India's Chandrayaan-1 data helps map water on Moon
Scientists, using data from an instrument which flew aboard India's Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft, have created the first map of water trapped in the uppermost layer of the Moon's soil, which may prove useful to future lunar explorers. The study, published in the journal Science Advances, builds on the initial discovery in 2009 of water and a related ion - hydroxyl, which consists of one atom each of hydrogen and oxygen - in the lunar soil.
Scientists from Brown University in the US used a new calibration of data taken from NASA's Moon Mineralogy Mapper, which flew aboard Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft in 2008, to quantify how much water is present on a global scale. " The signature of water is present nearly everywhere on the lunar surface, not limited to the polar regions as previously reported," said Shuai Li, former PhD student at Brown University.
" The amount of water increases toward the poles and does not show significant difference among distinct compositional terrains," said Li, who is now a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Hawaii. The water concentration reaches a maximum average of around 500 to 750 parts per million in the higher latitudes. That is less than what is found in the sands of Earth's driest deserts, researchers said.
" This is a roadmap to where water exists on the surface of the Moon," said Ralph Milliken, an associate professor at Brown.
" Now that we have these quantitative maps showing where the water is and in what amounts, we can start thinking about whether or not it could be worthwhile to extract, either as drinking water for astronauts or to produce fuel," said Milliken.
The researchers said that the way the water is distributed across the Moon gives clues about its source. The distribution is largely uniform rather than splotchy, with concentrations gradually decreasing toward the equator. That pattern is consistent with implantation via solar wind - the constant bombardment of protons from the Sun, which can form hydroxyl and molecular water once emplaced.
Although the bulk of the water mapped in this study could be attributed to solar wind, there were exceptions. For example, the researchers found higher-than-average concentrations of water in lunar volcanic deposits near the Moon's equator, where background water in the soil is scarce. Rather than coming from solar wind, the water in those localised deposits likely comes from deep within the Moon's mantle and erupted to the surface in lunar magma.
The study also found that the concentration of water changes over the course of the lunar day at latitudes lower than 60 degrees, going from wetter in the early morning and evening to nearly bone dry around lunar noon. The fluctuation can be as much as 200 parts per million. " This raises the possibility that water may re-accumulate after extraction, but we need to better understand the physics of why and how this happens to understand the timescale over which water may be renewed," said Milliken.
Mumbai team discovers how embryos implant in the womb
The insight can be used for improving the success rate of in vitro fertilisation (IVF) and in developing contraceptives
Researchers at the National Institute for Research in Reproductive Health (NIRRH) in Mumbai have finally shed light on one of the most important steps in pregnancy - the ability of the embryo to implant itself in the womb.
Although much is known about the early steps of establishment of pregnancy, very little is known about the communication between the implanting embryo and mother's womb. The researchers have found a cross-talk between the embryo and the inner lining of the uterus (endometrium) and discovered a chain of chemical events that facilitate the implantation of the embryo in the womb.
The understanding of this initial step has several potential implications such as improving the success rate of in vitro fertilisation (IVF), which hovers around 30% and developing contraceptives which work by preventing the implantation of the embryo. In all probability, the insight into the implanting mechanism might help in better understanding of conditions such as pre-eclampsia (gestational hypertension). The results of the study were published in the journal Endocrinology.
In vitro studies
Even in normal situations, there is about 40% wastage of embryos as they fail to implant, leading to unsuccessful pregnancy. That is because a delicate and intricate balance exists between the embryo which is able to implant itself and the endometrium that receives it. At present very little of this process is understood.
Using cell lines of trophoblast (the outer layer of the dividing bunch of cells of blastocyst) and endometrium (the inner lining of the uterus) samples from women who have undergone hysterectomy the researchers recreated the system in a lab dish. Chemicals were used to make the endometrium thicker (decidua) to mimic the lining of the uterus which is ready to allow the embryo to implant itself.
A particular protein (HOXA10) which is responsible for better invasion and implantation of the embryo in the endometrium is present at elevated levels in a receptive endometrium. The team led by Dr. Deepak Modi at the Molecular and Cellular Biology Laboratory at NIRRH found the level of this protein drops suddenly at the time of implantation. This drop is localised to the place where the embryo is about to implant itself.
Chain of events
The sudden drop in the HOXA10 protein causes a chain of events starting with a spike in certain class of cytokine leading to a trigger in the implantation pathway (STAT3) of the embryo. As a result, certain enzymes in the embryo digest the extracellular matrix of the decidua (thickened lining of the uterus) and make it loose enough for the outer layer of the embryo (trophoblast) to invade and implant itself in the uterus.
