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November 26th, 2019

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Neuralink AI Brain Chip – Could Help Treat Severe Neurological Disorders Says, Elon Musk Elon Musk believes his neural technology company Neuralink will be able to “solve” schizophrenia and autism. Speaking on the Artificial Intelligence podcast with Lex Fridman, Musk was asked what he thinks are the most exciting impacts he foresees for his company Neuralink. NEURALINK’S GOAL IS TO DEVELOP AN AI-ENABLED CHIP THAT COULD BE IMPLANTED IN A PERSON’S BRAIN, WHERE IT WOULD BE ABLE TO BOTH RECORD BRAIN ACTIVITY AND POTENTIALLY STIMULATE IT. By Rahul Mishra

Elon Musk added that in the future, Neuralink would be able to solve severe brain-related diseases. That may include autism, schizophrenia, memory loss. Musk further said that everyone encounters memory loss as they age. Neuralink AI Brain Chips will tal disorder.” help solve these problems. It was not clear what Musk meant by “solving” autism, which is not a disease but a developmental disability. According to the UK National Autistic Society Autism is not an illness or disease and cannot be ‘cured.’ The World Health Organisation characterizes schizophrenia as a “severe men-

animal testing on monkeys.

brain or the spinal cord.” He added that the ultimate goal of Neuralink is Musk founded Neuralink in 2016, Musk has previously said that the AI to merge human consciousness with and for the first few years of its ex- brain chip technology could be used AI. istence, the company was relatively to treat neurological conditions such secretive. as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Elon Musk said that humans could not be smarter than digital supercomRecently Neuralink published a During his podcast session with puters; therefore, with the help of white paper about its design for a Fridman, Musk highlighted that the Neuralink AI brain chips, he aims is brain chip. Elon Musk excitedly an- brain chip from Neuralink could be to ‘solve’ existing neurological probnounced that the company had begun used to solve “critical damage to the lems.


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First Human CRISPR Trials Report Shows Promising Results Results from First Human CRISPR Trials were released indicating that two patients, one with beta-thalassemia and one with sickle cell disease, have potentially been cured of their conditions. VERTEX PHARMACEUTICALS AND CRISPR THERAPEUTICS JOINTLY CONDUCTED THE TWO TRIALS. By Rahul Mishra

Jeffery Leiden, CEO of Vertex, said that this is the first clinical evidence to demonstrate that Crispr/Cas9 can be used to cure or potentially cure serious genetic illnesses. Mr. Leiden termed it as a ‘remarkable scientific milestone.’ First Human CRISPR Trials CRISPR- Cas9 is a gene-editing system famous for its ability to repair or insert genes into DNA. The therapies tested in the clinical trials work by extracting bone marrow stem cells from the patients, editing these stem cells to fix the genetic mutations that cause the diseases, and then infusing the cells back into the patients. First Human CRISPR Trials – Detailed Process The patient’s body then takes over and can produce new, healthy cells. The engineering of the cells is done ex vivo. This allows scientists to make sure the correct changes are made, and there are no improper edits to the genome.

Samarth Kulkarni, CEO of CRISPR Last year, Chinese scientist He JiTherapeutics, termed the First Human ankui shocked the medical community by announcing that he had altered CRISPR Trials as dramatic. the genes of two human children. Both patients suffered side effects during the treatment, but doctors con- But germline editing was not a concluded they were caused by the bone cern in First Human CRISPR Trials, marrow preparation, not the Crispr where only somatic, or non-reproductive cells, were altered. The patient with beta-thalassemia, treatment. who used to undergo more than 16 blood transfusions each year, hasn’t Mr. Kulkarni added that it was too In addition to following these initial needed an infusion since the treat- early to contemplate any pricing dis- patients for the next two years to see if their diseases reoccur, Leiden says ment. cussions for the CRISPR treatment. they’re enrolling multiple patients The patient with sickle cell disease First Human CRISPR Trials- The with both illnesses for the next phase of the clinical trial and will be starting experienced an average of seven ex- Way Forward treatments for those patients soon. cruciating health crises per year before the treatment. Since the proce- The applications of CRISPR seem dure, the patient has not experienced limitless, but the field has encounany intense health crisis. tered several ethical controversies. It has been nine months since the patient with beta-thalassemia received the one-time-only treatment and over four months for the patient with sickle cell disease. Leiden says that both of their conditions have improved significantly.


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Manav Human Atlas – An Initiative By DST, Govt of India The Manav Human Atlas Initiative is a megaproject initiated by the Department of Science and Technology (DST), Govt. of India, in collaboration with a private biotechnology institute named Persistent System. THIS PUBLIC-PRIVATE PARTNERSHIP MODEL- MANAV HUMAN ATLAS INITIATIVE AIMS TO CREATE A UNIFIED HUMAN ATLAS BY MAPPING THE MOLECULAR DETAILS OF EVERY CELL, TISSUE, AND ORGAN IN THE HUMAN BODY BY CURATING ALL THE AVAILABLE INFORMATION PRESENT IN SCIENTIFIC LITERATURE AND PUBLIC DATABASE. By Dr. Priyanka Sen Guha

Recently, scientists have experienced an elevation in the amount of various biological data generation. These days numerous research articles have been published with pivotal information on human health and The project MANAV will be executdiseases besides spanning from sin- ed by the Indian Institute of Science gle-molecule resolution to the level Education and Research (IISER), Pune an autonomous institute estabof the whole organism. lished by the Ministry of Human ReAll these facts or knowledge gath- source Development and the National ered in different research studies are Center for Sciences (NCCS), another scattered in various journals, articles, independent institute aided by the Derepositories, and databases, etc. mak- partment of Biotechnology, Ministry ing it impossible to trace any particu- of Science and Technology. lar data at the time of immediate need. Searching for seamless extraction of this scientific information, whenever needed, is not only a challenging task but also time-consuming. As such, there is a high demand to collect and combine all information of several data points on human cells/ tissues and disease so that academicians or clinical researchers, including teachers & students, can easily access such information from a common platform. The Manav human atlas initiative aims to create an open and interactive atlas of human biology, compiling, curating, and synthesizing data at the molecular, cellular, tissue, and organism level from scientific literature and public databases. The Manav Human Atlas project was launched in New Delhi on 10th May 2019 jointly by the Department of Biotechnology, Govt. of India, and Persistent Systems. It is a public-private partnership (PPP) venture, where Dept, of Biotechnology and Persistent Systems, will invest Rs. Thirteen crores & seven crores, respectively.

presently lying unstructured and unorganized, the project MANAV will collate and integrate molecular information on human tissues and organs.

beta testing mode, where students are undergoing training at NCCS, Pune, to analyze the molecular data related to research on human skin.

As all the findings generated will pass through multiple levels of re- The mission of the Manav Human views, ultimately, it will be an Atlas Atlas Initiative At A Glance or an authenticated collection of human body tissues. These data can be • MANAV Platform: To build a applied for future research work as scalable, robust platform for anThe premier institutes will impart well as by drug and clinical developnotation and curation of scientiftraining to students while Persistent ers for experimental purposes on huic literature. System will provide the technology man bodies in disease conditions. • Human resource development: platform and data management. Training and upskilling of human When this database on individual scientific resources by engaging The Manav project initiative will tissues are ready, it will be easy to colleges/institutes/research orcreate an educated population of a trace the causes of disease, their speganizations across India biologist possessing the skill of data cific tracks and finally convert the • Building blocks of Human atcuration and analysis. The skillset ac- disease stage linked to tissues and las: Creation of a comprehenquired will help students & research- cells. It may also be examined whethsive map of an organ system folers with better opportunities for jobs er any potent elements or molecules lowed by other organ systems. in the Life Science sector. have been used in the form of drugs to target the specific cells or tissues. Data thus created are used to assign A similar Human Cell Atlas Procells, tissues, and organs related to ject was launched in the year 2016 The Manav Human Atlas Initia- human skin via the newly created anby collective efforts of world-lead- tive will be executed in four steps: – notation platform. The findings thus ing scientists to generate data about obtained from the students will be cellular and molecular activities of • In the first step, a robust online checked by teachers and scientists. various cell types in the body in both data annotation platform will be This feedback from the researchers it’s healthy and disease state with the created. would help in fine-tuning the system. help of single-cell genomics. • The second step would involve It is planned that in the future, this data annotation and curation by training will be conducted through Manav Human Atlas Initiative was students on the database. webinars so that more students across launched to create a unified database • The third step would constitute the country may be involved in this of molecular networks of all the tisan evaluation of generated data project. sues in the human body and to derive and model by faculty and then a holistic picture of the working of the by senior scientists for quality The methodology adopted in Manav human body. check • Finally, the integration of data, Depending on the knowledge almodel building, and visualizaready available in various scientific tion. literature and research articles that are • At present, the project is in the Next Page>>>>


