ISRO to develop full-fledged Earth observation satellite
August 9, 2017 (Bengaluru)
A new set of future satellites called hyperspectral imaging satellites is set to add teeth to the way India is gleaned from about 600 km in space.
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) says it plans to launch a full-fledged niche Earth observation (EO) satellite ? called the Hyperspectral Imaging Satellite or HySIS ? using a critical chip it has developed.
There is no specific time-frame yet for its launch, an ISRO spokesman said, adding that meanwhile, the new chip, technically called an "optical imaging detector array," that they have created for it would be tested and perfected.
"ISRO is endeavouring to enter the domain of operational hyperspectral imaging from earth orbit" with a satellite that can see in 55 spectral or colour bands from 630 km above ground," the space organisation has said. It said it decided to develop the chip that suited Indian requirements.
Hyperspectral or hyspex imaging is said to be an EO trend that is being experimented globally. Adding a new dimension to plain-vanilla optical imagers, it can be used for a range of activities from monitoring the environment, crops, looking for oil and minerals all the way up to military surveillance ? all of which need images that show a high level of differentiation of the object or scene.
About a decade ago, ISRO added another EO niche with microwave or radar imaging satellites RISAT-1 and 2 that could 'see' through clouds and the dark ? an important feature useful for the military and security agencies.
'Hyspex' imaging is said to enable distinct identification of objects, materials or processes on Earth by reading the spectrum for each pixel of a scene from space.
Another official described it as "another important development by ISRO in its quest for better and diverse Earth observation technologies."
ISRO first tried it out in an 83-kg IMS-1 experimental satellite in May 2008. The same year, a hyperspectral camera was put on Chandrayaan-1 and used to map lunar mineral resources. Very few space agencies have such a satellite; a German environmental satellite called EnMAP is due to be launched on an Indian booster in 2018.
The payloads development centre, Space Applications Centre, Ahmedabad, designed the architecture of the chip which was made at ISRO's electronics arm, the Semi-Conductor Laboratory, Chandigarh. The result was a detector array that could read 1000 x 66 pixels.
According to an EO expert who called it the 'CATSCAN' equivalent of Earth from space, hyspex technology was still an evolving science. It came with many challenges and, as such, space agencies were still ironing out its issues after many years.
In a move that would give strategic advantage to the country, the Indian Space Research Organisat
August 4, 2017(N. Delhi)
In a move that would give strategic advantage to the country, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on Friday signed a pact with the New Delhi-based National Physical Laboratory (NPL) to use the "official time" provided by the latter for its indigenous global positioning system, the Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS).
Linking the IRNSS to high-precision atomic clocks maintained at NPL ? the official timekeepers to the nation and a constituent laboratory of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) ? would help ISRO end its dependence on the United States Naval Observatory (USNO) for time synchronisation. Moreover, this will bring down the error in time precision to less than 20 nanoseconds. One nanosecond is one-billionth of a second.
Currently, when IRNSS, which can be used for accurate positional information services, just like GPS or Russia's GLONASS, tracks an event or location, it gives out time with respect to Coordinated Universal Time as per the time maintained by atomic clocks at the USNO.
"(There is) no way we can know what was the time with reference to Indian Standard Time," said VV Srinivasan, Director of ISRO Telemetry Tracking and Command Network, who signed the memorandum of understanding with CSIR-NPL director Dinesh Aswal. The deal with ISRO is expected to bring NPL an annual revenue of ₹1 crore or more, a source said.
High-precision time measurements are becoming increasingly important for different sectors of the economy. Smart grids for electricity distribution, for instance, need precise time synchronisation to avoid outages. Similarly, resolving cyber crimes would require the exact time of online fraud as million of transactions are done every second, the ISRO official said.
"Currently, we all use GPS for tracking and location services. GPS is not a NASA project, it is owned by the US Department of Defense. Anytime they can stop you from accessing GPS data. They have already done that in West Asia during the wars in the recent past," another ISRO official present on the occasion said.