" We depleted the HOXA10 protein in one set of decidual cells while we kept it at normal level in another set of cells. We found increased invasion of trophoblasts and therefore better implantation where cells with reduced HOXA10 level were used," says Dr. Modi. "We could also show that the trophoblast cells which have more invasion have increased activity of the enzymes that digest the extracellular matrix proteins of the decidua."
" Previously it was thought that higher HOXA10 expression was better for implantation. But our study, for the first time, showed that at the site of implantation the HOXA10 expression is lower," says Dr. Satish Kumar Gupta from the National Institute of Immunology, New Delhi and one of the authors of the paper.
It took the team eight years to complete the study. The biggest challenge was to test and prove the sequence of events observed in the lab happen in the womb. " This was a big technical challenge as getting human tissue of women in early stages of pregnancy is impossible. So we took tissues from monkeys which are very close to humans to validate the lab findings," says Dr. Modi.
In baboons, lower levels of HOXA10 protein were found at the site of implantation as compared with other sites of the decidua. " This helped confirm that reduced HOXA10 protein was associated with the enhanced invasion and implantation of the embryo in the decidua," says Geeta Godbole from the Molecular and Cellular Biology Laboratory at NIRRH and the first author of the paper.
Abbott withdraws absorbable stent, makes no mention of safety concerns
Abbott has globally halted the sale of its bioresorbable cardiac stent Absorb, ostensibly due to "low commercial sales". Its statement announcing this on Friday had no reference to how sales had fallen drastically due to safety concerns.
Before stent prices were capped in India earlier this year, Indians were paying more than twice as much as European and US consumers for Absorb. Also, Absorb sold here at a huge premium over normal drug eluting stents despite trials conducted abroad showing increased risk of heart attack and patients having to be put on blood-thinning drugs for longer with these so-called superior stents. These results led several countries to restrict the use of Absorb to only clinical trial sites.
A few cardiologists in India, closely identified with promoting these stents, had opposed price control of bioresorbable stents, which sold at about Rs 1.9 lakh before the Rs 31,000 cap imposed by the drug pricing authority. In the US, the price was about $1,500 or about Rs 1 lakh and in Europe it was even lower at about 900 euros. The use of bioresorbable stents in India was more than five times as high as in developed countries, but there has been no investigation into the safety of patients implanted with these devices.
Given the poor uptake of Abbott's bioresorbable stents and safety concerns regarding these surfacing in the US, Canada, Australia and the European Union, the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) recommended allowing the company to withdraw these stents from the market. However, the Central Drug Standards Control Authority (CDSCO), meant to safeguard patient interests and ensure the safety of drugs and devices, did not suspend the commercial use of the Absorb as most countries had done. CDSCO issued a device alert regarding Absorb warning about increased risk of major cardiac events including cardiac death, heart attack or additional procedure to re-open the treated heart vessel. Yet, it left it to patients and doctors to report any adverse events though there is no proper mechanism for reporting such events or collecting information on them, especially for devices.
Abbott had filed an application for withdrawal of Absorb soon after price control claiming it was not commercially viable at the controlled price but said nothing about safety concerns. Absorb was less than 1% of Abbott's global stent sales, which shrunk further with the restrictions.
After ordering all stent companies to maintain their stocks for six months following price control in February, NPPA asked them to submit weekly reports on stent production/import and distribution. Based on the data submitted, the NPPA found that the share of the three multinational companies, which was about 70-80%, remained at about 65% even after the price cap. In the case of Absorb, the data showed that there was hardly any import and no movement of stocks from May to July.
Bioresorbable stents, which prop open the artery and eventually gets absorbed into the body are considered to be the technology of the future. A few companies other than Abbott too have brought in bioresorbable stents into the market. Abbott too is said to be working on a next generation bioresorbable device.
Now, a 'heart attack' app can help you find the nearest hospital
September 10, 2017(New Delhi)
NEW DELHI: In a first, Cardiological Society of India - a non-profit organisation - -on Saturday announced the launch of an app that can help people suffering from heart disease with rapid and accurate information about the nearest health care centres.
The app - - named 'Heart Attack' -- would guide patients with real time information about the nearest hospital capable of immediate care. It will also show details of physician or cardiologists.
To help the patients with heart attack, CSI has launched first time a Heart Attack App.
