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September 3rd, 2019

Vol. 03

NO 94

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LATEST DISCOVERY “METH­AN­OL­I­PARIA” MI­CROBES THAT DEGRADES OIL TO GAS

CSIR NET Dec 2019 & June 2020 exam Schedule Released

CENTRAL GOVT Hikes Salary For Project Scientist & Other Posts

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September 3rd, 2019 Vol. 03 NO 94

“Meth­an­ol­i­paria” – Mi­crobes That Degrades Oil To Gas Scientists from have now found cells of the microbe called Methanoliparia in oil reservoirs worldwide. THE CRUDE OIL AS WELL AS GAS NAT­UR­ALLY ES­CAPE FROM THE SEABED IN MANY PLACES KNOWN AS “SEEPS.” By Ria Roy

These hy­dro­car­bons then move up from source rocks through frac­tures and sed­i­ments to­wards the sur­face. Here is where they leak out of the ground and then sustain a diversity of densely populated habitats in the deep dark ocean. A large part of these hy­ dro­car­bons, especially al­kanes, which is already de­graded be­fore it reaches the sed­i­ment sur­face. This provides an im­port­ant en­ergy source for sub­ sur­face mi­croor­gan­isms, even deep hydrocarbon trans­form­a­tion by alka­ down in the sed­i­ment, where no oxy­ line disproportionation was thought gen ex­ists! to re­quire a com­plex part­ner­ship be­ tween two kinds of microbes, i.e, Recently, a study led by research­ ar­chaea, and bac­teria. Herewith the ers from the Max Planck In­ sti­ tute study by the research team from Max for Mar­ine Mi­cro­bi­o­logy in Bre­men, Planck In­sti­tute for Mar­ine Mi­cro­bi­ Ger­ many, & the MARUM, Centre o­ logy and MARUM presents evid­ for Mar­ine En­vir­on­mental Sci­ences, ence for a dif­fer­ent solu­tion. Ra­fael provides en­vir­on­mental in­form­a­tion, Laso-Pérez, first-au­thor, explains that gen­omes as well as the first im­ages this is the first time researchers get to of a mi­crobe that has the po­ten­tial to see an organism that has the po­ten­tial degrade oils to gas or in other words to de­grade oil to meth­ane gas all by trans­form long-chain hy­dro­car­bons to it­self. meth­ane. Their study res­ults are pub­

ator of the study and senior au­thor, said that the new microbe, Meth­an­ ol­i­paria, is kind of a com­pos­ite be­ing and some of its microbe relatives are multi-carbon hydrocarbon-degrading archaea, oth­ers are the long-known own meth­ano­gens that form meth­ane as their meta­bolic product, he added. With the help of com­bined en­zymatic tools of both its re­l­at­ives, Meth­an­ol­i­ paria microbe ac­tiv­ates and de­grades the oil but forms meth­ane gas as its fi­nal product. The visu­al­iz­a­tion of these microbes sup­ports the pro­posed mech­an­ism. Wegner explained that mi­cro­scopic results show that Meth­ an­ol­i­paria microbe cells at­tach to oil droplets and researchers did not find any hints that it re­quires bac­teria or other ar­chaea as part­ners for this pro­ cess of oil degradation to form meth­ ane gas. Very frequent and globally distributed

Epifluorescence microscopy picture of Methanoliparia-cells attached to a droplet of oil. (Image courtesy: Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology)

lished in the journal mBio. Splitting oil into methane and carbon dioxide This Meth­an­ol­i­paria mi­crobe, an ar­chaeon, degrades oils to gases by trans­forming the hy­dro­car­bons by a pro­cess called al­kane dis­pro­por­tion­a­ tion: This is a process where it splits the oil into meth­ane (CH4) gas and car­bon di­ox­ide (CO2). Formerly, this

Dur­ing a cruise in the Gulf of Mex­ ico, the researchers col­ lec­ ted sed­ i­ ment samples from the Chapo­ pote Knoll. This is an oil and gas seep which is 3000 m deep in the ocean. Back in the lab in Bre­men, research team car­ried out ge­n­omic ana­lyses. This analysis that re­vealed that Meth­ an­ol­ip­ aria microbe is equipped with certain novel en­ zymes to use the quite un­re­act­ive oil without hav­ing oxy­gen. Gunter We­gener, the ini­ti­

As the meta­bolic product meth­ane of this microbes is an im­port­ant green­ house gas which is 25 times more po­tent than car­bon di­ox­ide, these Meth­ano­genic mi­croor­gan­isms have

been im­port­ant for the earth’s cli­mate through time. Laso-Pérez and his col­ leagues were also in­ter­ested to find out about how wide­spread this novel microbe is. Laso-Pérez said that the research team has scanned DNA-lib­ rar­ies and found that Meth­an­ol­i­paria microbe is fre­quently de­tec­ted in oil reser­voirs (and only in oil reser­voirs) all over the oceans. Thus, Meth­an­ol­ i­paria microbe could be a key agent in the trans­form­a­tion of oils i.e, longchain hy­dro­car­bons to meth­ane gas. Sci­ent­ists next want to dig deeper into the secret life of this novel mi­ crobe. We­ gener ex­ plained that re­ searchers have the ge­n­omic evid­ence as well as pic­ tures about the wide dis­tri­bu­tion and sur­pris­ing po­ten­tial of Meth­an­ol­i­paria microbe. But the team can’t yet grow them in the lab. That will be the next step to be fo­ cused on and It will en­able research­ ers to in­vest­ig­ate and find out many more ex­cit­ing de­tails of this microbe. For ex­ample, to find out whether it is pos­sible to re­verse the pro­cess, which would ul­ti­mately al­low us to trans­ form a green­house gas into fuel.


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September 3rd, 2019 Vol. 03 NO 94

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NOTICE: Central Govt Hikes Salary For Scientific Officer, Project Scientist & Associates Posts Department of Science & Technology has released the notification for the Scientific / Technical Manpower other than JRF/SRF/RA in R&D programmes of Central Government Departments / Agencies: Guidelines and emoluments. DEPARTMENT OF SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY HAS RELEASED THE NOTIFICATION FOR THE SCIENTIFIC / TECHNICAL MANPOWER OTHER THAN JRF/ SRF/RA IN R&D PROGRAMMES OF CENTRAL GOVERNMENT DEPARTMENTS / AGENCIES: GUIDELINES AND EMOLUMENTS. CENTRAL GOVT HIKES SALARY. ALL OF THE DETAILS REGARDING THE REVISION HAVE BEEN TABULATED. CHECK IT OUT BELOW: By Diluxi Arya

SR/S9/Z-05/2019 Government of India Ministry of Science & Technology Department of Science & Technology Subject: Scientific / Technical Manpower other than JRF/SRF/ RA in R&D programmes of Central Government Departments I Agencies: Guidelines and emoluments 1. Several Departments and Agen­ cies under various Ministries of the Government are sponsoring many extramural and intramural R&D pro­ jects every year. These projects have been sanctioned with well-defined objectives for a specific duration. A large number of scientific/technical personnel, other than Junior Research Fellow (JRF) / Senior Research Fel­ low (SRF) / Research Associate (RA) are inducted into these projects. 2. In order to identify the type of scientific/technical manpower, other than JRF/SRF/RA suitable for R&D projects and to formulate guidelines for their management including re­ cruitment and remuneration etc., an Inter-Departmental Committee has been constituted. Based on the rec­ ommendations of the Inter-Depart­ mental Committee, the Department has approved specific manpower po­ sitions suitable for inducting in R&D projects. The remuneration, essential qualification and upper age-limit are given against each manpower posi­ tion as detailed in Annexure.

3. The guidelines help the Princi­ pal Investigators (Pis) / Institutes to choose appropriate manpower posi­ tions with required qualifications for successful implementation of pro­ jects. All Manpower positions in pro­ jects will co-terminus with the pro­ ject.

(iv) Leave and other entitlements: The Scientific / Technical manpow­ er are entitled to leave as per rules of the host institution. Maternity leave as per the Govt. of India instructions issued from time to time would be available to all categories. The travel

entitlement is as per Institute norms. (v) Bonus, Gratuity & Leave Travel Concession: The Scientific/ Techni­ cal manpower will not be entitled to these allowances.

4. These norms become effective from 1st April 2019 for all categories of Scientific/ Technical Manpower positions in R&D projects. 5. This issues with the approval of Secretary, DST vide Dy. No. EF 23171 dated 21.08.2019 and con­ currence of IFD, DST vide Dy. No. C/2301 dated 21.08.2019. B. Service conditions of Scientific/ Technical manpower (i) DA & CCA: Scientific/ Technical Manpower in projects are not entitled to DA & CCA. (ii) House Rent Allowance (HRA): HRA is allowed to all categories, except for Project Investigator (Pl) / Project Coordinators in Non-Gov­ ernmental / Voluntary Organizations (NGONO) / Project Manager as per Central Government norms applica­ ble in the city/location where they are working. The percentage required for calculating HRA will be based on the remuneration. (iii) Medical Benefits: The Scientif­ ic/ Technical manpower will be enti­ tled for medical benefits as applicable in the implementing institution.

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September 3rd, 2019 Vol. 03 NO 94

ANNEXURE Manpower Position / Upper Age Limit

Essential Qualification

Monthly Emoluments (Rs.)

Scientific Administrative Assistant / Field Worker 50 years

Graduate degree in any discipline

18,000/- + HRA

Laboratory Assistant/Technician / Project Assistant / Technical Assistant / Field Assistant 50 years

B.Sc./ 3 years Diploma in Engineering & Technology

20,000/- + HRA Increment of 15% for 3 years of experience with maximum ceiling of 4 such revisions i.e. upto 12 years of experience.

