Category: Biotechnology

Genome India Project

Why in News?

  • The Genome India Project, a Centre-backed initiative to sequence 10,000 Indian human genomes and create a database, is about two-thirds completed and will be 100% complete by year-end.

About the News:

  • Of the 7,000 genomes sequenced about 3,000 are already available for public access (as per the Department of Biotechnology).

About Human Genome Project:

  • The Human Genome Project (1990 to 20003) was an international scientific research project with the goal of determining the base pairs that make up human DNA, and of identifying, mapping and sequencing all of the genes of the human genome from both a physical and a functional standpoint.

What is Whole Genome Sequencing?

  • All organisms have a unique genetic code, or genome, that is composed of nucleotide bases- Adenine (A), Thymine (T), Cytosine (C) and Guanine (G).
  • The unique Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) fingerprint, or pattern can be identified by knowing the sequence of the bases in an organism.
  • Determining the order of bases is called sequencing.
  • Whole genome sequencing is a laboratory procedure that determines the order of bases in the genome of an organism in one process.


  • DNA Shearing:
  • Scientists begin by using molecular scissors to cut the DNA, which is composed of millions of bases (A’s, C’s, T’s and G’s), into pieces that are small enough for the sequencing machine to read.
  • DNA Bar Coding:
  • Scientists add small pieces of DNA tags, or bar codes, to identify which piece of sheared DNA belongs to which bacteria.
  • This is similar to how a bar code identifies a product at a grocery store.
  • DNA Sequencing:
  • The bar-coded DNA from multiple bacteria is combined and put in a DNA sequencer.
  • The sequencer identifies the A’s, C’s, T’s, and G’s, or bases, that make up each bacterial sequence.
  • The sequencer uses the bar code to keep track of which bases belong to which bacteria.
  • Data Analysis:
  • Scientists use computer analysis tools to compare sequences from multiple bacteria and identify differences.The number of differences can tell the scientists how closely related the bacteria are, and how likely it is that they are part of the same outbreak.

Advantages of Genome Sequencing:

  • Provides a high-resolution, base-by-base view of the genome
  • Captures both large and small variants that might be missed with targeted approaches
  • Identifies potential causative variants for further follow-up studies of gene expression and regulation mechanisms
  • Delivers large volumes of data in a short amount of time to support assembly of novel genomes

Significance of Genome Sequencing:

  • Genomic information has been instrumental in identifying inherited disorders, characterizing the mutations that drive cancer progression, and tracking disease outbreaks.
  • It is beneficial for sequencing agriculturally important livestock, plants, or disease-related microbes.

What is Genome?

  • A genome refers to all of the genetic material in an organism, and the human genome is mostly the same in all people, but a very small part of the DNA does vary between one individual and another.
  • Every organism’s genetic code is contained in its DNA, the building blocks of life.
  • The discovery that DNA is structured as a “double helix” by James Watson and Francis Crick in 1953, started the quest for understanding how genes dictate life, its traits, and what causes diseases.
  • Each genome contains all of the information needed to build and maintain that organism.
  • In humans, a copy of the entire genome contains more than 3 billion DNA base pairs.

What is the Difference between Genome and Gene?

Whole Genome Sequencing

Why in News? 

  • Recently, Researchers at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) Bhopal have carried out Whole Genome Sequencing of banyan (Ficus benghalensis) and peepal (Ficus religiosa) from leaf tissue samples.

About the News:

  • The work helped in identifying 17 genes in the case of banyan and 19 genes of peepal with multiple signs of adaptive evolution (MSA) that play a pivotal role in long-time survival of these two Ficus species.

What is Whole Genome Sequencing?

  • All organisms have a unique genetic code, or genome, that is composed of nucleotide bases- Adenine (A), Thymine (T), Cytosine (C) and Guanine (G).
  • The unique Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) fingerprint, or pattern can be identified by knowing the sequence of the bases in an organism.
  • Determining the order of bases is called sequencing.
  • Whole genome sequencing is a laboratory procedure that determines the order of bases in the genome of an organism in one process.


  • DNA Shearing:
  • Scientists begin by using molecular scissors to cut the DNA, which is composed of millions of bases (A’s, C’s, T’s and G’s), into pieces that are small enough for the sequencing machine to read.
  • DNA Bar Coding:
  • Scientists add small pieces of DNA tags, or bar codes, to identify which piece of sheared DNA belongs to which bacteria.
  • This is similar to how a bar code identifies a product at a grocery store.
  • DNA Sequencing:
  • The bar-coded DNA from multiple bacteria is combined and put in a DNA sequencer.
  • The sequencer identifies the A’s, C’s, T’s, and G’s, or bases, that make up each bacterial sequence.
  • The sequencer uses the bar code to keep track of which bases belong to which bacteria.
  • Data Analysis:
  • Scientists use computer analysis tools to compare sequences from multiple bacteria and identify differences.
  • The number of differences can tell the scientists how closely related the bacteria are, and how likely it is that they are part of the same outbreak.

Advantages of Genome Sequencing:

  • Provides a high-resolution, base-by-base view of the genome
  • Captures both large and small variants that might be missed with targeted approaches
  • Identifies potential causative variants for further follow-up studies of gene expression and regulation mechanisms
  • Delivers large volumes of data in a short amount of time to support assembly of novel genomes

Significance of Genome Sequencing:

  • Genomic information has been instrumental in identifying inherited disorders, characterizing the mutations that drive cancer progression, and tracking disease outbreaks.
  • It is beneficial for sequencing agriculturally important livestock, plants, or disease-related microbes.

What is Genome?

  • A genome refers to all of the genetic material in an organism, and the human genome is mostly the same in all people, but a very small part of the DNA does vary between one individual and another.
  • Every organism’s genetic code is contained in its DNA, the building blocks of life.
  • The discovery that DNA is structured as a “double helix” by James Watson and Francis Crick in 1953, started the quest for understanding how genes dictate life, its traits, and what causes diseases.
  • Each genome contains all of the information needed to build and maintain that organism.
  • In humans, a copy of the entire genome contains more than 3 billion DNA base pairs.

FSSAI Draft Regulations for GM foods

Why in News?

  • Social activists working among farmers have come out against the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India’s (FSSAI) draft regulations on genetically modified (GM) food, terming it “Unacceptable”.

What’s their Demand?

  • They want FSSAI to explicitly say that GM foods will not be allowed into India by way of production or imports. Because, according to them, any kind of GM food in India is a threat to the health of our people, to our environment, and to the diverse food cultures of India.


  • The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has released draft regulations for GM foods.

What’s the Issue?

  • The Draft proposed that all food products having individual genetically engineered ingredients of 1% or more will be Labeled as “Contains GMO/ingredients derived from GMO”. Activists claimed this as a tacit approval to import of GM food instead of prohibiting them.

Overview of the Draft:

  • No one can manufacture or sell any food products or food ingredients derived from Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) without prior approval.
  • Specifies norms that labs will need to adhere for testing GM foods.
  • The proposed regulations will apply to “Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) or Genetically Engineered Organisms (GEOs) or Living Modified Organism (LMOs) intended for direct use as food or for processing.”
  • The Regulations’ ambit will include food products that may have been made using food ingredients or processing aid derived from GMOs, even if GM content is not present in the end-product.
  • Genetically Modified Organisms or Genetically Engineered Organisms “shall not be used as an ingredient” in infant food products.
  • The draft also Proposes labelling norms for food products that contain one per cent or more than one percent of GMO content.

GMO Regulation in India:

  • The task of regulating GMO levels in imported consumables was initially with the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) under the Union environment ministry.
  • Its role in this was diluted with the enactment of the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 and FSSAI was asked to take over approvals of imported goods.

What is Genetically Modified Organism (Transgenic Organism)?

  • In GMO, genetic material (DNA) is altered or artificially introduced using genetic engineering techniques.
  • Genetic modification involves the mutation, insertion, or deletion of genes.
  • Inserted genes usually come from a different organism (e.g. In Bt cotton, Bt genes from bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis are induced).
  • Genetic modification is done to induce a desirable new trait which does not occur naturally in the Species.

Applications of Genetic Modification Techniques:

  • GM techniques are used in:
  • Biological and medical research,
  • Production of pharmaceutical drugs,
  • Experimental medicine (e.g. gene therapy),
  • Agriculture (e.g. golden rice, Bt cotton etc.),
  • Genetically modified bacteria to produce the protein insulin,
  • To produce biofuels from some GM bacteria, etc.


Why in News?

  • Kerala has gone a step ahead and won Indian Council of Medical Research’s (ICMR) approval for the clinical protocol exploring the feasibility of an experimental therapy, convalescent plasma transfusion, which may be administered to severe COVID-19 patients.


  • The expert committee which is guiding the State’s containment and mitigation strategies against COVID-19 had recommended exploring the plasma therapy following the report in JAMA [Journal of American Medical Association] of a pilot study done by doctors in China.
  • In the early 20thcentury, convalescent plasma treatment was used during outbreaks of diseases such as measles, mumps and influenza.
  • More recently, it was used during the H1N1 influenza pandemic, and again in 2013 during the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. In the case of the latter, two patients survived the disease after treatment.
  • Following the Ebola outbreak, the World Health Organization issued guidance for its use in treating the disease, saying the small group it was used on showed “promising results.”
  • Doctors have transfused the blood of recovered patients into those still sick with the 1918 flu, measles, polio, chickenpox and SARS —to varying degrees of success.

Convalescent Plasma Therapy:

  • The therapy seeks to make use of the antibodies developed in the recovered patient against the coronavirus.
  • The whole blood or plasma from such people is taken, and the plasma is then injected in critically ill patients so that the antibodies are transferred and boost their fight against the virus.
  • A COVID-19 patient usually develops primary immunity against the virus in 10-14 days.
  • Therefore, if the plasma is injected at an early stage, it can possibly help fight the virus and prevent severe illness.

How is it Done?

  • The process to infuse plasma in a patient can be completed quickly.
  • It only requires standard blood collection practices, and extraction of plasma.
  • If whole blood is donated (350-450 ml), a blood fractionation process is used to separate the plasma. Otherwise, a special machine called aphaeresis machine can be used to extract the plasma directly from the donor.
  • While blood is indeed extracted from the donor, the aphaeresis machine separates and extracts the plasma using a plasma kit, and the remaining blood components are returned into the donor’s body.


  • Despite the potential utility of passive antibody treatments, there have been few concerted efforts to use them as initial therapies against emerging and pandemic infectious threats.
  • The absence of large trials certainly contributes to the hesitancy to employ this treatment.
  • Also, the most effective formulations (convalescent plasma or hyperimmune globulin, HIg) are unknown.
  • Convalescent plasma has the advantage that while its antibodies limit viral replication, other plasma components can also exert beneficial effects such as replenishing coagulation factors when given to patients with haemorrhagic fevers such as Ebola.
  • On the other hand, individual convalescent plasma units demonstrate donor-dependent variability in antibody specificities and titters. H-Ig preparations, in contrast, contain standardized antibody doses, although fractionation removes IgM, which may be necessary against some viruses.
  • Nonetheless, the construction of a strategic stockpile of frozen, pathogen-reduced plasma, collected from Ebola-convalescent patients with well-characterized viral neutralization activities, is one example of how to proceed despite existing unknowns.


Why in News?

  • The nation-wide lockdown that began on March 25 has helped to contain the spread of COVID-19. However, it needs to be asked if India’s response to the coronavirus outbreak has any unseen gaps.

Gaps in Controlling COVID-19 Pandemic:

  • Low number of infectious disease specialists:
    • These specialists are available in India, but they mostly work in big private hospitals. The Clinical Infectious Diseases Society (CIDS) and the Indian Association of Medical Microbiologists (IAMM) are not known to have proffered any advice to the Government.
  • Fulling Mandate of National Institute of Biologicals:
    • The National Institute of Biologicals (NIB) was established in 1992 by the Ministry of Health to function as the apex body and was mandated to ensure validation of invitro diagnostics, vaccines and biotherapeutics in the event of a pandemic.
    • The NIB ought to deliver on its mandate and the best infectious diseases professional in the country should be steering it. A search committee of retired virologists, infectious diseases specialists and medical microbiologists should be constituted urgently to find a director for the NIB.

Need to Conduct Antibody test along with PCR test:

  • Traditionally, there are two types of diagnostic tests for infectious organisms — tests for the presence of the virus itself (current infection), and tests for antibodies to the virus (current or prior infection).
  • The Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test used for detecting specific genetic material of a virus is key to determine if someone ill is infected with COVID-19. The WHO recommendations have also added antibody and antigen tests alongside the PCR. This will enable mass screenings — these have to be confirmed by PCR tests.

What are PCR, Anti-body and Anti-gen Tests?

  • PCR Test:
    • The PCR test identifies a virus from the swabs taken a few days after infection, to about 8-10 days after the first symptoms appear. It can also provide clues to community transmission, including anticipating the percentage of population that might develop serious complications.
    • A PCR test takes six to eight hours, not counting the time taken to collect and send the sample to the nearest lab. It is expensive as each test costs around Rs 4,500.
    • A commercial test named X-pert has recently been approved by the US FDA for detecting the virus’ nucleic acid within a couple of hours.
  • Antibody Test:
    • The antibody test is the best to calculate the number of people who may have experienced COVID-19.
    • It is dependable for hotspot surveillance; it is quick and helps to see who has been infected more than 10 days earlier.
    • The only negative aspect of it is that if conducted very early, it may miss virus shedders while hunting for the antibodies.