In addition, Delhi CSI is also launching a Heart Attack Registry, which will track these travel times and suggest improvements," Harsh Vardhan, the Science and Technology Minister, said in a statement.
"Heart attacks and cerebrovascular diseases are now number one killer in India," added Sundeep Mishra, Professor at All India Institutes of Medical Science (AIIMS).
While increased coronary care units and angioplasty in hospitals has helped during incidences of heart attacks, it has been noted that maximum benefit has happened when there is a systematic, organised network right from general physician, efficient ambulance service and advanced heart centres.
This saves time - imperative in heart attack cases.
Delhi CSI is also planning to launch such an organised network, through which a patient can be diagnosed early, transported fast to a "Heart Care" enabled hospital to undergo necessary treatments.
The app, working on Android OS, will be available exclusively in Delhi from World Heart Day, falling on Sep 29.
CSIR's artificial leaf creates fuel from sunlight, water
September 5,2017 (New Delhi)
Scientists have developed an artificial leaf that absorbs sunlight to generate hydrogen fuel from water, an advance that may provide clean energy for powering eco-friendly cars in the future. The ultra-thin wireless device mimics plant leaves to produce energy using water and sunlight
" It is known that hydrogen generation from renewable resources will be the ultimate solution to our energy and environment problems," said Chinnakonda S Gopinath, a senior principal scientist at the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)-National Chemical Laboratory in Pune.
Gopinath said that his team had been working in the area of water splitting to generate hydrogen for nearly a decade. " Hydrogen burning gives energy and water as a side product, underscoring its importance and relevance to the present day world," he told PTI.
Though India basked in sunlight, not enough had been done to translate it into energy, he said. " This line of research is very relevant to our country. India is blessed with plenty of sunlight through the year that is not exploited significantly to produce energy or hydrogen," he said.
The device consists of semiconductors stacked in a manner to simulate the natural leaf system. When visible light strikes the semiconductors, electrons move in one direction, producing electric current. The current almost instantaneously splits water into hydrogen - which researchers believe is one of the cleanest forms of fuel as its main byproduct is water.
At present, hydrogen is produced from fossil fuels by steam reforming and in this process emits a large amount of carbon di-oxide (CO2) - a green house gas that promotes global warming. In view of pressing energy and environmental issues, it was important to produce hydrogen from natural resources such as sunlight and water, Gopinath said.
" In the present work, we have made an attempt to generate solar hydrogen. The preparation method reported is simple and
practicable and hence there is a very good possibility of scaling it up," he said. The research, published in the Scientific Reports, an online, open-access journal from the publishers of Nature, states that the device of an area of 23 square centimetres could produce 6 litres of hydrogen fuel per hour.
The work has been produced in the lab so far and a lot was still needed on the project, he said. " But in the not-so-distant future, we could expect to see a car fuelled by hydrogen generated from the artificial leaf process on-board or stored during the day time," Gopinath said.
In the recent past, automakers have been offering cars powered by hydrogen fuel cells. To improve the light-absorbing efficiency of the artificial leaf, researchers used gold nanoparticles, titanium dioxide and quantum dots.
Quantum dots are semiconductor crystals of nanometre dimensions with properties that depend on the size of the dots. When exposed to sunlight for 25 hours, the device retained its efficiency. The cell does not need any external voltage and performs better than existing solar cells, he said.
" We have patented our work and looking for industrial partners to move ahead, especially to make bigger-sized devices towards different applications," said Gopinath.
Two new molecules capable of destroying bio-film forming bacteria have been developed by scientists at the Bengaluru-based Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR). The molecules performed better than conventional antibiotics in killing the bacteria during the dormant phase. Biofilms are communities of microorganisms that attach to each other and to surfaces and are able to act as barriers to antibiotics. When used in combination with existing antibiotics, the molecules reduced the microbial burden in the case of burns and surgical wounds.
The effect of these macromolecules on chronic biofilm causing pathogens like E. coli, Acinetobacter, Klebsiella were studied and the results were recently published in PLOS ONE.
The researchers studied the effect of the compound on dormant state E. coli. " We tested on E. coli that reside in biofilms in a dormant condition. The new macromolecules killed the bacteria by targeting their cellular membrane, the protective layer present in both active as well as dormant state," explains Dr. Divakara SSM Uppu at JNCASR and the first author of the article. Antibiotics become effective when the bacteria are in an active state.