A Project Associate-I 35 years

Master’s Degree in Natural or Agricultural Sciences / MVSc or bachelor’s degree in Engineering 31,000/- + HRA or Technology or Medicine from a recognized University or equivalent

B Project Associate-II 35 years

Senior Project Associate 40 years

Principal Project Associate 40 years

Project Scientist I 35 years

Project Scientist II 40 years

Project Scientist III 42 years

*Project Scientist B 35 years

*Project Scientist C 40 years

*Project Scientist D 45 years PI/Project Coordinator – I (For Non-Governmental / Voluntary Organi­ zations) As per the scheme PI/Project Coordinator – II (For Non-Governmental / Voluntary Organi­ zations) As per the scheme #Project Manager

(i) Master’s Degree in Natural or Agricultural Sciences / MVSc or bachelor’s degree in Engi­ neering or Technology or Medicine from a recognized University or equivalent; and 35,000/- + HRA (ii) 2 years’ experience in Research and Development in Industrial and Academic Institutions or Science and Technology Organisations and Scientific activities and services (i) Master’s Degree in Natural or Agricultural Sciences / MVSc or bachelor’s degree in Engi­ neering or Technology or Medicine from a recognized University or equivalent; and (ii) Four years’ experience in Research and Development in Industrial and Academic 42,000/- + HRA Institutions or Science and Technology Organisations and Scientific activities and services OR Doctoral Degree in Science / Engineering /Technology/ Pharma / MD / MS from a recognized University or equivalent (i) Master’s Degree in Natural or Agricultural Sciences or Bachelor’s Degree in Engineering or Technology or Medicine from a recognised University or equivalent; and (ii) Eight years’ experience in Research and Development in Industrial and Academic Insti­ tutions or Science and Technology Organisations and Scientific activities and services OR (i) 49,000/- + HRA Doctoral Degree in Science I Engineering/ Technology/ Pharma / MD / MS from a recognized University or equivalent; and (ii) Four years’ experience in Research and Development in Industrial and Academic Institutions or Science and Technology Organisations and Scientific activities and services Doctoral Degree in Science or Master’s Degree in Engineering or Technology from a recognized 56,000/- + HRA University or equivalent Doctoral Degree in Science or Master’s Degree in Engineering or Technology from a recog­ nized University or equivalent; and (ii) Three years’ experience in Research and Development in Industrial and Academic Institutions or Science and Technology Organisations and Scientific activities and services (i) Doctoral Degree in Science or Master’s Degree in Engineering or Technology from a recog­ nized University or equivalent; and (ii) Six years’ experience in Research and Development in Industrial and Academic Institutions or Science and Technology Organisations and Scientific activities and services Master’s Degree in Science or Bachelor’s Degree in Engineering or Technology with minimum 60% marks from a recognized University or equivalent (i) Master’s Degree in Science or Bachelor’s Degree in Engineering or Technology with mini­ mum 60% marks from a recognized University or equivalent; and (ii) Three years’ experience in Research and Development in the relevant field. (i) Master’s Degree in Science or Bachelor’s Degree in Engineering or Technology with mini­ mum 60% marks from a recognized University or equivalent; and (ii) Seven years’ experience in Research and Development in the relevant field.

67,000/- + HRA

78,000/- + HRA 56,000/- + HRA Increment of 5% for every 2 years of experience subject to performance review. 67,000/- + HRA Increment of 5% for every 2 years of experience subject to performance review. 78,000/- + HRA Increment of 5% for every 2 years of experience subject to performance review.

Doctoral Degree in Engineering / Sciences / Medicine / Pharma / Social Sciences / MD

60,000/(Consolidated)

Master’s Degree in Engineering / Sciences / Social Sciences

30,000/(Consolidated)

Doctoral Degree in Science or Master’s Degree in Engineering or Technology from a recognized 1,25,000/University or equivalent with 20 years of experience in relevant field. (Consolidated)

* These positions are meant for undertaking the R&D work of the Science Ministries and their institu­ tions and which have been approved through the SFCIEFC/Cabinet notes and by the competent authority. # This position is meant for big-tick­ et projects (costing more than Rs. 10.0 crore) or for a Center which manages Central Facilities of the Institute.


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September 3rd, 2019 Vol. 03 NO 94

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CSIR NET Dec 2019 & CSIR NET June 2020 Exam Dates Released – NTA To Conduct CSIR Online Exam CSIR NET Exam will now be conducted online by NTA (National Testing Agency) starting from this year’s CSIR NET Dec 2019 Exam. It will be now a Computer Based Exam. NTA IN A PRESS RELEASE HAS ANNOUNCED THE EXAM DATES FOR CSIR DEC 2019 & CSIR JUNE 2020 EXAM. THE COMPLETE CSIR NET DEC 2019 & CSIR NET JUNE 2020 EXAM SCHEDULE CAN BE VIEWED BELOW: By Preety Suman

National Testing Agency (An Autonomous Organization under the Department of Higher Education, Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India) CSIR NET DEC 2019 Exam Schedule Examination

CSIR-UGC NET Examination (CSIR-UGC NET)-December 2019

Mode of CSIR NET Dec 2019 Examination

Computer-Based Examination

Registration Dates For CSIR NET Dec 2019

9th September to 9th October 2019

CSIR NET Dec 2019 Admit Card Download

9th November 2019

CSIR NET Dec 2019 Exam Date

15th December 2019

CSIR NET Dec 2019 Result Date

31st December 2019

CSIR NET JUNE 2020 Exam Schedule Examination

CSIR-UGC NET Examination (CSIR-UGC NET)-December 2019

Mode of CSIR NET JUNE 2020 Examination

Computer-Based Examination

Registration Dates For CSIR NET June 2020

16th March to 15th April 2020

CSIR NET JUNE 2020 Admit Card Download

15th May 2020

CSIR NET JUNE 2020 Exam Date

21st June 2020

CSIR NET JUNE 2020 Result Date

5th July 2020

INSTRUCTION FOR TAKING CSIR NET EXAM IN CBT – COMPUTER BASED TEST MODE – WATCH THE VIDEO BELOW

Details about the CBT Computer Based CSIR NET Exam:

staff available at the TPC will help the candidates so that they become familiar with the CBT mode of examinations. The TPCs will have a downloaded “Computer Based Test (CBT)” which will be similar to the ac­ tual test to be conducted on the exam day. • The TPCs will help the candi­ dates to familiarise themselves with logging into the systems, going through the detailed in­ structions regarding the test, us­ ing mouse or numeric keyboard on-screen (virtual) for attempt­ ing calculation based questions, scrolling down or scrolling up for the next questions, navigat­ ing between questions, review and editing their options and submitting them.

• NTA has established a country­ wide network of Test Practice Centres (TPCs) across India to familiarise aspiring students. • All students have an opportu­ nity to practice and have the first-hand experience of taking “Computer Based Test (CBT)” before the exam. • 4000 Schools/ engineering col­ leges with computer centers will be available on every Saturday/ Sunday starting from 1st Sep­ tember 2019 and more Schools/ engineering colleges with com­ puter centers will be added in time to come. • The candidates can choose the nearest TPC. This facility is available free of cost as a sup­ port measure, especially for can­ The NTA is an inclusive organization didates hailing from remote and which believes that the right candirural areas. dates joining the best institutions will • The experienced, qualified and give India her demographic dividend. professional Nodal Officer and


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NEWS

September 3rd, 2019 Vol. 03 NO 94

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World’s First CRISPR Edited Reptile An Albino Lizard The world’s first CRISPR edited reptile the tiny albino lizards have been created by A team of scientists from the University of Georgia, U.S in a DNA breakthrough. THIS METHOD HAS PREVIOUSLY BEEN USED TO CHANGE THE DNA OF MAMMALS, FISH, BIRDS, AND AMPHIBIANS – BUT THIS IS THE FIRST TIME IT HAS BEEN USED WITH REPTILES. IT WAS PREVIOUSLY THOUGHT TO BE IMPOSSIBLE TO USE THE TECHNIQUE ON REPTILES BECAUSE, UNLIKE OTHER ANIMALS, THEY FERTILIZE THEIR EGGS AT UNPREDICTABLE TIMES. By Rahul Mishra

In this latest research, Scientists from the University of Georgia inject­ ed CRISPR reagents into unfertilized eggs in lizard ovaries for the first time. When the eggs hatched, about 50% of the mutant lizards had inher­ ited edited genes on DNA from both their mothers and fathers.

that his team has been brainstorming on how to modify reptile genomes and manipulate genes in reptiles. Since scientists were injecting unfer­ tilized eggs, they thought that they would only be able to perform gene This study proves that CRISPR editing using CRISPR Cas9 on the al­ components stay active for several leles inherited from the mother. days or even weeks within an unferti­ lized egg. Doug Menke, an associate Scientists from the University of professor at the University of Georgia Georgia waited three months for the and the lead author of the paper said lizards to hatch. Between 6 and 9% of the oocytes produced offspring with

gene-edited traits.

lizards albino because humans with albinism often have vision problems. Scientists hope to use the lizards to Professor Doug Menke added that study how the loss of this gene affects 6% of success rate seems to be low the development of the retina. when scientists have managed to achieve efficiencies up to 80% or The scientists now hope to use this higher in the different model system. gene-editing technique on other ani­ But none of the researchers has been mals in a hope to discover more meth­ able to do these sorts of manipula­ ods of gene editing using CRISPR tions in reptiles before. Cas9 technique.

CRISPR EDITED MUTANT LIZARD- HERE’S A SHORT VIDEO OF THE PROCEDURE

Credits: Demonstration of Lizard Surgery and Oocyte Microinjection Proce­ dure, Department of Cellular Biology, University of Georgia

Researchers decided to make the


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CRISPR-Chip Detect Genetic Mutations In Minutes A group of engineers at the UC Berkeley, as well as the Keck Graduate Institute (KGI) of The Claremont Colleges, combined CRISPR with an electronic transistor made from graphene to produce a new hand-held device that can find genetic mutations in a matter of minutes. THIS DEVICE CALLED CRISPR-CHIP MIGHT BE UTILIZED TO QUICKLY DETECT HEREDITARY DISEASES OR TO ASSESS THE PRECISION OF GENE-EDITING TECHNIQUES. THE TEAM UTILIZED THE TOOL TO IDENTIFY GENETIC MUTATIONS IN DNA SAMPLES FROM DUCHENNE MUSCULAR DYSTROPHY INDIVIDUALS. By Shekhar Suman

Kiana Aran, an assistant professor at KGI said that his research team has developed the first transistor that uses CRISPR to search the genome for any potential mutations. When a purified DNA sample is put on the chip, CRISPR do the search & the graphene transistor reports the search result in minutes. Aran, who developed CRISPR-Chip technology detecting Genetic muta­ tions, is the senior author of a paper describing this device that appears online March 25 in the Nature Bio­ medical Engineering journal. Doctors, Researchers, and geneti­ cists can now sequence DNA with this CRISPR-Chip technology to de­ tect genetic mutations underlying a host of traits and conditions. Compa­ nies like AncestryDNA and 23andMe even make these tests available to their curious consumers. But unlike most forms of genetic testing and recently developed CRIS­ PR-based diagnostic techniques, new CRISPR-Chip uses nanoelectronics to detect gene mutations in DNA samples. The factor to be considered here is that this is done without first amplifying or replicating the DNA segment and an equipment-intensive process called polymerase chain re­ action or PCR. This means CRIS­ PR-Chip could be used to perform genetic testing in a doctor’s office or fieldwork setting without the need for sending a sample off to a lab. Niren Murthy, the professor of bio­ engineering at UC Berkeley and co-author of the paper on CRIS­ PR-Chip detecting genetic mutations said that this CRISPR-Chip has the benefit that it really points of care.

And it is one of the few things where one could really do it at the bedside if one had a good DNA sample. Murthy added that ultimately, one just need to take a person’s cells, extract his/ her DNA and mix it with the CRIS­ PR-Chip and then they will be able to tell if a certain DNA sequence is there or not which could potentially lead to a true bedside assay for DNA.

complex finds the spot on the DNA that it is targeting, the complex binds to that spot and triggers a change in the electrical conductance of the graphene. This will, in turn, change the electrical characteristics of the transistor. The changes can be detect­ ed with a hand-held device developed by the researcher’s industrial collab­ orators.

The CRISPR-Cas9 system is famous for its ability to snip threads of DNA at specific locations. This is giving re­ searchers unprecedented gene-editing capabilities. But the major problem faced by the researchers is that for the Cas9 protein to accurately cut and paste genes, Cas9 protein first has to locate the exact spots in the DNA that it needs to cut.

