1.1. GENE THERAPY
Why in news?
- Recently, U.S Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) approved a Yescarta (axicabtagene ciloleucel) therapy to treat adults with certain types of large B-Cell lymphoma (blood cancer).
- Yescarta uses CAR (chimeric antigen receptor) T-cell therapy for treatment.
About Yescarta therapy
- It is a type of gene therapy that turns cells in the patient’s body into a “living drug” that targets and kills cancer cells.
- It has been given Orphan Drug Designation, under which it will be provided with financial incentives to encourage the development of drugs.
- Living Drug – Genetically modified cells are that are infused back into patients in CAR T-cell therapy, continue multiplying to fight disease for months or years. That’s why these immunotherapy treatments are called “living drugs.”
- Orphan Drug – A biological product or medicine that is intended to treat diseases so rare that sponsors are reluctant to develop them under usual marketing conditions. According to WHO, disease having fewer than 100 patients per 100,000 population is described as rare disease and fewer than 2 patients per 100,000 is described as ultra rare disease. Examples of the rare diseases are haemophilia, thalassemia etc.
- Genes – They are the biological templates the body uses to make the structural proteins and enzymes needed to build and maintain tissues and organs. Humans have about 20,000 genes bundled into 23 pairs of chromosomes all coiled up in the nucleus of nearly every cell in the body.
Human immune system?
- The Immune system is a complex network of cells and organs that work together to defend against foreign substances (antigens-bacteria, virus etc.). Various cells associated are:
- B-cell – It is a type of white blood cell that makes antibodies. Antibodies are large Y-shaped proteins which bind to specific antigens. This signals the other cells of the immune system to get rid of the invading microbes.
- T-cell – These are designed to recognise the molecular signatures of particular proteins, such as those from bacteria, in order to activate an immune response.
- Macrophage – It is the first cell to recognize and engulf foreign substances. It may break down
- these substances and present the smaller proteins to the T lymphocytes .
1.2. GENOME SEQUENCING OF RAGI
Why in news?
- Recently, Genome sequencing of Ragi has been done.
- • It was introduced to India in around 3,000 BC.
- • It has a low glycemic index, so preferred by diabetics.
- • Ragi is drought resistant and is the main crop of dry land farmers.
- • It occupies 12% of global millet cultivation area.
- • Karnataka, which has the second largest drought-prone crop land after Rajasthan, leads in its cultivation.
What is Genome sequencing?
- Genome sequencing is figuring out the order of DNA nucleotides, or bases, in a genome i.e. the order of As (Adenine), Cs (Cytosine), Gs (Guanine), and Ts (Thymine) which make up an organism’s DNA. The human genome is made up of over 3 billion of these genetic letters.
- It may provide new information on the genetic basis of poorly understood diseases, with the potential to provide new therapies.
DNA or deoxyribonucleic acid
- It is the hereditary material in humans and almost all other organisms.
- Most DNA is located in the cell nucleus (where it is called nuclear DNA), but a small amount of DNA can also be found in the mitochondria (where it is called mitochondrial DNA or mtDNA).
- DNA is made up of molecules called nucleotides. Each nucleotide contains a phosphate group, a sugar group & a nitrogen base. The four types of nitrogen bases are adenine(A), thymine(T), guanine(G) & cytosine (C)
- DNA is a double helix formed by base pairs attached to a sugar-phosphate backbone.
- It can almost accurately ascertain the identity of a person, establish biological relationships between individuals etc. Thus, useful in investigations of crime, identification of unidentified bodies, or in determining parentage.
- It can also reveal person looks, eye colour, skin colour as well as more intrusive information like their allergies or susceptibility to diseases.
- It can be used in biometric identification in addition to Iris scanning, Retinal scanning and Voice recognition.
- For a long time, it was known that DNA can be used for data storage.
- This may be used in future to build biological computers that use biological materials such as RNA, DNA and proteins, mimic biological organisms or are used to study biological organisms
- The biological computer may be an implantable
- device that is mainly used for tasks like monitoring the body’s activities or making simple calculations or inducing therapeutic effects, all at the molecular or cellular level.
Some other genome sequencing projects
Human Genome Project (HGP):
- This was an international and multi-institutional effort that took 13 years [1990-2003] and $2.7 billion to produce a blueprint of the human genome.