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Human Atlas Initiative, including the international science projects in Life Researchers will get immense help vary between diseased states versus a technology and platform used, can Sciences such as biodiversity, ecolo- from this project in understanding the healthy state of an organ or a tissue. be extrapolated in other national or gy, environment, etc. differential molecular factors which

How To Make a Successful Career In Stem Cell Research? The discovery of Sir John B. Gurdon and Shinya Yamanaka in the field of biology has revolutionized the world of medicine. FOR THE DISCOVERY OF MATURE CELLS THAT CAN BE REPROGRAMMED TO BECOME PLURIPOTENT, GURDON AND YAMANAKA JOINTLY RECEIVED THE NOBEL PRIZE IN PHYSIOLOGY OR MEDICINE 2012. By Mrs. Somhrita Pal

Ever since stem cell culture and stem cell therapy has come of great interest. The idea has already been exploited in different countries. India is not behind. India’s first stem cell trial took place in Bangalore, under a Bangalore-based company, Stempeutics Research. Stem Cell therapy has uplifted and firmly positioned India in the international platform of medical science. Stem Cell therapy has changed the medical perception of various incurable neurological disorders and this therapy has broken all boundaries. As for now only blood stem cells from bone marrow to treat blood cancers and different blood disorders are permitted. Though stem cell therapies are being touted as a panacea for all ills, but at this point in time, only the blood-forming (hematopoietic) stem cells from bone marrow or umbilical (Nadi) cord blood are routinely used to treat blood cancers and different blood disorders which are known as the Bone Marrow Transplant (BMT) or Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplant (HSCT). For other diseases, studies are being conducted to find out if stem cells can be helpful in curing these diseases. This has opened many new avenues for our group of young scientists to fulfill their dream in stem cell research. So before exploring the research world related to stem cells, let us first understand what is a stem cell, and its different uses. Stem Cells, What are they? Stem cells found in multicellular mi-

croorganisms are those cells that have the capability to develop into various cells. In numerous tissues, stem cells serve as a type of internal repair system which essentially divides indefinitely to replenish various other cells as long as the organism is still alive. On dividing, each new stem cell can become another type of cell with a more specialized function or remain as stem cell, e.g. a red blood cell, a muscle cell, a nerve cell, a cardiomyocyte (heart muscle cell) or a brain cell. There are two important characteristics in stem cells for which they stand out from another cell typeFirstly, they are unspecialized cells and even after long periods of inactivity are capable of renewing themselves through cell division. Secondly, stem cells can be induced to become tissue-specific or organ-specific cells with special functions only under certain physiologic or experimental conditions. In organs such as bone marrow and gut, stem cells divide regularly to replace and repair any damaged tissues unlike in heart and pancreas, stem cells divide only under specific conditions. The source of adult stem cells in bone marrow, blood, and adipose tissues. Stem cells can likewise be collected from umbilical cable blood. Stem cells are understood to

be a wonder of modern medication as well as these cells have developed to a new age of therapeutic techniques like Stem Cell Therapy. A variety of stem cells are being used from diverse origins or sources. In India, there are 3 types of stem cells that are generally used for stem cell therapy. They are: • Umbilical cord stem cells • Adult stem cells • embryonic stem cells In India, areas, where the stem cell therapy can be an effective treatment, are Chronic Kidney Diseases, COPD and other Lung Disorders, Neurological conditions, Orthopaedics, Cardiology, Autoimmune disorders, Ophthalmic diseases, Liver Diseases, Infertility, & Cosmetic Procedures. Stem cell therapy has the potential to treat serious ailments like Type-1 Diabetes Mellitus, Parkinson’s disease, Rheumatoid Arthritis & various types of cancers. Stem Cell Research Career The stem cell research field has become one of the most viable fields offering exciting career options. Researchers grow stem cells in-vitro. These cells have the capacity to be

manipulated to specialize in specific types of cells like blood cells, heart muscle cells or even the nerve cells. Stem cells, the specialized cells, can be implanted in a person. For example, a person with heart disease can be cured by injecting the cells into his/ her heart muscle. The healthy transplanted heart cells would then repair the defective heart muscles. So as you can see, there are plenty of opportunities in this area of bioscience. Experts like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg say that Biosciences are going to be among the top 3 career paths along with Artificial Intelligence and related technologies like the Internet of Things aka IoT & Robotics, Machine Learning, etc.) and Renewable Energy. However, people are still very skeptical about career opportunities in biosciences and biomedical science & engineering. It is true that the research scopes in India are quite limited due to various factors like lack of innovative mindset, insufficient funding and most importantly lack proper infrastructure. Still, in recent years, fields like regenerative medicine, stem cell therapy, and tissue engineering, have

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caught the interest of the Govern- Regenerative medicine in India are: ment and Industry, including the VC firms. The VC funding in companies • IISc Bengaluru active in regenerative medicine has • IIT Madras increased to $807 million in 2016 • National Institute of Immunolo(Goldman Sachs) from $296 million gy Delhi in 2011. Stem cell banks are getting • IISER Mohali flourished across India. There are • AIIMS Delhi several Indian start-up companies • NCBS Bengaluru working in the field of stem cells and • NCCS Pune regenerative medicine very actively. • NIRRH Mumbai • MIRM Bengaluru Some of the companies are: • CCMB Hyderabad • Stempeutics (Bengaluru), What are the roles and responsi• Advancells (Noida) bilities of a stem cell research sci• Transcell Biologics (Hydera- entist? bad), • Pandorum Technologies (Ben- When it comes to the roles and regaluru). sponsibilities of a stem cell research scientist, it is the work of stem cell Advancells, Noida won the Best research scientist is to grow stem Stem Cell Technology Research and cells in a laboratory, manipulate these Development Company in the year cells to become specialised in specif2017. ic types of cells, such as blood cells, heart muscle cells or nerve cells and How to Make a Successful Career then finally implanting the cells in a In Stem Cell Research? person. For instance, stem cells can be injected into the heart muscle of • The eligibility to make a career a person suffering from heart disease in stem cell research domain is and the transplanted heart cells can not restricted to only medical help in repairing the defective heart professionals. muscle. • Candidates holding a postgraduate degree in regenerative medi- Researchers working in the field of cine or a basic degree in Biolo- stem cell research take up their duties gy, B.Sc graduates with at least of covering several emerging aspects one subject from the biological of stem cells including embryonic sciences, MBBS, B.Pharma, stem cells, developmental studies, B.D.S., B.V.Sc. or B.E. Biotech- stem cell genomes, tissue-specific nology graduates can also find stem cells, and cancer stem cells. jobs in this field. • One can study B.Sc., B.Phar- Stem Cell Research Job Prospects ma., MBBS, B.E. (Biotechnolo- in India: gy or Biomedical Engineering), BVSc, BDS, at the bachelor’s Although stem cell research is still at level. • At Masters Level, it is better to go with Biochemistry, Genetics, Biotechnology, Microbiology, Molecular Medicine, Zoology, Biophysics, Developmental Biology, Translational Medicine. Stem Cell Biology, Biomedical Sciences or Life Sciences. • There is also an option available for MSc. in Regenerative Medicine e.g. MIRM Bengaluru in India, or abroad. • Some of the countries with the most interesting developments in stem cell research are Australia, Europe, and the U.K. There are several institutes in India researching newer therapies based on experiential studies on the effects of stem cells in different biological realms. Institutes that provide courses on