While 100 microgram/mL of antibiotics (ampicillin and kanamycin) was required to partially kill the bacteria, a concentration of just 10 microgram/mL of the macromolecule was able to completely kill E. coli. " With the rise of antibiotic-resistant superbugs, it is essential to develop new compounds that can work against them. Our new compound was able to disrupt the cell membrane and kill the bacteria even at very low concentration of 5 microgram/mL," says Dr. Jayanta Haldar, scientist at JNCASR and corresponding author of the paper.
Though the molecule alone was not able to disrupt biofilm, a combination of the molecule with erythromycin in equal concentration caused complete eradication of the tough-to-kill E. coli and Acinetobacter biofilm. Erythromycin by itself was also not able to disturb the biofilm. This showed that the combined strategy worked efficiently compared with individual antibiotics.
A combination of existing antibiotics (erythromycin) and the macromolecules also showed efficacy in treating burn and surgical wound infections caused by multi-drug resistant pathogens - Acinetobacter and Klebsiella - in animal models.
Conventional antibiotics were ineffective in the treatment of these infections in mice. However, the combination of macromolecules and the antibiotics could almost completely eradicate the burn and surgical wound infections and facilitate faster regeneration of the epithelial cells and hair follicles in mice models.
Collectively, these findings show the potential implications of the combination approach for topical treatment of infections. However, detailed animal studies are
required further to fully understand the prospects of the molecule.
Feeding cow's milk to toddlers below the age of one year is a growing factor behind allergic diseases, including in the respiratory and digestive system, as they cannot tolerate protein in the milk, experts said on Sunday.
Stating that infants who do not get breast milk need an alternate form of nutrition to maintain their health, the child experts said if cow's milk is fed at such an initial age then the low concentration of iron and its consumption during infancy is linked to anemia.
"Though cow's milk is associated to our culture for ages, it should not be given to toddlers below one year... It may put a strain on the infant's immature kidney and is also difficult to digest," said Nandan Joshi, Health and Nutrition Science, Danone India.
While older infants can be fed with household complementary food, younger ones need special hydrolysed and amino acid-based formula which do not produce allergy.
As per the National Family Health Survey (NFHS), only 40 per cent of children were introduced timely complementary foods, while only 10 per cent children between six to 23 months received adequate diets.
The infants are given cow milk in India as awareness is low among the people especially in rural areas.
As per the Rapid Survey on Children (RSOC), 42 per cent of non-breastfed infants below one year received cow's milk or any other milk.
"Allergic diseases are on the rise worldwide. The incidents are more in developed countries though it is on the rise in India as well. Milk allergy is the most common allergy in children," said Lalit Bharadia, Consultant Paediatric Gastroenterologist at Jaipur's Santokba Durlabhji Memorial Hospital.
"Around 3 per cent of children can't tolerate milk protein in animal milk. Milk allergic infants, who do not get breast milk, need an alternate form of nutrition to maintain their health."
Durlabhji said that while older infants can be fed with household complementary food, younger ones need special hydrolysed and amino acid-based formula which do not produce allergy.
CSIR ranked 9th public research institution of the world
August 31,2017 (New Delhi)
India's largest autonomous public research and development organisation Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has been ranked ninth in the world.
The ranking is based on a composite indicator that combines research performance, innovation outputs and societal impact measured by their web visibility, so as to reflect scientific, economic and social characteristics of institutions.
The institute has been ranked ninth amongst a total of 1,207 government institutions, according to the Scimago Institutions ranking World Report 2017.
With this ranking, CSIR comes in the company of globally renowned organisations namely Chinese Academy of Sciences; Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, France; Helmholtz Gemeinschaft and Max Planck Gesellschaft in Germany; Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas, Spain; Russian Academy of Sciences; Japan Science and Technology Agency; Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, Italy and Leibniz Gemeinschaft, Germany.
"In overall global ranking, CSIR stands at 75th position amongst 5250 institutions world-wide. It is the only Indian organisation which has found place amongst the Top 100 Global Institutions," CSIR said in a statement here on Thursday.
Scimago Institutions Ranking (SIR) is a science evaluation resource developed by Scimago Labs based on data from Scopus -- one of the world's largest database of peer-reviewed research literature, to assess Worldwide Institutions.
Known for its cutting edge research and development (R&D) in science and technology areas, the CSIR has a dynamic network of 38 national laboratories and 38 outreach centres.
