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December 10th, 2019

Vol. 03

Toll Free Number: 18001-200-1818

NO 108


















December 10th, 2019 Vol. 03 NO 108

CO2 Eating Bacteria Is Here And It Promises To Save The World From Global Warming! Scientists have genetically modified E. coli- and it is now being called the Carbon Dioxide Eating Bacteria.


Researchers at Weizmann Institute of Science, Isreal, have genetically modified micro-organism over several months to consumes carbon dioxide for energy instead of organic compounds. The research team used a technique called “metabolic rewiring” to help compelling proof of concept that form products humans regard as transform the E coli’s diet to make help us fight global warming. opens up a new exciting prospect of waste into fuel, food, or other comit similarly consume CO2 to a plant now called as the CO2 Eating Bacte- CO2 Eating Bacteria project is a using engineered bacteria to trans- pounds of interest. ria. The study involved adding genes that metabolize CO2 and removing genes that usually process sugar compounds in the CO2 Eating Bacteria. Shmuel Gleizer, a postdoctoral fellow at the Weizmann Institute of Science that scientists wanted to observe a transformation in the “diet” of bacteria. He added that the researchers were curious to know “how extreme an adaptation is needed in terms of the changes to the bacterial DNA blueprint.” The team said the results of the study – Carbon Dioxide Eating Bateria– were a significant step in synthetic biology, and the project could provide a framework for future carbon-neutral bioproduction. Ron Milo, senior author and a systems biologist at the Weizmann Institute of Science said that the main aim behind the project was to create a convenient scientific platform that could enhance CO2 fixation. This would help address challenges related to the sustainable production of food and fuels and global warming caused by CO2 emissions. Scientists across the world termed this project -Carbon Dioxide Eating Bacteria- as a significant step towards establishing such a platform that could reduce global carbon levels and


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Can Humanity Escape Or Survive Extinction? Is it Possible to cheat mass human extinction? How to fight mass extinction, humans should escape to Mars or make Earth Better, why not choose both? Ever thought of these questions? THE BEST BENEFIT OF THE GOOGLE ERA IS THAT WE ARE NOT AFRAID OF ASKING QUESTIONS, ISN’T IT? By Shekhar Suman

A very famous philosopher once said – Every civilization gets extinct at the peak of its technological achievement. But what if the entire humanity goes pufffff…!!!!! Gone! Extinct! Possible, isn’t it? Let’s analyze if that were likely to happen or not and how can we cheat it. Let’s imagine – what if a giant asteroid impacted earth tomorrow or a deadly virus rapidly spread across the earth before we could even discover & make a cure. Most of us probably wouldn’t make it through this devastation, but what if none of us made it? Would that be and end for the human species? Not necessarily, If you are a fan of dinosaurs, you know extinction does happen. The Earth does not have immunity against all assaults. Any catastrophic event would severely wreck the environment and eventually most or all of life will be wiped out. These events are which we have absolutely no control upon. How can we get past and survive then? Can Humans Survive Extinction or not? How did life survive previous mass extinctions? Can knowing about previous mass extinctions help us survive the next one? Well, maybe yes! A lot can be learned by looking back at mass extinction events that happened before. With that, maybe we could use that information and be prepared to survive the next mass extinction. We can try to incorporate those strategies used by animals and plants which have survived those mass extinctions. But if we think about it, humans already seem to be in a good position to overcome extinction because, in a mass extinction, it is not just human beings being wiped out, it is where most of the species on the planet die out. So technically, there

are always survivors. How else can happen. life continue to evolve? This is the way of life on this planet- earth. Stephen Hawking, the famous Theoretical Physicist, gave humanity 1000 n each of these mass extinction hap- years of a deadline to find a new planpened previously, there are winners et, “Planet B”, to call home. Humanity and losers. As humans, we can adapt has ten centuries, could be considered to any sort of situation and that is an as a notice period before our Mothimportant aspect of surviving. This er Earth, human’s collective landlord puts humans in a perfect position to kicks us all out. What if there is no be able to adapt, transforming our- way found within this time? selves and transforming our communities when climates and habitats There is one way to preserve the hustart changing. What about our tech- man species and survive human exnology? Can technology help Hu- tinction and that is to literally pack up mans Survive Extinction? Animals bags & move to Mars. But not all of survived and adapted without any us have to go and that’s the point, we technology, we humans, with our just need to send enough to sustain a marvelous technology, will be able to adapt even more quickly. Having huge populations was one of the ways in which some animals have survived so far. Our population could become our power in this case! Because well, let’s assume, about six billion people are wiped out. One billion of us will still be left! Even if every single human on the planet becomes environment-conscious and work on ending our contribution to the carbon cycle by not using fossil fuels, reducing plastics, no cutting down trees and all of that, the planet sure would become a beautiful place, but this beautiful place could still blow up anytime by any catastrophic events! So what then? The next logical option, Space! Before that happens, huge changes must

population so that if something catastrophic happens on earth, the human species survive. But right now no one wants to live on Mars, it has no food, very little water, the atmosphere is too thin to breathe, and it lets in UV light at levels so high they would kill most organisms including humans. What we really need is for Mars to be more like earth. But that’s impossible, right? There’s no way we could ever change the climate of an entire planet so that it’s global temperatures actually got warmer faster. Well actually, we do know how to make the earth warmer so why not use the same method on Mars? Yes!



During the winter on Mars, there’s a treasure trove of frozen carbon dioxide at the poles. So let’s find a way to get that into the atmosphere to start a greenhouse effect and warm the planet enough to thaw any frozen water into streams or lakes by increasing the co2 levels in the atmosphere. This would make a thicker atmosphere, which would block a lot of that lethal UV light allowing certain microorganisms to survive. Ideally, we would first want to send cyanobacteria to Mars. If these guys get sunlight, they felch oxygen straight into the atmosphere. Once that oxygen is in the air it could be inhaled or combined with other oxygen atoms to build a protective ozone layer strengthening the atmosphere even more. When those oxygen belching bacteria die, their biological matter enriches the soil with nutrients for a more complex life. Can Humans Survive Extinction by successfully colonizing other planets? Well, with enough time, yes. Totally!

WE ARE HUMANS – The Bear Grylls of Law of Nature! Humans have already made it through the plague, ice age and bunch of terrifying earthquakes, volcanoes, other natural disasters and even many years of elections! This is not an entirely ridiculous idea but there are a lot of questions that still need answers. There are scientists at NASA working on finding those answers right now. So for starters, we need to know if Mars has enough frozen carbon dioxide to generate a greenhouse effect in the first place. There might not be enough or if there’s too much then we run the risk of making Mars too hot. Then we have to figure out how to get that frozen co2 into the atmosphere. Elon Musk had one suggestion, the planet’s last way is to drop the nuclear weapons over the poles like a supervillain! NASA scientist Chris McKay thinks we could put giant mirrors in orbit around Mars that would focus the sunlight onto the poles. Whether its mirrors or something else it’s going to

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take hundreds possibly thousands of years to pull this thing off. Right now, we are so close to spreading out into the solar system. We can try modifying the human body suitable for living in space, we can try modifying the planet itself.

All of this is going to need a lot of technologies, technologies that we yet don’t know about. But we sure will figure out and invent superspace technologies! But if we succeed we’ll have better chances to secure the survival of the human race.


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B4 VISITING SCIENTISTS PROGRAM 2020-2021 Up to 11 Visiting Scientists will be sponsored to pursue research in fields related to the biosciences at Harvard University and other institutions in the Boston area. The Lakshmi Mittal and Family South Asia Institute, Harvard University will organize seminars at Harvard for Visiting Scientists to discuss their research with the broader community at Harvard and beyond. Visiting Scientists are expected to reside in the Cambridge vicinity and actively participate in the events and intellectual life of the campus. Visiting Scientists will also contribute to the greater Harvard community by teaching, mentoring, or advising students.


Faculty who are currently employed in an Indian institution and are less than 42 years of age with at least 7 years of work experience by March 31, 2020. Applicants must be Indian citizens and currently residing in India. They must be currently teaching and researching in biosciences or related fields. Starting Date: April-May 2020 Duration of the Program: 12 months Stipend: INR 195,000/month

*Apart from the above mentioned stipend, the visiting scientists are expected to receive their salary from the Indian institution that they are employed in, through these 12 months. **Health insurance and round-trip economy travel expenses to and from Boston will also be provided as per the policies of the funding agency.

Apply at:

Deadline to Apply: January 15, 2020

Questions? Please email Program Manager, Savitha G Ananth at

This program is a collaboration between IBAB (Bengaluru, India), IISER (Pune, India) & The Lakshmi Mittal and Family South Asia Institute (Harvard University, Cambridge, USA) and is funded by the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India.




December 10th, 2019 Vol. 03 NO 108

Banana Plants : A Biodegradable Alternate to Plastic Bags Researchers discover a brand new way of eco-friendly packaging, using banana plants. Two researchers from The University of New South Wales (UNSW) Sydney have discovered a unique way of solving plastic bags pollution. THEY HAVE FOUND A WAY TO MAKE BIODEGRADABLE ‘PLASTIC’ BAGS FROM BANANA PLANTS, A SOLUTION TO TWO INDUSTRIAL WASTE PROBLEMS AT ONCE. By Prathibha HC

They unraveled a novel way to turn the wastes from banana plantation into material for packaging which is both recyclable and biodegradable. Associate Professor Martina Stenzel and Professor Jayashree Arcot were trying to find ways for converting agricultural waste into a usable material that would add value to the industry it came from while being able to solve problems for another. According to A/Prof Arcot, the banana-growing industry was a good option as it was observed to produce huge amounts of organic waste, with just 12% of the plant(the fruit) being used and the remaining being discarded after harvesting. A/Prof Arcot, UNSW School of Chemical Engineering, said: ” The fact that the banana plant dies after each harvest is what makes the banana-growing business particularly wasteful when compared to other fruit crops. The pseudostems in the banana plants caught our attention. The fleshy trunk of the banana plant makes the pseudostem. They are cut down after each harvest and are mostly thrown away on the field. Some of it is made use as compost, for textiles, but excluding these, it is a huge waste.” Cellulose is an important component found in the cell walls of plants. It can be used in textiles, paper products, packaging, and even medical applications like drug delivery and wound healing. A/Prof Stenzel and Prof Arcot (UNSW School of Chemistry) were curious to know if the pseudostems were valuable sources of cellulose.

rial was used and the two researchers started to extract the cellulose to test its suitability as a packaging alternative. A/Prof Arcot says, ” Pseudostem being 90% water, the solid material ends up reducing down to around 10%. In the lab, we got the pseudostem and chopped it into pieces, using a drying oven, dried it at very low temperatures and then milled it into a fine powder.” Prof Stenzel continues saying, ” Then using a very soft chemical treatment, this powder is washed. Doing this, the nano-cellulose is isolated and this is a material of high value with various applications. Among the applications, we were greatly interested in using it for packaging, especially as single-use food packaging where so much ends up in the landfill.” The material had a similar consistency to baking powder when it was processed. The material from the banana plants could be used in many different formats in food packaging, depending on the intended thickness. We could try making it into a shopping bag. We could also make the trays for meat and fruit, depending on the way we pour the material and how thick we make it.