Linking to the IST would be strategically important as various government ministries and departments, including some strategic ones, and the public at large are expected to move to the IRNSS very soon, he said. The IRNSS became operational with ISRO launching seven navigational satellites last year.
IIT scientists develop silk mats that could treat arthritis
August 6, 2017 (N. Delhi)
Scientists from IIT Guwahati have synthesised mats made of silk-proteins and bioactive glass fibres that they believe can assist the growth of bone cells and repair worn-out joints in arthritis patients.
The disease most commonly affects joints in the knees, hips, hands, feet, and spine and is marked by the breakdown of joint cartilage and underlying bones.
Left untreated, it can cause severe pain, swelling, and eventually limited range of movement.
"Current clinical treatment methods are limited by lack of viable tissue substitutes to aid the repair process," Biman B Mandal from Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati (IITG) told PTI.
To develop a suitable tissue substitute, scientists, including those from the University College London in the UK, looked into the natural bone-cartilage interface and tried to mimic it synthetically in lab conditions.
Knee osteoarthritis is the most common bone and joint disease in India. However, Mandal pointed out that the available clinical grafts were expensive.
"We used silk, a natural protein to fabricate electrospun mats to mimic the cartilage portion and bioactive glass to develop a composite material, similar to the natural tissue," said Mandal.
For the mat, scientists used a kind of silk easily available in North-east India.
"Muga (Assam) silk is endowed with properties that enhance the healing process," he said.
The researchers adopted a green fabrication approach for the developing the silk composite mats - electrospinning.
"It is similar to knitting, except that it utilises electric high voltage force to draw ultrafine fibres," Mandal said.
A layer by layer approach was followed, where the bone layer was first formed, on top of which the cartilage layer was developed. The resulting composite mat resembled the architecture of the bone-cartilage interface.
Remember the 2014 Oscar-winning sci-fi movie "Interstellar", where a group of volunteers travels across the galaxy in search of a new home for humanity? In real life, however, only five Nasa spacecraft have gone beyond the planets of our solar system. Interstellar missions (travelling between stars or planetary systems) remain only in the realms of possibility.
Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) became part of a global project that will help bring star travel closer to reality, when its PSLV C38 rocket launched six prototypes of tiny interstellar spacecraft, or sprites, into low-earth orbit on June 23 this year.
The good news is that one of these six stamp-sized sprites, which weigh just 4gm and are 3.5cm long, has managed to establish contact with ground stations, becoming the smallest spacecraft ever to do so. It's being seen as a giant step in space technology, with the Isro launch sowing the seed of what could be future interstellar missions.
The six interstellar spacecraft or sprites, launched, are part of an ambitious, multi-million dollar 'Breakthrough Starshot' research project being funded by Russian billionaire and tech investor Yuri Milner and supported by cosmologist Stephen Hawking.
Breakthrough Starshot aims to send a fleet of sprites to Alpha Centauri ? our closest star system located about 4.37 light years away from the Earth. Each sprite, weighing just 4 gm, carries with it sensors, solar panels, radio equipment and computers on a single circuit board. The sensors on each circuit board will enable scientists to track their movement in space.
Though India's Cartosat-2 satellite was the main payload of the June 23 launch, the PSLV C38 carried with it 29 nano satellites from 14 countries. The six sprite prototypes piggybacked on Venta and Max Valier educational satellites (two of the 29 satellites).
While Venta-1 is a Latvian satellite built in collaboration with Germany, Max Valier is a nano satellite co-developed by teams of Germany and Italy. Another four sprites are still mounted on Max Valier and await deployment.
India to see launch of 2 moon missions in early 2018
July 30, 2017 (N. Delhi)
The country will witness the launch of two lunar missions from Indian soil early next year: Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) will launch its Chandrayaan-2 mission, an advanced version of its previous 2018 mission with the objective of deeper lunar surface probe, and another mission by Team Indus, a group of space enthusiasts who want to unfurl the tricolour on the moon's surface as part of a global lunar competition.