- The HGP has revealed that there are probably about 20,500 human genes composed of over 3 billion base pairs.
- India did not participate in HGP-read.
- This project was launched in 2016 to write or build an artificial human genome from scratch with sophisticated bioengineering tools.
- HGP-write will aim to address a number of human health challenges. Potential applicationsincludegrowing transplantable human organs, engineering immunity to viruses in cell lines via genome-wide recoding, engineering cancer resistance into new therapeutic cell lines, and accelerating
high-productivity, cost-efficient vaccine and pharmaceutical development using human cells and organoids.
- The project could encourage broad intellectual property access via patent pooling.
- But, the HGP-write will require public involvement and consideration of ethical, legal, and social implications.
The Genome Asia 100k initiative:
- A non-profit consortium called Genome Asia 100K based in Singapore has announced an ambitious plan to sequence 100,000 Asian individuals in hopes of accelerating precision medicine applications for Asian populations.
- Bangalore-based MedGenome has also teamed up with it.
1.3. THREE PARENTS BABY
Why in news?
- UK became the first country to have officially approved procedures to create “three-parent” babies.
- About “three-parent” babies
- Mitochondrial Replacement therapy (MRT) is used to replace mother’s faulty
- Mitochondrial DNA with healthy Mitochondria from a donor woman during IVF process, thus the name- “three-parent” baby
- The donor’s mitochondria contribute just 37 genes to the child, compared with more than 20,000 from the parents. That is a negligible amount and far less than one would gain from a blood transfusion or organ transplant.
- No other characteristics in terms of intelligence, eye colour, hair colour, height etc. are changed.
About Mitochondrial Disease
- The mitochondria are organelles inside cells that are involved in releasing energy by producing adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the key energy currency that drives metabolism.
- Mitochondria are inherited solely from the mother and this results into cases of babies been born with rare mitochondrial diseases if mother has the faulty mitchochondrial DNA.
1.4. STEM CELLS THERAPY
Why in news?
- Recently, miniature eye-like organs have been successfully grown using induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells.
- Stem Cells: Stem cells are a class of undifferentiated cells that are able to differentiate into specialized cell types. Commonly, stem cells are of the following types:
- • Embryonic stem cells – derived from the inner cell mass of an embryo and these are capable of forming any cell types of the body.
- • Adult stem cells – also known as somatic stem cell and it refers to non-reproductive cells in the body (eggs or sperm). They generate cells to replace
those that are lost through normal repair, disease, or injury. ASCs are found throughout ones lifetime in tissues such as the umbilical cord, placenta, bone marrow, muscle, brain, fat tissue, skin, gut, etc.
- • Induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells: These cells are produced by genetically manipulating somatic cells to produce embryonic-like stem cells
- Stem cells offer new potentials for treating diseases such as diabetes, and heart disease.
- To screen new drugs and to develop model systems to study normal growth and identify causes of birth defects.
- Study how an organism develops from a single cell and how healthy cells replace damaged cells in adult organisms.
- Immunosuppressants are a class of drugs that suppress the immune response through various mechanisms. In organ transplantation, they are used to prevent the body from either recognition or attacking the foreign organ.
Draft Guidelines for Stem Cell Research
- The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) in association with the Department of Biotechnology recently released the revised Draft Guidelines for Stem Cell Research, 2017 which calls for:
- conducting research in an ethical and scientifically responsible manner
- involving various stakeholders in research of human stem cells.
- option of sharing IPRs
- ensuring compliance with the national guidelines through National Apex
- Committee for Stem Cell Research and Therapy which currently monitors and oversees research activities at the national level.
Why in news
- Recently, a new printing material called flink (functional living ink), has been developed by scientists using bacterias.
- Bio ink consists of a hydrogel biomaterial. It temporarily mimics the natural extracellular matrix environment of mammalian cells, giving them time to produce their own milieu.
- Bio inks are ideal for 3D bioprinting, thus provide a 3D environment for culturing cells.
- The bio-ink contains two different polymer components: a natural polymer extracted from seaweed, and a sacrificial synthetic polymer used in the medical industry.