They performed tests to check the From the banana plants grown at biodegradable nature of this packagthe Royal Botanic Garden Sydney, a ing material from banana plants. The reliable supply of pseudostem mate- results confirmed that the material or-

ganically breaks down after ‘films’ of the cellulose material are put in the soil for about 6 months. Results confirmed the sheets of cellulose disintegrated in the soil samples.

It would make sense for the banana industry to start processing the pseudostems into powder and then sell it to packaging suppliers and this could make this banana pseudostem a realistic alternative to plastic bags and Professor Arcot says, ” One of our use the banana plant for packaging. Ph.D. students proved that we can recycle this material from the banana Prof Acrod said that a much better plants, for about three times without option for us and the banana indusany change in its properties and hence try would be if the industry people proving the material as recyclable.” informed their farmers or growers about the value of making powders There were no contamination risks from pseudostem which can be sold in the tests with food items. later. Professor Stenzel said that to check if there was any leaching into the cells, they tested the food samples, and none of them had any. She also tested it on cancer cells, mammalian cells, T-cells and all of these are non-toxic to them. If the T-cells are not affected, as they are most sensitive to anything toxic, then it is very benign.

Using banana plants for packaging by using banana pseudostems stands a real chance of being a plastic alternative if the packaging manufacturers updated their machines, fabricating the nano-cellulose film into bags and other food packaging materials.

Prof Stenzel says, “At this stage, what we are really looking for us an industry partner who could figure out They have also looked into other how to upscale this and make it an afuses of agricultural waste like in the fordable alternative.” rice-growing industry and cotton industry, and they have extracted the A/Prof Arcot says, ” If the packaging cellulose from both of these. companies knew that the material was readily available, then they would be Prof Stenzel says, “Theoretically, more willing to have a try with this nano-cellulose can be got from every material.” plant, but it’s just that certain plants are better than others and they have higher cellulose content.” A/Prof Arcot added saying the fact that banana plants are an annual plant makes these so attraction adding on to its quality of the cellulose content.


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How To Get A Life Science Job At DRDO? Hailing From A Life Science Background, Did You Ever Think Your Degree Can Land You A Job At The Premier Indian R&D Institute- DRDO? Well, Yes It Can and This Article is All About Helping You Land That Dream Job! DRDO WAS FORMED IN 1958 WITH A VISION TO BE A WORLDCLASS ACADEMIC RESEARCH BASE IN THE FRONTIERS OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY TO CATER TO THE NEEDS OF DEFENSE AND SECURITY OF THE NATION. By Rahul Mishra

It was then a small organization with ten establishments or laboratories. However, with the support from scientists and the Government of India, DRDO has grown multi-directionally concerning the variety of subject disciplines, several laboratories, achievements, and status. use work on Bio-resource conservation, their improvement, and reasonThe parent agency of DRDO is the able utilization. So Bio Students can Ministry of Defence, headquartered pave their way into DRDO. in New Delhi. List of DRDO Institutes are listed Today, DRDO is considered to be a below that hire life science candidates top-notch institute with a network of frequently: more than 50 laboratories which is catering to developing defense tech- • DRDO – (Defence Research & nologies covering aeronautics, armaDevelopment Organization) ments, electronics, combat vehicles, • DRDO-DEBEL (Defence Bioinstruments, life sciences, agriculture, engineering and Electromedical missiles, advanced computing and Laboratory) simulation, naval systems, informa- • DRDO-INMAS (Institute of tion systems and many more. Nuclear Medicine and Allied Sciences) Presently, the Organisation employs • DRDO-DIPAS (Defence Instimore than 5000 scientists and about tute of Physiology and Allied 25,000 technical and supporting staff. Sciences) • DRDO-DIHAR (Defence InstiWho does not want to work at tute of High Altitude Research) DRDO? Be it students from any field- • DRDO-CEPTAM (Centre for mechanical, computer, engineering Personnel Talent Management) stream, or life science stream. • DRDO-DRL (Defence Research Laboratory) DRDO has institutions such as De- • DRDO-DFRL (Defence Food fence Food Research Laboratory as Research Laboratory) well as Snow and Avalanche Study • DRDO-DIBER (Defence InstiEstablishment, where many researchtute of Bio-Energy Research) ers are recruited from the Life Science Background; hence, you can look out Below are few of many life science for DRDO Life Science Jobs in these positions for which DRDO hires Labs. frequently: Development of bioenergy technol- (How to become a Scientist at this ogies for Defence use. One of the prestigious Indian Organization) DRDO establishments Defence Institute of Bio-Energy Research (DIB- JUNIOR RESEARCH FELER) (formerly Defence Agricultural LOW (JRF) Research Laboratory, DARL) is engaged in R&D on Biofuel crops and DRDO has many well-defined proBio-diesel which are used for defense jects for which they regularly adver-

tise for the post of JRF. There is no The admission for the post is entirecommon recruitment for JRF. Indi- ly at the discretion of the Selection vidual labs conduct an interview for Committee at DRDO that has the JRF positions right to refuse to acknowledge any candidate without assigning any reaEssential qualifications required son thereof. To Hold A Position of JRF at DRDO areRESEARCH ASSOCIATE M.Sc. First-class in Life Sciences subject like Agronomy/ Horticulture/ Soil Science/Seed Technology/ Plant Breeding and Genetics/ Botany/Zoology/ Animal Husbandry /Biotechnology /Plant Pathology/ Plant Physiology/ veterinary Physiology/ Agriculture Entomology/ Bio-Chemistry/Microbiology/Biochemistry. M Tech First class with NET/GATE cleared candidates can also apply NET qualification is mandatory. Age Limit: The maximum age limit for these posts is 28 years, according to the date of the interview. Five years is relaxable for SC/ST candidates, three years to OBC candidates, along with other eligible categories according to rules laid by the government. Selection- Eligible applicants need to appear for a walk-in-interview at the advertised time and branch of DRDO. Based on the performance in the interview, the students are selected.

Essential qualifications required To Hold A Position of Research Associate at DRDO are: Ph.D. degree (first class) in the areas of Animal Biotechnology/Veterinary Pathology/Veterinary Physiology/ Biochemistry. Sometimes it also becomes essential for the candidates to have a minimum of 2 Research Paper from their thesis which is published in peer-reviewed SCI journals Some of the DRDO Life Science Jobs may require some desirable research experience for Research Associate position, which may include the following: Hands-on expertise in techniques like HPLC, FTIR, NMR, and LC-MS Age Limit: The maximum age limit for these posts is 35 years according to the date of the interview. Five years is relaxable for SC/ST candidates, three years to OBC candidates, along with other eligible categories according to rules laid by the government.

Then the selected candidate can further enroll for Ph.D. under DRDO scientists with any university/Institution during the tenure of the fellowship. Next Page>>>>



Selection – Eligible applicants need to appear for a walk-in-interview at the advertised time and branch of DRDO. Based on the performance in the interview, the students are selected. SCIENTIST DRDO focuses on executing programs of scientific research, design, development, testing, and evaluation for devices and products which are required for defense of the nation. So to do so, they recruit highly qualified and competent scientists and technologists who form the Group ‘A’ (Class I Gazetted) Service, which is more appropriately known as De-

fence Research & Development Service (DRDS). There are more than 15 labs under the DRDO Life Science division. One can enter into DRDO as a Scientist `B.’ Eligibility– First Class Master’s Degree in Food Science First Class Master’s Degree in Food Science or equivalent. Selection – The candidates are directly recruited to the post of Scientist `B’ based on valid GATE (Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering) score in Life Sciences [Paper code: XL] and written test/interview. The offer of appointment to the selected

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candidates is restricted to an available number of vacancies in order of merit. Age Limit: The maximum age limit for this posts is 28 years for general candidates in DRDO which will be relaxable for SC/ST candidates, OBC candidates, along with other eligible categories according to rules laid by the government. Salary Range : • Junior Research Fellow – Rs. 25,000 to Rs. 31,000 plus HRA • Research Associate – Rs. 54,000/- per month plus HRA Therefore by working in the thrust

areas in DRDO, one can develop life support technologies to improve combat efficiency. One can help in enhancing the health and well-being of the soldiers when in extremes of environmental and operational conditions, development of novel food technologies to provide for military nutrition. Biotecnika posts vacancies from DRDO on a regular basis. Keep a check on our daily newsletter and do not miss out on these opportunities. That was the list of positions available at DRDO for Life Science Graduates. DRDO notifies these opportunities from time to time, and you can apply for the same!


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Artificial Neurons Developed By Scientists To Fight Brain Disease Scientists from the University of Bath have made Artificial Neurons for Brain Disease, paving the way for new ways to repair the human brain.


