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July 22, 2017 (Bengaluru)
Living in a joint family or having more social interactions can help reduce your anxiety level, improve your memory and overcome the effect of chronic stress. In a recent study conducted at National Institute of Mental Health and Neurological Sciences (NIMHANS), Bengaluru, rats that were exposed to a social and interactive environment showed reduced anxiety-like behaviour.
Eight-week- old male rats were separated into four groups. The study group was given stress for 21 days, and for the next 10 days was let out into a wider cage with 10 to 12 other rats along with toys to play such as climbing ladders and rotating tunnels. Various behavioural tests were conducted after this period. Rats exposed to the better environment showed reduced memory problems associated with stress, compared with those that were not given the better cage. The study of their brain also revealed higher long-term potentiation (LTP) which is associated with learning and memory. Thus the scientists were able to show that exposure to such enriched environment can bring out positive effects on the brain and thereby improve cognitive functions. The results were published in Journal of Neuroscience Research.
"Physical contact, sensory stimulation and social interactions help to enhance the spatial recognition and learning process. Neurotic degeneration is also found to be less in the rats which were given the social cage. Now-a-days we have the trend of nuclear families and this could also be one of the reasons for the increased anxiety levels. With more communication and family connections, the chronic stress-induced problems could be reduced," explains Dr. Venkanna Rao Bhagya, Department of Neurophysiology, NIMHANS, first author of the paper.
May 24, 2017 (Chennai)
By mimicking tiny features of insect wings and shark skin, a team from Bengaluru's Indian Institute of Science (IISc) has found a way to prevent bacterial infection on orthopaedic implants without using chemicals.
The team led by Kaushik Chatterjee from the Department of Materials Engineering at IISc relied purely on surface nanostructure to give the titanium metal used in implants the ability to kill bacteria.
Encouraging results were achieved in laboratory studies by making the shiny surface of implants rough through etching. The etched titanium surface is marked by randomly spaced nanopillars of 1 micrometre height and this makes it capable of killing infection-causing bacteria that adhere to the surface. The results were published in the journal Scientific Reports.
The rough surface of titanium was able to mechanically kill, within four hours of contact, nearly 95% of E. coli, 98% of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and 92% of Mycobacterium smegmatis. Though only 22% of Staphylococcus aureus attached to the surface were killed within four hours, the efficiency shot up to 76% at the end of 24 hours.
Research on mechanism
Hospital-based bacterial infections from orthopaedic implants can lead to medical complications.
"We don't know the precise mechanism by which the bacteria get killed. But we think the nanopillar architecture formed by dry etching mechanically ruptures the bacterial cells. Like in the case of the wing surface of cicadas, the bacterial cell membrane might be getting stretched by the nanopillars," says Jafar Hasan from the Department of Materials Engineering at IISc and the first author of the paper.
Bacteria have high motion capability and adhere to the surface to form a biofilm. Since titanium surface is marked by sharp tips, the cell membrane gets mechanically damaged when in contact.
While the disease-causing bacteria get killed, stem cells of the kind that form bone were unaffected by the etched surface.
Unlike bacteria that have rigid membranes, the stem cells are bigger, softer and better able to conform and attach themselves to the rough surface.
"We want to etch actual implants and carry out trials on rats and rabbits to test for bactericidal activity and to understand how the rough implant behaves inside the body and study how the bone attaches itself to the implant and grows," says Dr. Chatterjee, the corresponding author of the paper.
May 19, 2017 (Pune)
Two scientist-entrepreneurs working out of their lab at the Venture Centre of the National Chemical Laboratory (NCL), Pune, have developed two new bone graft substitutes, which will better augment and regenerate bones lost due to any disease or injury. These will also come handy in the case of those with congenital defects.
Doctors that TOI contacted said they were already looking forward to the commercial availability of the products, especially for their near-to-natural composition, porous structure and resorbable feature. And what more! They will be available at a cost lesser than those of the currently-available imported varieties, they said.
It took scientists Nilay Lakhkar and Amol Chaudhari nearly a year to develop the products - PoroSyn and SynOst (bioactive synthetic bone graft granules and putty).
Backed by a financial grant from Biotechnology Industrial Research Assistance Council (BIRAC) for their innovative work in bio-tech products, the scientist-duo have already submitted a provisional patent application for PoroSyn. It has been developed with proprietary technology and is composed of calcium, sodium and phosphorous - three elements naturally found in bones.
They will ensure better uptake of the treatment by the body as well as heal faster.
While the concept has already got the thumbs up at the recent Pitch Fest in the Start Up Bio 2017 event at Bangalore, the process for conducting clinical trials
May 24, 2017 (Bengaluru)
Two years ago, the Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI) organised a training for street food vendors in Mysuru on preparing quality food in hygienic conditions. Not just the vendors, the institute's scientists, too, picked up some useful lessons.