- Application: It can be used for printing complex tissues using the patient’s own stem cells for surgical bone or cartilage implants, which could be used in knee and hip surgeries.
- • 3D printing or additive manufacturing is a process of making three dimensional solid objects from a digital file.
- • It is an additive process wherein an object is created by laying down successive layers of material until the object is created. Each of these layers can be seen as a thinly sliced horizontal cross-section of the eventual object.
- • 3D printing produces complex (functional) shapes using less material than traditional manufacturing methods.
- Manufacturing: Mass customisation, Rapid Prototyping, Rapid manufacturing, cloud-based additive manufacturing.
- Medical applications: Printed prosthetics, use of bioprinting in tissue engineering, high dose pills manufacturing.
- Industrial applications: Apparel,customisable art and jewelry, in automotive
industry as 3D printed cars, construction, fire arms etc.
1.6. BIOTECHNOLOGY IN NORTH EAST REGION
Why in news?
- Recently Department of Biotechnology (DBT) under Ministry of Science and Technology has announced a series of new programs and missions for North Eastern Region (NER).
Recent Programs and Missions Launched by DBT
Phyto-Pharma Plant Mission
- The mission would work towards conservation and cultivation of endangered and threatened species
Major objectives of the mission are:
- Captive cultivation of selected medicinal plants of NER, Development of
packaging technology for export market, Production of safe efficacious phyto-pharmaceutical drugs following global standards.
- Brahmaputra Biodiversity and Biology Boat
- It is an effort towards conservation of world’s largest riverine island and India’s first island district – Majuli facing excessive erosion, in collaboration with DONER.
- Under this program, large boats will be set up in the river which will have a well-equipped laboratory along with cold storage facility to store samples. It will also have a number of satellite boats and rafts will also venture in the river to collect samples.
Human Resource Skilling Programs
- Twinning R&D Program – Under this program DBT has initiated establishment of link institutes in NER with the rest of the country. This has resulted in 252 research publications and 600 junior and senior fellowship being awarded to the students in biotechnology research.
- Infrastructure and Resource binding – through establishment of biotech hubs, animal house facility for critical animal experiments, Advance Animal Disease
- Diagnostic & Management Consortium (ADMaC) for surveillance of pathogens from NER, collaborating for conservation of delicate ecology of NER.
1.7. EMBRYO TRANSFER TECHNOLOGY
Why in news?
- Department of Animal Husbandry launched Embryo Transfer Technology to increase the livestock productivity.
Embryo Transfer Technology (ETT)
- It is a technique of assisted reproduction in which the embryo or zygote is collected from a donor animal with higher genetic merit and transferred to a recipient animal which serves as surrogate for rest of the pregnancy.
- Government has undertaken a Mass Embryo Transfer programme in Indigenous Breeds under the scheme, National Mission on Bovine Productivity
- The programme is implemented with the objective of conservation and development of indigenous breeds under Rashtriya Gokul
- Indigenous Cow Breeds such as Sahiwal, Gir, Red Sindhi, Ongole, Deoni and Vechur will be the recipient surrogates under the program.
- Benefits of ETT
- Farmers may get 5-6 times increased number of off springs
- Calves will be of high genetic merit and born disease free.
About Rashtriya Gokul Mission
- Aim: Development and conservation of indigenous bovine breeds to enhance milk
production and productivity through:
- Induction of high genetic merit bulls for semen production,
- Strengthening of bulls mother farms. o Setting up of Gokul Grams.
- Generating awareness among farmers for rearing of indigenous breeds
About National Mission on Bovine Productivity
- Aim: Enhancing milk production and productivity and thereby making dairying more remunerative to the farmers.
- Mission components:
- Pashu Sanjivni- It includes identification of animals in milk using UID, issuing health cards to all animals in milk and
uploading data on INAPH data base.
- Advance reproductive Technique- Under the component sex sorted semen production facility is being created at 10 A graded semen stations and 50 Embryo Transfer Technology Labs with IVF
- facilities are being created in the country. o Creation of E Pashu Haat Portal- For linking farmers and breeders of
- indigenous breeds
Establishment of National Bovine
- Genomic Centre for Indigenous Breeds(NBGC-IB): For enhancing milk production and productivity through genomic selection among indigenous breeds
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