The research team used an amalgamation of computation, maths as well as nanotechnology to come up with a way to replicate in circuit form what neurons do naturally. The nerve cells carry signals to and from the brain and the rest of the body. There is an increase in degenerative neural diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Prof Nogaret termed his work –ArThe University of Bath researchers tificial Neurons for Brain Disease– as are interested in replicating them be“paradigm-changing” since it procause of the enormous potential that vides a powerful method to reprooffers in treating such conditions. duce the electrical properties of real neurons in minute detail. Developing Prof Alain Nogaret, from the departartificial neurons that respond to elecment of physics at the University of trical signals from the nervous system Bath, said the primary aim of their has been a long-time goal in mediresearch was to transfer the electrical cine. Scientists have been facing reproperties of brain cells on to synthetal-time challenges such as designing ic circuits made from silicon. the circuits & finding the parameters

that make the channels behave like real neurons. The researchers replicated two types of neurons, including cells from the hippocampus, an area of the brain that plays a significant role in memory, & brain cells involved in the control of breathing.

disease, including medical implants to treat conditions such as heart failure and Alzheimer’s. Prof Julian Paton, from the University of Auckland in New Zealand & the University of Bristol, termed this research “exciting.” He added that his team is further focusing on improving the “Artificial Neurons” to make it This research work opens up a range capable of dealing with real-life probof possibilities in repairing the neuron lems. that has been lost due to degenerative



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Bharat Biotech’s Advanced Rotavac 5D Vaccine For Viral Diarrhea On Tuesday, Bharat Biotech launched its new Rotavirus vaccine Rotavac 5D against viral diarrhea, which is more advanced but with a lower dose of .5 ml while the competitor vaccines are at 2-2.5 ml per dosage. THE ROTAVAC 5D IS A CONCENTRATED VERSION OF THE PREVIOUSLY AVAILABLE VACCINE. By Namitha Thampi

Through a study, they realized that most of the children are not able to consume a 2ml vaccine, and they spit it out. Most times, nurses were in a dilemma whether they should re-administrate the vaccine again or not. Bharat Biotech had given the instructions not to provide the vaccine again. To resolve this issue, they developed a more concentrated version of the vaccine to .5 ml. Also, the high volume doses consumed more storage space as compared to the .5ml multithe new vaccine to the UK or Europe dose packages. for now since more clinical trials on Countries like South America, Afri- the local population are required for ca, and Central Asian countries have that. The officials from the Bharat Biexpressed their interest in the newer otech said that they dont have the resources right now to expand the marvaccine. ket to western countries. The new Rotavac 5D

M Santosham, Professor at US-based John Hopkins University, reminded The current Rotavac vaccine requires minus 20-degree Celcius for about the increased number of child storage, which is the same as that of deaths associated with the rotavirus the oral polio vaccine. But the new vaccine in the 1980s. The Rotashield version Rotavac 5D requires only 2 to by Pfizer had caused the develop8 degrees Celcius as that of a typical refrigerator. Most vaccines like HPV, pentavalent, injectible polio vaccine, or pneumococcal (for pneumonia) are stored between two-eight degrees Celcius which is the latest choice. Currently, the Rotavac vaccine is provided to the government for a price of 70 per dose, but Rotavac 5D will be slightly costly for a price of 105 per dose. And the Rotavac 5D will be supplied to private sectors for a ten times higher price of 990-1100 per dose. The Bharat Biotech facility at Hyderabad has the capability of producing up to 200 million doses of both Rotavac and Rotavac 5D. Although Rotavac 5D for viral diarrhea was licensed in India in August, the government is still relying on Rotavac. But the company is ready to supply the new Rotavac to the government how much ever necessary. The company will not be supplying

ment of a condition called Intussusception in children. Intussusception entails the prolapsing of one section of the intestine into another, creating a blockage. While this condition develops in babies in normal circumstances also, an increased number of incidents were reported in the 1980s, which was later reported to be associated with the vaccine. The professor also added that the safety of vaccines had increased enormously now. Bharat Biotech tested the Rotavac

vaccine in 6800 children between 2011 and 2013. None of the children developed Intussusception during the first 21 days. In the vaccinated arm, though, there were eight cases, while in the placebo arm, there were three cases. Because the vaccinated arm was double the placebo arm, there is no significant difference in the case of Intussusceptions, and the association to vaccination was ruled out,� the official said.


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Chinese Government Using DNA Samples To Recreate Faces! According to reports, Chinese scientists are reconstructing human faces using seized DNA. THE NEW TECHNOLOGY COMES AFTER REPORTS THAT THE CHINESE GOVERNMENT HAS HARVESTED BLOOD SAMPLES FROM MUSLIMS BEING HELD IN SOME OF THE NATION’S “BRAINWASHING” PRISON CAMPS. By Rahul Mishra

According to experts, China DNA Face Technology could be used to help track down suspects using DNA left at a crime scene. However, with the Chinese government’s reputation for snooping on its citizens, many fear it is building a tool that could be used to restrict civil liberties further. China DNA Face TechnologyWhat Is The Objective? Experts believe that it may even be possible for the bullying state to feed images produced from the DNA into the many facial recognition systems it has already developed. This technology would allow the government to improve its ability to track the movements of dissidents as well as the protesters.

Reports confirm that DNA research, also called phenotyping, is taking place in labs run by China’s hardline Ministry of Public Security. The Chinese government is also researching how to use DNA to tell if a person is a Uighur — an ethnically Turkic Muslim. The state has a long history of targeting Muslims and has even been accused of pressuring them to eat pork. Hundreds of thousands of Uighurs are being held in state detention

centers and being forced to undergo “deradicalization” programs, including having to recite Chinese laws. It’s feared the DNA research is the latest in a string of attempts by officials to obstruct any form of religious freedom or expression in the country. China DNA Face TechnologyOther Rules & Policies

with their official government ID. Facial recognition is already mainstream in China, operating everywhere from airports to office buildings. Beijing’s bustling underground system has even begun trialing new facial scanners at its security checkpoints.

The latest initiative by the Chinese government will further worsen the The country already enforces “re- situation for its citizens in the country. al-name registration” policies that require people to link online accounts

New Study Reveals A Meteorite-loving microorganism

This microorganism prefers meteorites. A new study focusing on the microbial growth of Metallosphaera sedula on meteorites.

with an international team explored the metal-microbial interface and the physiology of Metallosphaera sedula, an extreme metallophilic archaeon that lives on and interacts with a meteorite, the extraterrestrial material meteorite Northwest Africa 1172 (NWA 1172). Based on extraterrestrial materials, biogenicity can be assessed and this provides a great source of information to explore the putative extraterrestrial bioinorganic chemistry, probably occurring in the Solar System.

Microorganisms that are chemolithotrophic obtain their energy from inorganic sources. Growing on the meteorite, this organism’s physiological processes were studied in this research. This leads to insights on the potential of extraterrestrial materials being a source of accessible energy and nutrients for microorganisms of the early Earth. The evolution of life on Earth may have been facilitated by This Archaeon prefers living on a variety of essential compounds de- meteorites livered by meteorites. The meteoritic material is colonized Tetyana Milojevic, an astrobiologist rapidly by the cells of M. sedula and from the University of Vienna, along this happens much faster than the

terrestrial origin minerals leading to microbial growth in the meteorite. Tetyana Milojevic says, ” For this ancient microorganism, rather than a diet on terrestrial mineral sources, the meteorite-fitness appears to be more beneficial. A multimetallic material, NWA 1172 might provide more trace metals for facilitating microbial growth and metabolic activity. The higher rate of growth of M. sedula might also be due to the porosity of NWA 1172.”

resolution, the meteorite-microbial interface was analyzed. The scientists unraveled a set of biogeochemical fingerprints that were left upon the growth of M. sedula on the meteorite NWA 1172 using a combination of many analytical spectroscopy techniques and transmission electron microscopy.

Milojevic concludes saying, ” The ability of M. sedula for performing biotransformation of meteorites minerals, the microbial growth and the microbial fingerprints on the meteorNanometer-scale Investigations ite material is validated in our invesThe trafficking of the inorganic con- tigations, providing us the next step stituents on the meteorite was traced in understanding biogeochemistry of by scientists into a microbial cell meteorite.” and they investigated the iron redox behavior. At nanometer-scale spatial By Prathibha HC



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CSIR-CCMB Scientists Find New Aspects Of Bacterial Cell Wall Development in E.coli Researchers from The Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology Hyderabad have identified an enzyme that plays a crucial role in the enlargement and growth of bacteria. THE ENZYME MEPK HELPS IN CUTTING A PARTICULAR CLASS OF BONDS THAT CONNECT THE PEPTIDOGLYCAN, WHICH IS A SAC-LIKE MOLECULE THAT ENVELOPS THE CELL. By Rahul Mishra

This action allows more material to be added to the cell wall, making a larger compartment for the cell to reside in. One of the essential features of a bacterium is its cell wall, which protects it from external environmental conditions and also internal pressure and keeps it in shape. The CCMB Bacteria Cell-Wall Development Research was carried out on E.coli, one of the most frequently used bacteria in research labs. E. coli are rod-shaped bacteria. Once the cell wall of the bacteria is destroyed, the bacteria are incapable of surviving. Scientists interested in developing new drug strategies to combat the bacteria often target the cell wall of the bacteria. Manjula Reddy’s lab at CSIRCCMB in Hyderabad understands how the bacterial cell wall develops during growth and division of cells. In earlier work, done in 2012, Dr. Reddy’s group showed that opening

the cell wall by hydrolyzing enzymes is crucial for the new material to be incorporated into it, leading to the cell’s expansion and elongation. CCMB Bacteria Cell-Wall Development- The Experiment on E.coli The cell wall is made up of peptidoglycan. This consists of many sugar polymers interconnected by short peptides. It encloses the bacterial cytoplasmic membrane very much like a jute bag. The peptides connecting the baglike structure are cross-linked in several ways. Scientists from CCMB have identified as an enzyme (MepK), which

helps in breaking down the bond between two mDAP residues. This leads to cutting the molecular mesh and thus aiding the growth (or enlargement) of the cell. Pavan Kumar Chodisetti, the first author of the paper, said that the class of enzymes reported by the scientists was not known earlier. He further added that this study has higher significance in organisms like Clostridia and M. tuberculosis because the cell walls of these bacteria have very high levels of the mDAP-mDAP type of cross-links. CCMB Bacteria Cell-Wall Development- Can It Help Scientists De-

velop Antibiotics? These cross-links constitute approximately 10% of total cross-links in Gram-negative bacteria like E. coli and Pseudomonas. However, they are predominant in many Gram-positive bacteria, such as Mycobacteria and Clostridia. According to Dr. Reddy, the next step will be to identify small-molecule inhibitors for this class of enzymes. The scientists are further interested in the molecular mechanisms by which the cell wall growth is initiated.


