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Science Monitor: 12 June 2021

Science Monitor: 12 June 2021

1. India’s first indigenous tumour Antigen gets a trademark:

Context:

In a significant development, National Institute of Immunology functioning under the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India has received a trademark for India's first indigenous tumour antigen.

National Institute Of Immunology Gets Trademark For India's First Indigenous Tumor Antigen SPAG9

About the technology:

  • Cervical cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths among women in India. Every year, about 1 lakh women in the country fall prey to this disease. Therefore, every day research is being done to find new ways to treat this rapidly spreading deadly disease.

  • As part of this, researchers from the National Institute of Immunology, an autonomous body under the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India and doctors from the Adyar Cancer Institute in Chennai have been working on this for the last two decades.

  • NII scientist, Dr Anil Suri discovered the country's first tumour antigen SPAG9 in the year 1998. Since then, this immunotherapy was being tested by the Cancer Institute. Recently, a trademark ASPAGNII has been approved for this antigen. This tumour antigen is being used in dendritic cell-based immunotherapy to treat cervical and ovarian cancers and will soon be used to treat breast cancer as well.

  • Cancer immunotherapy is a new method that harnesses the body's intrinsic ability to fight cancer. This involves either boosting the body's immune system or training the T-Cells to identify and kill cancer cells that develop in large numbers. Thus, patients with the SPAG9 protein can be treated with a Dendritic Cell (DC)-based vaccine approach.

  • In DC-based vaccine, monocytes are collected from a patient's blood and modified into what are known as dendritic cells. These dendritic cells are primed with SPAG9 which is now known as ASPAGNII and are injected back into the patient to help the fighter or T-cells in the body to kill the cancer cells.

  • Developed under the Cancer Research Program funded by the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India, this method is safe and inexpensive. It can promote anti-tumour immune responses and prolong the life of cancer patients.

  • The Department of Science and Technology, Government of India has given financial assistance to promote testing of this approach. Now, the second phase clinical trial of this vaccine will be started in the treatment of breast cancer. The research and the trademark for the indigenous solution can be a morale booster for this new approach.

2. IIT KGP’s New method to detect tropical cyclones:

Context:

Researchers from IIT Kharagpur have devised a new method for early detection of tropical cyclones in the northern Indian Ocean region. The method mainly investigates the behaviour of eddies in an atmospheric column to detect the genesis of tropical cyclones. Now, according to the researchers, this method has the potential to detect the development of tropical cyclones in atmospheric column prior to satellite detection over the ocean's surface.

About the method:

  • The Tauktae and Yaas cyclones recently hit the Indian coasts. Like these two, past cyclones have also taught us that the coastal population remains at risk from tropical cyclones that arise from the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal.

  • Although, with the advancement of science and technology, the techniques to detect such disasters have improved remarkably yet there is always a need for larger gaps between the detection and the actual fall of such catastrophes.

  • Now, researchers from the IIT, Kharagpur have devised a novel method to detect the development of tropical cyclones over the north Indian Ocean region and it could prove faster than the satellites.

  • The method is based on detecting pre-cyclonic vortices that develop in the upper atmospheric column much before the development of well-marked low-pressure system over the warm ocean surface.

  • The research was carried out to develop a tracking technique to identify the genesis of pre-cyclonic eddies before the satellites can detect it. The researchers chose 6 cyclones for their case studies from the most active Bay of Bengal domain.

  • Phailin (2013), Vardah (2013), Gaja (2018), Madi (2013) were the post monsoon severe cyclones and Mora (2017) and Aila (2009) were the pre-monsoon cyclones.

  • The researchers used a well-proven weather research and forecast model for the study and a key indicative parameter called Okubo-Weiss (OW) derived using the wind components obtained from the model.

  • The generation mechanism of tracking involved

    • Generation of OW Parameter

    • Identifying the possible locations exceeding the threshold value.

    • Continuous monitoring of these systems at the specific locations

    • Analyzing the movement as well as its intensification rate of these possible systems

    • Merging of the systems over a time-domain basis

  • The researchers also carried out a grid optimization study as an advanced analysis for this technique using grid resolution of 27, 20, 15 and 12 kilometers and found the 15 kilometer grid resolution to be the most efficient for this tracking algorithm.