Team Indus, comprising mostly young engineers and led by IIT-Delhi alumnus Rahul Narayan, is planning the mission as part of a global contest to win $30 million Google Lunar XPRIZE, which stipulates the rover of a competing team has to move 500 metre on the moon's surface and should be able to beam back high-definition images back to Earth.
To fulfil its ambition, Team Indus has roped in investors like Infosys co-founder and former UIDAI chairman Nandan Nilekani and space experts such as former Isro chairman K Kasturirangan and many experienced old hands from the Indian space agency.
Praising the aerospace startup, Nilekani told TOI, "Team Indus is pursuing a big hairy audacious goal. I invested in Team Indus as I believe in their audacious mission to reach and land on the moon."
Confirming the use of PSLV service for the Team Indus project, Isro chairman A S Kiran Kumar told TOI, "Team Indus has signed an agreement with Antrix (Isro's commercial arm) for using the launch service of PSLV."
Explaining the difference between the two missions, the Isro chairman said, "Both the missions are scientifically and technically totally different.
Even the instruments used in the two spacecrafts will be different. There is no question of any comparison." Kiran Kumar wished Team Indus "all the best for the mission". Besides Team Indus, a US team (Moon Express), an Israeli team (SpaceIL) and an international team (Synergy Moon) have also procured launch contracts.
While Team Indus is using the service of PSLV to take its 600-kg baby spacecraft to the lunar orbit, Isro will use its heavylift rocket GSLV Mk II for the mission. Dr K Sivan, director of Thiruvananthapuram-based Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, told TOI, "Unlike the 2008 Chandrayaan-1 mission when PSLV rocket was used for carrying the spacecraft, this time Isro is planning to take a heavier payload (combined launch mass: 3,250 kg) comprising orbiter, lander and rover to the moon. Therefore, GSLV Mk II is the preferred choice."
Basic science labs for all senior secondary schools in the north-eastern states
July 27, 2017(N. Delhi)
India's department of biotechnology (DBT) will sponsor the setting up of science laboratories in eligible schools in the north-eastern states to promote better understanding of science at school level.
The department has invited applications from senior or higher secondary schools offering science courses under the Basic Science Labs in Senior Secondary Schools (BLiSS) project.
The aim of the programme is to create scientific awareness in students and attract students to multidisciplinary research areas.
The labs created under the scheme will provide facilities for experiments in all science subjects, including biology, biotechnology, physics and chemistry.
Schools will be provided grants of up to Rs 26 lakh over three years ? R 20 lakh for equipment and a R 2-lakh annually recurring grant for procuring materials, such as chemicals and glassware. The host school will have to provide the necessary space and administrative support for the labs.
DBT has called for applications from schools.
All government and private schools can apply and will be selected and categorised according to the number of regular science teachers, status of their science labs, fee structure, infrastructure, source of other income.
The project will cover the cost of travel for experts or faculty for trainings and workshops and give travel support for students attending short-term trainings across in India.
The labs will receive mentoring from the nearest institutional or state level biotech hub under the biotechnology department.
This is part of the new initiatives by the Ministry of Science and Technology to promote science education at school level. Recently, Kendriya Vidyalayas tied up with the Council of Scientific Research (CSIR) to launch a student-scientist connect programme. Under the programme, nearly one lakh students studying in Kendriya Vidyalaya's across India will be able to do projects at 38 national laboratories.
Mortality, other losses ascribed to poor breastfeeding can cost Indian economy $14 billion: UN
August 2, 2017
Nearly one lakh children die every year in India due to diseases that could have been prevented through breastfeeding, according to a United Nations report, which also notes that mortality and other losses attributed to inadequate breastfeeding can cost the country's economy $14 billion.