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Healthy Synbiotic Ice Cream By CSIR-CFTRI Would you believe if a health-conscious person tells you that icecreams are healthy? After chocolates, ice creams are considered as the scariest food for fitness and health-conscious people. Ice creams are loaded with calories and fat with no fiber at all. BUT THE NEW HEALTHY ICE CREAM DEVELOPED BY SCIENTISTS AT CSIR-CENTRAL FOOD TECHNOLOGICAL RESEARCH INSTITUTE (CFTRI) IS A LOW-FAT SYNBIOTIC ICE-CREAM SUPPLEMENTED WITH PROBIOTIC LACTOBACILLUS SPECIES AND PREBIOTIC BETA-MANNO-OLIGOSACCHARIDES (BETA-MOS). By Namitha HC

Probiotics are living microorganisms that can confer health benefits if used in adequate amounts. They can improve bowel health, immune system, and sometimes carry anti-cancer effects. Curd and yogurt are rich sources of probiotics. Now ice cream creams like is also joining the list. • Low-fat ice cream containing probiotic Lactobacillus species Prebiotics can selectively improve • Normal fat ice cream containing the growth of beneficial microbes in probiotic Lactobacillus spp. our gut like Lactobacillus. Most of the dietary fibers are a popular source • Low-fat ice cream supplemented with beta-MOS and probiotic of prebiotics. A food supplement that Lactobacillus includes both prebiotics and probiot• Low-fat ice cream supplemented ics are called synbiotic, and they can with FOS and probiotic Lactobaeffectively improve the growth of cillus species. beneficial microbes in our gut. Increasing health consciousness among the people has compelled scientists to develop food, which is not just delicious but provides health benefits besides regular nutrients. The new healthy ice cream by CSIR-CFTRI is one such food product.

All the ice creams were stored in -20 degrees Celcius, just like the normal ice creams. The probiotic cultures in the icecream were able to survive such deep freezing and later could populate in extreme conditions in the stomach and intestine.

Unlike the ordinary low-fat ice creams, the synbiotic low-fat ice creams had the right consistency, viscosity, and flow behavior, the factors that make ice-creams likable. Besides, these ice creams were more brighter and whiter. Till the 40th day of storage, there was no reduction in the number of probiotics, but the number The new ice cream is rich in Lacto- significantly reduced after 65th day. bacillus plantarum and Lactobacillus fermentum as probiotics and prebiot- The probiotics should survive the extreme conditions in the stomach. ic beta-MOS, a plant-derived fiber. The researchers tested this by growThe ice cream was made of sugar, ing probiotics in a simulated gastromilk powder, fat, emulsifier, stabi- intestinal environment. The results lizer, milk, vanillin with or without show that the presence of beta-MOS Fructooligosaccharide (FOS), or be- could improve the survival of Lactota-MOS. FOS is a well-known prebi- bacillus plantarum as well as Lactobacillus fermentum under gastric and otic and was used for comparison. intestinal stress. They made different versions of ice Dr. Mukesh Kapoor, the lead scientist, explained the reason behind choosing ice cream. Ice cream is nutritionally rich and popular among people of all age groups and socioeconomic status. That’s why the scientists thought it would be an ideal choice.

The journal of Food Processing and Preservation published the results. Dr. Mukesh Kapoor, Principal Scientist, CSIR-CFTRI, and his students

Shubhashini A and Deepesh Panwar conducted the study.



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Scientists Develop Biosensor-Equipped Glasses To Monitor Diabetes Diabetes is a common disorder that affects around 380 million people across the world. Diabetes requires continuous monitoring that makes the disease complicated and difficult for the patients. A RESEARCH STUDY THAT WOULD MAKE THE PATIENTS SMILE! By Namitha Thampi

But this is going to change with the help of technology. No matter how tiny it is, pricking the fingers with a needle is uncomfortable for most of us. It is not only painful but prone to infections also. Brazilian and American scientists have designed a new glucose oxidase biosensor that can monitor the patient’s blood glucose level through tears. This newly developed biosensor is painless as well as safe to use. Scientists equipped the glasses with these biosensors to monitor diabetes in such a way that whenever the patient produces tears, it will come in contact with the biosensor. As the tears come into contact with the glucose oxidase biosensor, it alters the flow of electrons and generates a signal that is transferred to a device installed in the arm of glasses.

The signals are immediately sent to a computer. Laís Canniatti Brazaca, one of the authors of study and researcher at the São Carlos Chemistry Institute, shared the underlying facts of this innovation. Various metabolite concentrations in tears are the reflection of respective levels in the blood. This

MIT Researchers To Study Genetics On Mars – With Special Equipment’s MIT researcher Christopher Carr has been dedicated to a program called SETG, the Search for Extraterrestrial Genomes. The MIT research team believes in the idea that life on Earth & life on Mars might be related. Christopher Carr and his group are developing an autonomous tool that could someday travel to Mars, collect appropriate samples, extract their genetic material, and sequence it. All this could be achieved without human involvement. Carr frequently goes on extreme field trips- to practice exploring, detecting, & characterizing the organisms in Earth’s most inhospitable places. He loves doing so in the hope that someday his instruments will be ready for the real deal. The project SETG is being funded from the NASA astrobiology program called MatISSE, the Maturation of Instruments for Solar System Exploration. The project is in collaboration with two companies in the biotech industry, which will help the MIT researchers for gene sequencing

and various genetic techniques. MIT To Study Genetics On MarsWith Help of SETG Initiative An instrument like the SETG doesn’t exist for Earth yet, let alone for space. But SETG, which was founded by Harvard geneticist Gary Ruvkun & MIT planetary scientist Maria Zuber in 2005, is making positive progress. Its current prototype integrates technology from two companies: Claremont BioSolutions & Oxford Nanopore Technologies. Currently, the scientists are assembling it into the final form, which they’ll test next year in the Chilean desert. If the test is successful, SETG will then be ready to apply for an interplanetary mission. Oxford makes the analytic backbone of SETG- a sequencer called MinION. This instrument reads out the ordered base pairs fed into the machine. The device has already been used to do the same-day genomic analysis of cancer cells, to analyze the microbes in gla-

makes the tears a noninvasive medium for measuring physiological parameters. The device can also be used for monitoring alcohol, vitamin concentrations in the blood, and other degenerative diseases. The device is not yet ready to introduce to the market. Cleverton

Pirich, a biochemist at Paraná Federal University, Brazil told that even though the advantages of biosensors are many, more work is required to make then genuinely effective, safe and manufacture on large scale

ciers, and to simultaneously sequence multiple RNA viruses in real-time. The instrument is small, self-sufficient, and cheap.

completed device to the Atacama desert in Chile in April 2020. This is the final proof of concept required before NASA sees the group as ready for a real space mission. It’s one small step toward a new way NASA could do its biology business.

MIT To Study Genetics On MarsCuriosity of Martin Life The MiniION works for terrestrial DNA. But would it translate to the genetic scaffolding of possible Martian life, which possibly would have spent billions of years on a different evolutionary track? The scientists are working on such possibilities & adding extra features to MiniION. While development isn’t done, the SETG instrument is nearing completion. The team is planning to take the

Maybe, someday SETG will find life in the alien red dirt- Mars. Perhaps probably not. But Carr and the team are approaching this project with a positive outlook, and they are sure that the project- MIT To Study Genetics On Mars- would surely be a success.

By Rahul Mishra


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Novel CRISPR System To Regulate Genome Editing In Space And Time CRISPR/Cas9 technology was adapted from the bacteria’s defense mechanism against bacteriophages. Emmanuelle Charpentier and Krzysztof Chylinski did one of the breakthrough discoveries in CRISPR in 2012. IN A SHORT TIME, CRISPR BECAME THE MOST USED METHOD FOR GENOME EDITING IN RESEARCH LABORATORIES DUE TO ITS ABILITY TO EDIT THE MAMMALIAN GENOME. By Namitha Thampi

CRISPR/Cas9 technology is also finding it’s way to clinical research to develop effective therapeutics for many diseases. A week ago, successful treatment of sickle cell anemia using CRISPR was announced. Several scientists and their teams had been working on ways to control the power of CRISPR’s genome editing. Ulrich Elling and the team at IMBA developed a system named “CRISPR-Switch” that could control genome editing in both space and time, by modulating the sgRNA activity. They published their results in the prestigious journal Nature Communications. The new CRISPR- Switch system has the potential to expand the applications of CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing as it can be quickly switched on without any detectable leakiness. Unlike the previous methods, CRISPR-Switch is not based on the modulation of Cas9 expression, which reduces the possible immune responses in vivo. Elling’s CRISPR- Switch is based on the modulation of sgRNA expression by employing Cre-Lox and Flp-FRT recombinases based system. These are recombination systems with high recombination efficiency that controls when are where the gene should express. Flp and Cre are recombinases known for their efficiency as well as precision. The use of recombinases in CRISPR-Switch allows scientists to knock out a particular gene from a specific cell type with superior specificity and precision. The system is capable of knocking out multiple genes in a desirable order. CRISPR-Switch allows outstanding flexibility as the exact timepoint of gene activation can be monitored for different diseases both in vitro and in vivo. The researchers studied the order of mutagenic events that would result in glioma formation in mouse models. The CRISPR-Switch can be applied to different types of tumor to identify

sections of the genome that induce tumor formation. CRISPR-Switch can be used to study not only tumor initiation but also the challenging topic of tumor maintenance. Maria Hubmann, one of the first authors of the study, explained that a precise order of gene deletion is

required for the formation of tumor, and this was confirmed by their in vivo studies in mice. They studied two genes, mainly, NF1 and TRP53, which are linked to glioblastoma. The mice developed gliomas only when they knocked out TRP53 before NF1 but not vice versa.