The trainers discovered that the carts the vendors used lacked the infrastructure to prepare hygienic food. The premier laboratory of the publicly funded Council of Scientific and Industrial Research has now come up with a solution -a solar-powered, modular vending cart that seeks to introduce sensors and cloud-based services to the street food business.
The sensors in the Smart Carts will monitor the quality of food by recording the pH levels, the temperatures of raw and cooked food kept in refrigerators and warmers, and the duration of storage.
The data will be transmitted to the CFTRI server, which, in turn, will splash the quality-check numbers on its mobile app that can be downloaded by vendors and consumers.
"Our Smart Cart will lift the quality of street food," said Ram Rajasekharan, director at CFTRI, adding that India has an estimated 10 million street food vendors. The carts, according to him, can also help Indian food entrepreneurs seeking to take their brands to overseas markets where Indian food is popular.
The base price of the carts, which can be customised, is Rs 60,000.
The technology blended into the cart would not only help vendors keep a check on the quality of food he is selling, but also help consumers choose the best available vendor by looking at the data on the app, said V Arun Kumar, the 32-year-old food safety scientist who designed the cart.
CFTRI will cobrand the carts with Bengaluru-based startup Hertz Mechatronics, which has fabricated the cart according to the lab's specifications. "It would take a couple of weeks to produce a cart," said Prabu Kumar M, project manager at the startup.
The cart, the CFTRI director said, includes a restaurant-grade kitchen made with stainless steel, an onboard refrigerator, a food warmer, and a sink with separate tanks for fresh and waste water - helping to create a better culinary experience for consumers. It also comes with a built-in system to hold a gas cylinder and a dustbin.
"The array and design of the units in the Smart Cart can be realigned as desired by the end-user without changing its core features on food safety, operational efficacy and energy efficiency," Rajasekharan said.
May 23, 2017
The technology developed by the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) to produce diesel from plastic waste was very close to be used for commercial production. This technology is among a host of other "useful for the common man" technologies the government was focusing on, Minister for Science & Technology and Earth Sciences Dr Harsh Vardhan said here today, at a press conference held here to brief the media on the activities of his Ministry, on three years of the Modi government. The CSIR scientists had scaled up the technology to produce one tonne diesel per day, which was going to be very significant for energy needs at the local levels, and also for solving the problem of disposal of massive plastic was that was being generated everyday in the country. As part of a programme for providing solution to the common man's problems in their day-to-day life, and to make the youth employable, the Ministry had also embarked upon an ambitious project to train one lakh students of science in various skills in the next two years. Dr Vardhan said during the last three years, the efforts of his Ministry had been to take the technology from lab to land and to align the scientific research and development to national priorities. "We are inferior to none. We have taken long strides in weather forecasting, earthquake observation," he said and pointed out that India was also in 88 international scientific research and development collaboration, with very active 40 collaborations.The Minister said science and technology was going to play a very big role in achieving the target of doubling the farm income by 2022.Besides, it was working in a very focused way in helping in the major initiatives of Swachch Bharat, Make in India, Digital India. Dr Vardhan also spoke of the work being done to develop Ocean technology to tap its vast potential in every field, especially in energy security. To inspire the quest for science, the Ministry was soon going to lauch a 'Jigyasa' (curiosity) programme in collaboration with the HRD Ministry, under which school children will come to CSIR labs to see for themselves the work being done there, he said. In reply to a question, he said the CSIR was working on about 140 projects related to the solution of day-to-day needs of the people.
May 18, 2017 (Bengaluru)
Buyers of Apple iPhone SE could soon find a "Made in India" tag on their devices. Taiwanese contact manufacturer Wistron would be making it at their plant in Bengaluru.
The company recently conducted a trial run at the factory. The few phones made during the trial run will be in stores in two weeks.
Full-scale production will take more time, according to a person familiar with Apple's plans. The global tech major confirmed the production at the sole facility in India.
"We are beginning initial production of a small number of iPhone SEs in Bengaluru. We'll begin shipping to domestic customers this month," Apple said in an email.
Karnataka was quick to claim credit for this. Its Information Technology Minister Priyank Kharge said, "It shows the Bengaluru ecosystem is able to attract the world's best companies. If the Make in India initiative has to work, we need to incentivise manufacturers to gradually increase local sourcing."
Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook visited India last May and met Prime Minister Narendra Modi. They reportedly discussed manufacturing of iPhones in India, for the local market and export. Since then, the government has turned down Apple's demands for tax sops. But, the fast-growing domestic market seems too attractive for the company.
With a dip in iPhone sales in developed markets like the US and China, India is now a major focus for Apple. Since the country's appetite for expensive flagship devices is still small, Apple continues to produce its four-year-old iPhone 5s to compete with Xiaomi, Motorola, Samsung and others in the mid-level market.