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a nascent stage in India, by the year 2018 this therapy market in India is expecting a tremendous growth worth INR 2 billion which will lead to an increase in the number of stem cell depositors and stem cell banks in the near future, which was unheard of a few years ago. This is all made possible with the liberalization of stem cell research, and also with the increased government support and funds. By the year 2016, the global market is expected to touch about USD 40 billion. This emerging branch of regenerative medicine thus calls for quality, skilled and trained personnel, thereby opening up excellent career opportunities for post-graduate students from diverse scientific fields. Why is this a good time for biomedical research careers? India is one of the major biotech players in the Asia Pacific region. India, sharing the dais with Japan and South Korea, has recently secured an investment of about INR 1000 crores. This opens up new possibilities that gives the students some promising opportunities to pursue their research careers in developmental biology, embryology, molecular biology, nanotechnology, clinical research, cell biology, medical biotech, tissue engineering, and stem cell biology and even multiple options to pursue higher studies and career options in applicative translational field and also basic biology.

ney in this field with quality, production, clinical research, Research and Development, supply chain and human resources besides finance and other administrative functions. What is the starting salary in stem cell research: An eligible post-graduate can start his/her career in the stem cell research field with INR 30,000 per month and can earn more than INR 50,000 per month after obtaining a Ph.D. Postdoctoral fellows can earn around USD 35,000 to 40,000 or Euro 25,000 to 30,000 annually. This is what makes stem cell research career more profitable. The potential and future possibilities of stem cells are tremendous. This advances in area science and research has become one of the most rewarding areas of research. Although it might take many years to completely recognize its potential to improve the treatment of the most obdurate diseases, this research field can be considered as one of the brightest areas in the fields of medicine and biology. Stem Cell Research will ensure a promising academic career ahead with lots of possibilities.

Stem cell research carries the hope of the future modern medicine which is driven by the possibility to cure a vast array of diseases and medical conditions. For those who are willing to take on challenges, stem cell research is a promising field that shows Job opportunity in stem cell re- all the signs of emerging as one of the search most sustainable career options. Students can begin their career jour-


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Scientists Discover Millions of Other DNA-Like Molecules DNA and RNA are believed to be the genetic material that encodes hereditary information until now. BUT ARE THERE ANY OTHER BIOLOGICAL MATERIAL THAT STORES HEREDITARY INFORMATION ALONG WITH DNA AND RNA? By Namitha

Scientists believe that life could not have happened on the earth before the origin of nucleic acids. And for the same reason understanding the origin of nucleic acids on earth was given utmost importance. Nucleic acids are the key targets for pharmaceutical research. Synthetic molecules that can imitate the function of nucleic acids are widely used DNA, the polymer is composed of for the treatment of viral infections four nucleic acids “Adenine,” “Gualike HIV. Yet the possibility for alternine,” “Cytosine,” and “Thymine” arnatives of nucleic acid to store heredranged in a sequence along the length itary information was unknown. of the polymer. These sequences are precisely duplicated with almost no Researchers at Earth-Life Science errors during the DNA replication. Institute (ELSI) at the Tokyo Institute They are later copied to RNA and of Technology, the German Aerospace then read into protein sequence. The Center (DLR) and Emory University proteins control the whole biological explored the “Chemical Space” of nusystem in the organisms. cleic acid-like molecules. The word “Chemical Space” refers to the DNA Occasionally, errors could happen like molecules discovered which are during the replication resulting in structurally and functionally similar positive as well as negative impacts to the nucleic acids. They were surin the organisms. Positive impacts alprised to identify over one million ter the genetic sequence evolving the variants of such molecules suggestorganisms to a fitter generation. Evoing unexplored chemistry relevant to lutionists call this process as “Natural biochemistry, pharmacology, and the Selection.” study of the origin of life on earth. The study of such molecules could But are DNA and RNA the only gehelp develop potential therapeutic netic material to store hereditary indrugs. formation? Or the best means discovered and explored until now? Although nucleic acids were initially discovered in the 19th century, There are two kinds of genetic matheir biological role, composition, terial discovered to date, RNA and and functions were not known until DNA. The scientists at the Tokyo Inthe 20th century. Watson and Crick stitute of Technology were trying to unveiled the double-stranded helical find if there is one more possible gestructure of DNA in 1953, which later netic material. Professor Jim Cleaves explained the regulation of biological of ELSI finally answers this with exfunctions. citement that there could be millions of DNA like molecules to be discovDNA, the Deoxyribonucleic Acid, ered. stores the genetic and hereditary information in most of the living organBiologists had been wondering isms. They are double-stranded and since 1953, why just DNA and RNA? helically wrapped with the capability Aren’t there any other molecules that of replicating each strand to generate could perform the function? Or othtwo copies of DNA. ers were selected to extinct during the evolution?

Nucleic acids play an essential role when it comes to therapeutics. Most of the significant antiviral drugs are the analogs of nucleic acids, including the drugs treat herpes, viral hepatitis, and dreadful HIV. Nucleic acid analogs are also used for cancer therapy since some of the cancers have genetic mutations that cause the DNA to replicate abnormally. Co-author Chris Butch, formerly of ELSI and now a professor at Nanjing University, said that understanding hereditary is fundamental research, but it has very important practical applications also. Basis of Biology is the heritable information, which makes natural selection possible. Scientists have also tried making DNA or RNA from simple chemicals by mimicking the early environmental conditions on earth. Most of them believe that RNA was evolved from DNA for some unknown reasons. However, the evolutionary research split into two in the 1960s: those who thought RNA to be

the answer to all questions regarding the origin of life and those who found it difficult to believe in RNA’s potential. Dr. Jay Goodwin from Emory University, one among the scientists behind the discovery of DNA like molecules – commented, “It is truly exciting to consider the potential for alternative genetic systems based on theses nucleoside analogs—that these might possibly have emerged and evolved in different environments, perhaps even on other planets or moons within our solar system. These alternate genetic systems might expand our conception of biology’s ‘central dogma’ into new evolutionary directions, in response and robust to increasingly challenging environments here on Earth.” It is absolutely fascinating that modern computational techniques could discover alternate genetic materials that can instigate the synthesis of new therapeutic drugs.


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Telomerase Can Help Increase Human Life – Breakthrough Discovery A team of researchers from Arizona State University and Texas A&M University has discovered the missing link of cellular immortality between human beings and single-celled animals, in plants. THE OLDEST LIVING ORGANISM ON EARTH IS A PLANT NAMED METHUSELAH, A BRISTLECONE PINE. THIS PLANT IS MORE THAN 5,000 YEARS OLD. ON THE OTHER HAND, ANIMALS ONLY LIVE UP TO A FEW HUNDRED YEARS. By Rahul Mishra

Can we learn something from plants about longevity and stay young forever? Dr. Julian Chen, professor of biochemistry at Arizona State University and the team, have identified the detailed structure of the telomerase component from plants for the first deficient levels of telomerase, and time. thus age as they divide Telomerase is the enzyme that makes the DNA of telomeres, the structures However, when telomeres protect located at the tips of our chromo- the cell’s ends, only a piece of the somes. Telomeres protect our cells telomere, or cap, is lost as the cell divides, and the critical DNA is left from aging as they multiply. undamaged. Considering a typical Could the discovery possibly lead cell divides about 50 to 70 times, the to humans one day living as long as absence of telomeres could lead to the “Methuselah” tree, a bristlecone chromosome instability or cells that pine species that can survive as long stop dividing. as 5,000 years?