Graphene is built of a single atom­ ic layer of carbon. It is electrically sensitive that it can detect a DNA se­ quence “hit” in a full-genome sample even without PCR amplification.

Aran said that Graphene’s super-sen­ sitivity enabled them to detect the DNA searching activities of CRISPR. CRISPR brought the selectivity, & graphene transistors brought the sen­ For Cas9 to detect a specific gene sitivity and, together, the team was location on the genome, researchers able to do this PCR-free or amplifica­ must first equip it with a snippet of tion-free detection. “guide RNA” i.e, a small piece of RNA whose bases are complemen­ Aran and team hope to soon mul­ tary to the interested DNA sequence. tiplex the CRISPR-Chip device by The bulky protein first unzips the ds allowing doctors to plug in multiple DNA. Then it scans through until it guide RNAs at once to simultaneous­ finds the sequence that matches the ly to detect a number of genetic muta­ guide RNA, and then latches on. tions in minutes. CRISPR-Chip detects genetic muta­ tions in minutes! Aran added that imagine a page with a lot of search boxes and in their case To harness CRISPR’s gene-targeting it was transistors. Imagine one has ability, the scientists took a deactivat­ the guide RNA information in those ed Cas9 protein which is a variant search boxes, and each of those tran­ of Cas9 that can find a precise loca­ sistors will do the search and report tion on DNA but doesn’t cut it. Sci­ the result electronically. entists tethered it to transistors made of graphene. Whenever the CRISPR In order to demonstrate CRIS­

PR-Chip technology sensitivity, the research team used the device to de­ tect two common gene mutations in blood samples from Duchenne mus­ cular dystrophy (DMD) patients. Conboy, the co-author of the pa­ per, says CRISPR-Chip technology could be an especially useful device for DMD screening. This is possible as the severe muscle-wasting disease can be caused by mutations through­ out the massive dystrophin gene which is one of the longest in the hu­ man genome and spotting these muta­ tions can be costly and time-consum­ ing using PCR-based amplification and genetic testing. Conboy, who also works on CRIS­ PR-based treatments for DMD added that as a practice right now, the team who have DMD are typically not screened until it is known that some­ thing is wrong, and then they undergo a genetic confirmation. He added that with a digital de­ vice, one could design guide RNAs throughout the whole dystrophin gene, and then one could just screen the entire sequence of the gene in a matter of hours. It could screen par­ ents, or even newborns, for the pres­ ence or absence of dystrophin muta­ tions. If the gene mutation is found, therapy could be started early, before

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NEWS

September 3rd, 2019 Vol. 03 NO 94

the disease has actually developed.

some people unresponsive to expen­ sive blood thinners. He added that if Murthy said that rapid genetic test­ one has certain mutations or certain ing could also be used to help doctors DNA sequences, that will very accu­ so that they can develop individual­ rately predict how he/she will respond ized treatment plans for their patients. to certain drugs. For example, in a disease like Plavix where the genetic variations make Aran said that as CRISPR-Chip de­

tecting genetic mutations in minutes can also be used to monitor whether CRISPR binds to specific DNA se­ quences, it can also be used to test the effectiveness of CRISPR-based gene-editing techniques like this could be used to verify that guide RNA sequences are designed accu­

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rately. Combining modern nanoelec­ tronics with modern biology opens new opportunities to get access to new biological information that was not accessible before, Aran added.

Blood Test That Predicts Death – Groundbreaking Research Blood Test Predicts Death- Experts have designed a new blood test that could predict if you will die in the next decade with more than 80 percent accuracy!

THIS GROUNDBREAKING RESEARCH HAS BEEN PUBLISHED IN THE JOURNAL OF NATURE COMMUNICATIONS. THE OBSERVATIONAL STUDY IS BASED ON AS MANY AS 44,168 INDIVIDUALS. THIS TEST CAN ESTIMATE A PERSON’S RISK OF EARLY DEATH BASED ON THEIR METABOLITE PROFILE. By Rahul Mishra

Researchers from Germany says that it can be used as a warning to people having a risk of early death. Scien­ tists analyzed 14 factors that appear to affect the risk of death, including immunity, glucose control, inflamma­ medical condition. This will result in the study an “exciting step.” Though better Diagnosis as well as treatment they have also emphasized that more tion, and circulating fat. of the disease. research is needed before one of these tests can be implemented in real life. Using the information collected dur­ ing the study, researchers were able to Dr. Joris Deelen said that the New predict whether a person was going Blood Test indicated an individual’s Dr. Amanda Heslegrave, a research­ to die in the next 2 to 16 years. This physical vulnerability. He added that er at the UK Dementia Research In­ Blood Test Predicts death with 83% if a person can change their lifestyle, stitute at University College London, taking inputs from the test report, added that Biomarkers were crucial accuracy! they could live longer. in identifying disease. They also give deep insights into an individual’s During the study, scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Scientist across the globe have called health. Dr. Amanda highlighted that Ageing analyzed the blood samples of thousands of individuals, with ages ranging from 18 to 109 years old. At first, they were assessed on con­ ventional death factors, such as their BMI, blood pressure, smoking, etc. Researchers then shited to the bio­ markers from the new blood test. Follow-up tests over the next 2 to 16 years showed that more than 5,512 of the participants had died. This New Blood Test predicted death with 83% accuracy, better than the 79% accura­ cy of current tests. Scientists believe that this new set of positive results will help doctors improve the prognosis for a particular

the study was solely based on Europe, and it may not apply to other ethnic groups without further investigations. Scientists believe that this study is successful in showing that metabolite profiling can provide insights into the health condition. According to them, this – Blood Test Predicts Death – needs to be further developed to be successful in a real-life situation.


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September 3rd, 2019 Vol. 03 NO 94

Mosquito Repellent Graphene Clothes Can Put An End To Mosquito Bite Terror? The material used in Mosquito repellent graphene clothes i.e, the nanomaterial graphene has received significant attention for its various potential uses in everything right from solar cells to even tennis rackets. NOW, A NEW STUDY BY BROWN UNIVERSITY RESEARCHERS FINDS A SURPRISING NEW USE FOR THIS ATTENTION SEEKER MATERIAL, I.E, IN PREVENTING MOSQUITO BITES. By Ria Roy

In a paper, scientists showed that multilayer graphene can provide a two-fold defense against mosquito bites. Graphene which is ultra-thin yet strong material acts as a barri­ er that mosquitoes are unable to bite through. Along with this, experi­ ments showed that graphene also blocks chemical signals mosquitoes use to sense that a blood meal is near which blunts their urge to bite in the first place. The findings of the study suggest that clothes with a graphene lining could be an effective mosqui­ to barrier. The paper on this study is published in Proceedings of the Na­ tional Academy of Sciences,

sheathed in cheesecloth. Graphene Oxide is a graphene derivative that can be made into films which are large enough for macro-scale appli­ cations. It was readily apparent that graphene was a mosquito bite deterrent or say mosquito repellent, the scientists found. When the skin was covered by dry Graphene Oxide films, partic­ ipants didn’t even get a single bite, where the bare and cheesecloth-cov­ ered skin was readily feasted upon by the mosquitoes. According to the researchers what surprised them was that the mosquitoes completely changed their behavior in the pres­ ence of the graphene-covered arm.

Robert Hurt who is a professor in Brown’s School of Engineering and senior author of the paper said that the mosquitoes are important vectors for many diseases all over the world, and there is a lot of interest in non-chem­ ical mosquito bite protection glob­ ally. He added that researchers had been working on clothes that incor­ porate graphene as a barrier against toxic chemicals, and the team started thinking about what else the approach Cintia Castilho who is a Ph.D. stu­ might be good for. The research team dent at Brown and the study’s lead au­ thought maybe graphene could pro­ thor said that with the graphene lining, vide mosquito bite protection as well. the mosquitoes weren’t even landing on the skin patch. The research team In order to find out if this idea would had assumed that graphene would be work, the researcher team recruited a physical barrier to mosquito biting, some brave participants who were through puncture resistance, but when willing to get a few mosquito bites the researchers saw these experiments in the name of science. These par­ they started to think that it was also a ticipants placed their arms in a mos­ chemical barrier which prevents mos­ quito-filled enclosure leaving only a quitoes from sensing that someone is small patch of their skin was exposed there, added Castilho. or available to the mosquitoes for bit­ ing. The mosquitoes used here were In order to confirm the graphene bred in the lab so they could be con­ as a chemical barrier idea, the scien­ firmed to be disease-free. tists dabbed some human sweat onto the outside of a graphene barrier. The scientists compared the number The mosquitoes flocked to the patch of bites participants received on their where the human sweat was dabbed bare skin as well as on skin covered in much the same way they flocked to in cheesecloth and also on skin cov­ bare skin. ered by graphene oxide (GO) films

Other experiments on this mosquito repellent graphene material showed that Graphene Oxide can also provide puncture resistance which doesn’t happen not all the time. Then, using a tiny needle as a stand-in for a mosqui­ to’s proboscis, and computer simula­ tions of the mosquito biting process, the researcher team showed that mos­ quitoes simply can’t generate enough force to puncture Graphene Oxide. But this was applicable only when the Graphene Oxide is dry. The comput­ er simulations found that Graphene Oxide would be vulnerable to punc­ ture when it was saturated with water. And sure enough, experiments of the study showed that mosquitoes could bite through wet Graphene Oxide. However, another form of Graphene Oxide with reduced oxygen content (called rGO) was shown to provide a mosquito bite barrier when both wet and dry.

would be to find a way to stabilize the Graphene Oxide so that it’s tough­ er when wet, and that is because Graphene Oxide has a distinct advan­ tage over rGO when it comes to wear­ able technology, said Hurt. Hurt added that Graphene Oxide material is breathable which means one can sweat through it where rGO isn’t! So the preferred embodiment of this technology would be to find a way to stabilize Graphene Oxide me­ chanically so that it remains strong even when wet. This next step of the study would give us the full bene­ fits of breathability along with bite protection or say Mosquito repellent graphene clothes!

The new study suggests that proper­ ly engineered graphene linings could be used to make mosquito protective clothing. Other co-authors on this study were Dong Li, Muchun Liu, This focus of the further studies Yue Liu, and Huajian Gao.


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Amazon Rain Forest Fire – The Lungs of Our Planet Is Burning! Forest fires are currently burning so intensely in the Amazon rainforest that smoke from the blaze has actually covered nearby cities in a dark haze. AMAZON AS THE WORLD’S LARGEST RAINFOREST PLAYS A CRUCIAL ROLE IN KEEPING EARTH’S CARBON-DIOXIDE LEVELS IN CHECK. THE PLANTS AND TREES TAKE IN CARBON DIOXIDE AND RELEASE OXYGEN BACK INTO THE AIR IN THEIR PROCESS OF PHOTOSYNTHESIS. By Ria Roy

This is the reason why Amazon rain­ forest which covers about 2.1 million square miles is often referred to as the lungs of our planet. The rainforest produces about 20 percent of the oxy­ gen in our planet’s atmosphere. between 3 and 4 pm local time. The blazes have created a layer of smoke The Amazonian dry season which is estimated to be 1.2 million square from July to October which increases miles wide. The Amazon rain forest in late September. During the rest of has shrunk by about 519 square miles the year, the wetter weather in ama­ i.e, 1,345 square kilometers which are zon minimizes the risk of fires at oth­ even more than twice the area of To­ er times of the year. kyo!