The Global Breastfeeding Scorecard, a new report by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and World Health Organisation (WHO) in collaboration with the Global Breastfeeding Collective, points out that breastfeeding not only helps prevent diarrhoea and pneumonia, two major causes of death in infants, it also helps reduce mothers' risk of ovarian and breast cancer, two leading causes of death among women.
In China, India, Nigeria, Mexico and Indonesia alone, inadequate breastfeeding is responsible for more than 2,36,000 child deaths each year.
In these countries, the estimated future economic cost of mortality and cognitive losses attributed to inadequate breastfeeding are estimated to be almost USD 119 billion a year.
The report says that despite a reported 55 per cent exclusive breastfeeding rate in children below the age of six months, the large population in India and high under five mortality means that an estimated 99,499 children die each year as a result of cases of diarrhoea and pneumonia that could have been prevented through early initiation of breastfeeding, exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months, and continued breastfeeding.
Further, the high level of child mortality and growing number of deaths in women from cancers and type II diabetes attributable to inadequate breastfeeding is estimated to drain the Indian economy of $7 billion. Together with another $7 billion in costs related to cognitive losses, India is poised to lose an estimated $14 billion in its economy, or 0.70 per cent of its Gross National Income.
"Breastfeeding gives babies the best possible start in life," says Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director General.
Breastmilk works like a baby's first vaccine, protecting infants from potentially deadly diseases and giving them all the nourishment they need to survive and thrive, he adds.
Yet, the scorecard, which evaluated 194 nations, reveals that no country in the world fully meets the recommended breastfeeding standards. It found that only 40 per cent of children younger than six months are given nothing but breastmilk and only 23 countries have exclusive breastfeeding rates above 60 per cent.
The scorecard was released at the start of World Breastfeeding Week alongside a new analysis, demonstrating that an annual investment of only $4.70 per newborn is required to increase the global rate of exclusive breastfeeding among children under six months to 50 per cent by 2025.
The analysis suggests that meeting this target can save the lives of 5,20,000 children under the age of five and potentially generate $300 billion in economic gains over 10 years, as a result of reduced illness and health care costs and increased productivity.
"Breastfeeding is one of the most effective ? and cost effective ? investments nations can make in the health of their youngest members and the future health of their economies and societies," says UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake.
"By failing to invest in breastfeeding, we are failing mothers and their babies ? and paying a double price: in lost lives and in lost opportunity."
Globally, investment in breastfeeding is far too low. Each year, governments in lower and middle income countries spend approximately $250 million on breastfeeding promotion ? donors provide only an additional $85 million.
C-DAC develops electronic pill box to improve tracking of tuberculosis
July 31, 2017(Pune)
After successful trials of malaria disease tracking in Dibrugrah district in Assam, experts at Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) have now extended the use of technology to develop an electronic pill box, which will automatically send alerts to the system tracking tuberculosis (TB). TB is highly prevalent among tea plantation workers of Assam. C-DAC has partnered with Regional Medical Research Centre (RMRC) of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) to identify the risk factors and provide timely medical assistance, all on mobile and web-based platforms.
Not only will the information add to the real-time data of the disease being gathered, but also help improve the treatment adherence in this hilly terrain, where a large number of suffering patients live in inaccessible areas. This system ? Tuberculosis Treatment Adherence System ?using Information Communi-cations Technology (ICT) and mobile technology (mDOTS), will be deployed at a select TB units, each covering a population of about 6 lakh, in the district.
Experts are hopeful that with better surveillance system, the Multi-Drug Resistent-TB (MDR-TB) and Extra Drug-Resistent-TB (XDR-TB) can also be largely curtailed. C-DAC has been involved in developing technology using ICT for strengthening the surveillance system in public health care existing in the north east, particularly in Assam and Tripura. Explaining the idea of the e-pill box, currently in its trial stages, was team member of C-DAC's Artificial Intelligence (AI) team Ganesh Karajkhede, who said, "The basic purpose of e-pill box, is to obtain real-time data from the first-hand user, that is the patient. This will help strengthen the mechanism of gathering and tracking the disease."