Telomerase For Longer Human According to scientists, the research Life- The Search For Immortality is in its initial phase, and human apEach time a cell replicates, about 20 plication is a long way to go. base pairs are lost from the telomere, The Nobel Prize in Physiology or or shoelace cap. Therefore, telomere Medicine was awarded in 2009 to in itself is not immortal. Elizabeth Blackburn “for the discovery of how telomeres & the enzyme If researchers could harness the setelomerase protect chromosomes.” cret of the telomerase enzyme, it’s She added that the new understanding possible that we could prolong the might pave the way to new routes to optimizing telomere maintenance for human health. Telomerase was first isolated from a unicellular organism living in pond scum. Telomerase For Longer Human Life- The Key To Cell’s Lifespan Telomeres can be thought of as the plastic caps on the ends of shoelaces. High levels of telomerase keep those telomeres long, thus allowing them to continue to protect the cells from damage as they divide. Most of the cells in our body have

life of telomeres consequently slow- groundbreaking discoveries on telomeres and telomerase. They extracting the aging process. ed telomere DNA from a single-celled We might be able to reverse diseas- organism in pond scum. The scientists es in which telomeres are shortened, demonstrated how telomeres protected chromosomes in yeast, identified such as pulmonary fibrosis. and named the enzyme telomerase High levels of telomerase have been that builds the DNA of telomeres and detected in cancer cells allowing them extends their lives. to continue replicating themselves Each species has unique elements until they form tumors. to their telomere RNA, and not all Switching off telomerase activity in appear to protect against aging. For cancer cells would shorten their tel- example, some species with longer omeres, whittling them down to a nub telomeres have shorter life spans than called a “critical length,” which then those with shorter telomeres. triggers programmed cell death. Scientists continue to explore the Telomerase For Longer Human role of telomeres and the enzyme telLife- Why Is Plant Telomere Cru- omerase in aging, and now believe cial? that they may only be one part of the aging process, at least in animals. Blackburn, Greider, & Szostak won the Nobel Prize in 2009 for their


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Air Pollution Nano-Particles Linked To Cancer – Reveals New Study The ultra-fine particles (UFPs) are produced during fuel burning, particularly in diesel vehicles, and higher exposures significantly increase people’s chances of getting cancer. PREVIOUS RESEARCH HAS SHOWN THAT NANOPARTICLES CAN GET INTO THE BRAIN AND CARRYING CARCINOGENIC CHEMICALS WITH THEM. By Rahul Mishra

Brain tumors are rare, and the researchers have calculated that an increase in pollution exposure similar to moving from a quiet city street to a busy or more populated one leads to one new case of brain cancer for every 100,000 people exposed. Scott Weichenthal, at McGill University in Canada, said that previously, cancer was never linked to air pollution. Although in a city with a vast population, the patients having brain tumors due to air pollution nanoparticles may be significant. Pollution Nano-particles linked to Cancer- The Study The researchers analyzed the medical records and pollution exposure of 1.9 million adult Canadians from 1991 to 2016. Such extensive studies provide strong evidence In 2016, scientists discovered abundant toxic nanoparticles from air pollution in human brains. An extensive global review in 2019 concluded that air pollution might be damaging every organ of the human body affecting every cell. Toxic air has been linked to other effects on the brain, including considerable reductions in dementia, intelligence, and mental health problems in humans. The World Health Organization (WHO) says air pollution is a “silent public health emergency.” The new study states that people living in a busy city have a 10% increased chance of developing brain cancer. Pollution Nano-particles linked to Cancer- An Emergency Situation The pollution levels Toronto and Montreal ranged from 6,000/cm3 to

97,000/cm3. People living with pol- Prof Jordi Sunyer termed this find- eral studies in animals have shown lution of 50,000/cm3 have a 50% per- ing- Pollution Nano-particles linked UFPs could be more toxic than larger cent higher risk of brain cancer than to Cancer as ‘important.’ He added particles. those living within 15,000/cm3. that ultra-fine particles are directly emitted by combustion cars, and sev-


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Spaceflight Can Halt & Reverse Blood Flow In Astronauts : NASA Study Spaceflight can halt and reverse blood flow in astronauts’ upper bodies, a NASA study reports a startling discovery that has important implications in the future trips to Mars & other long-duration missions. NASA IS KNOWN FOR DECADES THAT SPACEFLIGHT IS ROUGH ON THE BODY AND THAT SPENDING A LONG PERIOD OF TIME IN ORBIT, UNBURDENED BY GRAVITY, CAN CAUSE ASTRONAUTS’ MUSCLES TO LOSE MASS AND THEIR BONES TO BECOME MORE BRITTLE. By Ria Roy

Now, in the unexpected discovery, NASA scientists have found that spending time in space can affect how the blood flows through a major blood vessel in the upper body, causing it to halt or even flow backward which is age or a tumor or something like that, drain fluids normally. a health risk that was unknown until he added. now. Stenger said this is why some astroThe study findings have major im- nauts get puffy faces because there is In the research study, published plications for long-haul space mis- no gravity to pull down the fluids cirWednesday in JAMA Network Open, sions, including flights to Mars, which culating in the upper body. You will researchers examined eleven healthy would require an interplanetary jour- sometimes also see veins popping out astronauts who stayed aboard the Inney that needs up to 8 months. in the neck, or in the head ( which you ternational Space Station for an avercan see with bald astronauts). age of 6 months. And during routine Dr. Andrew Feinberg who is a proultrasound assessments, by the 50th fessor of medicine at the Johns Hop- The astronauts underwent ulday of their space missions, 7 crew kins University School of Medicine tra-sound assessments to measure members were found to have reverse was not involved with this new study their internal jugular vein before blood flow in their left internal jugbut who previously collaborated on launch, at about fifty days into their ular vein– a major blood vessel that research studies on the health effects spaceflight, 150 days into spaceflight runs down the neck side. It is responof NASA astronaut Scott Kelly’s1 & again approximately forty days afsible for draining blood from the year mission at the space station. He ter returning back to Earth. brain, face & neck. said it is potentially a serious problem. If you get a blood clot in the During this, the internal jugular vein One of the astronauts was also found internal jugular vein– the clot could becomes engorged, but Stenger said to have developed a clot in the internal travel to the lungs & cause a pulmo- he is most concerned about the crew jugular vein during spaceflight, and nary embolism. If that happens on a members who experienced stagnant also a partial clot was discovered in long-term mission, the clot could be blood-flow in this blood vessel. another crew member after returning calamitous, he added. to Earth, according to the new study. And if those blood cells are not movThe study on this began sever- ing, they start sticking to each other, But this discovery is not necessarily al years ago, as NASA attempted to and that is what we call a blood clot, a death knell for long-duration space investigate why nearly two-thirds of he said. It is the same risk factor when travel, according to some experts, their astronauts reported blurry vision you sit on an airplane for too long and who said the study findings would & impaired eyesight after spending could get clots in your legs, he added. eventually lead to the development of months at the space station. In some treatments & interventions to treat the of the cases, those impaired eyesight While the health risks of clots are health risks. and vision problems persisted even serious, this discovery does not necafter the astronauts had returned to essarily doom long-duration space Michael Stenger who is the managEarth. travel. er of the Cardiovascular and Vision Laboratory at NASA’s Johnson Space Stenger & his colleagues were Dr. Ben Levine, a cardiologist & Center in Houston and the new study’s tasked with understanding how the professor of internal medicine at the senior author said this was an unexweightless environment affects the University of Texas Southwestern pected finding. They did not expect to circulation of fluids in the upper body. Medical Center, Dallas, who was a see stasis and reverse flow which is Researchers found that without the consultant on the study, said that the very abnormal. On Earth, one would ever-present tug of gravity on Earth, engorgement seen in the blood vesimmediately suspect a massive blocksome astronauts’ bodies struggled to sels didn’t necessarily mean that the

pressure inside them was high. He said astronauts, use their arms a lot to move around, so he thinks there is plenty of blood flowing through the veins. He added he is intrigued by the study findings but not overly alarmed. Levine did acknowledge, however, that clots in the upper body could be potentially devastating & added that more research study is needed, particularly with regard to possible interventions. In the study, the scientists saw improved blood flow when the astronauts wore a lower body vacuum suit that essentially pulls blood from the head into lower extremities. Medicine in space is a journey into the extreme physiology discovering what happens when we leave Earth & how our bodies adapt, said Dr. Jan Stepanek who is a physician at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix. He further added if we send people on missions to Mars, we need to find appropriate countermeasures, so they maintain muscle mass, bone density & cardiovascular fitness. Dr. Scott Parazynski, a physician & retired NASA astronaut who flew on 5 space shuttle missions but was not involved with this study, said that

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although he is concerned about the potential consequences of the study Stepanek added that the study findings, it would not deter him from demonstrates how much more scientists have to learn about the health imflying in space.

pacts of journeying into space. he said after fifty years of human spaceflight, we may think we know

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everything, but it turns out that always nature has a way of surprising us.