Jair Bolsonaro was elected in 2018, Ecologists & Environmentalists have been raising the alarm about deforest­ ation. A major part of his election campaign message called for open­ ing up the Amazon for business, and since he’s been in power, he’s done just that.

Multiple information outlets are re­ porting that Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE) reported a record of 72,843 fires this year. This is nearly double 2018’s total of about 40,000 wildfires which is an 80 per­ cent increase from last year. About 9,000 of those forest fires have been spotted in the past week.

Adriane Muelbert, an ecologist who’s studied how Amazon deforest­ ation plays a role in climate change, said that in the previous years, wild­ fires were very much related to the lack of rain. but this year it has been quite moist this year which leads us to think that this is deforestation-driven fire, she added.

2019 has the highest number of wildfires observed in a single year. This is since researchers began keep­ ing tracking the forest fire in 2013 – and there are still four months to go. INPE released data earlier this month which indicated that more forest has been cleared in Brazil this summer alone which is more than in the last three years combined.

Thomas Lovejoy, National Geo­ graphic Explorer-at-Large and an ecologist said that this is without any question one of only two times that there have been fires like this in the Amazon Rain forest. He added that There’s no question that this Amazon Rainforest wildfire is a consequence or aftereffect of the recent uptick in deforestation.

Thomas Lovejoy also describes a cyclical system in which deforesta­ tion fuels forest loss by making the region drier and even spurring even more deforestation. Rains in the Am­ azon is generated by the rainforest itself. but when trees start disappear­ ing, rainfall also declines. Ecologists and environmentalists worry that this could increasingly dry out the Ama­ Amazonas- the largest state in Bra­ zon Rain forest and push it to a point zil- declared a state of emergency on of no return, where it will more re­ Monday. semble savannah than a rainforest. The size of the Amazon Rain forest fire is still unclear. But it is sure that they had spread over several large Amazon states in northwest Brazil. NASA noted that the wildfires of Am­ azon Rainforest were large enough that they could be spotted from space On August 11. People in São Pau­ lo had reported on social media that on Monday the sky had gone dark

He added that the Amazon has this tipping point because it makes half of its own rainfall and the Amazon has to be managed as a system. And any forest destroyed is a threat to biodi­ versity as well as the people who use that biodiversity. The overwhelming threat is that a lot of carbon goes into the atmosphere as a result of this. Since the country’s current president

Lovejoy and Muelbert warn that wildfires of this scale could continue if deforestation and mismanaged for­ est clearing by fire continues. Such a massive loss of the Amazon Rain for­ est would be felt on a global scale. Muelbert explained that it’s too early to calculate how much carbon might be emitted by this August’s wildfires. The Intergovernmental Panel on Cli­ mate Change released a report earlier this month saying the world doesn’t have the forest to spare if it wants to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. she added that it’s a tragedy and deforestation is a crime against the planet as well as a crime against humankind. The hotter and warmer conditions because of climate change can allow blazes that crop up during the sum­ mer season to grow bigger than they otherwise might have. Global warm­

ing also worsens this condition and the frequency of wildfires around the world. According to Climate Central, this year is going to be the third hottest on record globally. Last year was the fourth warmest where 2016 was the warmest followed by the year 2015 and 2017. Dry and hotter conditions in the Northern Hemisphere are a conse­ quence of this unprecedented warm­ ing. And this is because warming leads winter snow cover to melt very early and hotter air sucks away the moisture from trees and also from the soil. Decreased rainfall due to de­ forestation also makes forest prone to burning. All these have combinedly created ideal conditions for wildfires in Bra­ zil and elsewhere around the world!


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Microplastics in Drinking Water Harmless To Humans, Reports WHO In recent studies, scientists have expressed their concern over the presence of microplastics in treated tap and bottled water. ACCORDING TO A NEW REPORT BY THE WHO, MICROPLASTICS ARE ABUNDANTLY FOUND IN DRINKING WATER, BUT THERE IS NO EVIDENCE SO FAR THAT THIS POSES A RISK TO HUMAN HEALTH. By Rahul Mishra

The study suggests that bottled drinking water contains minuscule elements of the polymers used in the container and cap. The United Nations, however, warned against carelessness. Accord­ ing to the UN, scientists should un­ dertake extensive studies to fully un­ derstand how plastic spreads into the gestions from the report that foreign environment as well as its effects on matters could overload vital human the human body. systems. Though the report pointed out that Microplastics bigger than 150 Microplastics are generally consid­ micrometers – about the diameter of a ered to be smaller than half a milli­ hair poses the least threat to humans meter, though there is no universally as they pass straight through the hu­ accepted definition of Microplastics. man body. In its report, the WHO mentioned Researchers believe that Small­ that Plastic production has grown ex­ er particles could potentially pass ponentially in recent decades and is through the walls of digestive tracts predicted to double by 2025. and get stuck. Though according to this report, they are unlikely to accu­ This has raised concerns that hu­ mulate in larger harmful quantities. mans might be contaminated by the Not enough is known about the tiniest chemicals used in plastics or the path­ nano plastics (those less than 1 mi­ ogens that reside on the plastic ma­ crometer) to be sure of their impact terials. More alarming still are sug­ on human health.

In its conclusion, the WHO report said that though there are limited evi­ dence available Microplastics and the microorganisms associated with it in the drinking water poses ‘low con­ cern for human health.’

Bruce Gordon, one of the author’s of the study, said that consumers should not be too worried about Microplas­ tics in Drinking water. He encouraged further research on Microplastics and its effects on humans.

According to the report wherein, Mi­ croplastics are reported to be harm­ less by the WHO, More than 2 billion people lack access to hygienic drink­ ing water. They said that routine mon­ itoring of microplastics in drinking water is not recommended. Instead, the resources should be spent wisely in removing bacteria and viruses that are far more significant with proven health risk.

The best solution to the problem, Bruce Gordon said, was to reduce plastic pollution by eliminating sin­ gle-use plastics. Also, promoting the recycling of plastics and the use of alternatives is crucial.


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New Vaccine For Tuberculosis Shows Promising Results New Vaccine For Tuberculosis. It is the world’s top infectious disease killer in humans. RESEARCHERS FROM THE CENTENARY INSTITUTE AND THE UNIVERSITY OF SYDNEY HAVE SUCCESSFULLY DEVELOPED AND TESTED ON MICE, A NEW TYPE OF VACCINE TARGETING TUBERCULOSIS (TB). By Rahul Mishra

The Pre-clinical trials on mice show promising results, and the research­ ers will next test the new vaccine in clinical trials with humans. Current­ ly, there is only one existing vaccine for TB as of 2011- Bacillus Cal­ mette-Guérin (BCG), and it shows to be ineffective in adults. The early-stage vaccine was shown searcher on the project said that there to protect against TB in a pre-clinical currently exists only one vaccine for laboratory setting when tested on the TB and this is only effective in reduc­ rodents. ing the risk of disease for infants. It fails to prevent infection or provide Dr. Anneliese Ashhurst, the co-lead long-term protection in older indi­ author of the study, said that Tuber­ viduals. BCG isn’t considered suita­ culosis is a global problem and it re­ ble for use in individuals with an im­ sulted in 1.6 million deaths per year paired immune system. globally. TB is caused by the inhala­ tion of the bacteria Mycobacterium Professor Britton said that he is ex­ tuberculosis. She is affiliated with both the Centenary Institute and the University of Sydney. The research program targeting the deadly disease has currently taken over five years of effort to implement. During that time, Dr. Ashhurst and a team of scientists have created the advanced synthetic TB vaccine and have now demonstrated its effective­ ness using mouse models. Dr. Ashhurst said that two peptides which are usually found in tuberculo­ sis bacteria were synthesized in vitro and then bound extremely tightly to an adjuvant. This, when introduced into the mouse, was able to kickstart the immune response. She highlight­ ed that the research team was then able to show that when this vaccine was inhaled into the lungs, it stimu­ lated the type of T cells known to pro­ tect against TB. Dr. Ashhurst said that the team of researchers were able to demonstrate that this type of vaccine could successfully protect against ex­ perimental airborne TB infection. Professor Warwick Britton, Head of the Centenary Institute Tuberculosis Research Program and co-senior re­

cited that the team’s strategy to dis­ cover a new vaccine for tuberculosis has proven to be the right research ap­ proach. This was achieved by direct­ ly generating immunity to the lungs. He added that the team of scientists was trying to make this easily inhaled nasal spray which would provide lifelong TB protection. The next step for the scientists is to

determine if the synthetic vaccine can be developed into a form suitable for human use. According to the reports, an estimated two billion individuals are carrying TB globally, and up to 10 percent of these individuals devel­ op the disease in their lifetime. More than 50% of TB cases occur in the Asia Pacific region.


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Researchers Develop New Modular Vaccination Kit For Plant Protection The new modular vaccination kit for plant protection is simple, fast, and yet flexible. This could become significantly easier to vaccinate plants against viruses in the future. RESEARCHERS AT MARTIN LUTHER UNIVERSITY HALLE-WITTENBERG (MLU), THE LEIBNIZ INSTITUTE OF PLANT BIOCHEMISTRY (IPB) AND ALSO THE NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL IN ITALY (CNR) HAVE DEVELOPED A NEW METHOD FOR PLANT PROTECTION PURPOSE. By Ria Roy

It enables rapid identification as well as the production of precisely tai­ lored substances that combat different pathogens. The scientists discuss their work in the next edition of the journal “Nucleic Acids Research.” The new method for plant protection is based on a molecular defense pro­ gram of plants that is triggered, for example, by viral infections. Plant’s cells serve as a host to multiply the virus. This results in the creation of viral ribonucleic acid molecules (RNAs) during a virus attack. Plants can detect as well as cut up these mol­ ecules using special enzyme scissors. “small interfering RNAs” (siRNAs) are produced as a part of this process which spread throughout the plant and may initiate the second stage of defense for the plant. Here, the small interfering RNA molecules attach themselves to so-called Argonaute protein complexes and lead these to the virus RNAs. In the best-case, it can be dismantled and broken down into many harmless compounds. Pro­ fessor Sven-Erik Behrens of MLU’s Institute of Biochemistry and Bio­ technology said that by implementing this two-stage process, the plant is ac­ tually trying to protect itself from the virus both at the site of the infection and throughout its structure. The two-stage process is not par­ ticularly efficient, however, as the biochemist explains that when a vi­ ral infection occurs, there are lots of different siRNA molecules produced. In fact, very few of them have a pro­ tective effect among these molecules. The majority of the molecules simply saturate the Argonaute complexes, rendering them inactive. Behrens’ research team has discovered a novel way of the plant protection to iden­ tify the few effective antiviral small interfering RNAs molecules for dif­ ferent viruses and harness them as

plant vaccines. The researchers have developed a screening process based on plant cell extracts, which is being used instead of lengthy and complex breeding efforts. In order to qualify as potential vaccines, the small interfer­ ing RNAs molecules must have two key properties: Primarily, they have to bind strongly to the Argonaute complexes and Secondly, they will have to lead these proteins to sites of the viral RNAs that are accessible for Argonaute-mediated degradation. Now, the research team is working on vaccinations for plant protection has already been able to prove the effectiveness of their new vaccina­ tion method in the laboratory. In or­ der to achieve this, two groups of the tobacco plant N. benthamiana were infected with a model virus which at­ tacks tomatoes and tobacco. Before being infected with the model virus, one group was vaccinated with high­

ly efficient small interfering RNAs molecules that the researchers had identified using the new method. The other group of organisms did not re­ ceive any treatment. The effects of these were very striking where after six weeks of the treated where 90% of the vaccinated or treated plants did not show any signs of infection, but all the untreated plants had been killed by the virus. The MLU research team’s method follows the modular principle where if the pathogen changes or the plant has to be protected against another virus. This established screening process enables suitable RNA molecules to fight against the respective pathogen to be identified very quickly, which means we can be very flexible when it comes to combatting new pests said, Behrens. The patent application has been already filed for the method of Plant Protection Vaccination Kit.

