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Science Monitor: 22 May 2021

Science Monitor: 22 May 2021

1. Anti-COVID drug developed by DRDO-INMAS:

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Taking a step further in the war against the novel coronavirus scientists at DRDO's Institute of Nuclear Medicine and Allied Sciences (INMAS) have developed an indigenous anti-COVID drug. The drug called 2-DG is a derivative of glucose and will reduce the recovery time and oxygen dependency in SCOVID patients by hampering the growth of the virus.

About the drug:

  • In the midst of the outbreak of the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, India has achieved a major breakthrough. The first anti-COVID drug developed by the Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) was launched on the 17th of May at the DRDO headquarters in New DelhHow does the drug work?i.

  • India's Defense Minister Rajnath Singh and Union Minister of Science and Technology Earth Sciences Health and Family Welfare Dr. Harsh Vardhan launched the first batch of the indigenous drug 2-deoxy-D-glucose (2-DG).

  • After a successful phase III trial, the Drugs Controller General of India has approved the emergency use of 2-DG. This medicine prepared in the form of sachets is administered after being dissolved in water, it can greatly reduce the virus load in patients.

  • The 2-DG drug is actually an altered form of glucose molecule and is used in the treatment of tumors and cancer cells. During the first wave of the novel coronavirus, DRDO-INMAS scientists started researching the drug and found it effective against the COVID-19 infection.

  • When a virus gains entry into our body, it uses the machinery and energy of our cells to replicate, drug 2-DG will interrupt this process. Like glucose cells will readily accept 2-DG molecule but unlike glucose 2-DG will inhibit the process of energy release. This will prevent the virus from growing and will also reduce oxygen consumption in the cells.

  • By stopping the growth of the virus, the drug will help the patient to recover faster and at the same time the patient will also be less dependent on external oxygen.

  • According to scientists, the selective accumulation of drug in infected cells makes the drug special as all variants of the virus use the same mechanism to grow and replicate so the drug should be effective against all the variants.

  • At present, 2-DG is being used as an adjunct COVID therapy. 2 doses of 2-DG can be given daily for 5 to 7 days. After examining the data of the medicine, the drug can be added to National COVID-19 Treatment Protocol.

  • In the second wave of coronavirus, the need for oxygen has increased many fold and now there are indications of a third wave too, in such a situation this indigenous drug developed by the DRDO can help in the safe recovery of COVID patients as well as relieve some of the pressure on our health services.

2. Effective Ventilation System for PPE kit user:

Context:

A Pune based startup has developed a PPE kit ventilation technology for front-line COVID warriors with support from the Department of Science and Technology of the Government of India. This simple technique can provide great relief to the COVID warriors, especially those wearing PPE kits for long hours at a stretch.

About the System:

  • This PPE kit is extremely uncomfortable due to being air tight, it causes persistent sweating that does not dry up and increases the risk of skin diseases for its users. Now a solution has been found for this problem by Pune based startup Watt Technovations.

  • The startup incubated at RIIDL lab of Somaiya Vidyavihar University, Mumbai has developed a technology called ‘Cov-Tech Ventilation System’ that can be very easily applied with a slight modification to a normal PPE kit.

  • The ventilation system prevents excessive sweating inside the PPE kits. This innovation supported by the National Science and Technology Entrepreneurship Development Board (NSTEDB) of the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India can provide considerable relief to healthcare workers when they use the PPE kits.

  • In this compact, economical and user-friendly device to provide a ventilation system for PPE suits, a small fan and a 12-volt battery is mounted on a belt that can be worn around the waist. The normal PPE kit is worn over these two holes one at the back near the waist and one on the top side to allow air to pass out have to be made in the PPE kits.

  • These holes are sealed by N-95 level filters, the fan on the belt is taken out of the hole near the back with the hole then being sealed with the N-95 level filter. In this way, the fan moves as soon as the switch is turned on and fresh air reaches inside the PPE kit. The system automatically throws air every 100 seconds when turned on. This technique will keep healthcare workers not only well ventilated but also prevent possible fungal infections.