CRISPR-Switch’s ability to control genome editing by knocking out genes in specific cells at specific time points through a rapid switch on/off with high specificity and precision will bring benefits to the research labs all over the world.



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Researchers Use Sound Waves For Drug Delivery A technique conventionally adapted from telecommunications promises an effective cancer treatment. Melbourne researchers have discovered that drugs can be delivered into individual cells by using soundwaves. DR. SHWATHY RAMESAN FROM RMIT AND A TEAM OF RESEARCHERS ADAPTED A TECHNIQUE USED IN THE TELECOMMUNICATIONS INDUSTRY FOR DECADES. By Rahul Mishra

The new technique-Sound For Drug Delivery- aids in silencing genes responsible for diseases, including cancer, by switching them on or off. Dr. Shwathy Ramesan said that recent success in gene therapies has armed the medical professionals with the exciting possibility of isolating a patient’s target cells and then re-engineering them in the lab & re-infusing them back into the same body. She highlighted that this new technique brings reality significantly closer. Cells in our body actively reject most delivered drugs. The key challenge faced by the researchers in the Sound For Drug Delivery project is to

get the engineered cells back is overcoming the body’s innate resistance to foreign entities. Shwathy and her team have developed a microchip that produces precise soundwaves. The soundwaves produced by the chip are inaudible to the human ear. These soundwaves can

Are Your Make-up Products Safe? Study Finds Harmful Bacteria In Them! Researchers find that 9 out of 10 makeup products are contaminated with microbes. A new research study finds that most of the open makeup products like mascara, lip gloss, blending sponges, etc are contaminated with dangerous microbes like the Staphylococci bacteria and E.coli bacteria. Journal of Applied Microbiology published this study. The scientists at Aston University in the U.K. tested makeup products and found bacterial presence in almost all of the tested products. The bacteria found in them can potentially cause skin infections, if they are used near the mouth, eyes or any cut, grazed skin, they could also cause blood poisoning. People who are more susceptible to contract infections and who are immunocompromised are at higher risks of being affected by bacteria which would be otherwise normally taken care of by the immune system. The presence of such dangerous bacteria in makeup products does not necessarily mean people would get sick and currently, substantial research is

lacking correlating this. This study comprised of about 467 individual makeup products, which had products like blending sponges used for applying makeup like foundation on the face. The highest level of harmful microbes was to be found on these sponges, mostly because these sponges are left damn after using which creates a breeding ground for harmful bacteria. The study found that almost 93% of the people who used these sponges never had them cleaned, and about two-thirds of them had at some point dropped their spongers on the ground, which further adds to the possibilities of dangerous microbes being present in them. The lead author of this study, Dr. Amreen Bashir from Aston University’s School of Life and Health Sciences says, “The reason for bacteria in make-up products is due to the poor hygiene of consumers while using make-up, particularly while using the beauty blenders is worrying after finding the presence of harmful bacteria such as E.coli(which is linked

be used to control the exact manipulation of drug uptake at the sub-cellular levels. This technique -Sound For Drug Delivery– not only increases the drug delivery percentage inside the cells but also reduces the death rates substantially. These features make it an

attractive drug delivery technique.

with fecal contamination) breeding on the tested products.” Around the world, the need to mention expiry dates on makeup products varies. A “date of minimum durability” or “period after opening” or “best used before the end of” is required to be present on most of the cosmetic products in the European Union for showing how long the product can or should be used. However, according to the FDA, there are no such regulations or laws in the U.S. which specify the life of the product or its expi-

ration date.

Dr. Shwathy and the team have successfully demonstrated the technique in preliminary lab-based experiments. The results are published in the journal Nanoscale.

Dr. Bashir said that there still a lot to be done in educating consumers and the make-up industry about the necessity to regularly was these beauty blenders or the blending sponges and importantly letting them completely dry to prevent any bacteria in the make-up products, along with educating the risk of using a product beyond its expiry date. By Prathibha HC


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Researchers Study Chromosome Reorganization After Cell Division Have you ever wondered how a cell nucleus and its chromosomal material reorganizes itself after cell division? Researchers have discovered vital mechanisms and structural details of this fundamental biological process. The new findings in chromosomal architecture & function may offer valuable insights into human disease. GERD A. BLOBEL, MD, PH.D. AT THE CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL OF PHILADELPHIA, SAID THAT AS A CELL DIVIDES INTO TWO DAUGHTER CELLS DURING MITOSIS, VIRTUALLY ALL THE GENES ARE TEMPORARILY TURNED OFF. ALSO, THE STRUCTURES IN CHROMATIN FIBERS ARE DISRUPTED. By Rahul Mishra

After mitosis, the daughter cells rebuild the complex chromatin structures within each cell nucleus. In their research of Chromosome Reorganization After Cell Division, Blobel and the team of scientists describe the biological structures and dynamic forces that drive chromosome reorganization after mitosis. Blobel said that, despite the critical importance of the cell cycle, in which cells grow and divide, few scientists previously investigated the mechanisms of chromatin rebuilding. The research team at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia performed their experiments in blood-forming cells from a well-established mouse model. In the Chromosome Reor-

ganization After Cell Division study, the researchers used sophisticated techniques called high throughput chromosome conformation capture (Hi-C) that detect and map interactions across three-dimensional space between specific sites in chromosomal DNA. These maps also allowed scientists to measure such communications at different time points in the cell cycle. The study on Chromosome Reorganization After Cell Division detected

Scientists Discover The Epigenetics Behind One’s Desire to Exercise Some people love to exercise while others not. Most of us assumed that its the genetics that plays a role in one’s innate drive to exercise. But a study conducted by researchers from Baylor College of Medicine shows that it’s not genetics, but epigenetics, the molecular level of regulation that determines if one would like to exercise or not. Epigenetics is the molecular mechanism that controls which genes are turned on or off in different types of cells. Since epigenetics is more malleable than genetics, the study proposes a potential technique to program people to enjoy being physically active. The Nature Communications reported the Baylor researchers’ novel creation, ‘epigenetic couch potato’ mouse. They observed that alteration in methylation of DNA in the neurons of the hypothalamus in the brain enhances the voluntary exercise behavior. The researchers at the Baylor College of Medicine study developmental programming, the way

the environment during development influences the risk of disease in the long term. The researchers had been studying the developmental programming of energy balance in various mouse models, which is the balance between the calories consumed vs. that is burned off, which later lead to the discovery of epigenetics behind one’s desire to exercise. Surprisingly, while the early environmental influences were infant overnutrition, maternal exercise during pregnancy or fetal growth restriction, the long term effect on energy balance was mostly contributed not by food intake, but by physical activity. The group’s early studies had shown that the early environment that may involve epigenetics affects one’s physical activity ‘set point.’ How the brain regulates energy balance

the formation of structures in chromatin- the appearance and the expansion of transcriptionally active & silenced compartments; the creation of contact between regulatory regions of the genome including changes in the “architectural proteins” called CTCF and cohesin that help sculpt the genome. Transcription- the process of conversion of information encoded in DNA into its equivalent in RNA stops temporarily during mitosis but reactivates thereafter in the daughter

cells. Because gene mutations that disrupt typical genome architecture or transcription can play a crucial role in disease, a better understanding of chromatin architecture has potential clinical importance. In The Study of Chromosome Reorganization After Cell Division, Blobel highlighted, offers valuable insights into fundamental aspects of a critical process in biology, i.e., the chromatin organization over space & time.

In the study, Waterland, who also is a professor of molecular and human genetics and a member of the Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Center at Baylor and his colleagues experimented to test if DNA methylation has any effects on energy balance. They altered the methylation of neuron DNA in a specific region of the brain called the hypothalamus that controls the energy balance of the body. The experiment was done on specialized neurons in the hypothalamus called AgRP neurons, known for their role in regulating food intake. They inhibited the Dnmt3a gene in AgRP neurons in mice to disrupt the DNA methylation. Dnmt3a gene is responsible for the methylation of DNA in the brain during postnatal life. As expected, the inhibition of the Dnmt3a gene leads to a significant decrease in methylation. Later the scientists observed if these mice gained or lost weight. Dr. Harry MacKay, a postdoctoral fellow in the Waterland lab, said that they were expecting significant changes in the weight of these mice. But they were disappointed as only a slight increase in

the weight was shown by the mice. They tried to find the root cause of this. They observed the food intake between the normal and Dnmt3a deficient mice. They couldn’t find any. But they saw a significant change in the physical activity of mice. The researchers introduced running wheels in the cages of mice and observed them for eight weeks. They found that normal male mice ran about 6 Km (3,7 miles) every night, while the Dnmt3a-deficient mice ran only half as much as normal mice and therefore lost less fat. Detailed treadmill studies showed that the Dnmt3a deficient mice were as capable as normal mice for running, but showed less desire. Their findings propose that epigenetic mechanisms like DNA methylation, established in the brain during fetal or early postnatal life, play a significant role in determining the individual’s desire for exercise. The findings are important as a decrease in physical activity has contributed to the worldwide obesity epidemic. By Namitha



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Indian Scientists Selected For EMBO Global Investigator Network Program Three Indian Scientists are selected for the Global Investigator Network Program launched by EMBO. The European Molecular Biology Organisation’s (EMBO) has launched the Global Investigator Network Program recently for supporting life science researchers. IT IS FOR PROVIDING SUPPORT FOR THE RESEARCHERS WHO ARE AT THEIR EARLY STAGE OF ESTABLISHING INDEPENDENT LABORATORIES SO THAT THEY CAN BE ABLE TO ACCESS NETWORKING OPPORTUNITIES AND CAREER-ENHANCING TRAINING. By Prathibha HC

The three Indian Scientists selected by the EMBO are Dimple Notani of National Centre for Biological Sciences, Jyothilakshmi Vadassery of National Institute of Plant Genome Research, and Santosh Chauhan of Institute of Life Sciences, Bhubaneswar. This program focuses on the life scientists who have started their own laboratory in Singapore and India within the last six years. They are also covered by a cooperation agreement with the Associate Member States of European Molecular Biology Conference (EMBC) or in Taiwan and Chile. Overall, for this program, a total of nine scientists are selected this year. There are many benefits of this pro-

gram like training in research integrity and leadership; small grants, for example, visiting Europe for starting or continuing collaborations, or for organizing or attending international or regional scientific meetings; and for joint lab retreats, lab meetings, childcare or publication, it provides financial support. The significance of this program is to strengthen the cross-continental con-

nections with researchers in Europe, particularly the EMBO Young Investigators and Installation Grantees and create a local network of young group leaders. The biennial Global Investigator Meeting can be attended by these Global Investigators along with the EMBO community members. In January 2020, the first group of Global Investigators will start the program and for four years, they will

have support from EMBO. The next call would open in March 2020 and the applications are annually accepted by June 1. The Director of EMBO welcomed the first batch of Global Investigators and said, ” We want to enable these scientists to develop and maintain strong connections with the life science community in Europe and beyond, through the network.”


