Research Centre (NBRC)

Usefulness of IBT

  1. It will serve as a guide to neuroscientists and surgeons, who have so far based their knowledge of intricate brain anatomy on Caucasian models
  2. Scientists will be looking out for the quantity of a molecule called glutathione, an antioxidant known to help repair cell damage
  3. Reduced glutathione concentrations in the parietal cortical region — near the back of the brain near where the skull bulges — may help predict Alzheimer’s disease

Back2Basics

National Brain Research Centre (NBRC)

  1. The National Brain Research Centre is a neuroscience research group, situated in Haryana, India
  2. It is an Autonomous Government Institute accredited with the deemed university status and is a nodal centre under Department of Biotechnology of the Ministry of Science and Technology, Government of India
  3. The centre is dedicated to provide infrastructural facilities and a coordinated multidisciplinary team to work at the frontiers of neuroscience research and network the existing groups
  4. Research carried out at NBRC encompasses the breadth of neuroscience from Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience, Developmental Neuroscience, Systems and Cognitive Neuroscience to Computational Neuroscience and Brain Imaging
Mar, 13, 2018

Electricity from soil bacteria and reading lights from plants

Image source

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | developments & their applications & effects in everyday life

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Microbes, Plant microbial fuel cells, photochemistry, electrochemistry, luciferin, nanoparticles

Mains level: Alternative ways to generate electricity


News

Generating electricity from plants and microbes

  1. A group of researchers at the Wageningen University in the Netherlands has hit upon a method that generates electricity from living plants and the microbes
  2. These microbes live beneath plants in the soil, where the plants drop their roots

Plant microbial fuel cells

  1. The plant does photosynthesis, using sunlight, water, and atmospheric carbon dioxide, generating food in the form of carbohydrates and oxygen for our breathing
  2. The microbes in the soil use some of this organic material coming out of the plants into the ground, metabolize them and, in the process, generate carbon dioxide and hydrogen ions and electrons
  3. While the plant above the ground does photochemistry, the bacteria beneath do electrochemistry, generating positive and negative ions
  4. Scientists have placed positive and negative electrodes in appropriate positions and obtained an electric current, just as we do with batteries
  5. This method of producing electricity is through what is termed as plant microbial fuel cells (PMFC)

Advantages

  1. The method is completely natural and environment-friendly
  2. It needs no externally added material and is part of a cyclic process in nature

Making plants glow

  1. A firefly glows because it has an enzyme that converts a molecule called luciferin into oxyluciferin, and the energy released in this reaction comes out in the form of visible light
  2. The enzyme is called luciferase
  3. Plants do not have luciferin or luciferase
  4. If we can somehow inject into a plant luciferin and luciferase, perhaps the plant too will emit light
  5. The technology of nanoparticles is being experimented to do this

Back2Basics

Nanoparticles

  1. A nanoparticle (or nanopowder or nanocluster or nanocrystal) is a microscopic particle with at least one dimension less than 100 nm
  2. Nanoparticles are of great scientific interest as they are effectively a bridge between bulk materials and atomic or molecular structures
  3. Nanoparticles exhibit a number of special properties relative to bulk material
  4. Size-dependent properties are observed such as quantum confinement in semiconductor particles, surface plasmon resonance in some metal particles and superparamagnetism in magnetic materials
  5. The properties of materials change as their size approaches the nanoscale and as the percentage of atoms at the surface of a material becomes significant
  6. Nanoparticles have a very high surface area to volume ratio
  7. This provides a tremendous driving force for diffusion, especially at elevated temperatures
Feb, 19, 2018

[op-ed snap] Quest for innovation

Image Source

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | Science and Technology- developments and their applications and effects in everyday life Achievements of Indians in science & technology; indigenization of technology and developing new technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: Need to invent new innovative medications to counter rising cases of diabetes in India.


News

Level of diabetes in India

  1.  A large, nationally representative study of diabetes in India has found that more than 10% of Indians living in urban areas are affected with the disorder
  2. However, the more worrisome fact is that half the population living with diabetes has absolutely no knowledge of it

Drive to invent medication for Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes

  1. There is a relentless global drive to invent fresh, life-saving and life-improving treatments to counter diabetes
    India’s situation
  2. Our government has a long way to go in order to integrate world innovation with health policies and tackle an epidemic such as diabetes
  3. This is pertinent as the country’s productive segment of the population(its youth) is increasingly being exposed to non-communicable diseases (NCDs)
  4. Thus, without a proper policy to integrate global innovation into the India’s health-care realm, the nation’s development is in jeopardy

Effect of diabetes on people

  1. People living with diabetes, nearly every aspect of their life gets affected
  2. This includes special dietary concerns and the necessary lifestyle alterations, along with daily medicines and regular check-ups
    Right time to introduce innovations
  3. There is a huge opportunity to introduce new global innovations in our country and bring about a positive change in the lives of those with diabetes

Importance of the IPR policy

  1. Medical innovation and IPR also go hand in hand
  2. Health care is one of the few sectors that calls for ongoing investment and persistent research, innovation and development
  3. This is because delivering pioneering medicines to tackle the ever-increasing occurrence of new diseases, is central to health care and pharmaceuticals
  4. While there are numerous medicines under development for the disease, the clamour for a strong IPR in the country needs more intensity if we are to fortify our efforts to tackle diabetes
  5. Therefore, a robust world-class IPR policy is needed
Feb, 01, 2018