The research team hopes to continue exploring and improving their meth­ od in the future. It still unclear how long a vaccination treatment will last in different species and also whether drug depots can be created on plants. Further new studies will clarify how vaccines can be produced in larger quantities. Studies will also give an­ swers on how these vaccines can be applied to or how can it be absorbed by the plants. A spray which can be applied in greenhouses is conceiva­ ble according to Behrens. Its like to­ mato growers have to contend with whiteflies, for example, and these can transfer viruses from one plant to an­ other very quickly. Till now, all pes­ ticides have been used to kill off the insects. The new MLU development of plant vaccination kit could prove to be an alternative which is much gen­ tler both to the insects as well as to the environment.


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Scientists Create 3D Heart Cell-On-Chip Platform WASHINGTON, Aug. 25: Researchers in the US and Singapore have developed an organ-on-chip platform which uses bio-electrical sensors to measure the electrical properties of heart cells in 3D. THE RESEARCH STUDY PUBLISHED IN THE LATEST EDITION OF SCIENCE ADVANCES SHOWED THAT 3D, SELF-ROLLING BIOSENSOR ARRAYS WERE MADE TO COIL UP OVER HEART CELL SPHEROID TISSUES TO FORM AN “ORGAN-ON-ECHIP,” OR SAY 3D HEART CELL-ONCHIP PLATFORM THAT ENABLES THE SCIENTISTS TO STUDY HOW THESE CELLS COMMUNICATE WITH EACH OTHER IN A MULTICELLULAR SYSTEM SUCH AS THE HEART. By Ria Roy

The 3D heart cell-on-chip platform can help develop and assess the ef­ ficacy of various drugs for disease treatment. This may allow research­ tissue. ers to screen for drugs as well as the toxins directly on a human-like tis­ The scientists from Carnegie Mellon sue, instead of testing those on animal University and Nanyang Technologi­ cal University pinned an array of sen­ tissue. sors made of either graphene sensors Formerly, scientists used cells and or metallic electrodes to the chip’s cultures on 2D surfaces, such as cul­ surface then etched off a bottom layer ture dishes. But now, they have de­ of germanium.

veloped a way to shrink-wrap sensors around heart cells to extract electro­ Once the layer is removed, the bio­ physiological information from heart sensor array is released from its hold and it coils up from the surface in a

barrel-shaped structure, according to the study.

be collected accurately despite exter­ nal pressure.

The Scientists then coiled the plat­ form over elongated organoids or cardiac spheroids made of heart cells, that are about the width of two to three human hairs.

Anna Kalmykov, the paper’s lead author, at Carnegie Mellon University said, that this platform could be used to do more studies and research into cardiac tissue regeneration as well as maturation that potentially can be used to treat the damaged tissue after a heart attack.

This technique could automatically adjust the level of the delicate touch between the sensors and the tissue so that high-quality electric signals can


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Retina-On-A-Chip To Transform Eye Diseases Treatments & Drug Effects A new study on the development of a retina-on-a-chip, that combines the living human cells with an artificial tissue-like system, has been described today in the open-access journal eLife. THIS CUTTING-EDGE TOOL OF RETINA-ON-A-CHIP MAY PROVIDE A USEFUL ALTERNATIVE TO THE EXISTING MODELS USED FOR STUDYING VARIOUS EYE DISEASES AND ALLOW RESEARCHERS TO TEST THE EFFECTS OF THESE MEDICINES ON THE RETINA MORE EFFICIENTLY. By Ria Roy

Many eye diseases that cause blind­ ness harm the retina, which is a thin layer of tissue at the back of the eye that helps to collect light and relay visual information to the brain cells. The retina is also vulnerable to the harmful side effects of medicines ology at the Eberhard Karls Universi­ used to treat other diseases like can­ ty of Tübingen, Germany, said that the cer. combination of approaches enabled researchers to successfully create a Researchers often relied on animals complex multi-layer structure which or retina organoids i.e, tiny retina-like includes all cell types and even lay­ structures grown from human stem ers present in retinal organoids, con­ cells, to study various eye diseases nected to a retinal pigment epithelium and their medicine side effects. But layer. Achberger, the co-lead author the results from studies in both of of the study, added that it is the first the models often fail to describe the demonstration of a 3D retinal model disease and medicine’s effects in peo­ that recreates many of the structural ple accurately. As a result, a research characteristics of the human retina team has tried to recreate a retina for and they behaves in a similar way. testing purposes using engineering techniques which is the retina-on-a- The research team treated their ret­ chip platform. ina-on-the-chip with the anti-malaria drug chloroquine and the antibiotic Christopher Probst is a Postdoctoral gentamicin, which are toxic to the ret­ Researcher at the Fraunhofer Insti­ tute for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology in Stuttgart, Germa­ ny. Probst, the co-lead author of the current study explained that it is ex­ tremely challenging, if not almost im­ possible, to recapitulate the complex tissue architecture of the human retina solely using engineering approaches. In order to overcome these chal­ lenges, the researchers coaxed hu­ man pluripotent stem cells to develop into several different types of retina cells on an artificial tissue. This tissue recreates the environment that cells would experience in the body and also delivers nutrients and medicines to the cells through a system that mimics the function of human blood vessels. Kevin Achberger who is a Postdoc­ toral Researcher at the Department of Neuroanatomy & Developmental Bi­

ina. Researchers found that the medi­ cines had a toxic effect on the retinal cells in the model which suggests that it could be a useful tool for testing for harmful drug effects on the retina. As stated in Medical Express – Ach­ berger added that one of the advantag­ es of this retina-on-the-chip tiny mod­ el is that it could be used as part of an automated system to test hundreds of drugs for their harmful effects on the retina very quickly. Also, this might enable researchers to take stem cells from a specific patient and study both the disease and its potential treat­ ments in that individual’s own cells. Peter Loskill, Assistant Professor for

Experimental Regenerative Medicine at the Eberhard Karls University of Tübingen, and head of the Fraunhofer Attract group Organ-on-a-Chip at the Fraunhofer Institute for Interfa­ cial Engineering and Biotechnology, said that the retina-on-the-chip new approach combines two promising technologies i.e, organoids and or­ gan-on-a-chip and these approaches have the potential to revolutionize drug development and usher in a new era of personalized medicine. Peter’s laboratory, which spans the two insti­ tutes, is already developing similar organ-on-a-chip technology for the heart, fat, pancreas and more.


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Studies Reveal Biological Risk Potential of Nano-particles The nanoparticles are smaller than five nanometres, i.e., a nanometre being one-millionth of a millimeter. These correspond approximately to the sizes of macromol­ ecules. SUCH TINY PARTICLES ARE VERY EASILY ABSORBED IN OUR BODY CELLS. By Ria Roy

There are two aspects to this feature of Nanoparticles. Firstly, this feature makes nanoparticles good vehicles for transporting a broad range of compounds, medicines or substanc­ es attached to them into the normal diseased cells in a precisely targeted manner. On the other hand, nanoparticles can also pose various health risks; New Studies reveal Biological risk poten­ tial of Nanoparticles, for example in connection with particulate matter. One of the ways by which particu­ late matter is created is in combus­ tion processes, and part of matter can be classified as nanoparticles. These are extremely small particles that can overcome the blood air barrier and then penetrate the body. The bronchi­ al mucosa in the lungs does not filter out these particles. Instead, bronchial mucosa makes their way into the pul­ monary alveoli and then, from there into the bloodstream. Along with work teams from the Chemistry department, the HHU re­ searchers from the Institute of Ex­ perimental Condensed Matter Phys­ ics working under Prof. Dr. Thomas Heinzel and also from the Depart­ ment of Haematology, Oncology, and Clinical Immunology working under Prof. Dr. Rainer Haas have now stud­ ied in their research study on Biolog­ ical risk potential of Nanoparticles, what happens when our body cells absorb such nanoparticles. The sci­ entists used nanoparticles made from graphene which is a special form of carbon that comprises 2D layers of hexagonal carbon rings. The team added these to special hematopoietic stem cells referred to as CD34+ stem cells. These CD34+ stem cells are particularly sensitive to the damaging environmental influences on account of their ability to divide throughout their lifespan. The assumption by the team is that these cells would be dam­ aged more by nanoparticles — if at all — than the more robust other cell types.

The interdisciplinary team of sci­ entists based in Düsseldorf was able to demonstrate that these carbon na­ noparticles get into the cells, where these are encapsulated in special orga­ nelles called lysosomes. Lysosomes serve as a type of waste removal unit for the body where foreign bodies accumulate and are normally broken down into fragments with the help of certain enzymes. However, the scien­ tists did not observe any such process over the duration of the experiments, which lasted for several days. When comparing the active genes or say gene expression of stem cells with and without the addition of na­ noparticles, the scientists found that only one of a total of 20,800 recorded expressions had changed; and the mi­

nor effects were determined in a fur­ ther 1,171 gene expressions. Prof. Heinzel, who was speaking re­ garding the findings of the study on Biological risk potential of Nanopar­ ticles, mentioned that the encapsula­ tion of the nanoparticles in the lyso­ somes ensures that these particles are stored securely at least for a few days i.e, at least for the duration of their experiments — and cannot damage the cell. This helps the cell to remain viable without any major change in gene expressions. This insight is im­ portant if nanoparticles are to be used to deliver medicines into the cells. The experimental framework used here does not allow for any long term statements to be made regarding any increased probability of cell mutation

resulting in cancer. The research study was carried out as a close collaboration between HHU’s Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences and the Faculty of Medicine and University Hospital Düsseldorf. Düsseldorf School of Oncology (headed up by Prof. Dr. Sebastian Wesselborg) funded the doctoral scholarship of first author Stefan Fasbender. Prof. Haas said that the proximity of the Hospital and the University and their close links in terms of content provides HHU with a particularly fruitful environment for translational research, where insights and expertise from basic research are combined with aspects relevant to treatment.