Antigen Test:

  • Antigen test identifies the protein component of the virus and could be used even sooner than the Antibody Test.


Why in News?

  • A small trial (Nix-TB) undertaken at three sites in South Africa to test the safety and efficacy of three oral drugs, bedaquiline, pretomanid and linezolid, in patients with extensively drug-resistant TB (XDR-TB) and multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) showed encouraging results.


  • Of the 98 patients who were successfully treated using the three drugs, 63 patients had XDR-TB and 35 had MDR-TB. The treatment success rate was 89% (63 of 71) for XDR-TB and 92% (35 of 38).
  • The treatment using the three oral drugs lasted for 26 weeks and was followed-up for six months after the end of the treatment. Patients received the treatment daily for 26 weeks.
  • The 90% treatment success in the case of hard-to-treat patients is at par with the success rate seen while treating drug-sensitive TB. Of the 109 patients treated, 11 had unfavourable outcomes while 98 had favourable outcomes.
  • Of the 11 patients who had unfavourable outcomes, there were seven deaths and two had a relapse during the six-month follow-up period.
  • The MDR-TB patients included in the trial were either not responsive to standard treatment or had discontinued treatment due to side effects.
  • Of the three drugs used in the trial, a “high-percentage” of patients experienced adverse effects related to linezolid drug.Of the 109 patients treated, 88 patients (81%) had peripheral neuropathy (weakness, numbing and pain usually of hands and feet due to nerve damage), though the symptoms were mild to moderate in the majority of cases.
  • Two patients developed optic neuritis, where the optic nerve becomes inflamed, which was resolved when linezolid drug was withdrawn.
  • Also, 40 had anaemia, while eight patients had adverse event of the liver and the regime had to be interrupted.


  • Drug-resistant TB can occur when the drugs used to treat TB are misused or mismanaged. Examples of misuse or mismanagement include
    • People do not complete a full course of TB treatment
    • Health care providers prescribe the wrong treatment (the wrong dose or length of time)
    • Drugs for proper treatment are not available
    • Drugs are of poor quality
  • Drug-resistant TB is more common in people who
    • Do not take their TB drugs regularly
    • Do not take all of their TB drugs
    • Develop TB disease again, after being treated for TB disease in the past
    • Come from areas of the world where drug-resistant TB is common
    • Have spent time with someone known to have drug-resistant TB disease


Why in News?

  • Scientists across the world are trying to develop a line of treatment and a possible vaccine for COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, which has infected over 100,000 people and claimed over 4,000 lives.


  • A global effort is on to collect and analyse the genetic composition of the new virus, which would be key to developing a cure and a vaccine.
  • Laboratories in various countries have been isolating and sharing the genome sequences of the virus on an international platform.
  • Whole genome sequencing is the process of determining the complete DNA sequence of an organism’s genome at a single time.

Significance of COVID-19 Genome Sequencing:

  • Genome sequence is the unique code of genetic material of any organism, and determines the characteristic of any organism.
  • The gene composition of novel coronavirus, for instance, is different from that of the influenza virus.
  • India has so far reported two sets of genome sequences, both of which are very similar to the original sequences collected from patients in Wuhan.
  • When viruses multiply, or reproduce, there is a copying mechanism that transfers the gene information to the next generation.
  • When the virus multiplies, there will be small changes, which are called mutations. These mutations accumulate over time, and after prolonged periods, are responsible for evolution into new organisms.
  • The small changes could provide scientists with information about the origin, transmission, and impact of the virus on the patient.
  • It could also hold clues to the differing effects the virus could have on patients with different health parameters.
  • Patients with existing medical conditions could be candidates from where genome sequences of this virus could be isolated. This could help scientists to look for clues to possible impact of virus amidst those existing medical conditions.
  • New technological tools have made it easier to isolate full genome sequences. Traditional techniques used to take weeks for the extraction, but new machines are able to do it within two to three days.
  • Right now, drugs are being repurposed, meaning old drugs for similar diseases are being checked for their efficacy against COVID-19. These drugs, if they work, will require clinical trials, and then can be made widely available for people.

Genome Sequencing:

  • Genome:It is an organism’s complete set of DNA, including all of its genes.
  • Each genome contains all of the information needed to build and maintain that organism. In humans, a copy of the entire genome—more than 3 billion DNA base pairs—is contained in all cells that have a nucleus.
  • Genome sequencing: It is figuring out the order of DNA nucleotides, or bases, in a genome—the order of As, Cs, Gs, and Ts that make up an organism’s DNA. The human genome is made up of over 3 billion of these genetic letters.
  • Sequencing the genome doesn’t immediately lay open the genetic information of an entire species. Even with a rough draft of the human genome sequence in hand, much work remains to be done. Scientists still have to translate those strings of letters into an understanding of how the genome works.


Why in News?

  • Researchers report that a patient who underwent stem-cell transplantation and a chemotherapy drug regimen has been cured of HIV.


  • In 2011, a patient based in Berlin (the ‘Berlin patient’) was the first HIV patient to be reportedly cured of the virus three and half years after undergoing similar treatment.
  • Although there was no active viral infection in the patient’s body, remnants of integrated HIV-1 DNA remained in tissue samples, which were also found in the first patient to be cured of HIV.
  • The authors suggest that these can be regarded as so-called ‘fossils’, as they are unlikely to be capable of reproducing the virus. The findings show that the success of stem cell transplantation as a cure for HIV, first reported nine years ago in the Berlin patient, can be replicated.
  • As a high-risk treatment, this therapy is unlikely to be offered widely to patients with HIV who are on successful antiretroviral treatment.
  • The transplant aimed to make the virus unable to replicate in the patient’s body, whilst the body irradiation and chemotherapy targeted any residual HIV virus.
  • Ultrasensitive viral load sampling from the London patient’s cerebrospinal fluid, intestinal tissue or lymphoid tissue was taken at 29 months after interruption of antiretroviral therapy (ART) and viral load sampling of his blood at 30 months.
  • The results showed no active viral infection was detected in samples of the patient’s blood at 30 months or in his cerebrospinal fluid, semen, intestinal tissue and lymphoid tissue 29 months after stopping ART.
  • Researchers suggest that the long-term remission of HIV can be achieved using reduced intensity drug regimens, with one stem cell transplant (rather than two) and without total body irradiation.
  • Gene editing using the CCR5 has received a lot of attention recently. There are still many ethical and technical barriers to overcome before any approach using CCR5 gene editing can be considered as a scalable cure strategy for HIV.


Why in News?

  • Recently, the Ministry of Science and Technology has cleared the Genome India Project.

About Genome India project:

  • It is funded by the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) to sequence at least 10,000 Indian genomes.
  • It has 22 partner organisations including public health institutions will be roped in that have obtained regulatory ethical clearances.
  • The Centre for Brain Research, which is an Autonomousinstitute in the IISc, Bengaluru, will serve as the nodal point of the project.
  • It is a gene-mapping project involving leading institutions including the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in Bengaluru and a few Indian Institute of Technology (IITs).
  • The first stage of the project will look at samples of 10,000 persons from all over the country to form a grid that will enable the development of a reference genome.
  • Investigators in hospitals will lead the data collection through a simple blood test from participants and the information will be added to bio banks.
  • The Government of India got its inspiration from the Human Genome Project.

Human Genome Project:

  • It was an international research effort to determine the sequence of the human genome and identify the genes that it contains. It was a publicly funded project that ended in 2003.
  • It has revealed that there are probably about 20,500 human genes. This information can be thought of as the basic set of inheritable “instructions” for the development and function of a human being.

Significance of the Project:

  • The diverse genetic pool of India will be mapped and it will help in making Personalised Medicine.
  • Its goal to utilize information about a person’s genes, including his or her nucleotide sequence, to make drugs better and safer.
  • It is helps to enable cost effective genetic tests, carrier screening applications for expectant couples, efficient diagnosis for heritable cancers, pharmacogenetic tests to prevent adverse drug reactions.
  • It will be a hard task considering the population diversity and the disease burden of complex disorders but once the genetic basis is ready it will be possible and easy to take action before the onset of a Disease.


Why in News?

  • The Union Cabinet has given its approval for the signing of Memorandum of Understanding between the Republic of India and the Federative Republic of Brazil on Bioenergy Cooperation.


  •  The MoU provides a framework to cooperate and promote investment in biofuel, bioelectricity and biogas supply-chains, including feedstock, industrial conversion, distribution and end-use sectors.
  •  Exchange of information on agricultural practices.
  •  Policies regarding biomass for bioenergy, including sugarcane, corn, rice, oil-crops, and lignocellulosic crops. [Lignocellulose refers to plant dry matter (biomass)].
  •  Policies for reducing greenhouse gas emission levels based on the use of biofuels.
  •  Using cycle analysis and the issuance of emissions reduction certificates traded in an organised market.
  •  Trade aspects and the promotion of a joint position to address market access and sustainability of biofuels, including advanced biofuels.
  •  Engine and fuel modifications/adjustments that may be necessary for different percentages of biofuels blended with fossil fuels.

India and Brazil:

  •  India and Brazil are major consumers of energy in the world.
  •  Brazil is one of the most important trading partners of India in the entire LAC (Latin America and the Caribbean) region.
  •  Brazil is currently the world’s second-largest producer and consumer of biofuels. Biofuels and bioelectricity accounted for 18% of Brazil’s energy mix.
  •  India also has a strong focus in the area of biofuels and has set a target to achieve 20% blending of ethanol in petrol and 5% blending of biodiesel in diesel by 2030 with the announcement of the new policy on Biofuels in 2018.


Why in News?

  • The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has finished conducting “whole-genome sequence” of a 1,008 Indians as part of a programme called “IndiGen”.

IndiGen Project:

  • Programme funded by the Department of Biotechnology will sequence at least 10,000 Indian genomes. The CSIR’s “IndiGen” project, as it is called, selected the 1,000-odd from a pool of about 5,000 and sought to include representatives from every State and diverse ethnicities.
  • Every person whose genomes are sequenced would be given a report.
  • The project is and is also seen as a precursor to a much larger exercise involving other government departments to map a larger swathe of the population in the country.
  • Anyone looking for a free mapping of their entire genome can sign up for “IndiGen”.
  • Those who get their genes mapped will get a card and access to an app which will allow them and doctors to access information on whether they harbour gene variants that are reliably known to correlate with genomes with diseases.
  • The driving motive of the project is to understand the extent of genetic variation in Indians and learn why some genes — linked to certain diseases based on publications in international literature — do not always translate into diseases.
  • Once such knowledge is established, the CSIR expects to tie up with several pathology laboratories who can offer commercial gene testing services.


  • A genome is the DNA, or sequence of genes, in a cell.
  • Most of the DNA is in the nucleus and intricately coiled into a structure called the chromosome. The rest is in the mitochondria, the cell’s powerhouse.
  • Every human cell contains a pair of chromosomes, each of which has three billion base pairs or one of four molecules that pair in precise ways.
  • The order of base pairs and varying lengths of these sequences constitute the “genes”, which are responsible for making amino acids, proteins and, thereby, everything that is necessary for the body to function.It is when these genes are altered or mutated that proteins sometimes do not function as intended, leading to disease.

Genome Sequencing:

  • Sequencing a genome means deciphering the exact order of base pairs in an individual. This “deciphering” or reading of the genome is what sequencing is all about.
  • It has been known that the portion of the genes responsible for making proteins — called the exome — occupies about 1% of the actual gene. Rather than sequence the whole gene, many geneticists rely on “exome maps” (that is the order of exomes necessary to make proteins).
  • However, it has been established that the non-exome portions also affect the functioning of the genes and that, ideally, to know which genes of a person’s DNA are “mutated” the genome has to be mapped in its entirety.

India’s Effort:

  • While India, led by the CSIR, first sequenced an Indian genome in 2009, it is only now that the organisation’s laboratories have been able to scale up whole-genome sequencing and offer them to the public.
  • Globally, many countries have undertaken genome sequencing of a sample of their citizens to determine unique genetic traits, susceptibility (and resilience) to disease. This is the first time that such a large sample of Indians will be recruited for a detailed study.
  • Under “IndiGen”, the CSIR drafted about 1,000 youth from across India by organising camps in several colleges and educating attendees on genomics and the role of genes in disease. Some students and participants donated blood samples from where their DNA sequences were collected.


Why in News?

  • The Department of Biotechnology (DBT) is close to finalising three projects involving Indian and European scientists to develop new influenza vaccines using a Controlled Human Infection Model (CHIM).


  • In a Controlled Human Infection Model (CHIM) study, a well-characterized strain of an infectious agent is given to carefully select adult volunteers.
  • This is done in order to better understand human diseases, how they spread, and find new ways to prevent and treat them.
  • These studies play a vital role in helping to develop vaccines for infectious diseases.
  • Such studies, which are being employed in vaccine development in the US, the UK and Kenya, are being considered in India.


  • A CHIM approach will speed up the process whereby scientists can quantify whether potential vaccine candidates can be effective in people and identify the factors that determine why some vaccinated people fall sick and others do not.
  • CHIM models help vaccine-makers decide whether they should go ahead with investing in expensive trials.


  • The risk in such trials is that intentionally infecting healthy people with an active virus and causing them to be sick is against medical ethics.
  • It also involves putting human lives in danger.


Why in news?

  • Genes from genetically-modified Aedes aegypti mosquito were found to have been transferred to naturally-occurring A. aegypti mosquito population in three areas in Brazil where transgenic mosquitoes were released.