Is domestic production going to cut prices? There is no clarity on that yet. Experts said assembling devices locally will help it save 12 per cent in taxes.
One can buy an iPhone SE for Rs 27,200 but on Flipkart and Amazon, it is available for as low as Rs 20,999. Apple is known to maintain price parity across the world. In the US, the iPhone SE starts at $399 (about Rs 25,000).
"Prices might go below Rs 20,000 only in October," said Neil Shah, research director, devices and ecosystems, Counterpoint Research. "At that price it has to compete with Chinese rivals Oppo and Vivo."
May 17, 2017 (Pune)
A team of doctors today successfully performed what was claimed as India's first uterus transplant surgery, in which uterus of a woman was transplanted in her 21-year-old daughter.
A team of 12 doctors, headed by Dr Shailesh Puntambekar, performed the surgery which started at 12 noon today and ended at 9.15 pm at Galaxy Care Laparoscopy Institute here.
The younger woman was born without uterus, Dr Puntambekar said.
"The patient wanted to have her own baby and was not ready for adoption or surrogacy. Since they knew about the uterus transplant, they approached us and accepted the surgery option," he said.
Fortunately, her mother was found to be a medically suitable uterus donor for her.
The younger woman -- the patient -- is now under observation and will be kept in Intensive Care Unit for some days.
Dr Puntambekar said this was the first uterus or womb transplant in India.
The first successful uterine transplant was carried out in Sweden in 2013. Twenty-five such surgeries have been performed around the world so far.
May 17, 2017
For the first time in India, a geopolymer concrete road made of fly ash and other waste materials has been successfully laid at Central Building Research Institute (CBRI), Roorkee. The road was made of fly ash, the ash produced by the burning of powdered coal, from NTPC Dadri.
The road, which is 50m long and 3m wide and has a concrete strength of 40MPa, was made from fly ash, aluminate and silicate-bearing materials. As opposed to conventional cement concrete roads, this road will not need water curing.
This achievement paves the way for large-scale fly ash utilisation, NTPC Dadri officials said. The road has been developed jointly by NTPC Dadri's research and development wing ? NTPC Energy Technology Research Alliance ? and CSIR.
S K Sinha, group general manager, NTPC Dadri said fly ash discharged from the Dadri power station is being used for various purposes, such as landfilling, manufacture of ash bricks, tarring of roads and the creation of an 'ash mound' eco park. "Medicinal and other plants have also been cultivated on the ash mound. Ash utilization has been around 205% this year," Sinha said.
April 11, 2017 (Chennai)
Visual, non-invasive monitoring of body temperature of patients without using a thermometer may become a reality soon, thanks to the work carried out by a team of scientists led by John Philip, head of the smart materials section at the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR), Kalpakkam, near Chennai.
The concept is based on ferrofluid emulsion contained in a thin film that changes colour with rise in temperature within a narrow range ? 30-40° C. The study was published in the journal Optical Materials.
The emulsion has iron oxide nanoparticles containing oil droplets dispersed in water. "Till now ferrofluid was used as a magnetic stimuli-responsive material. We now found that in the presence of a temperature-sensitive polymer ? poly(N-isopropylacrylamide), also known as PNIPAM) ? the ferrofluid emulsion can be used as a thermally tunable grating to produce different colours," says Dr. Philip.
"Recently, we were looking at the interaction forces between droplets covered with thermo-responsive polymers. To our surprise, we found that the adsorbed polymer swells and collapses upon changing the temperature between 32° and 36° C. This change was clearly manifested as colour change. From this observation came the novel idea of using PNIPAM-stabilised emulsions as a multistimulii grating. This is a first of its kind approach where the grating spacing can be tuned either by changing the temperature or by changing the magnetic field strength," says Dr. Philip.
Up to about 34° C, the polymer is highly hydrated and swollen due to repulsive interaction between individual monomer segments.
But when the temperature crosses 34° C, the polymer becomes dehydrated leading to a collapsed state.
The polymer will once again become hydrated and swollen when the temperature falls below 34° C. "By using certain additives, we can tune the collapse of the polymer to higher temperature to reflect fever conditions," clarifies A.W. Zaibudeen, senior research fellow at IGCAR and the first author of the paper.
Using magnetic fields, the scientists first achieved a particular ordering (spacing between the arrays of emulsion droplets) of emulsion and got a particular colour.
When polymer is added as a stabiliser and the temperature is increased, the grating spacing of the polymer changes and gives rise to a different colour or spacing.
"The colour given off at normal temperature can be fixed by changing the emulsion property and magnetic field strength," Dr. Philip says.
If the normal temperature is fixed at yellow, the change will be to green when the temperature increases.
Colour with higher wavelength is produced at lower temperature and colour of lower wavelength at higher temperature.