CSIR covers a wide spectrum of science and technology - from radio and space physics, oceanography, geophysics, chemicals, drugs, genomics, biotechnology and nanotechnology to mining, aeronautics, instrumentation, environmental engineering and information technology.
It provides significant technological intervention in many areas with regard to societal efforts which include environment, health, drinking water, food, housing, energy, leather, farm and non-farm sectors.
Invited scientific proposals for Venus, Mars, asteroid projects: Isro chairman
Invited scientific proposals for Venus, Mars, asteroid projects: Isro chairman
NEW DELHI: Amid preparations for Chandrayaan-2 mission slated for launch in the first quarter of 2018, Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) is simultaneously working on Venus, Mars and asteroid projects and has invited "announcement of opportunity for payloads for these interplanetary missions".
While interacting with the media during the Project Managers Global Summit 2017 here on Monday, Isro chairman A S Kiran Kumar said, "What the satellites (for interplanetary missions) will carry is a question of scientific interest. Therefore, proposals have been sought from researchers, scientific community and institutions from across the country. Based on these proposals for meeting scientific objectives, technological requirement of the satellites will be planned and payload configurations for the spacecraft for these missions will be decided. Right now, we are concentrating on Chandrayaan-2 and Aditya missions."
To boost space infrastructure, the Isro chairman said, "We are trying to increase the frequency of launches so that we can bring up sufficient infrastructure in space to meet the communication, remote-sensing, earth observation and navigation requirements of the country. Though we have 42 satellites currently in operation, we still need more." He said that Isro is seeking to increase its annual launches to 24.
On the second lunar mission, Kiran Kumar said, "Chandrayaan-2 will be different from Chandrayaan-1 as it will carry a lander and a rover. The lander which will do a controlled descent on the moon's surface. Currently, tests on different components are going on. We have also started assembling flight versions of the launcher, satellite and the rover."
On Isro's commercial activities, the Isro chairman said, "We are using excess capacity (in rockets) for commercial launches. Therefore we trying to increase the number of launches. We are also trying to look at a consortium or joint venture to build PSLVs (launch vehicles) in order to increase the frequency of launches. We are engaged in capacity-building in order to capture the global market. Industry too needs to gear up and help us build up our capacity."
To commercialise NAVIC or desi GPS, he said, "Entire set of information required for generating commercial solutions for NAVIC is already available in public domain. It is for entrepreneurs to make the most of it. We have started computation activity for five different types of applications. We are going to demonstrate through the industry to help companies work on the cost factor of GPS receivers. Isro itself is working on digital and RF chips for cellphone receivers, and tests on these chips are going on."
Mortality, other losses ascribed to poor breastfeeding can cost Indian economy $14 billion: UN
August 2, 2017
Nearly one lakh children die every year in India due to diseases that could have been prevented through breastfeeding, according to a United Nations report, which also notes that mortality and other losses attributed to inadequate breastfeeding can cost the country's economy $14 billion.
The Global Breastfeeding Scorecard, a new report by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and World Health Organisation (WHO) in collaboration with the Global Breastfeeding Collective, points out that breastfeeding not only helps prevent diarrhoea and pneumonia, two major causes of death in infants, it also helps reduce mothers' risk of ovarian and breast cancer, two leading causes of death among women.
In China, India, Nigeria, Mexico and Indonesia alone, inadequate breastfeeding is responsible for more than 2,36,000 child deaths each year.
In these countries, the estimated future economic cost of mortality and cognitive losses attributed to inadequate breastfeeding are estimated to be almost USD 119 billion a year.
The report says that despite a reported 55 per cent exclusive breastfeeding rate in children below the age of six months, the large population in India and high under five mortality means that an estimated 99,499 children die each year as a result of cases of diarrhoea and pneumonia that could have been prevented through early initiation of breastfeeding, exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months, and continued breastfeeding.
Further, the high level of child mortality and growing number of deaths in women from cancers and type II diabetes attributable to inadequate breastfeeding is estimated to drain the Indian economy of $7 billion. Together with another $7 billion in costs related to cognitive losses, India is poised to lose an estimated $14 billion in its economy, or 0.70 per cent of its Gross National Income.
"Breastfeeding gives babies the best possible start in life," says Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director General.
Breastmilk works like a baby's first vaccine, protecting infants from potentially deadly diseases and giving them all the nourishment they need to survive and thrive, he adds.