Transgenic mosquitoes:

  • A transgenic Mosquito is one that contains a gene or genes which have been artificially inserted instead of the mosquito acquiring them through reproduction.
  • Transgenic strains of mosquitoes were developed to
  • replace or suppress wild vector populations
  • reduce transmission
  • deliver public health gains are an imminent prospect.


  • About 4,50,000 transgenic male mosquitoes were released each week for 27 months (June 2013 to September 2015) in three areas in Brazil.
  • Transgenic mosquitoes (TMs) were developed to minimize/eliminate the mosquito borne diseases.
  • Genetic analysis of naturally occurring mosquitoes were done prior to the release and at six, 12, and 27-30 months after the releases.


  • A. aegypti mosquitoes are responsible for transmitting dengue, chikungunya and Zika virus.
  • Researchers from Yale University studied 347 naturally-occurring aegypti mosquitoes for transfer of genes from the transgenic insects.
  • The transgenic strains can be distinguished from naturally-occurring mosquitoes by using fluorescent lights and filters.
  • They found that some transgenic genes were found in 10-60% of naturally-occurring mosquitoes.
  • Also, the naturally occurring aegypti mosquitoes carrying some genes of the transgenic mosquitoes were able to reproduce in nature and spread to neighbouring areas 4 km away.


  • As per claims made by the British company Oxitec Ltd, which had developed the technology and field-tested it in several countries,
  • The genetic strategy employed to control aegypti population known as RIDL (the Release of Insects carrying Dominant Lethal genes) is supposed to only reduce the population of the naturally occurring A. aegypti mosquitoes and not affect or alter their genetics.
  • Also, offspring are not supposed to grow to adult mosquitoes and reproduce.
  • The claim was that genes from the release strain would not get into the general population because offspring would die. But that did not happen.
  • The genetic strategy works on the premise that the transgenic male mosquitoes released frequently in large numbers would compete with the naturally occurring male mosquitoes to mate with the females.
  • Offspring from the mating of transgenic male mosquito and naturally occurring female mosquito do not survive to the adult stage.
  • This is because tetracycline drug, which prevents the dominant lethal gene from producing the lethal protein during rearing in labs, is not present in sufficient quantity in nature.
  • In the absence of tetracycline, there is overproduction of the lethal protein causing the larvae to die.
  • At present, it is unclear if the presence of transgenic mosquito genes in the natural population will affect the disease transmission capacity or make mosquito control efforts more difficult.


Why in News?

  • Scientists in Kerala have completed the whole genome sequencing of a Rare Bacterium capable of producing antifungal and insecticidal compounds.
  • This has opened up the potential to develop a new line of products for Biocontrol applications in Agriculture.

Obtained from soil:

  • Researchers isolated some strains of actinomycetes (a kind of hairy bacteria) from the forest soils of the Neyyar wildlife sanctuary, one of the 12 mega diversity centres in the world.
  • One of the isolates was identified as Streptosporangium nondiastaticum reported to have antimicrobial properties.

Helping Biocontrol:

  • Bioinformatics analysis showed that the genome contained a plant chitinase, an enzyme capable of degrading fungi and insect exoskeleton.
  • The scientists have cloned the gene and engineered the recombinant protein.
  • The strain can produce metabolytes that are toxic to plant pathogens, making it a candidate for biocontrol applications.
  • Across the world, fungal phytopathogens cause significant agricultural crop loss, both in farmlands and post-harvest storage conditions.
  • The use of micro-organisms to control phytopathogens and pests offers an important alternative to chemical fungicides and pesticides which result in environmental pollution and development of resistance in fungal pathogens.


Why in News?

  • The NITI Aayog seeks creation of roadmap by Department of Food and Public Distribution for taking the Rice Fortification Pilot Scheme Pan India to tackle the menace of Malnutrition.

Rice Fortification:

  • Fortification is the practice of deliberately increasing the content of an essential micronutrient, i.e. vitamins and minerals (including trace elements) in a food, so as to improve the nutritional quality of the food supply and provide a public health benefit with minimal risk to health.
  • Rice fortification is the practice of increasing the content of essential micronutrients in rice and to improve the nutritional quality of the rice.
  • Fortified rice contains Vitamin A, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B12, Folic Acid, Iron and Zinc.

Benefits of Fortification:

  • If consumed on a regular and frequent basis, fortified foods will maintain body stores of nutrients more efficiently and more effectively than will intermittent supplements.
  • Fortified foods are also better at lowering the risk of the multiple deficiencies that can result from seasonal deficits in the food supply or a poor-quality diet.
  • Fortification can be an excellent way of increasing the content of vitamins in breast milk and thus reducing the need for supplementation in postpartum women and infants.
  • Fortification of widely distributed and widely consumed foods has the potential to improve the nutritional status of a large proportion of the population, both poor and wealthy.
  • Fortification is often more cost-effective than other strategies, especially if the technology already exists and if an appropriate food distribution system is in place.

Food fortification in India:

  • Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has formulated a comprehensive regulation on fortification of foods namely ‘Food Safety and Standards (Fortification of Foods) Regulations, 2016’.
  • These regulations set the standards for food fortification and encourage the production, manufacture, distribution, sale and consumption of fortified foods.
  • The regulations also provide for specific role of FSSAI in promotion for food fortification and to make fortification mandatory. This sets the premise for the national summit on fortification of food.


Why in News?

  • The Department of Biotechnology (DBT) plans to scan nearly 20,000 Indian genomes over the next five years, in a two-phase exercise, and develop diagnostic tests that can be used to test for cancer.

Genome India Initiative:

  • The initiative aims to make predictive diagnostic markers available for some priority diseases such as cancer and other rare and genetic disorders
  • The first phase involves sequencing of complete genomes of nearly 10,000 Indians from all corners of the country and captures the biological diversity of India.
  • In the next phase, about 10,000 “diseased individuals” would have their genomes sequenced.
  • These vast troves of data sets would be compared using machine learning techniques to identify genes that can predict cancer risk, as well as other diseases that could be significantly influenced by genetic anomalies.
  • 22 institutions, including those from the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the DBT would be involved in the exercise.
  • The data generated would be accessible to researchers anywhere for analysis.
  • This would be through a proposed National Biological Data Centre envisaged in a policy called the ‘Biological Data Storage, Access and Sharing Policy’, which is still in early stages of discussion.


  • A genome is an organism’s complete set of DNA, including all its genes.
  • It contains all the information needed to build and maintain that organism.
  • By sequencing the genome, researchers can discover the functions of genes and identify which of them are critical for life.


  • There is interest among private and public companies in sequencing genomes thanks to the declining costs for the process.
  • From China to the United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia, several countries have announced plans to sequence their population.
  • Currently, genomic data sets under-represent Asia, particularly India, whose population and diverse ethnicity make it an attractive prospect for genome-mining efforts.


Why in News?

  • Till date 1597 plants varieties have been registered with Protection of Plant Varieties & Farmers Right Authority and certificates of registration have been issued.

National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources:

  • ICAR-National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (NBPGR), New Delhi is conserving seed germplasm for long-term conservation (at -20°C) in its National Genebank (NGB).
  • NGB has the responsibility of conservation of plant genetic resources for posterity and sustainable use including landraces and traditional varieties which are potential sources of agriculturally important genes.

India’s seed bank at Chang La:

  • At Chang La in the Himalayas, at a height of 17,300 feet, there is a storage facility with over 5,000 seed accessions.
  • One accession consists of a set of seeds of one species collected from different locations or different populations.
  • The vault is a joint venture of the National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (under ICAR) and the Defence Institute of High Altitude Research (under DRDO).
  • When a seed needs to be stored for few years, maintaining it at just 10 degree Celsius is enough.
  • But in the long run, for 10 to 20 years, they need to be kept at a minus 15 to minus 20 degree Celsius (range).
  • Chang La has a prevalent temperature in this sub-zero range.

Svalbard Global Seed Vault:

  • It is a facility located on a remote Norwegian island in the Arctic Ocean and it houses the world’s largest collection of seeds.
  • The seeds can be of use in the event of a global catastrophe or when some species is lost due to natural disasters. It is therefore also referred to as the doomsday vault.
  • The storage rooms are kept at −18 °C (−0.4 °F). The low temperature and limited access to oxygen will ensure low metabolic activity and delay seed aging.
  • The samples stored in the genebanks are accessible in accordance with the terms and conditions of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, approved by 118 countries or parties.


  • Context: The Department of Biotechnology (DBT) has initiated a programme called Human Genetics and Genome Analysis for reducing India’s disease burden

About the Programme:

  • Private DNA testing laboratories offering recreational genetics tests are already burgeoning in India.
  • Now, the department of biotechnology (DBT) has initiated a programme called human genetics and genome analysis in which the country’s genetic resource is being utilized to develop baseline data initially on various ethnic groups for disease susceptibility.
  • The focus is on improving human health by promoting the development and dissemination of genomic methodologies and tools for prediction and prevention of human disease, and for therapeutic intervention.
  • The aim is to improve disease management through lifestyle modulation, improvement in public health, reduction of disease burden, and lowering of treatment cost with more genetic laboratories and trained personnel in the area.

About Recreational Genetics:

  • Recreational genetics is a term used to describe personal genetics tests which can be used to determine a person’s genetic make-up.
  • The information from such a test can be used to unearth details about ancestry and inherited traits, among other things.
  • Recreational genetics may also be called recreational DNA testing.
  • Genetic testing can reveal how one’s genes behave and respond, personal genetic information can provide data that can help people make more informed health-related decisions about their lifestyle, goals, dietary habits, fitness, nutrition and weight management.
  • While recreational genetic tests are common in the US and several European countries, in India the genetic testing market is still at a nascent stage.


  • Bacillus Thuringiensis Brinjal, popularly known as Bt brinjal is a type of Genetically Modified crop.
  • Bt brinjal, a genetically modified strain created by inserting Cry 1Ac gene from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis into Brinjal.
  • It gives resistance against Lepidopteron insects like brinjal fruit and shoot borer and fruit borer. Mechanism- ingestion
  • of Bt toxin by insect there is disruption of digestive process resulting in death of insect.


  • Potential health effects.
  • terminator seed- i.e. farmer will be compel to buy seed from the company every time.

Genetically Modified Crop:

  • It Involves inserting DNA into Genome of an organism
  • UPSC question on Genetic Modified Crops- 2018.



  • Bihar has recorded 188 cases of acute encephalitis syndrome, with 45 deaths, since January. The cause of death in most this year has been attributed to hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar level).

What is Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES)?

  • -AES affects central nervous system, mostly in children and young adults.
  • -It starts with high fever,then hampers neurological functions causing mental disorientation, seizure, confusion, delirium, coma.
  • The disease outbreak is usually reported during monsoons (June- October). But the incidence is also reported during April-June in Bihar.
  • Locally known as Chamki Bukhar in the state.

What Causes AES?

  • It can be caused by virus, bacteria, fungi, and a range of agents.
  • Japanese encephalitis (JE) virus is the most common cause of AES in India, with union health ministry estimate attributing 5-35 per cent cases due to JE.
  • But the syndrome is also caused by scrub typhus, dengue, mumps, measles, even Nipah or Zika virus.
  • In several cases though the cause of AES remains clinically unidentified.

Status of AES in India:

  • -According to National Vector Borne Diseases Control Programme (NVBDCP), 10,485 AES cases were diagnosed in 2018 with 632 deaths across 17 states.
  • India records fatality rate at 6 per cent in AES, but the fatality rises to 25 per cent amongst children.
  • Bihar, Assam, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Tripura are worst affected.

Relation between hypoglycaemia, children and AES:

  • Bihar government officials claim AES is a syndrome not disease, and cause of death in these children was found to be prolonged hypoglycaemia that witnessed delayed treatment. In 2014 research paper titled ‘Epidemiology of Acute Encephalitis Syndrome in India: Changing Paradigm and Implication for Controlʼ, co-authored by six researchers, a parallel was drawn between
  • Muzaffarpur and Vietnamʼs Bac Giang province where undernourished.
  • Children were suffering from AES and hypoglycaemia that coincided with litchi orchards in neighbourhood.
  • “The possible association with some toxin in litchi or in environment need to be documented. Methylene cyclopropyl glycine (MCPG) which has been known to be a content of litchi fruit has been shown to cause hypoglycaemia in experimental animals,” the study stated. Several children in Muzaffarpur who suffer from AES before 2014 have a history of visit to litchi orchards, the study found.
  • The impact is worse on undernourished children who remain hungry for several hours.


Why in News:

  • Researchers from ICAR-National Rice Research Institute (NRRI), Odisha have mapped out the diverse genes in rice that help in disease resistance.


  • Rice blast, caused by a fungus Magnaporthe oryzae, is one of the major diseases of the rice crop. By characterising over 150 rice varieties from nine States across the country they also identified new markers associated with blast resistance.

Blast endemics:

  • From 1980-1987, seven blast endemics have occurred in India causing severe losses.
  • Fungicides are very expensive, harmful for the environment and inappropriate application can cause health issues. So researchers around the globe have been on a hunt for resistant genes against the pathogen and so far, more than 100 resistance (R) genes in the rice genome have been identified. The rapid changes in pathogen virulence pose a constant challenge to the success of existing blast-resistant rice varieties. Therefore, there is always a need to identify new broad-spectrum blast resistant genes/alleles in rice germplasm such as landraces, wild rice, etc,” The present study showed that the rice landraces collected from north-eastern states of India had the highest resistance.