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CRUP – An Artificial Intelligence Tool To Predict Enhancers in Genome Martin Vingron and his team at the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics in Berlin developed a program using artificial intelligence that compares data sets from different cellular conditions, identifies enhancers, and then maps them to their respective genes. MARTIN VINGRON, DIRECTOR AND HEAD OF THE DEPARTMENT OF BIOINFORMATICS AT THE MAX PLANCK INSTITUTE FOR MOLECULAR GENETICS IN BERLIN, SAID: “DNA IS PRETTY BORING SINCE IT IS PRACTICALLY THE SAME IN EVERY CELL. By Namitha Thampi

When the genome is like the book of life, I am most interested in the side notes”. Martin Vingron is interested in the enhancers of the DNA that do not change the genetic information but influences the gene expression by activating or deactivating the gene at specific sites. Scientists observed that this regulation of gene expression does not occur properly in many of the diseases. However, the analysis of such regions is complicated, time-consuming, and complex. To overcome this challenge, Martin Vingron and his team developed a new program named Condition-specific Regulatory Units Prediction (CRUP), which makes the task easy and solves many practical problems. Bioinformatician, Verena Heinrich who developed the package, said that they wanted to create a universal program that combines all the common steps involved in enhancer prediction. The machine-learning algorithm they developed is not restricted to a specific type of tissue or cell, the program does not need to be calibrated every time before the analysis, and it allows the comparative study of multiple data sets. Moreover, the CRUP tool to predict enhancers is extremely easy to use. Enhancers – The regulators of gene expression Enhancers are short regions of DNA that attract proteins and help them to bind to the promoter region to enhance the expression of the respective gene. But which enhancer binds to which gene’s promoter is a question mark since the enhancer and gene can be located far away from each other. And there are hundreds of thousands of such enhancers that further complicates it. CRUP identifies and characterizes those specific enhancers. Enhancers are active at different time points during a cell’s life; for

example, some might be active at the growth phase while some others are active at a disease phase. When the DNA is tightly wrapped on the proteins called histones, the enhancer sequences are not accessible and are in a resting phase. When particular chemical modifications happen to the histones, specific regions of DNA unwrap from the histones and get exposed to the proteins that regulate the genes. Chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) of histone proteins, along with DNA sequencing, identifies active and non-active enhancers. The three-step analysis The ChIP data becomes the input

for CRUP to predict enhancers. In the first step, CRUP analyses the complete sequence to identify the enhancers. Here, artificial intelligence is used to identify the enhancers, by training it with information from mouse embryonic stem cells. Heinrich and her colleagues tested this on multiple data sets provided by the german Epigenome Program (DEEP) to demonstrate its ability to identify enhancers in many other animals. In the second step, CRUP is fed with multiple data sets to carry out a comparative study and pinpoint differences between tissues. The third step involves the mapping of enhancers to their respective genes. CRUP analysis data, when combined with transcrip-

tion data and experiments, reveal which part of DNA is active at the same time at the same place. CRUP was used to identify and compare the enhancer regions in mice with rheumatoid arthritis with that of healthy mice. They were able to detect 200 differences in enhancer regions, some of the enhancers, and some mapped genes already known for the diseases. The team could successfully identify the disease-associated enhancers and map them to the respective genes. The team believes that CRUP will accelerate research to identify the underlying causes of many human diseases.



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CDRI-IISER Researchers Finds New Drug Targets For Superbugs Researchers from CSIR-Central Drug Research Institute (CDRI), Lucknow, and Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Pune, have identified a protein pathway in an antibiotic-resistant bacterial strain called Staphylococcus aureus. WHAT’S MORE, IS THAT THEY HAVE DEVELOPED A NEW MOLECULE THAT CAN TARGET THIS PATHWAY AND INHIBIT THE GROWTH OF THE SUPERBUG- S. AUREUS By Rahul Mishra

What’s more, is that they have developed a new molecule that can target this pathway and inhibit the growth of the superbug- S. aureus. The new molecule has been named as indole based quinone epoxide (IND-QE). This molecule can cross the bacterial cell barriers and disrupt the functioning of MarR proteins, which are essential for the growth and survival of S. aureus bacteria. Given the increase in bacterial resistance globally, the development of new antibiotics is a significant challenge among researchers. New medicines are usually based on natural products such as fungal or plant extracts or from vast chemical libraries, which are a series of stored chemicals. CDRI IISER Antibiotic For Superbugs- New Approach To Destroy Superbugs The CDRI IISER researchers have selected a relatively less-explored process of antibiotic discovery. Dr. Harinath Chakrapani, a researcher at IISER, Pune said that a novel set of proteins (MarR) has been identified in S. aureus that could be targeted by antibacterial agents to tackle severe infections. This approach has led to the inhibition of extremely drug-resistant VRSA bacteria. IND-QE were synthesized at IISER Pune, while researchers at CSIR CDRI screened the compounds against a panel of pathogens. It was again followed by the experiments at IISER Pune to identify and validate the protein targets of these compounds. CDRI IISER Antibiotic For Superbugs – The Way Forward S. aureus is commonly found on human skin and mucosal membranes. If the micro-organism enters the bloodstream or internal tissues, it can cause serious infections such as endocarditis, osteomyelitis or pneumonia, etc.

Staphylococcus aureus is an infection-causing bacteria which can readily become Superbug. The MarR protein found in bacteria

is essential for its growth and survival, which can be destroyed by the IND-QE molecule. CDRI IISER Antibiotic For Super-

bugs can be seen as a breakthrough By Indian researchers to combat AMR.


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American University Researchers Sequence Devil Worm’s Genome The “Devil Worm” is the deepest living animal, discovered from an aquifer nearly one mile underground. American University researchers recently published a paper in nature communications reporting that they have sequenced the genome of devil worm. THE UNIQUE ANIMAL’S GENOME WILL PROVIDE THE CLUES TO HOW AN ORGANISM CAN SURVIVE IN LETHAL ENVIRONMENTAL CONDITIONS. By Preety Suman

How the devil worm evolved to adapt harsh environment has an enormous scope of research since the studies might help humans adapt to the increasing global warming. It was in 2008 when Gaetan Borgonie and Tullis Onstott from the University of Ghent and Princeton University respectively discovered the devil worm accidentally while investigating subterrestrial bacterial communities in South African gold mines. They were surprised to see the complex, multicellular organism surviving in an environment of high temperature, high concentration of methane, and low oxygen levels, which was thought to be livable only by microbes. This is the first time a subterrestrial organism’s genome is sequenced. John Bracht, assistant professor of biology at American University who headed the project, said that the genome provides clues on how life can survive below earth’s surface and opens an opportunity for understanding how life can exist beyond earth. The genome sequencing disclos-

es the presence of a large number of heat shock genes Hsp70 in the devil worm’s genome, which is exceptional compared to the genome of other nematodes.Hsp70 is a gene that helps to restore cellular health after the heat shock damage. Many copies of Hsp70 were found in the genome along with A1G1 genes known for cellular survival. Although more research is required, the presence of these many copies of the genes is evidence of evolutionary adaptation. Since the worm is present underground, it cannot run away from there. The only choice left for the organism is to adapt by making extra copies of heat shock proteins. The scientists scanned the genomes

of other organisms and identified animals with similar kinds of Hsp70 and AIG1 genes. Bivalves, some mollusks like oysters, mussels, and clans were the identified organisms, and this suggested that this pattern of the genome might be present in organisms that are trapped in a warm environment. The study was published in the journal of molecular evolution with Megan Guerin, an AU undergraduate as the first author. Bracht was a postdoctoral fellow at Princeton University when he got a chance to sequence the devil worm’s genome. He later carried over the project to American University when he joined the AU biology faculty in 2014. Deborah Weinstein and Sarah Al-

len, who were the master students working in Bracht’s lab, contributed to the work along with Kathryn Walters-Conte, Ph.D., director of AU’s Master’s in Biotechnology program. It’s quite amazing that something that was unknown a decade ago is a subject of study in research labs now. Bracht referred the worms to “Aliens landed at AU” when he brought them from South Africa.NASA supports the project for its potential to provide clues about life beyond earth. The future plans for Bracht’s lab are to study Hsp70’s function by inactivating the gene to see its effect on heat tolerance. The plan also includes gene transfer studies by inserting the gene to C.elegans, a heat intolerant microscopic roundworm.