Yet, the scorecard, which evaluated 194 nations, reveals that no country in the world fully meets the recommended breastfeeding standards. It found that only 40 per cent of children younger than six months are given nothing but breastmilk and only 23 countries have exclusive breastfeeding rates above 60 per cent.
The scorecard was released at the start of World Breastfeeding Week alongside a new analysis, demonstrating that an annual investment of only $4.70 per newborn is required to increase the global rate of exclusive breastfeeding among children under six months to 50 per cent by 2025.
The analysis suggests that meeting this target can save the lives of 5,20,000 children under the age of five and potentially generate $300 billion in economic gains over 10 years, as a result of reduced illness and health care costs and increased productivity.
"Breastfeeding is one of the most effective ? and cost effective ? investments nations can make in the health of their youngest members and the future health of their economies and societies," says UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake.
"By failing to invest in breastfeeding, we are failing mothers and their babies ? and paying a double price: in lost lives and in lost opportunity."
Globally, investment in breastfeeding is far too low. Each year, governments in lower and middle income countries spend approximately $250 million on breastfeeding promotion ? donors provide only an additional $85 million.
C-DAC develops electronic pill box to improve tracking of tuberculosis
July 31, 2017(Pune)
After successful trials of malaria disease tracking in Dibrugrah district in Assam, experts at Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) have now extended the use of technology to develop an electronic pill box, which will automatically send alerts to the system tracking tuberculosis (TB). TB is highly prevalent among tea plantation workers of Assam. C-DAC has partnered with Regional Medical Research Centre (RMRC) of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) to identify the risk factors and provide timely medical assistance, all on mobile and web-based platforms.
Not only will the information add to the real-time data of the disease being gathered, but also help improve the treatment adherence in this hilly terrain, where a large number of suffering patients live in inaccessible areas. This system ? Tuberculosis Treatment Adherence System ?using Information Communi-cations Technology (ICT) and mobile technology (mDOTS), will be deployed at a select TB units, each covering a population of about 6 lakh, in the district.
Experts are hopeful that with better surveillance system, the Multi-Drug Resistent-TB (MDR-TB) and Extra Drug-Resistent-TB (XDR-TB) can also be largely curtailed. C-DAC has been involved in developing technology using ICT for strengthening the surveillance system in public health care existing in the north east, particularly in Assam and Tripura. Explaining the idea of the e-pill box, currently in its trial stages, was team member of C-DAC's Artificial Intelligence (AI) team Ganesh Karajkhede, who said, "The basic purpose of e-pill box, is to obtain real-time data from the first-hand user, that is the patient. This will help strengthen the mechanism of gathering and tracking the disease."
However, scientists find the duration of the treatment regime the biggest challenge, which may also derail the tracking these patients, given that TB treatment can last anytime between six to nine months continuously.
"There is also IVRS-based and SMS alerts sent to patients, which has helped bring more patients to follow required treatment schedule. Now, fewer number of patients reportedly miss any dosages of medicine," explained Lakshmi Panat, joint director of AI team.
Scooping out oil spills made easy by IISER Thiruvananthapuram
July 29, 2017(Thiruvananthapuram)
More efficient and quick absorption of crude oil from the sea following marine spill has now become possible thanks to scientists from the Indian Institute of Science, Education and Research (IISER) in Thiruvananthapuram who have developed a hydrophobic sorbent that can suck up oil and congeal it. A hydrophobic material automatically becomes oil-loving and takes up oil when it comes in contact with it. The results were published in the journal Angewandte Chemie.
A two-member research team led by Prof. Kana M. Sureshan from the School of Chemistry at IISER developed the hydrophobic sorbent by using a cheap raw material (mannitol) and cellulose pulp as a matrix. Mannitol was converted into a hydrophobic gelator through a one-step process and a solution was made using this compound. Cellulose balls the size of marbles were then dipped in the solution and dried.
"The gelator gets adsorbed on the cellulose fibre through hydrogen bonding. This process of adsorption of gelator on the cellulose fibre matrix changes the cellulose matrix from being very hydrophilic (water-loving) to hydrophobic (water repelling)," says Prof. Sureshan. A hydrophobic material naturally becomes oleilophilic (oil-loving).
Unlike other alternatives, the sorbent can be easily applied over oil-water mixture ,and no solvent is needed for spraying the gelator thus making it environmental benign.The gelator adsorbed on the surface of cellulose fibre is able to absorb oil when it comes in contact with it.