However, scientists find the duration of the treatment regime the biggest challenge, which may also derail the tracking these patients, given that TB treatment can last anytime between six to nine months continuously.
"There is also IVRS-based and SMS alerts sent to patients, which has helped bring more patients to follow required treatment schedule. Now, fewer number of patients reportedly miss any dosages of medicine," explained Lakshmi Panat, joint director of AI team.
Scooping out oil spills made easy by IISER Thiruvananthapuram
July 29, 2017(Thiruvananthapuram)
More efficient and quick absorption of crude oil from the sea following marine spill has now become possible thanks to scientists from the Indian Institute of Science, Education and Research (IISER) in Thiruvananthapuram who have developed a hydrophobic sorbent that can suck up oil and congeal it. A hydrophobic material automatically becomes oil-loving and takes up oil when it comes in contact with it. The results were published in the journal Angewandte Chemie.
A two-member research team led by Prof. Kana M. Sureshan from the School of Chemistry at IISER developed the hydrophobic sorbent by using a cheap raw material (mannitol) and cellulose pulp as a matrix. Mannitol was converted into a hydrophobic gelator through a one-step process and a solution was made using this compound. Cellulose balls the size of marbles were then dipped in the solution and dried.
"The gelator gets adsorbed on the cellulose fibre through hydrogen bonding. This process of adsorption of gelator on the cellulose fibre matrix changes the cellulose matrix from being very hydrophilic (water-loving) to hydrophobic (water repelling)," says Prof. Sureshan. A hydrophobic material naturally becomes oleilophilic (oil-loving).
Unlike other alternatives, the sorbent can be easily applied over oil-water mixture ,and no solvent is needed for spraying the gelator thus making it environmental benign.The gelator adsorbed on the surface of cellulose fibre is able to absorb oil when it comes in contact with it.
"Once the sorbent sucks the oil, the gelator slowly gets released from the cellulose fibre and congealing of oil takes place," Prof. Sureshan says. Only when the oil congeals can it be removed without the oil dripping due to gravity.
Congealing of oil becomes possible as the gelator used by the team self-assembles to form micro fibres and the oil loses its fluidity and gets trapped within the entangled fibrous network to form a rigid gel. Gelation essentially turns the liquid oil phase into a semi-solid one and this allows the fibre balls with the congealed oil to be simply scooped out or removed using a scoop or a sieve.
"It takes only about 30 minutes to two hours from the time of application to scooping out the rigid fibre balls containing congealed oil, leaving behind clean water. Since crude oil spreads quickly in the sea after a spill, it is necessary to quickly remove the oil from water," Prof. Sureshan says.
The team tested the ability of their sorbent to congeal oil using six different crude oils, including the one from Bombay High.
Irrespective of the different viscosities of the six crude oils tested, the sorbent was able to absorb the oil and the rigid globules could be scooped out in 30 minutes to two hours.
Studies found that the sorbent was able to absorb and congeal 16 times its own weight of oil. The absorbed oil can be recovered by applying pressure or fractionated by a simple distillation process.
Researchers at Delhi's CSIR-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (CSIR-IGIB) have found the mechanism by which controlling the levels of telomerase can help in reining in the growth of cancer cells and probably prevent cancer metastasis. The results were published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.
Unlike normal cells, most cancer cells have high levels of telomerase and this leads to more than normal length of the telomere. Telomeres protect chromosome ends somewhat like the plastic clips at the end of shoelaces that prevent fraying of the ends. While cells die when the telomere becomes shorter beyond a certain limit, in the case of cancer cells the length of the telomere is maintained thereby ensuring extended life span of the cells.