DARPA Developing Microscopic Bomb Detector; Bacteria That Detects Explosives! Raytheon has announced that it is working with DARPA on a project for detecting buried explosives using a unique method: bacteria.

THE WORK IS TAKING PLACE UNDER A CONTRACT FROM THE AGENCY; WORCESTER POLYTECHNIC INSTITUTE JOINS RAYTHEON IN ‘PROGRAMMING’ TWO DIFFERENT BACTERIA STRAINS TO DETECT BOMBS LOCATED UNDERGROUND. By Ria Roy

The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) contracts with a number of private companies in order to explore and develop various technologies useful for military and homeland security purposes. These projects have ranged from advanced medicines for soldiers to new designed to present a ‘glowing light’ weapons for the battlefield. on the ground where the explosives were detected, assuming any are presThe first of the bacteria strains to ent. be developed under this project will work to detect whether there are ex- The idea of programming bacteria to plosives buried in the ground, accord- detect explosives isn’t new, but it is ing to Raytheon. trickier when the bombs are located The second bacterial strain will be

underground, the company notes.

The bacteria will need to penetrate deeply enough into the ground to detect the explosives, while the glowing aspect will need to take place on the surface in order to alert people who are monitoring it.

volves using both computer science and electrical engineering to modify DNA, Raytheon explains.

Programmed bacteria could be used to detect a variety of potential threats or contaminants, according to the The entire project is made possi- company, which says the system it is ble by synthetic biology, which in- designing will be modular.


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UN Mosquito Sterilization Offers New Opportunity To Control Chikungunya, Dengue & Zika Using a process called Sterile Insect Technique (SIT) which was developed decades ago to target crop-eating insects in the United States – UN scientists have spent the last ten years adapting it to mosquitoes. WORKING WITH THE WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION’S TROPICAL DISEASES PROGRAM, RESEARCHERS HAVE NOW DRAWN UP GUIDELINES FOR NATIONS WANTING TO TACKLE VARIOUS DISEASE OUTBREAKS TRANSMITTED BY THE WINGED INSECTS. By Ria Roy

And if this is done for long enough, it will be possible to reduce, and in some cases, eliminate the target population of mosquito, he added. Mr. Bouyer’s team, working with WHO’s tropical diseases program, developed guidelines for nations said. who want to tackle disease outbreaks transmitted by the mosquitoes. 2 major species of mosquitoes are transmitting several diseases, which And highlighting progress in autoare viruses, including dengue, zika, mating and upscaling the mass prochikungunya, yellow fever; but it is duction of sterile mosquito populaonly about 2 species, Aedes aegypti tions, which can be released from a & Aedes albopictus. drone in their 100s of 1000s over communities, he added that the important If successful, the potential health bottlenecks which were sex sorting & benefits could be enormous, Radrone release, are now solved so reman Velayudhan, Coordinator from searchers are ready for pilot testing. WHO’s Department of Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) said. Dengue, along with other mosquito-transmitted diseases like malaria, Zika, chikungunya & yellow fever – account for about 17% of all infectious diseases globally, according to the WHO. The agency is expecting about 110 countries to report dengue cases this year. On average, WHO registers 3 million cases every year, but they may reach 4 million in 2019, it said. Florence Fouque, Team leader of the UN-sponsored TDR, the Programme for Research and Training in Tropical Diseases, said that it would likely take around 4 years before it is known whether the pilot tests have been successful in reducing disease transmission by mosquitoes. Sometimes a very low population of mosquito can still transmit disease, so what researchers have to measure is the impact on the people, and this is what the team wants to do because it has never been done until now, she

Of the current dengue epidemic, he said, many countries in the world have reported an increase, and they have reports from Bangladesh, Brazil, Philippines & a few African countries and almost ten other Latin American countries, dengue has continued to increase. Highlighting the safety of the irradiation technique, Mr. Bouyer insisted that no test tube manufactured genes known as transgenes were being inserted into mosquitoes.

“The mutations they are creating with this system are random, so it isn’t transgenic, researchers are not putting transgenes into the mosquitoes and they are occurring naturally in the population, he added. It is just that there are enough mutations to create full sterility in what they release. But there is no particular concern with what they release, the mosquitoes are not radioactive, they are just irradiated and thus sterilized.


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Discovery Of Brand New RNA Molecules, Linked To Aging RNA role in aging: A new RNA subtype, cP-RNA discovered by researchers at the Thomas Jefferson University, may play a vital role in aging processes. THE MASTER PLAN FOR ALL OUR BODY PARTS, FROM EYEBROWS TO TOENAILS, IS ALL IN THE GENOME. BUT JUST THE GENOME’S BLUEPRINT IS NOT THE ONLY ASPECT THAT DETERMINES WHAT IS BUILT. By Prathibha HC

All the cellular players, add their interpretation to the design by drawing instructions from the blueprint, and scientists are still finding the new players. With the help of modern technology, researches at Thomas Jefferson University have discovered an ocean of new subtypes of RNA(Ribonucleic acid) molecules in the cell, and they have evidence that suggests ing use of this method, the researchers that these RNA subtypes may be in- sequenced all of the cP-RNAs present volved in the aging processes. in the mouse tissues. “The complete sequencing data for this RNA subSenior author Yohei Kirino, Ph.D., type, is obtained for the first time,” an associate professor in the Depart- says Dr. Kirino. This eventually led ment of Biochemistry and Molecular to linking the role of the cP-RNA in Biology and Jefferson’s Computa- aging. tional Medicine Center, says, “There has been a lot of research done on the Several surprises were revealed by most famous short RNA known as the the sequencing of the new RNA submicroRNA.” MicroRNA is so power- type-cP RNA. A research associate in ful that it can silence messenger RNA, Dr. Kirino’s lab, Megumi Shigematdiverting the production of specific su, showed that there was a lot more cellular components encoded by the of the cP-RNA than expected. It was genome, and they can be studied with found that various types of cellular established methods. The research- RNAs such as transfer RNAs, mesers wanted to know what the other senger RNAs, and ribosomal RNAs short RNAs, which are more difficult generated numerous new RNA subto capture short, do in the cell. Their type-cP RNA species, thus suggesting study began to answer this question. that these cyclic phosphates can be involved in RNA functions with variThis research was published in ous roles in the cells. PLOS Genetics on January 13th. These cP-RNAs were abundant— Dr. Kirino studied the subtype of for example, when one cP-RNA from RNA that has been found to have a ribosomal RNA was compared with role in aging, called cyclic-phosphate all of the varieties of microRNA in containing RNA, or cP-RNA in short. the cell, it was found that just one Although researchers were aware that cP-RNA was 300-fold more abunthis unusual form of phosphate exists dant than all microRNA combined. on RNA molecules, they considered it cP-RNAs were also found throughout just as an intermediate form generat- the tissues of the body of a mouse, ed during RNA digestion. The current including the lungs, muscles, spleen, method to track RNA by amplifying and thymus. Finally, the researchers and sequencing the molecule fails to noticed that these abundances of cPcapture RNA having a cyclic phos- RNAs changed over time, decreasing phate tail. “It has a tricky shape,” says in number as the mouse aged, thus Dr. Kirino. linking RNA role in the aging process. However, three years ago, Dr. Kirino’s lab developed a system used for “There are still many questions targeting cP-RNAs so that they could about these molecules than answers be amplified and sequenced. By mak-

we have,” says Dr. Kirino. “But with their abundance, their presence in tissues throughout the body, and with the information that their numbers change as tissues age, we see a vast area that needs further exploration.”