Gene hunt

  • Specific DNA markers were used for accurate identification of specific resistant genes.
  • The landraces from Tripura had the highest number of resistant genes, followed by those from Maharashtra. The study also pointed out that rice varieties in the same ecological conditions can have different resistant/susceptible behaviours. The identified associated marker could be used for the selection of parental materials for the improvement of existing varieties with blast resistance.


  • ICAR is an autonomous body responsible for co-ordinating agricultural education and research in India.
  • It is the largest network of agricultural research and education institutes in the world.
  • Earlier known as Imperial Council of Agricultural Research, it was established on 16 July 1929 as a registered society under the Societies Registration Act, 1860 in pursuance of the report of the Royal Commission on Agriculture.


Why in News:

  • Using bioink made from stem cells, scientists have 3D- printed artificial corneas that mimic the human eye.


  • The 3D printed human corneas were produced using bio-ink solution consisting of healthy corneal stem mixed together with alginate and collagen. The combination of alginate (a gel derived from seaweed)
  • and collagen helps to keep corneal stem cells alive and produces material of necessary dimensions which is stiff enough to hold its shape and soft enough to be squeezed out nozzleof3Dprinter.


Why in News:

  • A Bengaluru-based group of researchers has discovered a link between stress during early life and problematic, externalising behaviour in the DNA of children of alcoholic parents.

Biology and Adversity:

  • Early adversity is known to have several biological effects. One of this is DNA methylation
    — a process by which chemical changes occur to the DNA molecule. It also affects the functioning of what is called the hypothalamus-pituitary axis.
  • The hypothalamus-pituitary axis is a major neuroendocrine system that controls reactions to stress, regulates digestion, the immune system, mood and emotions, sexuality and energy storage and expenditure.
  • In normal individuals, it is expected that the level of cortisol spikes during stress.

Collated data:

  • The study is unique in that it carries out a detailed assessment of HPA axis function by cortisol estimation during stress and also estimates chemical effects due to early adversity at the DNA level.
  • The study concludes that children of alcoholics
    might have a compromised HPA axis and epigenetic changes at the DNA level possibly resulting in increased externalising behaviour.


Why in News:

  • Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay have fabricated a wearable super capacitor that can store and deliver large amount of electrical energy, exceeding other similar devices.


  • The wearable energy storage device can be stitched on to any fabric and can deliver power ranging from microwatt to milliwatt. The energy stored in the device can power GPS location-based transmitters or a 1.8-volt LED.

About: / Features:

  • The wearable energy storage device can be stitched on to any fabric. It can deliver power ranging from microwatt to milliwatt.


  • The idea is when the supercapacitor is integrated with a piezoelectric energy generator then it will become completely self-sustaining.
  • The electrode of the supercapacitor was fabricated by uniformly coating cotton yarn with carbon nanotubes (CNTs). The coating converts the electrical insulating yarn into a metallic conductor thereby behaving like an electrode.


  • The energy stored in the device can power GPS location-based transmitters or a 1.8-volt LED. When stitched to the fabric, the supercapacitor can be used for powering GPS location-based devices or a LED lamp or even charge small electronic devices.


Why in News:

  • No shortage of polio vaccine for routine immunisation says Health ministry.


  • The issue came after reports of anticipated shortage following the detection of contamination, by the Central Drugs Laboratory (CDL) in Kasauli, in 16 batches of polio vaccine manufactured by Bharat Immunological and Biologicals Corporation Limited (Bibcol).

What is poliomyelitis/polio?

  • Poliomyelitis, often called polio or infantile paralysis is an acute infectious disease caused by polio virus. The virus is a human enterovirus of the Picornaviridae
  • There are three types of Polio Virus: 1,2,3-Single stranded RNA virus Natural or Wild Polio Virus (WPVS). It is transmitted from one person to another by oral contact with secretions or faecal material from an infected person. It attacks the central nervous system through the blood stream and damage the cells and paralyse the victim.

Types of Polio vaccines

  • Two different kinds of vaccine are available: an inactivated (killed) polio vaccine (IPV) and a live attenuated oral polio vaccine (OPV).

Inactivated Polio vaccine (IPV):

  • It was first introduced in 1995 by Dr. Jonas Salk
  • It is produced from wild-type poliovirus strains of each serotype that have been inactivated (killed) with formalin.
  • It is an injectionable vaccine and can be administered alone or in combination with other vaccines (e.g., diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, hepatitis B, and haemophilus influenza).

Oral Polio vaccine (OPV):

  • It was first introduced in 1961 by Dr. Albert Sabin
  • consists of a mixture of the three live attenuated poliovirus serotypes (Sabin types 1, 2 and 3), selected for their lower neurovirulence and reduced transmissibility.
  • Apart from trivalent OPV (tOPV), monovalent OPVs viz. against Type 1 (mOPV1) and against type-3 (mOPV3) have been licensed for use in some countries
  • In 2009, 2 bivalents (type-1 and type-3) OPVs (bOPVs) were licensed.


Why in News:

  • Senior advocate Prashant Bhushan has sent a legal notice to Union Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan asking for a freeze on all genetically modified organisms, including field trials.


  • Though growing Bt brinjal is illegal in India Bhushan’s letter comes in the aftermath of activist groups recently proffering evidence of Bt Brinjal, a GM crop, being grown in a farmer’s field in Haryana.
  • Letter demands the Environment Ministry to uproot and destroy planted Bt brinjal in farms and seedlings in nurseries, undertake a scaled-up exercise of testing of seeds and plantings (for the presence of BT Genes) and, ascertain the supply chain – from seed developers to intermediaries.”
  • Bt brinjal was the first food crop made to contain an insecticidal protein, called cry1 ac,
  • Though this was cleared for commercial cultivation it was put in deep-freeze in 2010 on the grounds that there was scientific and public disagreement on its safety.
  • The lab report was also sent to the government, which picked up samples of the suspected Bt Brinjal crop and sent it to the National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (NBPGR) in New Delhi for testing.
  • Following brinjal, a genetically modified strain of mustard too is in the regulatory pipeline. GEAC panel ruled that more tests were required before the mustard could be made available in farmer fields.

What is Bt Brinjal?

  • Bt Brinjal is a transgenic brinjal created out of inserting a gene [Cry 1Ac] from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis into Brinjal. The insertion of the gene into the Brinjal cell in young cotyledons has been done through an Agrobacterium-mediated vector, along with other genes like promoters, markers etc.
  • This gives (so said) Brinjal plant resistance against lepidopteran insects like the Brinjal Fruit and Shoot Borer (Leucinodes orbonalis) and Fruit Borer (Helicoverpa armigera).

Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC)

  • The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) was constituted under the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) as the apex body under the ‘Rules for Manufacture, Use, Import, Export and Storage of Hazardous Microorganisms/Genetically Engineered Organisms or Cells 1989’ in accordance with the Environment Protection Act, 1986.

National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources

  • Management and promote sustainable use of plant genetic and genomic resources of agri- hotricultural crop and carry out related research
  • Coordination and capacity building in PGR management and policy issues governing access and benefit sharing of their use


Why in News:

  • Using two indigenous strains of bacterium isolated from arsenic-contaminated field, researchers from CSIR-National Botanical Research Institute (CSIR-NBRI), Lucknow and the University of Lucknow have shown that arsenic can be effectively removed from contaminated soil with the help of microbes.


  • Bacillus flexus and Acinetobacter junii is the bacteria that can promote plant growth.
  • Using arsenic-contaminated water for agricultural purposes can lead to increased concentration of arsenic in fruits and grains, proving toxic to humans.
  • It is found that the two bacteria under different concentrations of arsenate and arsenite, the toxic forms of heavy metal.
    Arsenic treatment did not stunt or delay the growth of both the bacterial strains.
  • B. flexus exhibited resistance to high levels (150 mmol per litre) of arsenate and A. junii to about 70 mmol per litre of arsenite. This is higher than previously reported arsenic tolerant bacteria and so were regarded as hyper-tolerant strains.
  • Both the bacteria have a special ars C gene, which aids in arsenic detoxification.
  • Both the bacteria were able to solubilise phosphorus. Phosphate solubilising bacteria have been reported to increase phytoavailability of phosphate, thus facilitating plant growth.
  • These two bacterial strains were also found to produce siderophores and ACC deaminase enzyme. Siderophore increase the bioavailability of iron and other metal ions in polluted soil environment and ACC deaminase is a well-known plant growth promoting enzyme.
  • These bacteria can live symbiotically in the roots of plants in arsenic- contaminated soils and help them uptake the required nutrients without causing toxicity.
  • It has the potential to accumulate arsenic within the cells and transform it into less phytotoxic forms, making the strains more proficient candidate for bioremediation.

Background: / National Botanical Research Institute

  • The National Botanical Research Institute (NBRI) is a research institute of CSIR in Lucknow. It is engaged in the field of taxonomy and modern biology


  • CSIR is government’s autonomous research agency, established in 1942.
  • CSIR has over 4,500 scientists working across 38 laboratories and employs over 9000 scientific and technical personnel.
  • The research bodies under CSIR cover science and technology focus areas ranging from aeronautics, instrumentation, mining, environmental engineering and to oceanography, geophysics, chemicals, drugs, genomics and biotechnology.


Why in News:

  • A study published in The Lancet, Oncology estimates that a steady growth curve of patients (eligible for chemotherapy) will be seen in low- and middle-income countries going from 63% in 2018 to 67% in 2040.

Background: / About cancer:

  • Cancer is one of the most dreaded diseases of human beings and is a major cause of death all over the globe.
  • More than a million Indians suffer from cancer and a large number of them die from it annually. The mechanisms that underlie development of cancer or oncogenic transformation of cells, its treatment and control have been some of the most intense areas of research in biology and medicine. In our body, cell growth and differentiation is highly controlled and regulated. In cancer cells, there is breakdown of these regulatory mechanisms.
  • Normal cells show a property called contact inhibition by virtue of which contact with other cells inhibits their uncontrolled growth.
  • Cancer cells appears to have lost this property of contact inhibition. As a result of this, cancerous cells just continue to divide giving rise to masses of cells called tumors.

Types of Tumors

  • Tumors are of two types: benign and malignant.
  • Benign tumors normally remain confined to their original location and do not spread to other parts of the body and cause little damage.
  • The malignant tumors, on the other hand are a mass of proliferating cells called neoplastic or tumor cells. These cells grow very rapidly, invading and damaging the surrounding normal tissues.
  • As these cells actively divide and grow, they also starve the normal cells by competing for vital nutrients.Cells sloughed from such tumors reach distant sites through blood, and wherever they get lodged in the body, they start a new tumor there. This property called Metastasis is the most feared property of malignant tumors.

Causes of Cancer:

  • Transformation of normal cells into cancerous neoplastic cells may be induced by physical, chemical or biological agents. These agents are called carcinogens.
  • Ionizing radiations like X-rays and gamma rays and non-ionizing radiations like UV cause DNA damage leading to neoplastic transformation.
  • The chemical carcinogens present in tobacco smoke have been identified as a major cause of lung cancer. Cancer causing viruses called oncogenic viruses have genes called viral oncogenes. Furthermore, several genes called cellular oncogenes (c-onc) or proto oncogenes have been identified in normal cells which, when activated under certain conditions, could lead to oncogenic transformation of the cells.

Cancer Detection and Diagnosis

  • Early detection of cancers is essential as it allows the disease to be treated successfully in many cases.
  • Cancer detection is based on biopsy and histopathological studies of the tissue and blood and bone marrow tests for increased cell counts in the case of leukemias.
  • In biopsy, a piece of the suspected tissue cut into thin sections is stained and examined under microscope (histopathological studies) by a pathologist.
  • Techniques like radiography (use of X-rays), CT (computed tomography) and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) are very useful to detect cancers of the internal organs.
  • Computed tomography uses X-rays to generate a three-dimensional image of the internals of an object. MRI uses strong magnetic fields and non-ionising radiations to accurately detect pathological and physiological changes in the living tissue.
  • Antibodies against cancer-specific antigens are also used for detection of certain cancers.
  • Techniques of molecular biology can be applied to detect genes in individuals with inherited susceptibility to certain cancers. Identification of such genes, which predispose an Individual to certain cancers, may be very helpful in prevention of cancers.
  • Such individuals may be advised to avoid exposure to particular carcinogens to which they are susceptible (e.g., tobacco smoke in case of lung cancer).

Treatment of Cancer:

  • The common approaches for treatment of cancer are surgery, radiation therapy and immunotherapy. In radiotherapy, tumor cells are Irradiated lethally, taking proper care of the normal tissues surrounding the tumor mass.
  • Several chemotherapeutic drugs are used to kill cancerous cells. Some of these are specific for particular tumors. Majority of drugs have side effects like hair loss, anemia, etc.
  • Most cancers are treated by combination of surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy.
  • Tumor cells have been shown to avoid detection and destruction by immune system. Therefore, the patients are given substances called biological response modifiers such as a- interferon which activate their immune system and help in destroying the tumor.


why in News:

  • Researchers at Kolkata’s the Indian Institute of Chemical Biology (CSIR-IICB) and the Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science (IACS) have designed and synthesised about 25 quinoline derivatives that show potent anticancer activity.


  • The compounds were tested in vitro against human Topoisomerase 1 (topo1) activity and their efficacy to kill cancer cells was carried out using breast, ovarian, cervical and colon cancer cell lines. The results of topo1 inhibition activity, cellular mechanisms and the cancer cell line studies carried out at IACS and the compounds designed and synthesised by IICB researchers were published in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry.