In normal cells the telomerase is kept under tight control. But in about 85% of all cancers the telomerase levels are more than normal leading to malignant transformation and aggressive metastasis in many cases. "It is not clearly understood how telomerase is kept under tight control in normal cells and how the telomerase levels gets increased in cancerous cells," says Dr. Shantanu Chowdhury from the Genomics and Molecular Medicine Unit at IGIB and the corresponding author of the paper.
It is already known that when the amount of a particular protein that suppresses the spread of cancer (metastasis) called nonmetastatic 2 (NME2) is high the tendency of the cancer to spread is low. But what came as a surprise is the role of this protein in controlling the telomerase levels as well. "How NME2 controls metastasis is not clearly understood. But surprisingly we found that NME2 controls the levels of telomerase," Dr. Chowdhury says.
The researchers found that NME2 binds to a DNA structure (G-quadrauplex) found in the telomerase promoter. Once bound, the NME2 facilitates a well known suppressor of gene expression (REST complex) to bind to the telomerase promoter and control the production of telomerase.
"Experiments show that if you don't have NME2 then the REST suppressor cannot bind to the telomerase promoter and control the production of telomerase," says Dhurjhoti Saha from IGIB and one of the first authors of the paper.
"We used proteomics approach to study the protein-protein interactions. We could identify protein members of the REST complex that interact with NME2. The IGIB team then confirmed the role of the REST complex and its function," says Dr. Ramesh Ummanni, from the Centre for Chemical Biology at the CSIR-Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (CSIR-IICT), Hyderabad and a co-author of the paper.
"We established that the DNA structure (G-quadrauplex) could be a possible drug target once we understood the mechanism of NME2 binding to the promoter followed by the REST suppressor complex," Dr. Chowdhury says. The involvement of a DNA structural architecture allowed the team to use small molecules that recognised the specific structure.
Since the amount of NME2 is low in many metastatic cancerous cells, the researchers used small molecules that were able to function like NME2 by recognising and binding to the DNA structure. "We screened 20 molecules and 11 were able to bring down the telomerase level in fibrosarcoma cancer cells," Dr. Chowdhury says.
Based on the initial lead from the small molecules, the researchers are planning to synthesise new molecules to optimise for drug-like characteristics for therapeutic use. The molecules will then be tested on animals.
Food processing is the answer to agrarian woes: Union Minister
July 27, 2017 (Hyderabad)
For a country which is the the second highest producer of fruits and vegetables and the sixth largest consumer, and yet faces agrarian crises, the food processing industry is the best answer. The sector is estimated to garner a 70% share growth in food economy, from the current $600 billion to $1.3 trillion in the next few years, said Union Minister of Food Processing Industries Harsimrat Kaur Badal here on Thursday.
"Just 10% of our food produce is being processed. If countries like Thailand and Malaysia are processing 70% of their produce, why can't we? With our recently released policy of 'Kisan Sampada Yojana' and a corpus fund of ₹6000 crore, we are hoping to raise food processing output by another 5% including incentives," she said, at the roadshow on 'World Food India-2017' organised by the Ministry in association with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).
'World Food India - 2017' would be organised at New Delhi between November 3 and 5 and inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It would have countries, States, organisations, industry and others showcasing their respective products, processes, technologies etc., to facilitate collaborations and investment opportunities.
Urging TS government to participate in the mega event, Mrs. Kaur hailed the policies initiated here and said promoting food processing would not only save wastage of food but would also help farmers, consumers and the country as a whole with more income, employment, quality food and help price control as well as reduce wastage.
"No one can ignore India. Our industry is poised for high growth because of our young population. Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) has increased by 40% within a year and this year investments were worth US$183 million," she said.
Willing to host
TS Industries Minister K.T. Rama Rao urged her to make the event an annual feature and offered to host it in Hyderabad since it was the centre for poultry, seeds besides producing good variety of fruits and vegetables. Thanking the Centre for allocating four food parks, he said that the one at Buggapadu (near Khammam) was expected to go on stream within a year. With NABARD's help of ₹1,042 crore, storage space is being increased to 21 lakh metric tonnes from four lakh MT.