Along with finding the RNA role in aging, Dr. Kirino’s lab is exploring how cP-RNAs play a role in asthma, infectious disease, and cancer.


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New Superbugs CDC Report ReleasedShows An Increase In AMR Cases! The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has released a new report on antibiotic resistance threats. The report highlights the increased risk of these drug-resistant infections. ACCORDING TO THE REPORT, APPROXIMATELY 2.8 MILLION PEOPLE SUFFER INFECTIONS FROM THESE “SUPERBUGS” EACH YEAR. By Rahul Mishra

Of those, 35,000 people die from these stronger infections. The report was formulated keeping in mind the bacterial & fungal infections. CDC found 21 different diseases and categorized them as “urgent threats,” “serious threats,” “concerning threats,” and “watch list.” However, the latest report does not include parasites or viruses like influ- infection as well as the mortality rate enza or HIV. due to AMR. The results of the New Superbugs CDC Report 2019 report are also higher than in the previous Antimicrobial Resistance threat report published back in 2013. It was found that around 2 million people suffered from drug-resistant infections, with nearly 23,000 dying from said infections. This shows a significant increase in

The fear expressed by the CDC is that these “superbugs” that have evolved from other bacteria and fungi to become drug-resistant could become more common among patients. Dr. Victoria Fraser from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis added that Antimicrobial

Resistance is now a reality, and this issue needs to be addressed soon by the scientists. Dr. Fraser said that treatments are not available for some AMR infections. This is one of the significant challenges faced by doctors. However, the New Superbugs CDC Report says that there are easy ways for the public to prevent the spread of infections.

It suggests getting the necessary vaccinations that protect against certain bacterial infections along with viruses. Taking antibiotics only when prescribed and necessary, is recommended as well because of the risk they pose to healthy bacteria along with infectious bacteria. The report suggests practicing good hygiene, and eating meats raised more naturally than processed meats.


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Printable Human Skin Developed – ‘A Game-Changing Step’ According to a team of Singapore scientists, a piece of skin about the size of a thumbnail can be printed in less than a minute. The group termed this as a ‘game-changing step.’ THIS TECHNOLOGY WOULD BE HELPFUL FOR THE FUTURE OF NON-ANIMAL TESTING FOR COSMETICS AND OTHER PRODUCTS. By Rahul Mishra

John Koh, lab manager at start-up DeNova Sciences, highlighted that the ‘printable skin’ is made up of skin cells from donors and collagen. It has the same properties as human skin. DeNova Sciences is collaborating with Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University to develop the in-vitro skin. Printable Human Skin by ScienPrintable Human Skin by Scien- tists- The Way Forward tists- How Will It Help The Industry? The team at DeNovo Sciences has escalated the manufacturing process Koh added that the industry is mov- with the help of a printing machine to ing towards animal-free testing. This put in patterned layers accurately that product from Singapore scientists mimic human skin. Each tiny piece will offer a solution to trial on the skin of skin takes less than 60 seconds to without using animal or human skin. print. This is the unique quality of this

project by Singapore scientists.

the penetrative qualities of active ingredients in products like cosmetics.

The mixture is then incubated for about two weeks. Meanwhile, the The team of researchers is now foskin cells multiply and gain opacity, cusing on developing skin that inturning into a white membrane. cludes Asian pigment to test the whitening effects of cosmetics & skincare The printable skin can be used to test products. the toxicity as well as the irritation potential of a chemical substance, and


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Pigment Based “Venus Flytrap” for Trapping Pollutants Scientists from Trinity College of Dublin developed new biological sensors from pigments that can act like “Venus flytrap” for trapping pollutants. THE RE-ENGINEERED PIGMENTS CAN DETECT AS WELL AS CATCH SPECIFIC POLLUTANTS AND SOON WILL HAVE A SIGNIFICANT ROLE IN MEDICAL, SECURITY AND ENVIRONMENTAL APPLICATIONS. By Namitha Thampi

Scientists at Trinity reconfigured the Porphyrins, a rare class of pigments, normally produced as an end product in hemoglobin metabolism to develop these potential biosensors for trapping pollutants. Porphyrins play a major role in living organisms both in plants and animals. They have prominent roles in the metabolism of hemoglobin and chlorophyll, the pigments in animals and plants respectively. They can accommodate a variety of metal ions giving rise to its unique properties. Professor Mathias O. Senge, Chair of Organic Chemistry of Trinity college studied the metal-free porphyrins to create an entirely new range of molecular receptors. Scientists were able to access the unexplored core of the porphyrin system by forcing the metal-free porphyrin to turn inside out into a saddle shape. They re-engineered the saddle-shaped porphyrins by introducing functional groups near the active center. The new porphyrins were able to catch agricultural or pharmaceutical pollutants like pyrophosphates and sulfates, and then hold them in the receptor-like cavity. Porphyrins are color sensitive compounds, they change color drastically when they successfully catch their target molecules, functional as effective Biosensors for trapping pollutants. Karolis Norvaiša, the first author of the study compared this biosensor to a “Venus flytrap”. When you bend the porphyrin inside out, it resembles the shape of a venus flytrap with short stiff hair-like triggers inside. The functional groups at the periphery selectively capture the target molecules and hold then in the cavity just like

the venus flytrap traps the insects inside. The international journal Angewandte Chemie International Edition published their work titled “Confor-

mational Re‐engineering of Porphyrins as Receptors with Switchable N− H⋅⋅⋅X‐Type Binding Modes”. The discovery funded by Science Foundation Ireland and an Au-

gust-Wilhelm Scheer guest professorship award for Professor Senge at the Technical University of Munich marks the beginning of an EU-wide H2020 FET-OPEN project called INITIO to eliminate the pollutants.


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Did You Know ? Our Brain Waves Follow Earthquake Like Patterns During Sleep! Sleep is the most peaceful and restful state we have in our everyday life. BUT IF YOU COULD ZOOM IN TO YOUR BRAIN TO SEE WHAT’S HAPPENING INSIDE DURING YOUR SLEEP, YOU MIGHT GET SURPRISED. THE BRAIN IS MUCH MORE RESTLESS DURING YOUR SLEEP. By Ria Roy

Scientists like to call them “Micro Earthquakes” inside the brain, which is essential for a peaceful sleep. And there is a reason behind this unique naming. As per the new analysis, the mathematical laws governing the sleep are similar to that of an earthquake. Every night your brain cycles through a sequence of stages from light to deep sleep. And these cycles occur every 90 min. Every stage has an assigned job, like keeping you well-rested or integrate your memories. The transition between these stages happens spontaneously by a phenomenon that is unexplainable for now, according to Plamen Ivanov, a physicist at Boston University.

change in sleep stages?. Ivanov published his findings on Thursday in PLOS Computational Biology, providing an explanation for the spontaneous changes in sleep stages. He studied the sleeping brain of rats and found the pattern of sleep stages to be similar to that of earthquakes, otherwise an extremely rare pattern in nature.

Today, regardless of the develop- Brain waves during sleep ment in sleep neuroscience, many of the questions regarding sleep stage Sleep stages are conventionally detransitions remain unanswered. These fined by certain types of waves or transitions occur at different times but rhythms inside the brain commonly found in each stage. For example, with similar characteristics. deep sleep is characterized by delHowever, Ivanov from Boston Uni- ta waves, whereas the early stage of versity found an answer to the ques- sleep is defined by theta waves. tion, What triggers this spontaneous

But if carefully zoom in to theses stages, one would find more than just one wave inside the brain. According to Ivanov, one could discover bursts of waves apart from the delta waves in deep sleep. He did an extremely detailed statistical study of these bursts, how they happen, and do they affect the sleep stages. He found that the quick bursts of theta waves are followed by an active phase of brain activity, and then suddenly, a burst of delta waves happen, leading the brain to a quiescent phase of inactivity. Ivanov points out that that this is a rare case in nature where such dynamics exist in a single process. Although it’s rare, the statistical

patterns are similar to an event occurring outside the brain, the earthquake. Earthquakes are also characterized by bursts of activity followed by quiet activities. Earthquakes and sleep stages are completely different events, but the mathematics underlying them are similar. These finding helps to understand how such transitions can occur during sleep without any external stimuli. This understanding would ultimately benefit us in medical science. This spectacular series of activities happening inside our brain when we fall asleep is exceptionally organized but strangely follows an earthquake-like pattern.