Topoisomerase 1:

  • Topoisomerase 1 is a fundamental enzyme that is essential for replication. DNA is in a supercoiled state and has to be unwound before replication can take place.
  • For the DNA to uncoil, the topo1 enzyme has to first bind to the DNA and form a complex. Once the complex is formed, the topo1 enzyme cleaves one strand of the DNA thus allowing the DNA to uncoil. Once uncoiling is completed, the topo1 enzyme re-joins the cleaved DNA strand for replication to take place.
  • Existing drugs and the quinoline derivatives synthesised by the IICB team have the ability to trap the complex thereby not freeing the topo1 to re-join the cleaved DNA strand. As the number of trapped complexes in the DNA increases, the amount of free topo1 enzyme available to repair the cleaved DNA strand reduces.
  • Also, other enzymes involved in replication and transcription (where DNA is converted into RNA) come and collide with the trapped topo1 and this causes more DNA breaks.
  • As a result, replication gets affected leading to DNA break and cancer cell death


Why in News:

  • Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kanpur have identified and characterised a novel small protein molecule that can effectively control inflammation leading to better treatment outcomes.


  • Hyper inflammation destroys the tissues surrounding the inflamed area leading to inflammation disorders such as sepsis, inflammatory bowel syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis.
  • A small protein (C5a) that is a part of the innate immunity (immediate defence against pathogens that have never been encountered before) gets activated when a pathogen enters the body. The C5a protein then binds to a particular receptor (C5aR1) found on the surface of certain cells such as macrophages and neutrophils to begin the process of inflammation and pathogen clearance. Neutrophiles are already present in the body and circulate in the blood. Once the small protein binds to the C5aR1 receptor found on neutrophils, there is increased migration towards the site of infection leading to hyper inflammation. Binding of the small protein to the receptor on macrophages reduces the amount of a pro-inflammatory cytokine called interleukin-6 (IL-6) that is released, which is desirable to overcome inflammatory symptoms.

C5a protein:

  • C5a is a protein fragment released from cleavage of complement component C5 by protease C5-convertase into C5a and C5b fragments.
  • It leads to the formation of the Membrane Attack Complex (MAC), one of the most basic weapons of the innate immune system, formed as an automatic response to intrusions from foreign particles and microbial invaders. C5a is a chemotactic agent and an anaphylatoxin. It is essential in the innate immunity but it is also linked with the adaptive immunity. The increased production of C5a is connected with a number of inflammatory diseases.

Interleukin 6

  • Interleukin 6 (IL-6) is an interleukin that acts as both a pro-inflammatory cytokine and an anti-inflammatory myokine. In humans, it is encoded by the IL6 gene.
  • In addition, osteoblasts secrete IL-6 to stimulate osteoclast formation.
  • Smooth muscle cells in the tunica media of many blood vessels also produce IL-6 as a pro- inflammatory cytokine. IL-6’s role as an anti-inflammatory myokine is mediated through its inhibitory effects on TNF-alpha and IL-1, and activation of IL-1ra and IL-10.


Why in News

  • The Supreme Court upheld provisions in the anti-pre-natal sex determination law which ‘criminalises’ non-maintenance of medical records by obstetricians and gynaecologists and suspend their medical licence indefinitely.


  • A Bench of Justices held that the particular provisions in the Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act of 1994 were necessary to prevent female foeticide in the country.
  • The main purpose of the Act is to ban the use of sex selection and misuse of pre-natal diagnostic technique for sex selective abortions and to regulate such techniques.
  • The court dismissed averments made by doctors that the provisions in the law criminalise even the smallest anomaly in paperwork which is in fact an inadvertent and unintentional error.
  • The sections have made obstetricians and gynaecologists vulnerable to prosecution all over the country.
  • “It is a responsible job of the person who is undertaking such a test i.e., the gynaecologist/medical geneticist/radiologist/ paediatrician/director of the clinic/centre/laboratory to fill the requisite information. In case he keeps it vague, he knows fully well that he is violating the provisions of the Act,

Pre-conception    and   Pre-natal    Diagnostic    Techniques    (Prohibition    of   Sex Selection) Act

  • The Pre-conception & Pre-natal Diagnostics Techniques (PC & PNDT) Act, 1994 was enacted in response to the decline in Sex ratio in India, which deteriorated from 972 in 1901 to 927 in 1991.
  • The main purpose of enacting the act is to ban the use of sex selection techniques before or after conception and prevent the misuse of prenatal diagnostic technique for sex selective abortion.
  • The Act was amended to bring the technique of pre conception sex selection and ultrasound technique within the ambit of the act.
  • In 1988, the State of Maharashtra became the first in the country to ban pre-natal sex determination through enacting the Maharashtra Regulation of Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques Act


  • The number of influenza A (H1N1) cases and deaths in India has risen sharply by about 6,200 and over 225, respectively.
  • Rajasthan continues to report the most number of cases and deaths, followed by Gujarat. Deaths from H1N1 in Rajasthan have increased from 137 to 178, while in Gujarat the increase as been from 88 to 125.
  • Delhi has the third most number of cases; the number increased from 2,738 to 3,484. However, the number of H1N1 deaths in Delhi has remained constant at seven.
  • The number of cases in Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Karnataka has nearly doubled in three weeks. Uttar Pradesh had 905 cases and nine deaths till February 24 but the numbers increased to 1,680 and 21, respectively.

What is swine flu?

  • Swine flu, also known as the H1N1 virus, is a relatively new strain of an influenza virus that causes symptoms similar to the regular flu.
  • The H1N1 infection was originally transmitted through contact with pigs, but now it can be spread from person to person.
  • Its symptoms, which include fever, coughing, a sore throat, and body ache, are similar to the regular flu.
  • But if not treated, the H1N1 infection can lead to more serious conditions, including pneumonia and lung infections.
  • The risks are especially high for children under the age of five and the elderly.

End stigma and discrimination to end TB

The years 2018 and 2019 have been landmark years in the fight against TB

  • In the two years since, the team at REACH, an organisation working on TB since 1998, has witnessed similar scenes play out at other workshops around the country.
  • Over 300 TB survivors from across India all of whom attended trainings to help them become powerful TB champions and advocates described stigma as an impenetrable barrier in accessing TB services.

Each TB survivor brought his/her own personal experience to the discussion the difficulties in getting a clear diagnosis, doctor-shopping, the lack of information on what the treatment involved, having to deal with side-effects, the loss of income, to name a few.
While TB had impacted each of their lives differently, they were all unanimous in identifying one cross-cutting barrier stigma and its assiduous companion, discrimination.

Landmark years

  • The years 2018 and 2019 have been landmark years in the fight against TB, globally and in India, with the first ever High Level Meeting on TB held at the United Nations last year.
  • In India, there is high political will and commitment to end TB, budgets are slowly increasing, new social support schemes have been announced and TB survivors are speaking up.
  • There is a lot of talk of ‘ending TB’ and the ambitious phrase — TB elimination — has entered our lexicon.

India and TB

  • TB is second only to HIV/AIDS as the greatest infectious killer disease worldwide
  • India has the highest TB burden in the world, accounting for almost 25 per cent of global TB cases.
  • According to the Global TB Report 2017 released by World Health Organisation (WHO), India has topped list of seven countries, accounting for 64% of the over 10 million new tuberculosis (TB) cases worldwide in year 2016.
  • India’s domestic budget for fighting tuberculosis showed a dramatic jump from about ₹700 crore in 2015 to ₹2,500 crore last year.
  • According to World Health Statistics 2018 released by World Health Organisation (WHO), India saw estimated 211 cases of tuberculosis (TB) per 1,00,000 people in 2016.
  • India has pledged to eradicate tuberculosis by 2025, five years ahead of global target set by WHO.

Basics about TB:

Tuberculosis is an infectious, airborne disease caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis. It mainly affects the lungs. It can be transmitted from person to person through the air when people with TB cough, sneeze, laugh or speak, spit, propelling the germs into the atmosphere.

Why TB is an issue?

  • With proper diagnosis and treatment, TB can be cured.
  • However, too many people with TB don’t seek care for early symptoms and get properly diagnosed. Of those in whom the disease is detected, many do not complete their treatment.
  • Despite global efforts to combat TB, which saved an estimated 53 million lives since 2000 and reduced TB mortality rate by 37%, the disease is still top infectious killer in 2016. The disease also has been reported to be main cause of deaths related to antimicrobial resistance and the leading killer of people with HIV.
  • The biggest challenge was underreporting and underdiagnosis of TB cases, especially in countries with weak health systems and large unregulated private sectors.

‘90-90-90 target’ by 2035:

  • The government has committed to achieve a ‘90-90-90 target’ by 2035 (90% reductions in incidence, mortality and catastrophic health expenditures due to TB).
  • This is premised on improved diagnostics, shorter treatment courses, a better vaccine and comprehensive preventive strategies.

Moscow Declaration:

  • The declaration calls for eliminating additional deaths from HIV co-infection by 2020 and achieving synergy in coordinated action against Tuberculosis
  • and non-communicable diseases (NCDs). India is among signatories to the declaration. Moscow declaration emphasis need for fixing multi sectoral responsibility towards ending TB by 2035, the global target.

Steps Taken by Govt.:

  • Indo-US partnership to free India of TB (see Indo-US relation).
  • India has signed WTO’s call to end TB by 2030.
  • USAID-India End TB Alliance.

IIT Guwahati’s bone graft aids extensive bone formation

  • A scaffold made of silk–bone cement composite doped with silicon and zinc metal ions has been found to regenerate new bone tissue in rabbits in three months.
  • The newly formed bone forms a seamless joint with the existing bone and has blood vessels inside it.
  • Tests carried out on rabbits with defective thigh bone (femur) showed extensive bone formation of 73% at the end of 90 days compared with 49% in the case of scaffold made only of silk fibre.
  • Even at the end of 30 days, there was adequate bone regeneration and new blood vessel formation.

Superior graft

  • The bone graft fabricated and tested is superior to currently available ones, affordable and does not require external use of growth factors for bone cells to grow.
  • At the end of three months, the silk fibre had completely degraded leaving behind a homogeneous bone produced by rabbit bone cells.
  • The newly formed bone had healed the defective femur. The bone cement made of calcium phosphate becomes a part of the bone while the biocompatible metal ions (silicon and zinc) get leached out at the end of 90 days.

The Chemistry behind:

  • The scaffold is fabricated by first doping the bone cement with silicon and zinc and mixing the bone cement with chopped mulberry silk fibre.
  • The bone cement gets adsorbed on the silk fibre. Liquid silk fibre is then added to bind the chopped fibre and bone cement; the liquid silk also makes the composite highly porous.
  • The silk–bone cement composite has higher density and strength, more surface area and high surface roughness, closely resembling a native bone.
  • The zinc and silicon ions get leached from the composite and activate bone and blood vessel cells.
  • This leads to faster regeneration of the bone tissue and blood vessel formation.
  • By doping with these metal ions we are doing away with external addition of growth factor and also making the graft affordable.

Bone regeneration

  • The compressive strength of silk fibre is about 40 kPa, while it is nearly double in the case of the silk–bone cement composite.
  • Though doping with the silicon and zinc metal ions reduces the mechanical properties, particularly the compressive strength, the bulk strength of the doped composite is sufficient to activate bone regeneration.
  • Through in vitro studies carried out prior to experimentation with rabbits, the researchers realised that incorporation of bone cement and metal ion doped bone cement enhanced the bone tissue regeneration capacity.
  • While the composite was seeded with bone cells for in vitro studies, in rabbits, the composite was used without adding any bone cells. Bone cells from neighbouring tissue migrate and bind to the scaffold and aid in bone regeneration.

Drug-resistant TB drug may cut treatment time

A new drug cocktail reduces the length of treatment for multidrug-resistant tuberculosis from nearly two years to nine to 11 months with a similar effectiveness, according to a large clinical trial.

Nearly 6,00,000 people contract multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) every year.

Normal tuberculosis is treated with four antibiotics over a six-month period.

The new clinical trial, which included nearly 400 patients(all severely affected by the disease), compared the effectiveness of long-term treatment and that of a shorter therapy.


  • • TB is second only to HIV/AIDS as the greatest infectious killer disease worldwide
  • • India has the highest TB burden in the world, accounting for almost 25 per cent of global TB cases.
  • According to the Global TB Report 2017 released by World Health Organisation (WHO), India has topped list of seven countries, accounting for 64% of the over 10 million new
  • tuberculosis (TB) cases worldwide in year 2016.
  • India’s domestic budget for fighting tuberculosis showed a dramatic jump from about ₹700 crore in 2015 to ₹2,500 crore last year
  • According to World Health Statistics 2018 released by World Health Organisation (WHO), India saw estimated 211 cases of tuberculosis (TB) per 1,00,000 people in 2016.
  • • India has pledged to eradicate tuberculosis by 2025, five years ahead of global target set by

Basics about TB:

Tuberculosis is an infectious, airborne disease caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis. It mainly affects the lungs. It can be transmitted from person to person through the air when people with TB cough, sneeze, laugh or speak, spit, propelling the germs into the atmosphere

Why TB is an issue?

  • • With proper diagnosis and treatment, TB can be cured.
  • • However, too many people with TB don’t seek care for early symptoms and get properly diagnosed. Of those in whom the disease is detected, many do not complete their treatment.
  • Despite global efforts to combat TB, which saved an estimated 53 million lives since 2000 and reduced TB mortality rate by 37%, the disease is still top infectious killer in 2016. The disease also has been reported to be main cause of deaths related to antimicrobial resistance and the leading killer of people with HIV.
  • The biggest challenge was underreporting and underdiagnosis of TB cases, especially in countries with weak health systems and large unregulated private sectors.