  • In addition to the grant in aid under the NIDHI programme of the Department of Science and Technology, the research innovation incubation design laboratory RIIDL of Somaiya Vidyavihar University, has also provided financial support to develop this innovative solution.

  • This technology is currently being made available by the startup as and when required, efforts are also being made for mass production of the Cov-Tech Ventilation System.

3. Government-supported startup develops affordable COVID-19 test kits for rural areas:

COVID-19 test kits

  • A start-up supported by the Department of Science and Technology of the Government of India has developed inexpensive test kits for early diagnosis of COVID-19 in rural and resource deficient areas.

  • It is a rapid-antigen test kit prepared by the start-up Patanjali Pharma incubated by IIT Mumbai. The COVID-19 test kit is priced at a low price of Rs 100.  Patanjali Pharma was supported under DST’s Center for Augmenting War with the COVID-19 Health Crisis (CAWACH).

  • The test kit is based on examination of samples taken from the nose and saliva and gives results in 10 to 15 minutes. The start-up plans to rapidly conduct antigen tests in rural and remote areas starting June 2021 using these affordable test kits.

  • This kit will also be effective in clinics and areas where pathology labs are not available. These indigenous resources can be helpful in early diagnosis of COVID-19 and in controlling the pandemic.

4. Science Express

1. Machine Learning Method for Star Identification:

See the source image

  • Scientists at the Indian Institute of Astrophysics have developed a new method based on machine learning by which a particular star can be identified from a star cluster with greater accuracy and ease.

  • This method can be used on star clusters of all ages, distances and densities. This method has been used to identify hundreds of additional stars for 6 different clusters up to 18,000 light years away.

  • Studying stars and how they evolve is the cornerstone of astronomy but understanding them is difficult since they are observed at different ages that is why a star cluster is a great place to study stars.

  • Since clusters are part of the milky way galaxy, there are many stars between the clusters and us. It is not easy to identify and select the stars of a particular cluster.

  • Astronomers at IIA used the European space agency's recently released Gaia Early Data Release 3 which gives very accurate information about the brightness, parallax and proper motion of more than a billion stars with an accuracy of one milli arc second to pick up the stars that are cluster members.

  • Scientists understood the complex relationship between these parameters using machine learning technique called Probabilistic Random Forest. This new artificial intelligence-based algorithm is expected to accelerate this process.

2. Lightening Might Be Helpful in Clearing Pollutants:

Image result for Lightening Might Be Helpful in Clearing Pollutants

  • According to scientists, lightning might be helpful in clearing pollutants from the air, it was observed during an airplane flight that lightning creates high amounts of oxidants.

  • These oxidants have the ability to purify the atmosphere by reacting with pollutants such as methane. It was already a known fact that lightning could produce oxidants but the phenomenon was never observed directly.

  • In 2012, a NASA jet recorded this phenomenon while flying over Colorado, Oklahoma and Texas amidst stormy clouds. The devices on board the NASA jet measure the combined concentrations of two oxidants hydroxyl radicals that is OH and the corresponding hydroperoxyl radical HO2 in the clouds.

  • After the lighting the amount of these molecules in the air increased to a great extent, all of this happened very quickly which was later confirmed by laboratory tests and it was concluded that lightning and thunderclap could actually produce a lot of OH and HO2.

  • On an average 1800 such storms arise all over the world at any time and it was estimated that thunderclap is responsible for 2-16 percent of all atmospheric oxidants.

3. Parts of Greenland may be on the verge of tipping, suggests new study:

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  • According to recent environmental studies, a part of Greenland's ice is on the verge of extinction, researchers have warned that if the entire sheet of Greenland ice melts rapidly, sea water levels around the world could rise by up to 7 meters.

  • It is also expected to increase global warming due to disruptions of major ocean currents, monsoon rainforest, wind systems and rainfall patterns.

  • Researchers at Germany's Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and the Arctic University, Norway have deduced from data from a drainage basin which shows that the ice sheet of central western Greenland has reached a tipping point.

  • Researchers have been carefully studying the rate of melting of the ice sheet and the change in the height of the ice sheet over the last 140 years.

  • These institutions have now proposed close monitoring of the Greenland ice sheet to keep an eye on the situation. The study has been published in the international research journal PNAS.

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