New nano technology to diagnose and treat cancer

Image source

Note4students

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: Details of new therapy, cyber-knife

Mains level: Advancements in biotechnology leading to treatment of previously untreatable diseases


News

Safer and cheaper diagnosis of cancer

  1. Under a project funded by the department of biotechnology, scientists have turned nano-particles of calcium phosphate into fully biodegradable radio frequency (RF) agents
  2. These can be imaged in MRI and CT scans
  3. Calcium phosphate is a biomineral naturally found in human bones

Present methods of treatment

  1. The most common treatment for cancer involves radiation and use of gamma rays to kill cancer cells
  2. This inflicts collateral damage as healthy cells also get destroyed along with cancer cells
  3. Radiation treatment with a cyber-knife is much more precise but very expensive

Advantage of Calcium phosphate

  1. Human body does not treat it as foreign material
  2. This leads to minimum toxicity and immune rejection compared to other engineered nanoparticles which are non-biodegradable
  3. It can be guided precisely to cancer tumors, which will enable their treatment under image guidance
Jan, 04, 2018

[op-ed snap] Towards a genomics revolution

Image source

Note4students

Mains Paper 3: Science & Technology | indigenization of technology & developing new technology

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: DNA, Gene editing, human genome project, CRISPR, GenomeAsia 100K Initiative, endogamy

Mains level: Using gene sequencing knowledge for tackling health issues in India


Context

Age of genomics-informed medicine

  1. The structure of the molecule — DNA — that stores our hereditary information and gets transmitted from parents to children over generations was deciphered in 1953
  2. The human genome has around 3 billion base pairs and in 1953 it wasn’t possible to imagine extracting genetic information on the molecular scale and of this collective size
  3. Technological advances in sequencing methods have made the possibility glimpsed 60 years ago a reality today

Sequencing Human genome

  1. By 2001 the human genome project showed that an entire genome could be sequenced
  2. There has been discovery of new gene-editing techniques, such as CRISPR

GenomeAsia 100K Initiative

  1. Based in Singapore, it plans to sequence 100,000 Asian genomes, including some from South Asia

Implications of these developments for India

  1. To gain fully from the genomics revolution, India needs to collect information about the genetics of its population and train manpower capable of interpreting it
  2. This would allow actual physical manifestations relevant to health, e.g. specific illnesses, to be related to features in the genome
  3. The information that is needed has to come from a large and sustained collection of data — fully sequenced individual genomes along with medical histories for the individuals who volunteer for this effort

Genetic diversity in India

  1. India is much more genetically diverse — with something like 5,000 ethnolinguistic and religious groups (castes and others)
  2. All of which probably have some degree of genetic distinctiveness
  3. The genetic distinctiveness of different Indian groups is in part the result of endogamy
  4. Endogamy is the practice of marrying within a specific social group, class or ethnic group, rejecting those from others as unsuitable for marriage or other close personal relationships.

Decreasing disease burden

  1. Such a survey of Indian genetic diversity will be an important asset
  2. This knowledge could be quickly applied to the task of managing diseases in genetically diverse groups
  3. There are likely to be many recessive diseases stemming from single genes specific to individual groups that can be identified
  4. The knowledge could be used for genetic counseling that could reduce their incidence in future generations
  5. It could be used to identify genetic risk factors related to common diseases (such as heart disease that stem from many genes) that affect the health of many more individuals

What then is to be done?

  1. The time is ripe for India to begin its own genomics revolution
  2. A coherent push is needed at the national level that involves government, academic institutions, the existing health-care industry, the IT industry and the nascent biotechnology industry
  3. This coherent push should aim to set an ambitious but realistic objective of creating an Indian genetic data bank
  4. Also, to promote academic programmes that train scientists, technicians, and doctors in this area
  5. And to create a regulatory framework that promotes broad objectives for both public and private sectors without being self-defeating

Back2Basics

Read all about genetic engineering in a detailed blog here

Nov, 24, 2017

Particle accelerator for art revs up

Image source

Note4students

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
Sep, 29, 2016

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
Sep, 05, 2016

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
May, 30, 2016

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
May, 30, 2016

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
May, 12, 2016

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
May, 12, 2016

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
Apr, 12, 2016

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
Mar, 23, 2016

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
Mar, 21, 2016

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
Mar, 03, 2016

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
Jan, 05, 2016

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.
Dec, 31, 2015

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.
Dec, 19, 2015

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.
Dec, 08, 2015

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.

Dec, 08, 2015

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.
Dec, 04, 2015

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.
Nov, 21, 2015

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.

Nov, 18, 2015

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.
Nov, 06, 2015

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.
Nov, 03, 2015

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.

Oct, 21, 2015

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.

Oct, 13, 2015

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.
Oct, 08, 2015

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.
Oct, 06, 2015

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.
Oct, 06, 2015

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.

Oct, 06, 2015

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.

 

Sep, 19, 2015

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.
Sep, 15, 2015

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.
Sep, 11, 2015

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.
Sep, 02, 2015

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?

Aug, 05, 2015

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.
Aug, 01, 2015

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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