‘90-90-90 target’ by 2035:

  • • The government has committed to achieve a ‘90-90-90 target’ by 2035 (90% reductions in incidence, mortality and catastrophic health expenditures due to TB).
  • This is premised on improved diagnostics, shorter treatment courses, a better vaccine and comprehensive preventive strategies.

Moscow Declaration:

The declaration calls for eliminating additional deaths from HIV co-infection by 2020 and achieving synergy in coordinated action against Tuberculosis and non-communicable diseases (NCDs). India is among signatories to the declaration. Moscow declaration emphasis need for fixing multi sectoral responsibility towards ending TB by 2035, the global target.


  • • Indo-US partnership to free India of TB (see Indo-US relation).
  • India has signed WTO’s call to end TB by 2030.
  • USAID-India End TB Alliance

Why does Anti-microbial Resistance occur?

The first rule of antibiotic use is that they are used to fight bacterial infections and they don’t work on viruses. A common cold or cough is most likely caused by a viral infection.

Excessive use of antibiotics is responsible for the alarming increase in antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in the country. Irrational use of drugs, overdosing or under-dosing, self-medication, misuse of drugs, and the inappropriate use of antimicrobials in a hospital setting are all cause for alarm.


A high-power committee constituted by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has recommended that forest surveys the biennial exercise by the government to estimate forest cover explicitly demarcate trees grown in forests from those grown outside, that is, in plantations and private lands.


  • The panel has proposed that the trees in plantations, private lands should not come under survey.
  • Currently, the government counts both towards estimating the portion of India’s geographical area covered by forest.
  • Independent critics have for long pointed out that including both isn’t an ecologically sound principle but this is a first instance of government-constituted committee recommending so.
  • India posted a marginal 0.21% rise in the area under forest between 2015 and 2017, according to the India State of Forest Report (SFR) 2017, which was made public in February 2018.
  • The document says that India has about 7,08,273 sq. km. of forest, which is 21.53% of the geographic area of the country (32,87,569 sq. km.).
  • Getting India to have at least 33% of its area under forest has been a long-standing goal of the government since 1988.
  • Various editions of the SFR have over the years reported the area under forests as hovering around 21%. So the government also includes substantial patches of trees outside areas designated as forests, such as plantations or greenlands, in its assessment.
  • The total tree cover, according to this assessment, was 93,815 sq. km. or a 2% rise from the approximately 92,500 sq. km. in 2015.

Study Magnitude of Substance use in India

  • An estimated 16 crore Indians in the age group of 10-75 are consumers of alcohol and around 4.6 lakh children are addicted to inhalant drugs.


  • The first countrywide survey commissioned by the Union government on the extent of substance abuse has found that these children are in dire need of help.
  • The study Magnitude of Substance Use in India revealed that close to 15 in every hundred Indians consume alcohol band more than five per cent needed medical help to tackle dependence on substance. The survey was conducted by the National Drug Dependence Treatment Centre (NDDTC) under the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, and were released
  • The study defines users who have used substances in nine categories, namely — alcohol, cannabis, opioids, cocaine, sedatives, inhalants and hallucinogens – at least once in past 12 months.


  • The study said that 14.6 per cent Indians were found to be alcohol users while 5.2 per cent wanted help. Close to 1.6 crore people in Uttar Pradesh have been found to suffer from alcohol dependence or consumed it in a harmful way. In Bengal, 27 lakh people have consumed alcohol while the figure for Odisha stands at 21 lakhs.
  • The number assigned to a state is the extrapolated figure to match the population share of the state. Hence Utter Pradesh is found to have the highest number of harmful and dependent users of alcohol and other substances.
  • Tripura (13.7 per cent), Arunachal Pradesh (7.2 per cent) and Chhattisgarh, Punjab and Andhra Pradesh (around 6 per cent each) were the states with highest prevalence of alcohol dependence. The survey found that alcohol dependence is lesser in states where prohibition in in force. For example, only 0.9 per cent of the population in Bihar and 3.9 in Gujarat were found to be alcohol users.
  • According to the study, cannabis users number around 3.1 crore; opioid users 2.25 crore; sedative users 1.18 crore; hallucinogen users 12.6 lakh and cocaine users 10 lakh.
  • The states which have recorded use of cannabis more than the national average include Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Sikkim, Chhattisgarh, and Punjab.
  • In terms of percentage of population affected, the top states in the country are those in the Northeast — Mizoram, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Manipur.
  • The current survey also points that heroin use prevalence is higher than 2004 and has, in fact, surpassed the opium use. Currently, the prevalence of heroin use is twice as much of opium use in total population.
  • Nationally, it is estimated that there are about 8.5 lakh people who inject drugs.

Obesity Linked Cancers on Rise in Young Adults

Study says diet, exercise is key to reducing body weight:

  • The risk of developing obesity-related cancer is increasing in successive generations, along with increasing rates of obesity.
  • The incidence of 30 of the most common cancers, including 12 that are obesity related, from 1995 to 2014 in people ages 25-84 — more than 14.6 million cases. The study was published is in Lancet Public Health.
  • Using five-year age cohorts, they found that for six of the 12 obesity-related cancers (multiple myeloma, colorectal, uterine, gallbladder, kidney and pancreatic) the risk for disease increased in adults in the 25- 49 age bracket, with the magnitude of the increase’s steeper with younger age.
  • For example, compared with people born in 1950, those born in 1985 had a risk of multiple myeloma 59% higher, and a risk of pancreatic cancer more than twice as high at comparable ages. At the same time, incidence decreased for smoking-related and infection-related cancers.
  • Diet and exercise are of course essential in reducing obesity rates, but that interventions by health care professionals are also needed and only a third of obese patients actually get a diagnosis of and counselling for obesity.

Microbial Fuel Cell treats Textile Wastewater

The Power Generated in degradation Can be used to Sustain the Process:

  • Microbial fuel cells (MFCs) are fast emerging as an option for several specific requirements.
  • The principle of using the MFC to degrade wastewater is simple. A carefully selected cohort of bacteria is made to act on the textile wastewater placed in the fuel cell.
  • These bacteria are isolated from the very wastewater they are meant to degrade. They feed on the organic material in the water and break it down under anaerobic (without oxygen) conditions, releasing electrons in the process. The electrons are collected at the anode which results in a current in the circuit. Because the bacteria form a biofilm on the anode, the electrons are collected easily by it.
  • “After a period, when the thickness of the biofilm exceeds a limit, it will automatically detach and bring back the thickness to optimal level. A nanotech filter is required to improve this process. “This is like a ‘trickling filter’ – where after thickness exceeds a limit, and it is difficult to sustain that thickness, the excess tears off. When it falls off, it shouldn’t get mixed up with the water. That’s where the nanotechnology filter will come in, to remove the bacteria and get clean water.
  • The bacteria take turns to act on the wastewater and purify it: There are many species of bacteria. If a dye is present in the water, it is broken to a simpler form by one species; this, in turn, is acted on by another species and so on. “It has a cascading effect.
  • Using MFC to process wastewater was an idea that the two used in the Carbon zero challenge, a competition hosted by IIT Madras when they were students there. They used the funding obtained through the event to develop the 200 litre prototype within the few months they were given. “We spoke to some people [in the textile industries] at Tiruppur, and they said that if it is cheaper and more energy efficient than current technologies, we will use it.
  • While now, with the prototype, they can generate power of around 1 watt per square-metre, they aim to get to about 5 watts per square-metre. This power can be used to sustain the process. However, scaling up has challenges. The size of the chamber and its geometry and design remain to be worked out. All the power produced must be captured so that it is not wasted. “For that, we will work with some electrical engineers.

Nilavembu Kudineer Kills Dengue Virus, Protects from Chikungunya

The siddha drug showed significant antiviral activity, Immuno-Modulation:

  • Under in vitro conditions, nilavembu kudineer (a Siddha medicine) was found to provide protection against chikungunya virus while it was effective as a treatment during acute phase of dengue infection. Dengue subtype-2, which is the most prevalent subtype in India, was used for testing the formulation.
  • There was significant antiviral activity of the formulation at 3% of human dose onwards. Currently, there is no treatment for dengue and chikungunya.

Mode of Action:

  • A team of researchers from the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB), Delhi found that thenilavembu kudineer formulation was modulating the host response in the case of both chikungunya and dengue virus but in a different manner.
  • The mode of action of the concoction is antiviral in the case of dengue while immuno-modulatory in chikungunya infection. “The reason why we say the formulation is immuno-modulatory is because of the way nilavembu kudineer acts upon viral infections in different types of cells. However, the mode of action of the formulation on immuno-modulation is yet to be understood.
  • To study the antiviral activity, the researchers tested the formulation on monocytes and macrophages in the case of dengue and epithelial kidney cells for chikungunya virus. “The monocytes and macrophages are the primary sites of infection in the case of dengue.
  • And kidney is the secondary site of infection by chikungunya virus. The primary site of infection of chikungunya virus is fibroblasts before the virus enters the blood stream and then to different organs.
  • The joints are the worst affected due to chikungunya virus infection. But we don’t have primary joint cell lines to test the formulation at this point.

Safety studies:

  • Safety studies showed that nilavembu kudineer concoction was non-toxic starting from 3% (about 1.8 milligram per millilitre) of human dose. However, the researchers found that andrographis, which is the active ingredient ofnilavembu kudineer, when used alone was extremely toxic at 3% of human dose.
  • Human dose is prepared by mixing 5 grams of nilavembu kudineer in 240 ml of water. It is then boiled and reduced to 30 ml and consumed.
  • “This shows that nilavembu kudineer as a formulation is safe for use in humans. The cytotoxicity of andrographis reduces drastically when given as a concoction with other ingredients of nilavembu kudineer. The nilavembu kudineer herbal concoction is made by mixing nine ingredients in equal measure.
  • “The importance of herbal medicines lies in the fact that they use plant as a whole. This is important because if the modern concepts are used in alternative medicine and only active component is separated, then it will cease to act as a herbal medicine and will plainly act as a chemical drug which can be highly toxic/hazardous to the human body.
  • “Based on the results of our study we see the formulation working well for dengue and chikungunya infections especially during outbreak conditions.
  • Based on the positive results from in vitro studies, the researchers are in the process of studying the safety and mode of action of the formulation using mice models.

Monkey Fever Cases Confirmed in Wayanad


  • A case of Kyasanur Forest Disease (KFD), a viral disease transmitted to humans through a species of ticks usually found on monkeys, has been reported from the Aranappara hamlet at Appapara, near Tirunelly, in Wayanad district after an interval of two years.


  • The 36-year-old patient, who is at the District Hospital, Mananthavady, is reportedly out of critical condition. The samples collected from the patient were sent to the Manipal Centre for Virus Research and it had been confirmed as a case of KFD, District Medical Officer R. Renuka told The Hindu.
  • Meanwhile, a 27-year-old from the area was referred to the Government Medical College Hospital, Kozhikode, with symptoms of the disease. They were working in a farm at Bairakuppa in Karnataka and admitted to the District Hospital on January 20 with symptoms of the disease, Dr. Renuka said. Surveillance have been stepped up in forest areas on the Wayanad- Karnataka border, district surveillance officer Noona Marja said.
  • Meanwhile, the district administration, in association with the Health Department, has intensified preventive measures, including a vaccination drive, to combat KFD.

Medicine Stock:

  • “Though we have stocked 350 doses of KFD vaccine, the drive is facing a setback in villages on the fringes of forests as many are not ready to accept vaccination,” Dr. Noona Marja said.
  • “However, we advised them to use personal protection measures, including gloves and gumboots as well as repellent lotions, before they enter forest.” The first case of the disease was reported in the district in 2013. The virus wreaked havoc in the district in 2015 when 102 cases were reported and 11 persons died of the disease. Nine cases were reported in 2016. Though two suspected cases were reported in 2017, not a single case was reported last year, Dr. Renuka said.

Chinese Doctor Who Gene – edited Babies for ‘FAME’ to face Probe

In News:

  • A researcher who claimed to have created the world’s first genetically-edited babies will face a Chinese police investigation, State media said, as authorities confirmed that a second woman fell pregnant during the experiment.


  • He Jiankui shocked the scientific community last year after announcing he had successfully altered the genes of twin girls born in November to prevent them from contracting HIV.
  • The provincial government probe found He had “forged ethical review papers” and “deliberately evaded supervision
  • He had “privately” organised a project team that included foreign staff and used “technology of uncertain safety and effectiveness” for illegal human embryo gene-editing,
  • But such gene-editing work is banned in most countries, including China. Mr. He will be “dealt with seriously according to the law,” and his case will be “handed over to public security organs for handling
  • He said the twins’ DNA was modified using CRISPR, a technique which allows scientists to remove and replace a strand with precision.

What is Gene Editing?

  • Genome editing (also called gene editing) is a group of technologies that give scientists the ability to change an organism’s DNA.
  • These technologies allow genetic material to be added, removed, or altered at particular locations in the genome. Several approaches to genome editing have been developed.
  • A recent one is known as CRISPR-Cas9, which is short for clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats and CRISPR-associated protein 9. The CRISPR-Cas9 system has generated a lot of excitement in the scientific community because it is faster, cheaper, more accurate, and more efficient than other existing genome editing methods
  • CRISPR-Cas9 was adapted from a naturally occurring genome editing system in bacteria. The bacteria capture snippets of DNA from invading viruses and use them to create DNA segments known as CRISPR arrays. The CRISPR arrays allow the bacteria to “remember” the viruses (or closely related ones).
  • If the viruses attack again, the bacteria produce RNA segments from the CRISPR arrays to target the viruses’ DNA. The bacteria then use Cas9 or a similar enzyme to cut the DNA apart, which disables the virus.