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New Way To Study Origin Of Life – Chemical Based Evidence Scientists at the University of Wisconsin–Madison have cultivated lifelike chemical reactions while pioneering a new strategy for studying the origin of life. THE STUDY SHOWS THAT SIMPLE LABORATORY TECHNIQUES CAN FAVOR THE KINDS OF REACTIONS THAT ARE LIKELY NECESSARY TO EXPLAIN HOW LIFE STARTED ON EARTH FOUR BILLION YEARS AGO. By Rahul Mishra

The scientists subjected a rich soup of organic chemicals to repeated selection by regularly paring down the chemical population. They let it build back up again with the addition of new resources. Over generations of selection, the system appeared to consume its raw materials. This phenomenon shows that selection may have induced the spread of chemical networks capable of propagating themselves. On longer timescales, these simple chemical changes noticed in the New Study On Origin of Life oscillated in a repeating pattern. Scientists did not fully explain this cycle of chemical changes, but it is evident that the chemical soup established feedback loops resembling those found in other living organisms. Scientists can use this research methodology and help solve what components are necessary to encourage lifelike chemical systems & whether those chemical networks can go on to evolve more complex traits.

was unlikely to exist in primordial times. The research team mixed their primordial soup with fine grains of pyrite, a mineral of iron and sulfur, also known as fool’s gold. Baum’s team believes that pyrite is an ideal material for cultivating lifelike chemistry. The scientists added a few drops of the enriched seawater soup to a small amount of crushed pyrite in a vial & mixed the solution for a few days. This was considered as the first generation. To produce the next generation, the

team took a small amount of the first generation and mixed it into a vial with fresh soup & pyrite. Over twelve or more generations, only those chemical networks that could propagate faster than they were diluted would survive. After 12 to 18 generations, scientists saw a drop in available phosphate, including the dissolved organic material. This suggests that chemical compounds might be sticking to and spreading along the pyrite grains. When the team further inspected the pyrite under ultra-high magnification, they saw an abundance of fractal

shapes spreading along the surface of the mineral in the experimental samples but not in control samples. These samples lacked a history of selection. When the researchers ran the experiment- New Study On Origin of Life until 40 generations, they observed periods of gradual change interspersed by sudden reversals to the starting conditions, the causes of which are unknown. Baum and the team are now excited to refine this study further and maybe answer the question of the Origin of Life.

If this laboratory system can generate greater complexity, it might help solve the puzzle of how pure chemicals eventually gave rise to complex organisms. New Study On Origin of Life- The Simple Laboratory Experiment! To test the idea of chemical ecosystem evolution, the University of Wisconsin–Madison researchers assembled a rich soup of chemicals in the laboratory setting. In seawater, they dissolved sugars, amino acids, trace minerals, common organic compounds, and the building blocks of nucleic acids. To give the system even more of an edge, the researchers added the rich seawater with ATP. It is a high-energy molecule that drives nearly all of life’s reactions today but

Under ultra-high magnification, the researchers found distinctive fractal shapes spreading along pyrite grains after their chemical soups went through multiple generations. Credits: DAVID BAUM LAB


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A Newly Modified Genetic Tool For Production Of “Designer” Plants Scientists at the University of Georgia develop a new method to regulate the genes in plants in a more convenient way. This would open up new dimensions in gene manipulation as well as would help to improve food production to meet the increasing requirements. THEY PUBLISHED THEIR FINDINGS IN TWO SEPARATE PAPERS IN NATURE PLANTS. By Namitha Thampi

According to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, With the world population expected to reach 9.1 billion by 2050, world food production will need to increase by 70%. Genetically modified crops could play a significant role during that critical time. Bob Schmitz, associate professor of genetics in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences and his team demonstrated an ability to identify and target cis-regulatory elements(CREs) that regulate the genes in the plant genome in 13 plant species, including maize, rice, green beans, and barley. CREs are noncoding regions of DNA that regulate the neighboring genes. If the CREs for a gene can be identified, they can be targeted to facilitate a convenient regulation of genes.

ence Foundation granted the team a $3.5 million to look into the role of CREs in legumes, including peanuts and soybeans. Schmitz’s study was based on the technological breakthroughs developed by Zefu Lu, Bill Ricci, and Lexiang Ji.

Schmitz compares the gene-editing tool to a hammer saying that when you target the gene, the hammer pretty much breaks it. On the other hand, CREs can be safely targetted to regulate gene expressions in various degrees.

Zefu modified the method that identifies the CREs in animal cells to apply it to plant cells to produce better Genetically modified crops. It took a long time to address the significant barriers while dealing with the plant organellar genomes, but Schmitz and his team are finally capable of what the animal field has been doing for a few years.

For example, controlling the gene for leaf architecture like choosing the angle at which the leaf grows could play a crucial role in the plant’s light absorption and growth. Gene editing will give you only two options, a 90° angle and an angle at which leaves grow straight down. But targeting the CRE enables you to grow the leaves at desirable angles like 10°, 25°, 45°, etc.

Scientists had been looking for mutations in the genes, but the research in animal genetics showed that the non- coding regions which were thought to be insignificant also carry mutations that affect the gene expressions. These regions, which were challenging to study compared to genes, were characterized with the regulatory information for controlling gene expression through this method.

Today, the environment is facing increasing challenges, like drought and flooding, which calls for the possibility of growing plants in less ideal landscapes. Once the CREs for specific genes are identified and screened, they could be targeted to produce genetically modified crops with desirable traits like salt-tolerance.

Ricci developed the technique that shows the relationship between CREs and the gene they control.

Considering the scope and benefits of Schmitz’s study, The National Sci-

Generally, the CREs are located right next to the gene they control, but in plants like soybean and maize with larger genomes, it is evident that they might be located far away from the gene. According to the methods developed by Ricci, CREs are located far away from the gene in the

two-dimensional space, but they are right next to the gene in the three-dimensional space. And this inspired the two papers published in Nature Plants. Schmitz gave the partial credits of this breakthrough research to Zefu, Bill, and Lexiang. The research paper “Widespread Long-range Cis-Regulatory Elements in the Maize Genome” provides epigenomic, genetic, and functional molecular evidence supporting the existence of long-distance CREs that regulates how a gene in the maize genome is expressed. “The prevalence, evolution and chromatin signatures of plant regulatory elements,” includes thousands of identified CREs and revealed that long-distance CREs are widespread in plants, especially in species with

large and complex genomes. Additional results propose that CREs regulate gene expression along with distinct chromatin pathways. Brigitte Hofmeister, a recent Ph.D. graduate from the Schmitz Lab, developed an epigenome browser through which all the research work will be available to the public. Schmitz believes that the techniques and technology developed will be useless if they are not accessible by the people. The epigenome browsers will help people to get information on the specific genes they are working on while studying leaf architecture. The applications of this approach to identify CREs are useful to academia as well as advantageous in the industry to improve crop performance by developing genetically modified crops.