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Environment & Genes Influences BMI – Research Suggests Environmental conditions, as well as our genetic makeup, influence our Body Mass Index (BMI), University of Queensland researchers have discovered. A TEAM OF SCIENTISTS LED BY HUANWEI WANG AND PROFESSOR JIAN YANG FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF QUEENSLAND‘S INSTITUTE FOR MOLECULAR BIOSCIENCE FOUND THE GENETIC EFFECTS THAT INFLUENCE HUMAN HEIGHT ARE VERY STABLE FROM ONE ENVIRONMENT TO ANOTHER. By Rahul Mishra

The study could help determine whether, for any particular traits, the impact of a genetic variation is influ­ enced by environmental factors. Professor Yang said that human traits, such as height or BMI, are complex because they are influenced by various genetic factors, as well as environmental factors. The relation between genetic factors and the environmental conditions affecting these traits have been challenging to find out. A DNA difference could change a character, but is the effect stable across different environments? The researchers have been trying to answer how Environment and Genes Influences BMI.

smoking and lung function is wellknown to the scientists, but its effect due to change in environmental factors is less known to the researchers. Environment and Genes Influences BMI- The Study Approach In human populations, it’s challenging to measure all possible environmental factors to which a person has been exposed, so the researchers decided to take a different approach.

For instance, there is a genetic varia- Using data from more than 300,000 tion known to influence lung function, people with a known height and BMI, and the role of this genetic variation is including many other complex traits, altered significantly by smoking Pro- the researchers searched for genetic fessor Yang added. The link between

variations associated with the variability of each of those traits.

factors are two independent factors influencing height.

They found that BMI could differ significantly even for individuals with the same genetic variation, but this wasn’t the case for genetic changes associated with height.

This study will further be useful to scientists to understand why a genetic effect at a particular gene locus is sensitive to the environment. Understanding the underlying mechanism will be highly crucial in medical research.

Professor Yang said that the scientists found a large number of genetic factors for height, but their effects were not found to be sensitive to environmental factors. While BMI and few other obesity-related traits seemed to be much more sensitive to the external environmental factors. Scientists found that genes and environmental

The study shed new light on the interaction between genomes and the environment when it comes to BMI and height. Professor Yang said the approach could be used widely in scientific research.


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NASA Scientists Stimulates Martian Environment In Australia Outbacks Practice for A Trip To Mars– NASA team overseeing the Mars 2020 mission collaborated with the European and Russian scientists from the ExoMars mission to per­ form experiments in Australia outback- the remote and uninhabited areas of Australia. THESE AREAS OF AUSTRALIA IS A USEFUL SIMULATION OF THE MARS ENVIRONMENT DUE TO ITS HIGH TEMPERATURES, LOW HUMIDITY, AND REMOTENESS AND ANOTHER ENVIRONMENTAL CONDITION SIMILARITY. By Rahul Mishra

Both the Mars 2020 and ExoMars will be searching for evidence of an­ cient life on the Red planet, the trials in Australia focused on finding and identifying tiny fossils that indicate past life existed in the area. Ken Farley, the project scientist for Mars 2020 at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said that The Pilbara Out­ back is home to the oldest fossilized lifeforms on Earth, called stromato­ lites. Farley added that if scientists of NASA can better understand how these fossils were found here as well as the geological signpost, finding signs of life on mars would be more comfortable. This trip to Australia involved prac­ ticing research techniques for the ex­ traction and identification of samples, which will be a crucial function of

the Mars 2020 mission. The ExoMars mission includes a rover with a mini chemistry laboratory on board for analyzing organic compounds such as amino acids, etc. which could be evidence to the previous life on the planet. This is not the first time that NASA scientists have made use of extreme environments on Earth to test various technology intended for use on the Mars Mission. NASA has run trial rover missions in the Atacama desert in Chile, which also has the same en­

vironment as that of Mars. Other tests performed by NASA Scientists of the Mars 2020 rover included putting the rover in a freezing vacuum chamber for a week to assess its resilience to the harsh environment of Mars.

due diligence before their tasks make the 100-million-plus-mile trip to the Red Planet in the same way as Apol­ lo astronauts visited various areas of geologic interest on Earth before their journey to the Moon.

According to Mitch Schulte, Mars 2020 program scientist at NASA Headquarters in Washington, said that NASA Scientists Stimulating the Mars Environments is a crucial part of a successful Mars mission. He added that the scientists of Mars 2020 and ExoMars are doing their

The Mars 2020 mission is scheduled for launch in July 2020 and reaches Mars in February 2021. The ExoMars mission will be launched just a few days after Mars 2020 and should ar­ rive on Mars in March 2021.


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NIH Announces Awards For Early Genomic Researchers NIH Awards Early Researchers in the field of genome biology, genomic medicine, technology development, and societal implications of genomic advances. It is called The Genomic Innovator Awards. THE NATIONAL HUMAN GENOME RESEARCH INSTITUTE (NHGRI), PART OF THE NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH, STARTED THE NIH GENOMIC INNOVATORS AWARDS IN 2018. By Rahul Mishra

Unlike traditional research grants, these special NIH awards to Early Researchers will provide funding to investigators with outstanding re­ cords of productivity as they pursue essential research areas. This program contributes to the ongoing NIH ef­ fort to expedite scientific innovation by promoting funding to scientists, prompting improved productivity and 3. Jason Vassy, M.D., at Harvard facilitating flexible, ambitious, and Medical School, Boston. He aims to original research. develop clinical polygenic risk scores for six common diseases in the world. Eric Green, M.D., Ph.D., Director They include coronary artery disease, of NHGRI, said that NHGRI was atrial fibrillation, type 2 diabetes mel­ pleased to announce The Genomic litus, breast cancer, colorectal cancer, Innovator Awards. He added that this and prostate cancer. The tests will would help talented investigators pur­ then be used in clinical trials using sue their research ideas in a highly ag­ point-of-care testing, which provides ile fashion. This award has enormous immediate results to patients. potential to make meaningful contri­ butions to genomics in the coming 4. Luca Pinello, Ph.D., at Massa­ years. chusetts General Hospital, Boston. 1. Channabasavaiah Gurumurthy, Ph.D., at the University of Ne­ braska Medical Center, Omaha. He aims to develop technologies that will address common challenges relating to developing and breeding mouse models. Mouse models are essential for biomedical research. Given the frequent use of mouse models around the globe, addressing these challeng­ es is key and may have a lasting im­ pact on biomedical research. 2. Eric Gamazon, Ph.D., at Van­ derbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, Tennessee. He studies the genomic and environmental basis of physical characteristics, including hair and eye color, personality traits, and disease risk. Dr. Gamazon is in a process to develop computational tools for the analysis of all such ob­ servable characteristics relating to medical conditions. NIH Awards Early Researchers is being considered as a novel initiative by the NIH

Dr. Pinello is interested in disease-as­ sociated variants that lie in regions of the genome that do not code for genes. Many of these regions regulate the expression of genes and are known

as regulatory elements. Dr. Pinello’s team of researchers will develop ap­ proaches to discover and understand how these regulatory elements func­ tion. Also, how mutations in these ar­ eas can contribute to disease. 5. Stacy Gray, M.D., at The City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Center, Duarte, California. Dr. Gray and the team are developing an interactive web-based, point-of-care tool for doc­ tors and patients that will help health providers and patients better under­ stand their genomic information, which will result in better healthcare delivery. 6. Timothy O’Connor, Ph.D., at the

University of Maryland-Baltimore. Dr. O’Connor currently focuses on identifying genomic variants existing in specific ancestry populations. His team aims to classify small segments of identity by descent using genomic variants and to use the data to corre­ late mutational rates across various communities, including how these processes impact human health and disease. NIH Genomic Innovator Awards – Award For Early Researchers – Un­ der this, these scientists will receive a grant of approximately $500,000 per year over a five year project period.


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Zika Virus Spreads Silently- Scientists Discover ‘Hidden Outbreaks’ of The Virus A team of scientists at Scripps Research, working in collaboration with several other organizations, uncovered the hidden outbreak of Zika Virus by overlaying air-trav­ el patterns with genomic sequencing of virus samples from infected travelers. KRISTIAN ANDERSEN, PH.D. SAID THAT INFECTIOUS DISEASES SUCH AS ZIKA ARE GLOBAL PROBLEMS, AND GREATER INTERNATIONAL COLLABORATION AND COORDINATION IS A KEY IF SCIENTISTS HAVE TO STAY AHEAD OF GLOBAL OUTBREAK THREATS. By Rahul Mishra

He is an associate professor at Scripps Research and director of In­ fectious Disease Genomics at the Scripps Research Translational Insti­ tute. He further added that through this study, scientists developed a framework for a more global and ef­ ficient way of understanding how vi­ Andersen’s team had no clue that it ruses are spreading across the globe. would expose an unnoticed outbreak The traditional reliance on local test­ when it began investigating trav­ ing may not always be sufficient to el-associated Zika cases in 2017. The generate the exact data. scientists wanted to know if the Eb­ ola epidemic was winding down. In­ The study highlights that the Zika stead, they were shocked to find that Virus had already been circulating a steady number of travelers from the for at least a year before its discov­ Caribbean were still contracting the ery in 2015, making its way to more virus. The approach used in this study than 40 countries. Zika emerged from is known as “genomic epidemiology.” a little-known virus to a source of The team devised a way to calculate global panic has the potential to cause local prevalence by obtaining blood Microcephaly– a condition in babies samples from infected travelers who born to women who contracted Zika had visited Cuba. Later, using genom­ during pregnancy. ic sequencing, they reconstructed vi­ rus ancestry and outbreak dynamics. A coordinated response to Zika re­ lied upon countries detecting the vi­ Karthik Gangavarapu, a Scripps Re­ rus outbreaks and reporting them to search graduate student in Andersen’s international health agencies. By the lab and one of three co-first authors end of 2016, data from the health of the study, says the Zika viruses agencies suggested that the epidemic from the epidemic in the Americas was nearing its end. The virus sub­ descended from a single ancestor, sequently fell off from the list of the which allowed the team to create a World Health Organization’s “Public “family tree”. This further helped the Health Emergency of International researchers trace the roots of the Eb­ Concern.” ola Virus. However, Andersen and his re­ searchers found that an undetected outbreak was reaching its peak in Cuba unnoticed by the international health agencies. Surprisingly, the ex­ plosion was not found in other Car­ ibbean countries, likely due to an ag­ gressive mosquito-control campaign that delayed the disease’s emergence. The researchers found that other in­ fectious diseases spread by Aedes ae­ gypti mosquitoes, including dengue, also were absent in Cuba at the same time.