Human Genome editing:

  • Genome editing is of great interest in the prevention and treatment of human diseases. Currently, most research on genome editing is done to understand diseases using cells and animal models. Scientists are still working to determine whether this approach is safe and effective for use in people.
  • It is being explored in research on a wide variety of diseases, including single-gene disorders such as cystic fibrosis, hemophilia, and sickle cell disease. It also holds promise for the treatment and prevention of more complex diseases, such as cancer, heart disease, mental illness, and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection.
  • Ethical concerns arise when genome editing, using technologies such as CRISPR-Cas9, is used to alter human genomes. Most of the changes introduced with genome editing are limited to somatic cells, which are cells other than egg and sperm cells.
  • These changes affect only certain tissues and are not passed from one generation to the next. However, changes made to genes in egg or sperm cells (germline cells) or in the genes of an embryo could be passed to future generations.
  • Germline cell and embryo genome editing bring up a number of ethical challenges, including whether it would be permissible to use this technology to enhance normal human traits (such as height or intelligence). Based on concerns about ethics and safety, germline cell and embryo genome editing are currently illegal in many countries.

AI beats Doctors at detecting early stage Cervical Cancer


  • Artificial intelligence may be poised to wipe out cervical cancer, after a study showed on Thursday that computer algorithms can detect pre-cancerous lesions far better than trained experts or conventional screening tests.


  • According to the World Health Organization, cervical cancer is the fourth most frequent cancer in women with an estimated 570,000 new cases globally in 2018.
  • Despite major advances in screening and vaccination, which can prevent the spread of human papillomavirus which causes most cases of cervical cancer, those gains have mainly benefited women in rich nations.
  • Some 266,000 women died of cervical cancer globally in 2012, 90% of them in low-and middle-income nations, according to the WHO.
  • This is has much linked the disease cervical cancer with the economic status of the patient.
  • Hence there raises a necessity to find extremely cheap, easy and yet accurate method to detect and wipe out cervical cancer.
  • According to a report, the AI technique, called automated visual evaluation, found precancerous cells with 91% accuracy.
  • The goal is to roll out the technology in the next three to five years, enrolling more patients in clinical trials worldwide, says the study.

About AI:

  • An intelligence exhibited by machines
  • It is a branch of computer science which deals with creating computers or machines as intelligent as human beings. It is a simulation of human intelligence processes such as learning (the acquisition of information and rules for using the information), reasoning (using the rules to reach approximate or definite conclusions), and self-correction by machines, especially computer systems.
  • Nowadays it has become an umbrella term which encompasses everything from robotic process automation to actual robotics.

Areas of AI technologies:

  • Robotic process automation: Automation is the process of making a system or processes function automatically. Robots can be programmed to perform high-volume, repeatable tasks normally performed by humans and further it is different from IT automation because of its agility and adaptability to the changing circumstances.
  • Natural language processing (NLP) is the processing of human language and not computer language by a computer program. For Example, spam detection, which looks at the subject line and the text of an email and decides if it’s junk.
  • Pattern recognition is a branch of machine learning that focuses on identifying patterns in data. Machine vision is the science of making computers visualize by capturing and analyzing visual information using a camera, analog-to-digital conversion, and digital signal processing. It is often compared to human eyesight, but machine vision isn’t bound by biology and can be programmed to see through walls. It is used in a range of applications from signature identification to medical image analysis.
  • Machine learning: Field of study that gives computers the ability to learn without being explicitly programmed. Deep learning is a subset of machine learning and can be thought of as the automation of predictive analytics.
  • Robotics is a field of engineering focused on the design and manufacturing of robots. Robots are often used to perform tasks that are difficult for humans to perform or perform consistently.

National Strategy on Artificial intelligence:

  • It is unveiled by NITI Aayog and it has identified five sectors – healthcare, agriculture, education, smart cities and infrastructure and transportation and hence to to focus its efforts towards implementation of artificial intelligence (AI) to serve societal needs.
  • AI refers to the ability of machines to perform cognitive tasks like thinking, perceiving, learning, problem solving and decision making
  • This strategy helps to focus on to leverage the transformative technologies to ensure social and inclusive growth in line with the developmental agenda of the government

Scientists Boost Plant Yield by 40%


  • Researchers have found a way to boost the plant growth genetically.


  • Scientists have confirmed 40% increase in tobacco plant productivity using their genetic shortcut.. The same mechanism could be replicated in other plants such as wheat or soy beans in order to meet demand.
  • According to the research, the enzyme ‘Rubisco’, which is a key to carbon fixation process (converting atmospheric carbon into an organic compound, consumed by plants), also acts to fix atmospheric oxygen, converting it into toxic compounds that the plant expends considerable energy eliminating it. This competing process is called photorespiration. The scientists have discovered that implanting bits of algae DNA into the tobacco plant’s cells to create a type of biological shortcut would speed up the process of photorespiration.
  • According to them, when a plant uses less energy on photorespiration, it will be able to take that energy and put it into plant growth and plant productivity, rather than using it to metabolise this toxic compound.

Bio – Bank for Drug Resistant Microbes

  • India’s battle against “superbugs” has just got more teeth with the Government setting up a bio-repository for resistant microbes, the first of its kind bio-bank in the country at the Pune-based National Centre for Microbial Resource (NCMR).


  • • The bank is part of the Union Science and Technology Ministry’s Mission programme on Anti-microbial resistance (AMR) initiative with the vision to develop indigenous and cost-effective therapies against the superbugs like bacteria and fungi.
  • Though India has many bio-repositories, a dedicated facility for superbugs at the NCMR is the first such unit in the country.
  • The bio-bank — a storage place for biological materials that collects, processes and distributes biospecimen catalogs, and keeps samples of material, such as urine, blood, tissue, cells, DNA, RNA and protein from humans, animals or plants to support future scientific investigations — is expected to be a boon to clinicians and researchers in the field of AMR as they could deposit or obtain samples of infective agents for scientific investigation. Currently, the National Centre for Disease Control and the Indian Council of Medical Research carry out anti-microbial resistance surveillance in various geographical regions and settings. But these two bodies only collect data and not microbe samples. The DBT has already given green signal to the NCMR to collect, preserve and characterise drug-resistant microbes in the bio-bank. The NCMR would take necessary steps to facilitate clinicians, scientists and others to handle multidrug-resistant microbe samples.
  • The DBT is also working to share the information regarding National AMR-specific Pathogen list which will be available very soon including a landscaping report on existing rapid and cost-effective diagnostic kits to identify AMR-specific pathogens, the official added.
  • • AMR is one of the major threats to human health in the 21st century, with some bacterial pathogens acquiring resistance to all clinically available antibiotics. Worldwide, infections caused by multi-drug resistant (MDR) bacteria are now a major cause of morbidity and mortality and have markedly enhanced healthcare costs.
  • Considering AMR as a national priority, under National Action Plan endorsed by the Government the Department of Biotechnology has initiated the fight against AMR in a mission mode envisaging needed measures.


  • • Antimicrobial resistance is resistance of a microorganism to an antimicrobial drug that was originally effective for treatment of infections caused by it.
  • Anti-microbial resistance has serious implications for a country like India where misuse of “last-resort” antibiotics for common health conditions is rampant. Many microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi have an exceptional capacity to survive in adverse surroundings. According to health experts, the situation in India is alarming on AMR front. A study has pointed that a intensive care units of 20 tertiary care hospitals showed that 7 per cent of critically ill patients are resistant to antibiotics.
  • Drug resistance to first-line antibiotics also results in 58,000 neonatal deaths each year.

Dark Microbial Matter

  • Dark microbial matter uncultured microbes whose characteristics have never been described could be dominating nearly all the environments on the earth, scientists found.


  • • The study, published in the journal M-Systems, is the first time to estimate the population of microbes that have not yet been grown in a lab culture.
  • Researchers collected every DNA sequence deposited in public databases by researchers all over the world, totalling 1.5 million, and compared them to 26,000 DNA sequences of microbes and bacteria that have already been cultured. As many as a quarter of the microbes on earth could come from the roughly 30 phyla a taxonomic classification between kingdoms and classes of microbes that have never been cultured.


  • • Scientists have long been aware of this mass of uncultured microbes, also known by scientists as microbial dark matter. However, counting them one by one would be an impossible task and, up until now, researchers have not been able to even estimate how many of them there are.
  • The study and characterisation of uncultured microbes can be a particularly valuable tool in specific fields such as in medicine, where scientists have described cases of culture-resistant pathogens. It is also possible that these microbes can’t grow on their own in culture because they die if they are removed from their intricate relationships with each other or their particular environment. Uncultured microbes are so vastly different than cultured ones that they might be doing unusual things, like surviving on extremely low energy or growing extraordinarily slowly.
  • Since these microbes provide many ecosystem services such as helping crops grow and battling climate change solving the considerable puzzle they’ve presented us is a crucial challenge for modern microbiology.


  • Microbes comprise 60% of the earth’s biomass and they are everywhere. They are abundant in the oceans and in soil there are more microbes in a teaspoon of soil than there are humans on earth they live in deserts, on mountains in Antarctica, near boiling hydrothermal vents at the seafloor, and in the acid stomachs of mammals including us humans.
  • Life as we know it on our planet would not be possible without microbes. Much of the oxygen we breathe is produced by microbes, they are necessary to create our food such as yogurt, and cheese.
  • Also, beer and wine would not exist without their ability to ferment sugar to alcohol, and in industry microbes are used as tiny living factories, for example to produce human insulin for people with diabetes. Scientists are very curious to learn more about this microbial world, but there is one big problem. We can only study about 1% of all the microbes in our laboratory, since most of the little critters just don’t grow on artificial substrates in the lab.
  • Traditionally one would grow the microbes millions of them to get enough DNA for sequencing, because one cell has so little DNA. Since we can’t do this for the majority of microbes, they remained a mystery to us and are known as the Microbial Dark Matter (MDA).
  • The inability to culture this microbial dark matter has led to a very skewed view of the microbial world. The two largest groups of microbes (Bacteria and Archaea) have many members which are only known because we found a small piece of DNA, the 16S rRNA gene, in environmental samples. We have almost no genomic information about those microbes, so we don’t know what they are doing or what they are capable of
  • We apply a method, called single cell genomics, which omits the culturing step and allows to amplify the DNA of a single microbial cell a billion-fold, more than enough to sequence its genome.
  • The first step is to take an environmental sample and to sort individual cells into tiny droplets. This is done on a cell sorter which detects the cells by a laser and separates them into droplets by electrostatic forces, similar to how an ink-jet printer directs individual droplets of ink to print a letter on a page. Next, we break open the cell envelope, very carefully so we don’t damage the DNA.
  • • Then we add a cocktail with the enzyme phi29 which has the ability to amplify very long stretches of DNA, and after several hours we have billions of copies from the microbial genome and can start sequencing.

Type 2 Polio Virus Contamination

In News:

  • The Union Health Ministry has ordered an inquiry into the type-2 polio virus contamination detected in the vials used for immunisation in Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Telangana

Indian Scenario:

  • • The last case due to type-2 wild poliovirus globally was reported from Aligarh in India in 1999
  • India was declared polio free in 2014 and the last case was reported on 13 January 2011, when a person from Howrah was infected with type-1 polio virus.
  • • India eliminated the type-2 strain in 2016, and the type-2 containing poliovirus vaccine (ToPV) was phased out in April 2016. Children born after April 2016 in India have no immunity to type-2 polio virus.
  • • Traces of polio type-2 virus were found in some batches of oral polio vaccine (OPV) manufactured by a Ghaziabad-based pharmaceutical company. The Drugs Controller General of India has also asked the company to stop manufacture, sale or distribution till further orders
  • According to a Health Ministry source, the contamination came to light after surveillance reports from Uttar Pradesh showed signs of the virus in stool samples of some children.
  • The government, which has stepped-up surveillance after the breach
  • The continued occurrence of polio cases caused by type 2 vaccine-derived poliovirus is the reason to implement the switch from trivalent OPV to bivalent OPV in routine immunization programmes, even before the remaining strains of wild poliovirus are eradicated

Polio virus:

  • • Poliomyelitis is a crippling disease that results from infection with any one of the three related poliovirus types (referred to as types P1, P2, and P3), members of the enterovirus (picornavirus) family. Humans are the only natural host and reservoir of polioviruses.
  • Poliovirus is transmitted from one person to another by oral contact with secretions or faecal material from an infected person.
  • Once viral reproduction is established in the mucosal surfaces of the nasopharynx, poliovirus can multiply in specialized cells in the intestines and enter the blood stream to invade the central nervous system, where it spreads along nerve fibres.
  • When it multiplies in the nervous system, the virus can destroy nerve cells (motor neurons) which activate skeletal muscles.
  • These nerve cells cannot regenerate, and the affected muscles lose their function due to a lack of nervous enervation – a condition known as acute flaccid paralysis (AFP).
  • Typically, in patients with poliomyelitis muscles of the legs are affected more often than the arm muscles.

Polio Vaccines:

  • • Poliovirus infection can provide lifelong immunity against the disease, but this protection is limited to the serotype involved.
  • Infection with one type does not protect an individual against infection with the other two types.