Earlier, Joint secretary, MoFPI, Anuradha Prasad in her presentation said that the grants up to 35% cost (₹3-50 crore) would be given for proposals for new units, expansion, training, linkages, R&D, STPs, etc., including storage, chilling plants, retail, packing, transport, milling and so on. Under Kisan Sampada Yojana, ₹6,000 crore is to be spent by 2019-20 giving thrust to the sector. Soon, a model food processing policy is to be unveiled which can be adopted by the States. CII National Council member and CMD of Rasna Piruz Khambatta and CII (TS) chairman and vice president of TCS V. Rajanna also spoke.
This festive season, PoP idol immersion to be eco-friendly and productive affair
July 24, 2017 (Nagpur)
In a bid to tackle water pollution due to Plaster of Paris (PoP) idol immersion during Ganesh Chaturthi, the National Environmental Engineering and Research Institute (Neeri) in collaboration with city police and Maharashtra Times will be implementing a 'do at home' first-of-its-kind technique this festive season.
Developed by National Chemical Laboratory (NCL), Pune, the technique uses ammonium bicarbonate solution to dissolve the PoP idols and is being introduced for the first time in Vidarbha and second time in the country. Based on a chemical reaction, the by-products formed in this procedure can be used as fertilizers and construction materials.
Krishna Khairnar, a scientist at Neeri's virology division, said, "The process involves usage of ammonium bicarbonate, which when reacts with PoP idols in the presence of water, forms ammonium sulphate and calcium carbonate as by products along with water. Both the resultants are eco-friendly, with the former being used as fertilizer and the latter as construction material."
The idea germinated when Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) approached NCL following the Bombay High Court's ban on PoP idols in 2011. Despite the ban, people continued using PoP idols, resulting in massive pollution of water bodies. "We then decided to develop a scientific solution to the problem which can be implemented at homes too," said Shubhangi Umbarkar, scientist at NCL.
In late 2014, MK Dongare, retired senior scientist and Umbarkar started working on this project. "Since religious sentiments are attached with the festival, we knew people would refrain from using chemicals and decided to go for food grade. We first experimented with baking soda but it didn't work out. Next, we tried using different carbonate containing compounds but that too failed to achieve desired results," said Umbarkar.
Finally, ammonium bicarbonate, which is commonly used in bakery, gave the expected outcome. "Last year, the technique was implemented in Pune and more than 30,000 idols were successfully disintegrated in an eco-friendly manner. PMC even bought 100 tonnes of ammonium bicarbonate and distributed it to the citizens," added Umbarkar.
This year, Neeri approached NCL and decided to introduce the same in the city. The institute has prepared three tanks, out of which two will be dedicated for immersing PoP idols using NCL's technique.
To assess the effectiveness of the by-products, Neeri will carry out laboratory testing of the residual products, especially heavy metals. "Neeri will be kept open for general public on the visarjan day. This will be a good opportunity for citizens who wish to celebrate in an eco-friendly manner, with Neeri targeting immersion of around 450 idols," said Neeri's PRO Prakash Kumbhare.
Living in a joint family or having more social interactions can help reduce your anxiety level, improve your memory and overcome the effect of chronic stress. In a recent study conducted at National Institute of Mental Health and Neurological Sciences (NIMHANS), Bengaluru, rats that were exposed to a social and interactive environment showed reduced anxiety-like behaviour.
Eight-week- old male rats were separated into four groups. The study group was given stress for 21 days, and for the next 10 days was let out into a wider cage with 10 to 12 other rats along with toys to play such as climbing ladders and rotating tunnels. Various behavioural tests were conducted after this period. Rats exposed to the better environment showed reduced memory problems associated with stress, compared with those that were not given the better cage. The study of their brain also revealed higher long-term potentiation (LTP) which is associated with learning and memory. Thus the scientists were able to show that exposure to such enriched environment can bring out positive effects on the brain and thereby improve cognitive functions. The results were published in Journal of Neuroscience Research.