"Once the sorbent sucks the oil, the gelator slowly gets released from the cellulose fibre and congealing of oil takes place," Prof. Sureshan says. Only when the oil congeals can it be removed without the oil dripping due to gravity.
Congealing of oil becomes possible as the gelator used by the team self-assembles to form micro fibres and the oil loses its fluidity and gets trapped within the entangled fibrous network to form a rigid gel. Gelation essentially turns the liquid oil phase into a semi-solid one and this allows the fibre balls with the congealed oil to be simply scooped out or removed using a scoop or a sieve.
"It takes only about 30 minutes to two hours from the time of application to scooping out the rigid fibre balls containing congealed oil, leaving behind clean water. Since crude oil spreads quickly in the sea after a spill, it is necessary to quickly remove the oil from water," Prof. Sureshan says.
The team tested the ability of their sorbent to congeal oil using six different crude oils, including the one from Bombay High.
Irrespective of the different viscosities of the six crude oils tested, the sorbent was able to absorb the oil and the rigid globules could be scooped out in 30 minutes to two hours.
Studies found that the sorbent was able to absorb and congeal 16 times its own weight of oil. The absorbed oil can be recovered by applying pressure or fractionated by a simple distillation process.
Researchers at Delhi's CSIR-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (CSIR-IGIB) have found the mechanism by which controlling the levels of telomerase can help in reining in the growth of cancer cells and probably prevent cancer metastasis. The results were published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.
Unlike normal cells, most cancer cells have high levels of telomerase and this leads to more than normal length of the telomere. Telomeres protect chromosome ends somewhat like the plastic clips at the end of shoelaces that prevent fraying of the ends. While cells die when the telomere becomes shorter beyond a certain limit, in the case of cancer cells the length of the telomere is maintained thereby ensuring extended life span of the cells.
In normal cells the telomerase is kept under tight control. But in about 85% of all cancers the telomerase levels are more than normal leading to malignant transformation and aggressive metastasis in many cases. "It is not clearly understood how telomerase is kept under tight control in normal cells and how the telomerase levels gets increased in cancerous cells," says Dr. Shantanu Chowdhury from the Genomics and Molecular Medicine Unit at IGIB and the corresponding author of the paper.
It is already known that when the amount of a particular protein that suppresses the spread of cancer (metastasis) called nonmetastatic 2 (NME2) is high the tendency of the cancer to spread is low. But what came as a surprise is the role of this protein in controlling the telomerase levels as well. "How NME2 controls metastasis is not clearly understood. But surprisingly we found that NME2 controls the levels of telomerase," Dr. Chowdhury says.
The researchers found that NME2 binds to a DNA structure (G-quadrauplex) found in the telomerase promoter. Once bound, the NME2 facilitates a well known suppressor of gene expression (REST complex) to bind to the telomerase promoter and control the production of telomerase.
"Experiments show that if you don't have NME2 then the REST suppressor cannot bind to the telomerase promoter and control the production of telomerase," says Dhurjhoti Saha from IGIB and one of the first authors of the paper.
"We used proteomics approach to study the protein-protein interactions. We could identify protein members of the REST complex that interact with NME2. The IGIB team then confirmed the role of the REST complex and its function," says Dr. Ramesh Ummanni, from the Centre for Chemical Biology at the CSIR-Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (CSIR-IICT), Hyderabad and a co-author of the paper.
"We established that the DNA structure (G-quadrauplex) could be a possible drug target once we understood the mechanism of NME2 binding to the promoter followed by the REST suppressor complex," Dr. Chowdhury says. The involvement of a DNA structural architecture allowed the team to use small molecules that recognised the specific structure.
Since the amount of NME2 is low in many metastatic cancerous cells, the researchers used small molecules that were able to function like NME2 by recognising and binding to the DNA structure. "We screened 20 molecules and 11 were able to bring down the telomerase level in fibrosarcoma cancer cells," Dr. Chowdhury says.
Based on the initial lead from the small molecules, the researchers are planning to synthesise new molecules to optimise for drug-like characteristics for therapeutic use. The molecules will then be tested on animals.
Food processing is the answer to agrarian woes: Union Minister
July 27, 2017 (Hyderabad)
For a country which is the the second highest producer of fruits and vegetables and the sixth largest consumer, and yet faces agrarian crises, the food processing industry is the best answer. The sector is estimated to garner a 70% share growth in food economy, from the current $600 billion to $1.3 trillion in the next few years, said Union Minister of Food Processing Industries Harsimrat Kaur Badal here on Thursday.