Two different kinds of vaccine are available:

  • • A inactivated (killed) polio vaccine (IPV) and
  • A live attenuated oral polio vaccine (OPV).
  • A inactivated (killed) polio vaccine (IPV) is produced from wild-type poliovirus strains of each serotype that have been inactivated (killed) with formalin. As an injectable vaccine, it can be administered alone or in combination with other vaccines
  • A live attenuated oral polio vaccine (OPV) consists of a mixture of the three live attenuated poliovirus serotypes (Sabin types 1, 2 and 3), selected for their lower neurovirulence and reduced transmissibility.

Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI):

  • In 1999, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) scored an unequivocal victory: It wiped one of three serotypes of wild poliovirus, type 2, off the face of the earth, except for samples stored in labs for study or vaccine creation

Global scenario:

  • Niger too has showed this similar kind of type 2 polio virus resurfacing.

Bacteria to Degrade Toluene

  • Researchers from the University of Delhi and Indian Institute of Technology (BHU), Varanasi, have successfully degraded toluene into less-toxic by-products using bacteria isolated from soil and effluents near an oil refinery.


  • • The researchers also tested the bacterial strain for the degradation of benzene, phenol, and xylene and they showed effective results towards degradation of these compounds both individual compounds and their mixtures.
  • In laboratory conditions, the bacteria were able to degrade these petrochemical wastes in both soil and water samples. More studies are needed to design industrial-scale bioreactors for taking up large-scale degradation of petrochemical waste.
  • • The bacteria were isolated from the samples, identified and studied for their toluene-degrading abilities. To the soil and effluent samples containing some bacteria 100 mg/L of toluene was added and incubated for four weeks.
  • They isolated eight to 10 strains of bacteria and found that a particular bacteria Acinetobacter junii showed good degrading potential about 80% of toluene (50 ppm) in a liquid medium was degraded within 72 hours.
  • A consortium of A. junii bacteria was found to be more effective than using a single strain. Different bacterial strains have different characteristic potential to degrade intermediate by-products formed during the degradation process and, hence, increase the efficiency.
  • The bacteria use up this toluene as their carbon source in the presence of oxygen. Though most of the waste degradation studies have involved the use of bacteria that grow in an anaerobic environment, we tried an aerobic one and succeeded.


  • • Toluene also known as aromatic hydrocarbon. It is a colourless, water-insoluble liquid with the smell associated with paint thinners. Toluene is predominantly used as an industrial feedstock and a solvent.
  • Toluene is one of the petrochemical wastes that get released without treatment from industries such as refineries, paint, textile, paper and rubber. Toluene occurs naturally at low levels in crude oil and is a by-product in the production of gasoline by a catalytic reformer or ethylene cracker. It is also a by-product of the production of coke from coal.
  • Toluene has been reported to cause serious health problems to aquatic life, and studies point that it has genotoxic and carcinogenic effects on human beings. Sometimes used as a recreational inhalant and has the potential of causing severe neurological harm.

DNA Reveals First Inter-Species Child

Why in news?

  • Denny’s mother was a Neanderthal, but her father a Denisovan, a distinct species of primitive human

About Denny:

  • Her mother was a Neanderthal, but her father was Denisovan, a distinct species of primitive human that also roamed the Eurasian continent 50,000 years ago, scientists reported.
  • Nicknamed by Oxford University scientists, Denisova 11 — her official name — was at least 13 when she died, for reasons unknown.

First direct link:

  • There was earlier evidence of interbreeding between different hominin, or early human, groups, said lead author Viviane Slon of Evolutionary Anthropology. But this is the first time that they have found a direct, first-generation offspring.
  • Denny’s surprising pedigree was unlocked from a bone fragment unearthed in 2012 by Russian archeologists at the Denisova Cave in the Altai Mountains of Siberia.
  • Analysis of the bone’s DNA left no doubt: the chromosomes were a 50-50 mix of Neanderthal and Denisovan, two distinct species of early humans that split apart between 4,00,000 to 5,00,000 years ago.

Early humans:

  • Worldwide, fewer than two dozen early human genomes from before 40,000 years ago — Neanderthal, Denisovan, Homo sapiens — have been sequenced, and the chances of stumbling on a half-and-half hybrid seemed vanishingly small.
  • The very fact that we found this individual of mixed Neanderthal and Denisovan origins suggests that they interbred much more often than we thought.
  • A 40,000-year-old Homo sapiens with a Neanderthal ancestor a few generations back, recently found in Romania, also bolsters this notion. But the most compelling evidence that inter-species hanky-panky in Late Pleistocene Eurasia may not have been that rare lies in the genes of contemporary humans.
  • About 2% of DNA in non-Africans across the globe today originate with Neanderthals, earlier studies have shown.
  • Denisovan remnants are also widespread, though less evenly. We find traces of Denisovan DNA — less than 1% — everywhere in Asia and among native Americans. “Aboriginal Australians and people in Papua New Guinea have about 5%.”
  • Taken together, these facts support a novel answer to the hotly debated question of why Neanderthals — which had successfully spread across parts of western and central Europe — disappeared some 40,000 years ago.

Hemochromatosis- Iron Overload Disease

  • Researchers at the Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (CSIR-IGIB) have successfully discovered a pathway that regulates hepcidin hormone production by Gene mutations.


  • The hepcidin hormone which is released by the liver, is a central regulator of iron in the body.
  • Dysregulation of the hormone leads to anaemia on one hand and excess iron accumulation in organs such as liver and heart leading to multi-organ failure.
  • Hepcidin hormone is low in the hemochromatosis patients, and that this causes iron overload.
  • Mutations in about six genes are known to cause reduction in hepcidin hormone production thereby causing excess iron accumulation.
  • This is the first time that researchers have been able to identify and tell that the NFkB pathway regulates liver hepcidin production.
  • In India, Hemochromatosis is still not commonly seen, perhaps because of our underlying iron deficiency. But Thalassemia, is a serious problem where iron overload is very common.


  • Hemochromatosis causes your body to absorb too much iron from the food you eat. Excess iron is stored in your organs, especially your liver, heart and pancreas.
  • Too much iron can lead to life-threatening conditions, such as liver disease, heart problems and diabetes.


  • Hereditary hemochromatosis is caused by a mutation in a gene that controls the amount of iron your body absorbs from the food you eat.
  • The genes that cause hemochromatosis are inherited, but only a minority of people who have the genes ever develop serious problems.


  • Early symptoms include Joint pain, Abdominal pain, Fatigue, Weakness Later symptoms include Diabetes, Loss of sex drive, Impotence, Heart failure, Liver failure.
  • Some people with hereditary hemochromatosis never has symptoms. Hereditary hemochromatosis is present at birth. But, most people don’t experience signs and symptoms until later in life usually between the ages of 50 and 60 in men and after age 60 in women. Women are more likely to develop symptoms after menopause, when they no longer lose iron with menstruation and pregnancy.


  • Treatment includes regularly removing blood from your body. Because much of the body’s iron is contained in red blood cells, this treatment lowers iron levels.

NEU Print Skin (Neuromorphic Printed Tactile Skin)

  • Project on creating a robotic hand covered in so-called “brainy skin” that mimics the human sense of touch.
  • Brainy Skin reacts like human skin, which has its own neurons that respond immediately to touch rather than having to relay the whole message to the brain.
  • This electronic “thinking skin” is made from silicon-based printed neural transistors and graphene – an ultra-thin form of carbon that is only an atom thick, but stronger than steel. The new version in the making is said to be more powerful, less cumbersome and would work better than earlier prototypes.
  • Inspired by real skin, this project will harness the technological advances in electronic engineering to mimic some features of human skin, such as softness, bendability and now, also sense of touch.
  • Brainy Skin is critical for the autonomy of robots and for a safe human-robot interaction to meet emerging societal needs such as helping the elderly.

Stem Cells Trial to Flight Parkinson’s

Japanese researchers announced the first human trial using a kind of stem cell to treat Parkinson’s disease.

About the Research:

  • The research team plans to inject five million induced Pluripotent Stem (iPS) cells, which have the potential to develop into any cell in the body, into patient brains.
  • The iPS cells from healthy donors will be developed into dopamine-producing brain cells, which are no longer present in people with Parkinson’s disease.
  • iPS cells are created by stimulating mature, already specialised, cells back into a juvenile state — basically cloning without the need for an embryo.
  • The primates with Parkinson’s symptoms regained significant mobility after iPS cells were inserted into their brains.

Parkinson’s Disease:

  • Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects predominately dopamine-producing (“dopaminergic”) neurons in a specific area of the brain called substantia nigra.
  • Symptoms generally develop slowly over years.
  • The progression of symptoms is often a bit different from one person to another due to the diversity of the disease. People may experience:
    • Tremor.
    • Bradykinesia(slowed movement).
    • Limb rigidity.
    • Gait and balance problems.
    • Loss of automatic movements.
    • Speech changes.
    • Writing changes.

The cause remains largely unknown. Although there is no cure, treatment options vary and include medications and surgery.

Stem Cell Therapy:

  • Stem cells are a class of undifferentiated cells that are able to differentiate into specialized cell types. Commonly, stem cells come from two main sources
  • Embryos formed during the blastocyst phase of embryological development (embryonic stem cells) and Adult tissue (adult stem cells).
  • Both types are generally characterized by their potency, or potential to differentiate into different cell types (such as skin, muscle, bone, etc.).
  • Stem Cell Therapy (SCT) is the treatment of various disorders, non-serious to life threatening, by using stem cells.
  • These stem cells can be procured from a lot of different sources and used to potentially treat more than 80 disorders, including neuromuscular and degenerative disorders.

Applications of Stem Cell Therapy:

  • Brain and spinal cord injury
  • Generation of heart muscle cells
  • Stimulating growth of new blood vessels to repopulate damaged heart tissue
  • Secretion of growth factors
  • Blood-cell formation
  • Re growing teeth
  • Cochlear hair cell regrowth
  • Wound healing
  • Blindness and vision impairment

Adult Versus Embryonic Stem Cells:

  • Embryonic stem cells are present only in very early embryos whereas adult stem cells are present in tissues of children and adults.
  • Since the embryonic cells are unspecialized cells, they have the potential to develop into any cell type. In contrast, the adult stem cells are only capable of producing into tissue specific cell types.
  • The adult stem cells are difficult to grow in culture. The Embryonic stem cells, in contrast, can be easily grown in culture.
  • Unlike the adult stem cells, the embryonic stem cells can multiply indefinitely resulting in a very large number of daughter cells.
  • The Embryonic cells can be easily obtained from the early embryos while the adult cells are very rare so that they are difficult to obtain from the body.
  • The Embryonic stem cells have more potential to become cancerous while the adult stem cells have less potential to be so.

What do diet pills do? Do they work? – Burniva

Alzheimer Disease

For The First time a drug was able to reduce the Plaques the brain of Patients and slow the progression of Dementia.

Alzheimer’s versus dementia:

  • Dementia is an umbrella term for a range of conditions that involve a loss of cognitive functioning.
  • Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia. It involves plaques and tangles forming in the brain. Symptoms start gradually and are most likely to include a decline in cognitive function and language ability.
  • Other types of dementia include Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. People can have more than one type of dementia.


  • Reduced ability to take in and remember new information
  • Impairments to reasoning, complex tasking, and exercising judgment
  • Impaired visuospatial abilities that are not, for example, due to eye sight problems
  • Impaired speaking, reading and writing Changes in personality and behavior


The progression of Alzheimer’s can be broken down into three main stages:

  • Preclinical, before symptoms appear
  • Mild cognitive impairment, when symptoms are mild
  • Dementia

Fast facts on Alzheimer’s disease

  • Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia.
  • It happens when plaques containing beta amyloid form in the brain.
  • As symptoms worsen, it becomes harder for people to remember recent events, to reason, and to recognize people they know.
  • Eventually, a person with Alzheimer’s is likely to need full-time assistance.


  • There is no known cure for Alzheimer’s. The death of brain cells cannot be reversed.

However, there are therapeutic interventions that can make it easier for people to live with the disease

DNA Profiling

Why in News?

India’s proposed DNA databank, to be used during investigation into crimes or to find missing persons, will not permanently store details of people.

What is DNA Profiling?

DNA profiling is process of utilizing DNA to identify certain individuals. DNA is a unique biological map that points to a specific person and his or her close consanguinity. It is widely used in law enforcement today for the resolution of crimes and the identification of criminals, as well as in proving or disproving consanguinity claims.

Procedure for DNA Profiling:

The process of DNA fingerprinting involves gathering of samples. Scientists don’t need so much biological samples – only about 100 micrograms – to map the biological information of a specific individual.

  • A smudge of saliva on a drinking straw is more than enough for DNA sampling.
  • The next step is amplifying tell-tale regions.
  • Researchers use the very potent Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) to make several copies of the sample’s tell-tale regions including Short Tandem Repeats (STRs), which varies from person to person.
  • After amplifying the STRs, scientists then start counting the repeats. This is done by attaching fluorescent dyes onto the STR copies, and then running the mixture of STRs through a capillary electrophoresis machine that sizes various DNA fragments.
  • After knowing the size of the repeats, it becomes easier to identify the length of each STR and the number of repetitive units.
  • The final step in DNA profiling is looking for a match. A person whose STR repeats matches those of the sample at all 13 STR regions is at risk of conviction

Pros of DNA Profiling:

  • It is simple, less intrusive testing.
  • It can reduce innocent convictions.
  • It can help solve crimes and identity issues.

The Cons of DNA Profiling:

  • There is a lack of privacy.
  • It raises concerns over third-party access.
  • It can be used the wrong way to convict innocents.
  • The data could be hacked.


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