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Discovery of 16 New Genome Regions Linked to Diabetic Kidney Disease UCD Diabetes Kidney Research study reveals new genome regions on the human genome that are linked to diabetic kidney disease (DKD). THE UCD DIABETES COMPLICATIONS RESEARCH CENTRE RESEARCHERS ALONG WITH THEIR INTERNATIONAL COLLABORATORS HAVE DISCOVERED 16 NEW REGIONS OF THE HUMAN GENOME RELATED TO THE LEADING CAUSE OF KIDNEY DISEASE, A DISEASE CALLED DIABETIC KIDNEY DISEASE (DKD), WHICH CAN FAIL ORGANS. By Pratibha HC

This study by the researchers at the UCD Diabetes Complications Research Center is the most extensive study ever to be carried, concentrating on the genetics of Diabetic Kidney Disease. Around 19,406 Euro-American individuals having type 1 diabetes, with and without kidney disease, were involved in this study. Many diabetic patients, even if they have tight control over their blood sugar level, they are most likely to develop kidney disease. While others, despite having high blood sugar levels for a long time, are able to maintain healthy kidney function. Even though there have been studies indicating DKD having a genetic component, not many details were known about the genes involved until now. The answer to why only some people are susceptible to diabetic kidney disease can be known from this diabetes kidney research. Scientists believe that genetic differences or variants noticed in this study might explain why some people vulnerable to the disease while others are resistant. The study was led by Prof. Catherine Godson and Dr. Eoin Brennan, along with Dr. Darrell Andrews and Dr. Ross Doyle in UCD Conway Institute, collaborating with colleagues in the Broad Institute and Harvard Medical School, U.S.; Queen’s University Belfast (QUB); T and University of Helsinki, to accomplish a genome-wide association study. In this UCD Diabetes Kidney Research, various categories of DKD indicators were considered, and patients were categorized according to these indicators, like the biomarkers in urine and kidney function tests. There are 16 new gene regions dis-

covered by the scientists that are linked to diabetic kidney disease, and the supportive biological data related to their potential roles in disease were also provided. One gene variant was the most reliable signal uncovered. This gene variant dictated the structure of specialized membranes in the kidney. A type of collagen is made by this COL4A3 gene, the long-fiber protein on which cells sit. This variant has a connection regarding protection from DKD. Further investigation on how this genetic difference can offer protection against DKD is studied by the UCD Diabetes Complications Research team at

UCD Conway Institute. There were some altered genes near the collagen protein-related, associated with diabetic kidney disease and some genes related to inflammation and immunity. Professor Catherine Godson from the UCD School of Medicine and Fellow, UCD Conway Institute, said, “The rates of diabetes and its associated vascular complications remain unacceptably high even after our best efforts. There is an immediate necessity to find those individuals with diabetes who are vulnerable and can develop complications like diabetic

kidney disease, and effective drugs for treating the condition must be developed. “The new 16 genome regions related to diabetic kidney disease provides insight into how the disease is developed and help to identify the targets, preventing and treating diabetic kidney disease.” Today, about 225,840 people are living with diabetes in Ireland. Out of this 225,840 people, 20,000 people are found to have type 1 diabetes, a genetic condition diagnosed in childhood.


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Immunity Body Shield Discovered By University of Bristol Scientists University of Bristol researchers discovers the immune response pathway of the body, which can help improve tissue repair in damaged tissues. THE SCIENTISTS HAVE FOUND A METHOD TO MANIPULATE THE BODY’S IMMUNE RESPONSE TO ASSIST IN ENHANCING TISSUE REPAIR. By Prathibha HC

A new network of protective elements was exposed in this study and this network was formed to shield the cells against damage is exposed in this study. For patients who are undergoing surgical treatment, this discovery is beneficial in their treatment as it can significantly improve the recovery process and reduce any complications. Current Biology published the findings today [Monday 18 November]. In our body, when there is damage in any tissue, either by accident or through any surgery, immediately the body sends immune cells to the site where there is an injury and here the immune cells fight the infection by engulfing and killing invading pathogens. This is done through the release of toxic factors such as unstable molecules containing oxygen, which are called the reactive oxygen species, like the peroxides. However, these bactericidal products can disrupt the repair process as they are highly toxic to the host tissue. For decreasing these harmful effects, powerful protective machinery is activated by the repairing tissues, which can shield or protect itself from any damage. Now, the exact identities of these protective pathways have been mapped by the University of Bristol researchers from Bristol’s School of Biochemistry studying tissue repair, and they have also identified how this process can be stimulated in naïve tissues. The study’s lead author, Dr. Helen Weavers, one of the researchers at the University of Bristol from the Bristol’s Faculty of Life Sciences, explains: “The injured tissues in healthy individuals, usually repair themselves immediately following any damage. A stress-response is activated within a healing skin wound. By this response, there are inflammatory cells recruited. A large number of bacteriocidal factors along with reactive oxygen species (ROS) are released by these

inflammatory cells to destroy the invading pathogens.” In this study, the University of Bristol researchers made use of translucent fruit flies to watch the wound repair live as it happens and then to observe the behavior of the immune cells. By doing this, the researchers uncovered a network of protective pathways that shield tissues from inflammatory damage and make repairing tissues more ‘resilient’ to stress. The ectopic activation of these pathways was demonstrated, and it was seen that it further enhanced tissue protection, while inhibiting them led to significant delays in wound closure.

Now the University of Bristol researchers know the pathway’s identities and how it is activated. With this discovery, they hope to develop ways to stimulate this protective machinery in patients before elective surgery. The University of Bristol researchers said that the findings of this study show that this can be made use in the practical clinical treatments to patients because the therapeutic activation of these cytoprotective pathways in the clinic could also offer an exciting approach to ‘precondition’ patient tissues before elective surgery. Dr. Weavers added: “We are now unraveling even more ‘resilience’

pathways, both at sites of wounding and in other vulnerable organs that are often exposed to similar stressors. These pathways help to protect our body tissues from stress, and uncovering these would help us know more about this mechanism. The protection machinery is found to be activated by the same pathways that also initiate the inflammatory response, and hence, it is possible that the resilience machinery has evolved as a fail-safe mechanism for protecting the tissue each time inflammation is triggered.” The Medical Research Council (MRC) and Wellcome funded this study.


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NEWS

November 26th, 2019 Vol. 03 NO 106

Anthrax Could Offer Next Frontier Of Bladder Cancer Treatment Anthrax toxin may soon help more people win the fight against the bladder cancer– cancer which the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says strikes about 72,000 Americans every year and it kills about 16,000 and is one of the most expensive cancer types to treat. CURRENTLY AVAILABLE TREATMENTS FOR BLADDER CANCER ARE INVASIVE FOR ITS PATIENTS WHO OFTEN MUST SIT FOR SOME HOURS AT A TIME WITH A BLADDER FULL OF AN AGENT DESIGNED TO KILL CANCER CELLS & TUMORS. By Ria Roy

This cancer also is one of the most recurring for people diagnosed with the disease. Now, scientists at Purdue University have come up with a way to combine the anthrax toxin with a growth-factor to kill bladder cancer cells & tumors. The study is published in the October 4 edition of the International Journal of Cancer. R. Claudio Aguilar, an associate professor & the assistant head of biological sciences in Purdue’s College of Science, said they have effectively come up with a promising method to kill the cancer cells without harming normal cells in the bladder. He further added it is basically like creating special solutions that target cancer cells while leaving healthy cells alone. Aguilar explained the bladder has its own protective layer that saves the good cells from anthrax mixture but offers no protection for cancer cells & tumors. He added the Purdue system works within minutes, instead of the usual hours for bladder cancer treatment, to target the cancer cells in the bladder. Aguilar works as part of a team focused on cell identity and signaling at the Purdue University Center for Cancer Research. He said they have seen outstanding results with their treatment. It is fast & effective, both of which are critical for people dealing with this devastating disease. Aguilar & his group worked with the Purdue teams led by Timothy Ratliff, a distinguished professor of comparative pathobiology & the Robert Wallace Miller Director of Purdue University Center for Cancer Research, and Deborah Knapp, the Dolores L. McCall Professor of Comparative Oncology & Director of the Purdue Comparative Oncology Program, to

test the solution in dogs with bladder cancer who had run out of other treatment options. Researchers found this new agent decreased the tumor size without causing any other side effects

in the animals. The Purdue research team thinks a similar treatment may help people & animals with other cancers, including those affecting the lungs or skin.

The scientists also worked with partners at the Indiana University School of Medicine, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology & Harvard University.


November 26th, 2019 Vol. 03 NO 106

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