By examining small genomic chang­ es in each Ebola virus sample, Gan­ gavarapu was able to find a “clock rate” to reveal the age of the virus. The timeline determined that the out­ break in Cuba was established a year later than other epidemics in the Car­ ibbean. Gangavarapu says that the scientists realized there was a whole outbreak that had gone undetected. Sharada Saraf, an intern in the An­ dersen lab and co-first author of the research, analyzed the data from air­

line travel schedules, flight patterns, and cruise ship destinations. With the help of this data, the scientists were able to find how many people visited Cuba and other Zika-endemic coun­ tries during a particular period. Saraf says that undetected viral out­ breaks have the potential to spread globally, and she hopes that this study will encourage utilizing both trav­ el surveillance and genomic data in combination with local reporting for future surveillance efforts. Saraf also pointed out that Andersen’s Lab had consolidated the health data in an eas­ ily downloadable and usable format, and made it publicly available on their lab website for anyone to use as soon as it was generated. Similarly, Andersen’s Lab made its Zika virus sequence data available, highlighting a new framework for how data can be openly shared during public health emergencies. How to Prevent The Next Zika Virus Outbreak? Zika Virus Spreads Silent­ ly

Scientists of this study believe that Public health organizations and aca­ demic labs must step up their infor­ mation-sharing practices. With better detection technologies and improved government funding from various or­ ganizations for activities such as mos­ quito surveillance, could help control future outbreaks. He further says that many serious diseases were linked to fluctuations in mosquito populations. This type of data isn’t being collected or made available publicly in most places in the world. Gangavarapu notes that the implica­ tions of his team’s method of combin­ ing travel surveillance with genom­ ic epidemiology go far beyond this study. He added that the study method followed by Andersen’s team could be applied to many countries that may not have the capacity to detect diseases or may have reliable report­ ing issues.


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New Study Unlocks Mysteries Of Mother-Baby Communication During Pregnancy Pregnancy is surrounded by several mysterious. Among them is the communication between a mom as well as her fetus throughout this duration. A RESEARCH TEAM HAS MANAGED TO OPEN THE MYSTERIES ON MOTHER-BABY COMMUNICATION WHILE PREGNANT VIA THEIR MOUSE MODEL STUDY. By Ria Roy

Earlier this week, a scientific study, published in the American Journal Of Obstetrics and Gynecology, focused on the communication means be­ tween a mother’s cells and her fetus cells during pregnancy. Through the study, a group of sci­ entist from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston and a research team from South Korea found the mode of communication osomes. between a pregnant woman and the fetus inside her womb is “sacs filled The scientist team learned that tracking and isolating fetal exosomes with chemicals called exosomes”. traveling to the maternal side can be a The scientist team also found out useful indicator of the fetus’ develop­ that there is constant communication ment and health, which can be meas­ between a pregnant woman and the ured using minimally invasive mater­ fetus in her womb throughout preg­ nal blood samples.

nancy. The study noted that this mode of Mother and Baby communication The scientist team on their study on plays a vital role even in controlling mysteries on Mother-Baby Commu­ nication concluded that the feto-ma­ the birth timing of the child. ternal and maternal-fetal trafficking Ramkumar Menon, lead researcher and communication of exosomes is and an associate professor in the de­ indicative of paracrine signaling dur­ partment of obstetrics and gynecol­ ing pregnancy. The exosomes from ogy at University of Texas Medical the mother can produce many func­ Branch, said in a statement that the prior studies have shown that the fe­ tal exosomes signal to the mother’s body that her/his organs have fully matured, which triggers the labor as well as the delivery process.

Menon said that his research team is focussing on the extent as well as the capabilities of this Mother-Baby Communication which in turn will help the team in developing new ways to support and monitor the fetus during pregnancy. The scientist team used genetically engineered mice to unlock mysteries on Mother-Baby Communication, which had certain exosome proteins glow green and fluorescent red when tissue samples and blood are stained, for their mouse model study. The sci­ entists viewed the samples taken then under a microscope to distinguish between maternal and the fetal ex­

tional changes in the fetal tissues. The trafficking of exosomes suggests their potential role in pregnancy as biomarkers of fetal functions as well as the usefulness as a carrier of drugs and other cargo to the fetal side dur­ ing pregnancy time. The isolation and characterization of fetal exosomes can advance fetal research further without performing any invasive procedures. The researchers are now currently looking forward to unlocking more Mysteries on Mother-Baby Com­ munication by having a follow-up study that can help them in finding out whether if this mode of commu­ nication between a mother and her fe­

tus can be used to prevent premature birth. Menon added that his team will test the usefulness of drugs enclosed in exosomes that can potentially cross the placental barrier and reach the fetus and then prevent fetal inflam­ mation which is a major cause of pre­ term birth. And surprisingly there is currently no drug treatment for this. The fetal inflammatory response is primarily responsible for preterm de­ livery. This impacts 15 million preg­ nancies yearly and is also responsible for about 1 million neonatal deaths.


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CAR-T Cells Therapy- Leading The Next Cancer Breakthrough

CAR-T Cells also called the Super-Powered Immune Cells, is now being used to treat solid tumors, including small cell lung cancer, sarcomas, and triple-negative breast cancer. THE RESEARCH IS A PART OF THE ‘CARPETS’– PHASE 1 CLINICAL TRIAL INITIATED BY PROFESSOR MICHAEL BROWN, DIRECTOR OF THE CANCER CLINICAL TRIALS UNIT AT THE RAH. IT WAS INTENDED TO TREAT ADVANCED MELANOMA PATIENTS. By Rahul Mishra

CAR-T cells are genetically modi­ fied white blood cells harvested from a patient’s blood with the unique abil­ ity to directly attack and kill cancers. The phase 1 clinical trial will test the feasibility and safety of CAR-T cells Therapy to treat advanced cancer. The clinical trial is led by the Cen­ tre for Cancer Biology. It is an alli­ ance between the University of South Australia, the Central Adelaide Local Health Network (CALHN) and the Royal Adelaide Hospital. Funding for the trial is provided by Cancer Coun­ cil’s Beat Cancer Project and spon­ sored by CALHN. Dr. Tessa Gargett from the Uni­ versity of South Australia is the led Scientist. She is in charge of manu­ facturing the CAR-T cell product and following the patients’ responses to treatment. Dr. Tessa Gargett is a Can­

cer Council Beat Cancer Project Ear­ ly Career Fellow from the Centre for Cancer Biology. She says the CAR-T Cells based immune therapy shows great potential for developing new cancer treatments.

immune system to attack tumor cells. She added that scientists achieved various breakthroughs while treating chemotherapy-resistant blood can­ cers, but similar results were yet to be obtained in case of solid cancers.

The benefit of CAR-T Cell Therapy in treating Cancer

Lincoln Size, Cancer Council SA Chief Executive said the study is a critical element in working towards the next cancer breakthrough. Size added that Cancer Council’s Beat Cancer Project and other commu­ nity donations have resulted in over $15 million towards ground-breaking research initiatives. He said that ad­

Dr. Gargett says, Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cells are a prom­ ising new technology in the field of cancer immunotherapy. She high­ lighted that CAR-T Cells work by increasing the power of the patient’s

vances in medical research allow sci­ entists to treat cancers in a better way. In collaboration with the Universi­ ty of South Australia, the RAH and CALHN are turning this ground­ breaking immunological trials of treating solid cancers into a reality. August 23rd is the Daffodil Day– the national day in Australia to do­ nate towards cancer research. Money raised through Daffodil Day in Aus­ tralia will go towards funding leading cancer research projects and trials.


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Blobology / Cryo-EM – The ‘New Resolution Revolution’ Transforming Biology With this technology, the views inside the body are likely to accelerate the development of more effective drugs against dementia and infection. DR. PETER ROSENTHAL FROM THE FRANCIS CRICK INSTITUTE IN LONDON SAID TO BBC NEWS THAT THERE IS A GROWING BUZZ ABOUT THE POTENTIAL OF THE TECHNOLOGY AND THIS TECHNOLOGY IS THE NEW HOTTEST APPROACH IN BIOLOGICAL RESEARCH AT THE MOMENT. By Ria Roy

This technology is been described now as a ‘resolution revolution’. With this technology in biological research, there is an exponential growth in the number of new images as well as 3D maps being produced and researchers are clamoring to be trained how to do it. detail and also what goes wrong when something gets out of tune or the nor­ This was not always so for the tech­ mal pattern and causes diseases. nique, called cryo-electron micros­ copy, cryo-EM for short. Cryo-EM Lesley Calder, a flu researcher at the in biological research was seen as a Crick Institute, said that cryo-Elec­ wacky alternative to all other tech­ tron Microscopy in biological re­ niques for decades. And this was be­ search has burst on to the scene and cause the resulting images from most is transforming her research studies. of the techniques were little more than Cryo-EM in biological research is a blobs. Thus came the rude description huge step forward in being able to of “blobology” by its detractors. see what is going on within structures and where, before, cutting them into But over time, researchers refined slices or could just see the outside of. cryo-EM in biological research to Now one can see the whole object, the point that it earned a Nobel Prize she added. for chemistry in 2017. But there was a perfect storm of improvements in This is not just the case with Lesly. camera technology as well as image Many Scientists using this technolo­ processing by reduced cost and also gy, the funding available for it and the increased computing power which number of images and videos posted had a major role in utterly trans­ has all recently spiked. forming “blobology” into an “ul­ tra-high-definition-3D-video-ology”. According to Dr. Donald Ben­ ton, there is lots of exciting biology The videos by Cryo-EM in biolog­ coming out every week from these ical research are showing scientists high-resolution Cryo-EM micro­ what is actually going on inside cells scopes in biological research. Re­ and this is paving the way for the searchers can now see the structure development of better drugs for in­ of the molecules in action within the fectious disease. These include even cell. those diseases that are challenging to treat like flu, HIV/AIDS as well as Seeing the shapes and structure of many of the diseases associated with biological molecules as well as cell at dementia-like the Alzheimer’s and an atomic level are important because Parkinson’s diseases. those are the cogs and wheels that make any living things work. They Dr. Rosenthal said that these videos work inside and between cells. As we from this technology are like seeing all know cells are the building blocks how all the different parts of an or­ of human life. Many of the human chestra play to create a piece of mu­ body’s basic processes occur in cells. sic. Scientists will be able to learn Cells are where raging wars against how processes in cells work in great diseases are fought.

Traditionally, scientists were using a process called X-ray crystallogra­ phy in biological research to see what goes on at cells or near-atomic levels. The process of X-ray Crystallography involved turning the sample into a crystal and beaming X-rays at it for visualization. The X-rays then scatter when they bump into the sample’s molecules and scientists were able to reconstruct a highly accurate picture of the sam­ ple from the pattern of the scattered X-rays. The X-ray crystallography tech­ nique has been incredibly successful. The technique produces images of the structure of biological molecules at atomic resolution. It has almost rev­ olutionized one’s understanding of biological processes and this also led to hundreds of new medicines. The

drawback of this technique is that the molecules are taken out of their natu­ ral environment. This technique gives a snapshot of its shape rather than an observation of what it does in the cell. Cryo-EM in biological research -New Resolution Revolution- on the other hand, enables researchers to see the molecules in their natural state and even observation of what it does in the cell. The process of cryoEM, as the name indicates, involves freezing biological molecules or vi­ ruses inside the cell and then taking thousands of pictures of these frozen materials from different angles and at different stages in the biological process using a Cryo-electron micro­ scope. Scientists can then stitch these pictures together and create a video of living processes in action inside the cell!