"Just 10% of our food produce is being processed. If countries like Thailand and Malaysia are processing 70% of their produce, why can't we? With our recently released policy of 'Kisan Sampada Yojana' and a corpus fund of ₹6000 crore, we are hoping to raise food processing output by another 5% including incentives," she said, at the roadshow on 'World Food India-2017' organised by the Ministry in association with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).
'World Food India - 2017' would be organised at New Delhi between November 3 and 5 and inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It would have countries, States, organisations, industry and others showcasing their respective products, processes, technologies etc., to facilitate collaborations and investment opportunities.
Urging TS government to participate in the mega event, Mrs. Kaur hailed the policies initiated here and said promoting food processing would not only save wastage of food but would also help farmers, consumers and the country as a whole with more income, employment, quality food and help price control as well as reduce wastage.
"No one can ignore India. Our industry is poised for high growth because of our young population. Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) has increased by 40% within a year and this year investments were worth US$183 million," she said.
Willing to host
TS Industries Minister K.T. Rama Rao urged her to make the event an annual feature and offered to host it in Hyderabad since it was the centre for poultry, seeds besides producing good variety of fruits and vegetables. Thanking the Centre for allocating four food parks, he said that the one at Buggapadu (near Khammam) was expected to go on stream within a year. With NABARD's help of ₹1,042 crore, storage space is being increased to 21 lakh metric tonnes from four lakh MT.
Earlier, Joint secretary, MoFPI, Anuradha Prasad in her presentation said that the grants up to 35% cost (₹3-50 crore) would be given for proposals for new units, expansion, training, linkages, R&D, STPs, etc., including storage, chilling plants, retail, packing, transport, milling and so on. Under Kisan Sampada Yojana, ₹6,000 crore is to be spent by 2019-20 giving thrust to the sector. Soon, a model food processing policy is to be unveiled which can be adopted by the States. CII National Council member and CMD of Rasna Piruz Khambatta and CII (TS) chairman and vice president of TCS V. Rajanna also spoke.
This festive season, PoP idol immersion to be eco-friendly and productive affair
July 24, 2017 (Nagpur)
In a bid to tackle water pollution due to Plaster of Paris (PoP) idol immersion during Ganesh Chaturthi, the National Environmental Engineering and Research Institute (Neeri) in collaboration with city police and Maharashtra Times will be implementing a 'do at home' first-of-its-kind technique this festive season.
Developed by National Chemical Laboratory (NCL), Pune, the technique uses ammonium bicarbonate solution to dissolve the PoP idols and is being introduced for the first time in Vidarbha and second time in the country. Based on a chemical reaction, the by-products formed in this procedure can be used as fertilizers and construction materials.
Krishna Khairnar, a scientist at Neeri's virology division, said, "The process involves usage of ammonium bicarbonate, which when reacts with PoP idols in the presence of water, forms ammonium sulphate and calcium carbonate as by products along with water. Both the resultants are eco-friendly, with the former being used as fertilizer and the latter as construction material."
The idea germinated when Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) approached NCL following the Bombay High Court's ban on PoP idols in 2011. Despite the ban, people continued using PoP idols, resulting in massive pollution of water bodies. "We then decided to develop a scientific solution to the problem which can be implemented at homes too," said Shubhangi Umbarkar, scientist at NCL.
In late 2014, MK Dongare, retired senior scientist and Umbarkar started working on this project. "Since religious sentiments are attached with the festival, we knew people would refrain from using chemicals and decided to go for food grade. We first experimented with baking soda but it didn't work out. Next, we tried using different carbonate containing compounds but that too failed to achieve desired results," said Umbarkar.
Finally, ammonium bicarbonate, which is commonly used in bakery, gave the expected outcome. "Last year, the technique was implemented in Pune and more than 30,000 idols were successfully disintegrated in an eco-friendly manner. PMC even bought 100 tonnes of ammonium bicarbonate and distributed it to the citizens," added Umbarkar.
This year, Neeri approached NCL and decided to introduce the same in the city. The institute has prepared three tanks, out of which two will be dedicated for immersing PoP idols using NCL's technique.
To assess the effectiveness of the by-products, Neeri will carry out laboratory testing of the residual products, especially heavy metals. "Neeri will be kept open for general public on the visarjan day. This will be a good opportunity for citizens who wish to celebrate in an eco-friendly manner, with Neeri targeting immersion of around 450 idols," said Neeri's PRO Prakash Kumbhare.