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Animals or Animal Embryos, What Evolved First? Scientists have discovered animal-like embryos in the fossil record. An international research team of scientists from the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology and the University of Bristol uncovered that in the fossil record, animal-like embryos evolved long before the first animals appeared. BEFORE ANIMALS BECAME MORE DIVERSE INTO 30 OR 40 DISTINCT ANATOMICAL DESIGNS, THEY INITIALLY EVOLVED FROM SINGLE-CELLED ANCESTORS. By Prathibha HC

The debate on how and when the transition of animals from single-celled microbes to complex multicellular organisms occurred has always been an intense topic. So far, to answer this question, studies have been made only on living animals and their relatives. Now, this team of scientists have taken a different approach and have found key evidence in this major evolutionary transition. They found that this transition happened long before finding complex animals in fossil records and that the answer can be found in the fossilized embryos which resemble the multicellular stages of the single-celled animal relative’s life cycle. Fossil named Caveasphaera was discovered in 609 million years old rocks, found at the Guizhou Province of South China. The fossils of individual Caveasphaera are just about half a millimeter in diameter. But indepth they were preserved till their component cells, which was revealed by using X-ray microscopy. “The working of X-Ray tomographic microscopy is just like a medical CT scanner, with the added benefit of allowing us to features of about less than a thousandth of a millimeter in size,” says Kelly Vargas, from the University of Bristol’s School of Earth Sciences. From the Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology in China, the Co-author of this study, Zongjun Yin says, “From our study results, just like in animals and humans, Caveasphaera sorting its cells during embryo development could be observed, but we did not get evidence that these embryos develop into more complex organisms.” Another Co-author from the University of Bristol, Dr. John Cunningham says, “Caveasphaera life cycle was similar to the close living relatives of animals, alternating between single-celled stages and multicellular stages. However, going a step further, Caveasphaera recognizes those cells during embryology.”

Stefan Bengtson, the Co-author from the Swedish Museum of Natural History says, “This study gives us the earliest evidence of the crucial step in the evolution of animals found in Caveasphaera allowing them to develop distinct organs and tissue layers.” Another Co-author from Nanjing Institute of Geology and Palaeontology, Maoyan Zhu said that he is not completely certain about Caveasphaera being an animal. He said that the Caveasphaera looks very similar to the embryos of some starfish and corals and they could not find the adult stages mainly because it was hard to

fossilize them. Dr. Federica Marone, co-author from the Paul Scherrer Institute in Switzerland says, “Amazing details from this study can be preserved in the fossil record but adding to this was the potential of X-ray microscopes which could uncover the secrets preserved in the stones without causing any damage to the fossils.” Professor Philip Donoghue, another co-author from the University of Bristol’s School of Earth Sciences, says “Features looking both like early embryos of primitive animals and the microbial relatives of animals could be seen in Caveasphaera. We are still

on the hunt to find more fossils that could help us decide.” Whichever of two given alternatives, Caveasphaera fossils show animal-like embryos were evolving even before the oldest definitive animals appearing in the fossil record. This study was funded through the Transitions and Resilience (BETR) program, Biosphere Evolution, co-funded by the Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) and Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).


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Researchers Employ Artificial Intelligence to Predict RNA Structures Griffith University researchers developed an artificial intelligence(AI) method to predict the secondary structures of RNA in a better way. The researchers hope that the new tool will help in a better understanding of RNA’s role in various diseases and cancer. NATURE COMMUNICATIONS PUBLISHED THIS INNOVATIVE WORK DONE BY A TEAM OF RESEARCHERS AT GRIFFITH’S INSTITUTE FOR GLYCOMICS LEAD BY PROFESSOR YAOQI ZHOU. By Swarna Khushbu

Being one of the four major macromolecules, RNA (ribonucleic acid) plays a vital role in decoding, coding, expression, and regulation of genes in all living organisms. The group of researchers implemented deep learning, a subset of machine learning in artificial intelligence, to derive complicated mathematical functions for carrying out specific tasks automatically without direct human instructions. They created a precise model for the functional relationship between the sequence and structure of RNA. This is the first time in the world scientists are using artificial intelligence to predict RNA structure. And this advancement comes after decades of unaltered performance by previous techniques to predict RNA structure. Professor Zhou believes that this new technique will help to design new RNA molecules of therapeutic potentials. Since the number of proteins outnumbers almost 10 times the number of RNAs in the body, scientists had been focusing on proteins for decades. Consequently, we were unaware of why these RNAs are present in our body. This is why Griffith University researchers developed this tool to get some clues about RNA structures. According to Professor Zhou, clues are essential since the involvement of more and more RNAs is being identified in various diseases, including cancer. The sequence of RNA is encoded in the genome, but how RNAs function through their structures was unexplored. The new tool will enable scientists to link the structure and sequence of RNA better. Using the deep learning technique, researchers will now be able to understand the relationship between sequence, structure, and function of RNAs. Once the link is understood, we will be able to design RNAs for a particular purpose, like therapeutics or molecular sensors.

To develop the model, the team analyzed the existing data sets for known RNA structures and expanded the data set by refining the training method. To predict the structure of 30 million RNAs by analyzing that of just 250 known RNA structures could be done only through deep learning. This was a complex task as the nucleotides can theoretically pair with any other base within the RNA, and deep learning

was used to find out which nucleotides are paired together. The algorithm had to work through millions of RNA sequences. To date, people were relying on comparative studies based on RNA families and statistics-based algorithms. Although these methods could somewhat model the specific functions linking the structure and sequence, they could only reach up to 80% ac-

curacy in basepair predictions. Deep learning brought an opportunity to overcome all the shortcomings, including the accuracy to boost to 93%. The research ‘RNA secondary structure prediction using an ensemble of two-dimensional deep neural networks and transfer learning’ has been published in Nature: Communications.



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For the First Time in Many Years, Scientists Decode DNA’s Chaperone Protein Structure Scientists cracked the structure of FACT protein, the chaperone in the functioning of DNA.Just like students at a high school dance, the proteins that package DNA require a chaperone. We have known this for a long time now, but the exact structure of this guardian and its behavior has been unknown until now. THE UNIVERSITY OF COLORADO BOULDER SCIENTISTS HAS NOW DECODED THE MYSTERIOUS STRUCTURE OF THE ‘FACILITATES CHROMATIN TRANSCRIPTION’ (OR FACT) PROTEIN. By Swarna Khushbu

The FACT protein is partly responsible for ensuring there are no improper interactions and everything goes on smoothly in DNA when it sheds temporarily and the guardian histones or proteins are replaced. The study’s findings are a result of five years project at CU Boulder. It is out in the Nature journal. The findings in this research are of great value in not just understanding the gene transcription and genome but also for understanding cancer and in developing anti-cancer drugs. One of the study’s lead authors and a research associate at CU Boulder, Yang Liu said, “This is not the end, it’s just the beginning for this protein.” The FACT protein was discovered in 1998 and since then, it has been of great interest to those studying DNA, mainly because of the various possibilities this protein has. Even though there have been decades of efforts in understanding the proteins, the main question of the working of the protein has remained unanswered. FACT protein is an essential type of histone chaperone. During the destructions and reconstruction of nucleosomes (which is the structural unit responsible for packing and organizing DNA), the guardian proteins escort other proteins. This happens during the transcription of a gene, i.e., the step where the DNA is copied into RNA, during replication of DNA, i.e., when the whole genome is replicated and during DNA damage repair which is important in preventing diseases like cancer. But, not knowing the exact structure of the protein, researchers have been wondering how does this protein maintains and also destroys. In this research, there are answers for both. Keda Zhou, the other lead author for the paper and a research associate at CU Boulder says, “People have tried for a long time to find the mechanism behind how the FACT protein helps in transcription. Researchers have been working on various aspects of

this protein and we are the ones to identify first, so we’re really happy about this.” This team of scientists along with a lab from New York and another lab from Texas has finally decoded this mystery by the isolation of the FACT protein with a lot of ingenuity, tenacity and hard work. They managed to map it out and discover its action of both the destruction and maintenance of the nucleosome. It was found that this FACT protein resembles the fork and saddle of a unicycle, consisting of many domains that straddle the nucleosome wheel of the unicycle. Until then, scientists only saw one domain at once which caused contradictory results and confusion.

Still, not one of those varied findings appeared to be wrong. Everything was put together by Zhou and Liu’s work. The senior author of this study and the endowed chair of biochemistry at CU Boulder, a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Investigator said, “It looked like everyone was correct and that’s cool.” For both the Luger’s lab and the broader medical community, this protein’s discovery is just the start. A modern cryo-electron microscope was purchased earlier this year by CU Boulder with aid of matching funds from HHMI, which allowed researchers to see structures of biomolecules in ultra-high-resolution. Using this microscope, Luger wants to find more

about the FACT protein. Luger said, “Other protein’s action can be caught by using these modern technologies. It is like there could be a movie made with a detailed step by step process, where we can watch every part’s action during this process. Technology has made this possible!” The result of something wrong in the DNA replication or gene transcription or the repair process is what leads to cancer, and hence, this research can shed light in these areas leading to cancer treatment research. Zhou says, “This is the beginning though there are many unknowns”


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CSIR-CCMB To Initiate Studies On Mental Health Genomics Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), one of the top research institutes in India announced plans to initiate studies on mental health genomics. The study will focus on understanding the predisposition of mental illness in collaboration with Professor Vikaram Patel’s team. RESEARCH IN MENTAL ILLNESS IS A GROWING FIELD WITH A HUGE SCOPE. By Namitha Thampi

Psychological, environmental, genetic and biological factors influence many mental disorders. In fact, certain researches have identified some genes and gene variations behind some of the mental ailments and disorders. Professor Vikram Patel is the principal research fellow at the Harvard medical school and Pershing Square Professor of Global health and welcome trust. At the 32nd foundation day of CCMB, Prof. Patel was invited as a guest and he delivered a lecture on transforming mental health globally through science and action. He reminded that mental health is equally important as physical health and there is a high need for research to understand the biology of mental health and bring the attention of health professionals, stakeholders, general public and policymakers to destigmatize the issue and understand the developments going on in the field.