The electron microscope’s resolution improved from showing shapeless blobs to visualizing molecules at an atomic resolution over the years. Source: Francis Crick institute


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How Nuclear Weapon Testing Effects The Existing Pollution Crisis? Episode 46 By Dr. Deepa Sharma

“The world has been gradually re­ ducing its nuclear arsenals. Testing must stop so that progress on the de­ struction of nuclear weapons may be­ gin.” Hello and welcome everyone to yet another interesting episode of Voice of Biotecnika podcast. I am Deepa Sharma and today we are going to unveil the different effects of nuclear weapon testing on existing pollution. or it is dropped from a balloon or from an airplane, or, maybe fired by Cessation of World War II marked a missile or detonated on the ground. the commencement of the atomic age All of these tests lead to the disper­ when a number of states launched the sion of radioactive debris in the up­ nuclear arms race. During the period per atmospheric layers, which further of 1945-1964, countries like the Unit­ falls to the ground, often over very ed States, the United Kingdom, the wide areas. Underground tests have USSR, China, and France became nu­ been run in tunnels or deep shafts. A clear powers, steering a large number hole is bored into the bedrock, and the of nuclear tests in all global environ­ measuring instruments and nuclear ments (atmosphere, underground, and devices are positioned in the bottom. underwater). These nuclear tests cause The complete shaft is refilled to avoid rigorous environmental damage, the any leakage of radioactive material. most powerful ever to be conducted The monitoring instruments register in the atmosphere, as well as the gen­ the explosion on the container mi­ eral context of global nuclear weap­ croseconds prior to their destruction. ons tests, have created the grounds of The heat of the explosion melts and the first illustration of large-scale in­ vaporizes the substratum, and the ternational cooperation to abolish nu­ pressure creates a fissure and causes clear weapons testing. The National vibrations in the ground. Usually, a Resources Defense Council assessed crater is formed, its size depending on the total yield of 510 megatons (Mt) the kind of rock and the yield of the from all nuclear tests conducted be­ explosion. Sometimes underground tween 1945 and 1980. Atmospheric tests also lead to the discharge of ra­ tests on its own accounted for 428 mt, dioactivity. which is equivalent to over 29,000 bombs of Hiroshima size. Depend­ A key moment in the efforts to end ing upon a number of factors, the the nuclear arms race and, indirectly, amount of radioactivity generated by nuclear weapons testing was the en­ a nuclear explosion can vary signifi­ try into force of the Non-Proliferation cantly. These embrace the size of the Treaty (NPT) in 1968, banning nucle­ weapon as well as the location of the ar arming of all states of the world, burst. In comparison to an airburst, a with the exception of the five existing ground-level explosion may be likely nuclear powers. A different category to generate more dust and other radi­ of nuclear states had emerged outside oactive particulate matters. The dis­ the scope of the NPT, including India, persion of radioactive material is also South Africa, Pakistan, North Korea, reliant on weather conditions. and apparently Israel (unconfirmed nuclear status), with a few of these Nuclear explosions can be catego­ countries conducting nuclear weap­ rized into two chief categories: at­ ons tests of their own. In terms of en­ mospheric and underground. In case ergy released in nuclear explosions, of atmospheric tests, placing of the which is expressed in megatonnes device on a boat or in a tower is done, (Mt), two different procedures are in­

volved, namely fission (of 235U and 239Pu isotopes in a chain reaction) and fusion (of the hydrogen isotopes, deuterium, and tritium, in a thermonu­ clear process). In terms of radioactiv­ ity, the fusion process generally only produces tritium (3H), while, the fis­ sion process produces a whole range of radionuclides. However, the fusion process can also generate other radi­ oactive materials which are account­ able for large amounts of radioactive debris, especially because of the in­ trinsic fission process of particular stages of thermonuclear reactions. Atmospheric nuclear weapons test­ ing involves the liberation of sub­ stantial amounts of radioactive ma­ terials directly into the environment and causes the largest collective dose from man-made sources of radiation. Among the most relevant studies on the total collective dose to the world population, the UNSCEAR (United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation) reports stand out, especially those drawn up in 1982 and 1993, which are consid­ ered to be complete and valid even to this day. According to the report of UNSCEAR, following atmospheric nuclear testing, the main contribu­ tor to the total effective dose com­ mitment to the world’s population is 14C, contribution of which is 70 % over the course of thousands of years. It is further estimated that not count­ ing radionuclide 14C, most of the oth­ er radionuclides will have delivered almost their entire dose over the next two centuries. The radionuclide 14C is created by nitrogen (14N), which is naturally present in the atmosphere— capturing the neutrons released in

surplus during nuclear tests. After be­ ing formed, it is rapidly oxidized to 14CO and then to 14CO2, and then it is transferred to the global carbon reservoirs (the atmosphere, the ocean, and the terrestrial biosphere), from where it is very difficult to remove, because of its extremely long halflife, i.e., 5730 years. Since the dawning of the atomic age in July 1945, nuclear weapons have been tested on more than 2,000 oc­ casions – in the atmosphere, under­ ground and underwater. The toll on human health as well as on the en­ vironment has been shocking. Today many of us in our bodies carry radio­ active substances from the upshot of nuclear testing, thus increasing our risk of advancing cancer. Much of the Earth’s surface at some point has been contaminated with radioactive particles. All the way through nuclear test explosions, the testing nations have been able to proof-test new missile designs and thus create increasingly sophisticated nuclear weapons. How­ ever, most of the test sites are in the lands of indigenous people and are far from the capitals of the testing governments. A hefty number of the early tests were detonated in the at­ mosphere, which spread radioactive materials through the atmosphere. Further, many underground nuclear booms have also expelled radioac­ tive material into the atmosphere and thereby left radioactive contamina­

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tion in the soil. Over the last five decades, radio­ nuclide 14C has been continuously transferred from the atmosphere into the ocean, but there are differenc­ es in terms of its assimilation by the marine environment. Even though the terrestrial biosphere has played a significant role in assimilating ra­ dionuclide 14C from the atmosphere via the process of photosynthesis, the ocean is, however, the largest storage reservoir of this radionuclide. Hence, in respect of environmental effects, the marine environment has played a crucial role in limiting these effects by means of its prodigious assimila­ tion capacity, although there are some negative aspects concerning the radi­ onuclide buildup in the aquatic organ­ isms. Or else, there would have been a key menace that the radionuclide 14C be assimilated in massive quan­ tities in the biosphere, especially by forest ecosystems, and subsequently assimilated in the food chain, too, in­ cluding in the human body. An additional radionuclide of su­ preme importance in residual global contamination from atmospheric nu­ clear testing is 137Cs, with its 30-year half-life. During atmospheric testing, it is released in enormous quanti­ ties and thus continues to be a chief source of anthropogenic radioactivi­ ty. As more than 70 % of the Earth’s surface is covered by water, the sub­ stantial amounts of 137Cs radioactive debris are built up in oceans and seas. At present, it is assessed that radionu­ clide 137Cs is the principal source of anthropogenic marine radioactivity, along with other important radionu­ clides (mainly 90Sr, 239–240Pu, 3H, and 14C), released in copious quanti­ ties during nuclear tests. According to the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organi­

zation (CTBTO), the United States has conducted the highest number of nuclear weapons tests, a number of them conducted especially on the North American soil. The Nevada de­ sert is the major region where 44 % of all the nuclear tests worldwide were conducted. The environmental con­ sequences are related to atmospheric contamination with radioactive iso­ topes (especially 14C and 137Cs) following the atmospheric nuclear tests conducted during 1951–1963. Other negative effects reported were in relation to atmospheric contamina­ tion with the radionuclides, 131I and 133I, which were later transferred to the biosphere mainly through rain­ falls. As the radionuclide 131I was released in large quantities mainly during atmospheric nuclear tests (es­ pecially during 1951–1958), it was one of the key causes of increased thyroid cancer occurrence in the Unit­ ed States. Presently, there is a high risk of groundwater contamination with several radioactive isotopes in the Nevada Test Site region. Among the most critical isotopes, there are the 239–240Pu isotopes, since it was observed that they can be involved in groundwater’s hydrodynamic pro­ cesses with the risk of reaching the surface. An added setback of under­ ground tests is linked to accidental at­ mospheric contamination with certain radioactive isotopes, corresponding to venting.

September 3rd, 2019 Vol. 03 NO 94

most serious chapter of radioactive contamination in the history of nucle­ ar weapons testing is the pollution of marine ecosystems in the region, and particularly the impact on the local population in terms of the radical in­ crease of thyroid cancer incidence as a result of the population’s exposure to tremendously high doses of radia­ tion.

The 23 atmospheric nuclear tests conducted by the United States in the Pacific region have steered to the contamination of soil and marine eco­ systems, particularly with radionu­ clides such as 137Cs (found in lagoon sediment, marine water, and fish), 90Sr (in coral soils), and 239,240Pu. At present, radioactive pollution of the two atolls is mainly due to radi­ onuclides 238,239,240Pu released in enormous quantities and, to a lesser extent, due to radionuclides 3H, 90Sr 137Cs and 125Sb. From the ecologi­ cal point of view, at this point, there are a few critically contaminated test sites both on land and in the marine environment. In terms of having caused a major impact on the envi­ ronment and irradiation of the human body, 137Cs, 90Sr, 239–240Pu and 131I stand out among the radioactive isotopes released during nuclear tests. These isotopes were primarily found in most of the nuclear test sites world­ wide. A substantial portion of these radionuclides has been transferred into the marine environment since ap­ With regards to India and Pakistan, proximately two-thirds of the Globe’s due to the very low number of nuclear surface is covered by water. tests conducted, it can be concluded that there are no significant instanc­ The implied transfer of radionuclides es of environmental contamination. into the geospheres and their buildup One of the biggest environmental ca­ in living cells, by way of the food tastrophes from the nuclear tests was chain, was yet another form of radi­ caused by the USA in the North Pacif­ oactive contamination of the marine ic, causing radioactive contamination and terrestrial ecosystems. One of the in the wake of the Castle Bravo nu­ most typical examples is the isotope clear test on the Bikini atoll, in 1954. 14C, which is released into the atmos­ The negative consequences of this phere during nuclear tests and is lat­

er integrated into the CO2, and then reaches the marine environment, as a result of the ocean-atmosphere gas exchange, or the biosphere owing to the process of photosynthesis. Over the past century, there has been a steady accrual of knowledge about the vulnerabilities of radioactivity. It was recognized early that exposure to an adequate radiation dosage could cause injuries to internal organs, as well as to the eyes and the skin. Ra­ diation exposure can cause damage to living cells while killing some and modifying others. The destruction of an adequate number of cells will impose conspicuous harm on organs which may result in death. If repair­ ing of altered cells is not done, the resulting modification will be passed on to further cells and may sooner or later lead to cancer. The exposed individual with modified cells that transmit hereditary information to the offspring might cause hereditary disorders. Vegetation can also be con­ taminated when fallout is directly de­ posited on external surfaces of plants and absorbed through the roots. Fur­ thermore, people can be exposed to radiation when they consume meat and milk from animals grazing on contaminated vegetation. It has always been clear that any use of nuclear weapons would have cata­ strophic humanitarian consequences. The human and environmental dev­ astation caused by nuclear weapons – whether by testing, mistake or malice – is the very reason we need to elimi­ nate them altogether. Thank you all for listening. Keep tuning with Biotecnika Podcast to learn more about the latest updates of the scientific world.

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Biotecnika Times 3rd September 2019 Edition  

Biotecnika Times 3rd September 2019 Edition