"Physical contact, sensory stimulation and social interactions help to enhance the spatial recognition and learning process. Neurotic degeneration is also found to be less in the rats which were given the social cage. Now-a-days we have the trend of nuclear families and this could also be one of the reasons for the increased anxiety levels. With more communication and family connections, the chronic stress-induced problems could be reduced," explains Dr. Venkanna Rao Bhagya, Department of Neurophysiology, NIMHANS, first author of the paper.
By mimicking tiny features of insect wings and shark skin, a team from Bengaluru's Indian Institute of Science (IISc) has found a way to prevent bacterial infection on orthopaedic implants without using chemicals.
The team led by Kaushik Chatterjee from the Department of Materials Engineering at IISc relied purely on surface nanostructure to give the titanium metal used in implants the ability to kill bacteria.
Encouraging results were achieved in laboratory studies by making the shiny surface of implants rough through etching. The etched titanium surface is marked by randomly spaced nanopillars of 1 micrometre height and this makes it capable of killing infection-causing bacteria that adhere to the surface. The results were published in the journal Scientific Reports.
The rough surface of titanium was able to mechanically kill, within four hours of contact, nearly 95% of E. coli, 98% of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and 92% of Mycobacterium smegmatis. Though only 22% of Staphylococcus aureus attached to the surface were killed within four hours, the efficiency shot up to 76% at the end of 24 hours.
Research on mechanism
Hospital-based bacterial infections from orthopaedic implants can lead to medical complications.
"We don't know the precise mechanism by which the bacteria get killed. But we think the nanopillar architecture formed by dry etching mechanically ruptures the bacterial cells. Like in the case of the wing surface of cicadas, the bacterial cell membrane might be getting stretched by the nanopillars," says Jafar Hasan from the Department of Materials Engineering at IISc and the first author of the paper.
Bacteria have high motion capability and adhere to the surface to form a biofilm. Since titanium surface is marked by sharp tips, the cell membrane gets mechanically damaged when in contact.
While the disease-causing bacteria get killed, stem cells of the kind that form bone were unaffected by the etched surface.
Unlike bacteria that have rigid membranes, the stem cells are bigger, softer and better able to conform and attach themselves to the rough surface.
"We want to etch actual implants and carry out trials on rats and rabbits to test for bactericidal activity and to understand how the rough implant behaves inside the body and study how the bone attaches itself to the implant and grows," says Dr. Chatterjee, the corresponding author of the paper.
Pune scientists develop new bone graft substitutes
May 19, 2017 (Pune)
Two scientist-entrepreneurs working out of their lab at the Venture Centre of the National Chemical Laboratory (NCL), Pune, have developed two new bone graft substitutes, which will better augment and regenerate bones lost due to any disease or injury. These will also come handy in the case of those with congenital defects.
Doctors that TOI contacted said they were already looking forward to the commercial availability of the products, especially for their near-to-natural composition, porous structure and resorbable feature. And what more! They will be available at a cost lesser than those of the currently-available imported varieties, they said.
It took scientists Nilay Lakhkar and Amol Chaudhari nearly a year to develop the products - PoroSyn and SynOst (bioactive synthetic bone graft granules and putty).
Backed by a financial grant from Biotechnology Industrial Research Assistance Council (BIRAC) for their innovative work in bio-tech products, the scientist-duo have already submitted a provisional patent application for PoroSyn. It has been developed with proprietary technology and is composed of calcium, sodium and phosphorous - three elements naturally found in bones.
They will ensure better uptake of the treatment by the body as well as heal faster.
While the concept has already got the thumbs up at the recent Pitch Fest in the Start Up Bio 2017 event at Bangalore, the process for conducting clinical trials