He explained how science has brought a deeper understanding of mental health and how to deal with the sufferings from mental ailments. He discussed how science would help to improve public welfare. Science alone is inadequate to make an impact in society but if scientists communicate and join hands with a wider community, they can make sure that the knowledge they generate is translated into action. CCMB was celebrating 32 years of its foundation as an independent cam-

CMU Scientists Develop Algorithms To Find Gene-Expression Anomalies Computational biologists at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) have devised an algorithm to rapidly sort through mountains of gene expression data to find unexpected phenomena that might merit further study. One of the key features that sets the algorithm apart is that it re-examines its output, looking for mistakes it has made and then correcting them. The research was carried out by Carl Kingsford, a professor in CMU’s Computational Biology Department, and Cong Ma, a Ph.D. student in computational biology. This is the first attempt by scientists at automating the search for these anomalies in gene expression inferred by RNA sequencing. CMU Algorithms Finds Gene-Defects: Using Computational Biology In Genetics Using this system, the researchers al-

ready have detected 88 anomalies that were unexpectedly high or low levels of expression of regions within genes. Though an organism’s genetic makeup is static, the activity level, or expression, of genes varies significantly over time. Gene expression analysis has thus become a vital tool for biological research, as well as for diagnosing and monitoring cancers. Anomalies can be important clues for researchers, but until now, finding them has been a painstaking, manual process, sometimes called “sequence gazing.” Finding one anomaly might require examining 200,000 transcript sequences — sequences of RNA that encode information from the gene’s DNA. Dr. Kingsford said that most researchers, therefore, focus on regions of genes that they think are important, mainly ignoring the vast majority of potential

pus in 1987 at Habsiguda, Hyderabad. Throughout these years, CCMB had been excelling in carrying out cutting edge research in modern biology and developing new technologies to meet the requirements in food, health and wildlife conservation. Prof. Patel said that there is no biomarker identified to date that diagnoses mental health illness. Everyone goes through various mental health issues and most of us ignore them. Mental health is as important as physical health.

On this occasion, Dr.Rakesh Mishra, the director of CCMB also gave an outlook of the studies conducted by the institute. Prof Patel is co-Director of the Centre for Control of Chronic Conditions at the Public Health Foundation of India, co-founder of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), and co-founder of Sangath, an NGO based out of Goa that works on mental health issues at grassroots.

anomalies. Ma noted that identifying anomalies is often not clear cut. Some RNA-seq “reads,” for instance, are common to multiple genes and transcripts and sometimes get mapped to the wrong one. If that occurs, a genetic region might appear more or less active than expected. CMU Algorithms Finds Gene-Defects: Algorithms That Rectifies Itself!

So the algorithm re-examines any anomalies it detects and sees if they disappear when the RNA-seq reads are redistributed between the genes. The Falsely predicted instances of differential expression can be reduced by correcting anomalies with the re-examination method. By Rahul Mishra



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West Bengal To Allocate Exclusive Space For Biotech Incubation The West Bengal State Government has decided to a dedicated bio incubation center so that start-ups in the sector can thrive. The government is in the pipeline to start this initiative to create an environment for developing the biotechnology industry in West Bengal. INDIA HAS A 3% SHARE IN THE GLOBAL BIOTECH MARKET, RANKS THIRD IN THE ASIA PACIFIC REGION AFTER JAPAN & CHINA, AND IS THE 12TH LARGEST BIOTECHNOLOGY MARKET INTERNATIONALLY. By Rahul Mishra

Barun Kumar Ray, Secretary at the Biotechnology Department in the West Bengal Government, said that in the Biotech Incubation Centre, around 45,000 sq ft space would be available as an incubation and laboratory to promote startups and entrepreneurs. He was speaking to various stakeholders in a meeting organized by the CII. The meeting was held to sensitize the potential start-ups, entrepreneurs, & investors for their biotechnology

ventures at the facility West Bengal is uniquely located to harness the potential of biotechnol-

ogy due to its conducive climate, bio-diversity, geographic location, & availability of different crops and

plants which can be utilized with the intervention of biotech for production of value-added products.


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Most Accepted GMO’s Till Date Hello everyone. Welcome to another exciting episode of our podcast. Today we are going to share some very interesting facts that have raised concerns all over the world, initiated debates and challenged scientists to prove their point.

Episode 58 By Ms. Somhrita Pal

What is today’s’ topic? Nope, I won’t disclose it now. Stay tuned and keep following. Biotecnika’s very own podcast-the Voice Of Biotecnika. Jerefy Rifnin was once found saying- ‘’What I’m suggesting to you is that this could be a renaissance. We may be on the cusp of a future which could provide a tremendous leap forward for humanity. It may be that everything the life science companies are telling us will turn out to be right, and there’s no problem here whatsoever. That defies logic. They’re now turning those seeds into intellectual property, so they have a virtual lock on the seeds upon which we all depend for our food and survival. Many of the genetically modified food will be safe I’m sure, will most of them be safe? nobody knows!’’ People have been altering the genomes of plants and animals for many years using traditional breeding techniques. Artificial selection for specific, desired traits has resulted in a variety of different organisms, ranging from sweet corn to hairless cats. But this artificial selection has been limited to naturally occurring variations because in here only organisms that exhibit specific traits are chosen to breed subsequent generations. However, in recent decades, advances in the field of genetic engineering have allowed for precise control over the genetic changes introduced into an organism. Today, we can incorporate new genes from one species into a completely unrelated species through genetic engineering, optimizing agricultural performance or facilitating the production of valuable pharmaceutical substances. Crop plants, farm animals, and soil bacteria are some of the more prominent examples of organisms that have been subject to genetic engineering. GMO’s or Genetically modified crops are plants used in agriculture, the DNA of which has been modified using genetic engineering techniques. If we sneak-peek into the history then

we will see that Human-directed genetic manipulation of food actually began with the domestication of plants and animals through artificial selection at about 10,500 to 10,100 BC. The process of selective breeding, in which organisms with desired traits (and thus with the desired genes) are used to breed the next generation and organisms lacking the trait are not bred, is a precursor to the modern concept of genetic modification (GM). With the discovery of DNA in the early 1900s and various advancements in genetic techniques through the 1970s, it became possible to directly alter the DNA and genes within the food. The first genetically modified plant was produced in 1983, using an antibiotic-resistant tobacco plant. Genetically modified microbial enzymes were the first application of genetically modified organisms in food production and were approved in 1988 by the US Food and Drug Administration. In the early 1990s, recombinant chymosin was approved for use in several countries. The cheese had typically been made using the enzyme complex rennet that had been extracted from cows’ stomach lining. Scientists modified bacteria to produce chymosin, which was also able to clot milk, resulting in cheese curds. The first genetically modified food approved for release was the Flavr Savr tomato in 1994. Developed by Calgene, it was engineered to have a longer shelf life by inserting an antisense gene that delayed ripening.

China was the first country to commercialize a transgenic crop in 1993 with the introduction of virus-resistant tobacco. In 1995, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) Potato was approved for cultivation, making it the first pesticide producing crop to be approved in the US. Other genetically modified crops receiving marketing approval in 1995 were: canola with modified oil composition, Bt maize, cotton resistant to the herbicide bromoxynil, Bt cotton, glyphosate-tolerant soybeans, virus-resistant squash, and another delayed ripening tomato. By 2010, 29 countries planted commercialized biotech crops and a further 31 countries had granted regulatory approval for transgenic crops to be imported. The US was the leading country in the production of GM foods in 2011, with twenty-five GM crops having received regulatory approval. In 2015, 92% of corn, 94% of soybeans, and 94% of cotton produced in the US were genetically modified strains. But if we look into the recent scenario, we will get a different picture. Genetically modified crops are currently grown in 26 nations around the world, while dozens ban farmers from planting GMO crops. Countries that ban GMOs received considerable attention in 2015 when a majority of European Union nations decided to block the cultivation of new GMO crops within their borders, and Russia issued a ban on both cultivation and imports. The most recent data from the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications shows that more than 18 million

farmers in 26 countries—including 19 developing nations—planted over 185 million hectares (457 million acres) of GMO crops in 2016. This represents a 3 percent increase over 2015 and the highest area of biotech crop adoption since cultivation began in 1996. Countries growing GMO crops are: Brazil, United States, Canada, South Africa, Australia, Bolivia, Philippines, Spain, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Colombia, Honduras, Chile, Sudan, Slovakia, Costa Rica, China, India, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay, Mexico, Portugal, Czech Republic, Pakistan and Myanmar. Roughly half of the global area of GMO crops is soybeans is almost 51%, according to the ISAAA. Others include Maize 30%, cotton 13% Canola 5%, and others 1%. The US planted the most GMO crop area at 73 million hectares, followed by Brazil (49 million), Argentina (24 million), Canada (12 million) and India (11 million). These 5 countries made of 91 percent of the global area of GMO crops. If we see the adoption rate of GM crops worldwide, then Soybean is the highest with 82% acceptance, followed by cotton 68%, maize 30%, and canola 25%. The most preferred trait is the herbicide tolerance 57%, then Stacked traits 28% and insect resistance being only 15%. Currently, India has the world‟s fourth-largest GM crop acreage surpassing China‟s 3.0 million hectares

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(mh), while equaling that of Canada‟s 11.6 mh, according to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA) mostly on the basis of GM Cotton, the only genetically modified crop allowed in the country. While Bt cotton wholly dominates India‟s GM crop acreage, the commercial cultivation of seven other crops –papaya, rice, maize, petunia, tomato, and sweet pepper has been allowed by the gov-

ernment (The Indian Express, February 2, 2015). India hasn’t seen any new entrant in the sector of GM based crop varieties after Bt Cotton and a fleeting appearance of Bt Brinjal. Many GM varieties are believed to be under different stages of development, but yet to mark a formal release. GM Mustard is the new GM crop in the block that is doing the rounds of constant

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speculation and has been cleared by the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), the biotech regulator in India under the Ministry of environment and forests with no such biosafety or public health concerns. Therefore, the current status of yet another GM crop hinges on public perception and not on scientific reports (Agriculture Today, 2016). According to Vidya Venkat, 2016, Field trials for 21 GM food crops, including

GM vegetables and cereals have been approved by the government through commercial cultivation of GM food that has not been permitted by any State government in India till now. So let us wait and see whether the Indian market accepts any other new GM crop or not. Keep listing to THe Voice of Biotecnika, while we keep a watch on the latest updates of Most Accepted GMO worldwide.

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Biotecnika Times - 10th Dec 2019 Biotech Research News Edition  

Biotecnika Times - 10th Dec 2019 Biotech Research News Edition

Biotecnika Times - 10th Dec 2019 Biotech Research News Edition  

Biotecnika Times - 10th Dec 2019 Biotech Research News Edition