  • The technique has been developed under the Climate Change Program with support from the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India.

  • This method can help ensure better management for protection against the tropical cyclones by reducing the loss of life and property in coastal areas. The research has recently been published in the journal atmospheric research.

3. Electricity generator with zero carbon emission:

Context:

Taking one step ahead in the field of clean energy, researchers from IIT, Delhi have developed a hydrogen fuel-based electricity generation technology. This technology can be used effectively in hydrogen producing industries and may replace diesel generators in future.

See the source image

About the technology:

  • From metros to small towns to even villages generators are being used on a large scale to power systems and also as a backup power supply for our daily needs. Mostly, powered by diesel, these generator sets cause a lot of air pollution even as they solve the problem of power outage.

  • This is because as they produce electricity, they emit gases like Carbon Monoxide, Hydrocarbons, Oxides of Nitrogen and Carbon Dioxide along with smoke and particulate matter. These harmful substances contaminate the environment and cause serious health hazards.

  • To solve this problem, researchers from the Centre for Energy Studies, IIT, Delhi have now developed a hydrogen fuel-based electricity generation technology. This technology produces electricity without carbon emissions and can be an eco-friendly way of producing electricity.

  • The researchers have built the hydrogen fuelled spark-ignition engine generator in collaboration with Kirloskar Oil Engines Limited and the Indian Oil Research And Development Center. A dedicated lubricating oil for the engine has also been developed by IOCL.

  • Since, hydrogen does not contain carbon, so these engines do not produce any carbonaceous emissions. An oxide of nitrogen produced during the hydrogen combustion can be kept very low using appropriate techniques.

  • Project funded by the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, Government of India can add a new dimension to the field of green energy. This technology can be very useful in hydrogen producing industries like chloro alkali, ammonia and refineries and such generators can also be used as power backup in offices and residential colonies. Scientists are now working to replace conventional diesel generators with multi-cylinder hydrogen-fuelled engines.

4. Science Express

1. Student Develops Mobile Toilet for COVID-19 patients:

  • Pratyaksha Majhe who is a 3rd year student at the National Institute of Fashion Technology, Bhopal found an innovative solution. She designed a mobile toilet that can be delivered to the patients.

  • The mobile toilet is mounted on a wheeled platform and has a cabin made from fibre sheets. The inside of the cabin is fitted with the western-style commode and has support on two sides for the convenience of the patients.

  • It is equipped with a clean water tank having a capacity of 80 litres and a wastewater tank at the bottom having a capacity of 100 litres. This wheelchair sized toilet can be used by five to six patients on the hospital in one go and then the waste tank can be emptied and water tank can be refilled for reuse.

  • This mobile toilet is also helpful in keeping the patients wet side and hospital wards clean. This innovation has been found to be very useful for hospitals. The product is cost effective and scalable.

  • Pratyaksha Majhe has donated her first model to COVID ward of Hamidia Hospital in Bhopal. Such toilets can also be used for aged and weak patients or even at home to take care of the elderly and people with limited mobility.

2. QS World University rankings: Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, is the world's top research university:

  • The Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru has been ranked the world's top research university in the QS World Rankings 2022. This is the first time that an Indian university has scored a perfect 100 out of 100 in research or any other parameter.

  • In overall rankings however, IISc has been judged the third best institution in India. The Indian Institute of Technology IIT Bombay, IIT Delhi have been ranked first and second respectively. These Indian institutions have also made it to the top 200 in the world in overall rankings.

  • According to Ben Sowter, Director of Research at QS, this year's edition of the QS World University Rankings demonstrates the excellent work that many Indian universities are doing to improve their research footprint with positive consequences for their reputation on the global stage.

3. Laughing gas (N2O) can effectively treat severe depression:

  • According to a recent study, a mild dose of laughing gas or N2O can effectively treat severe depression in a phase 2 clinical trial conducted at the University of Chicago and Washington University School of Medicine.

  • Researchers observed that a single inhalation session with 25 nitrous oxide gas improves symptoms of depression for upwards of two weeks. The study has recently been published in the journal.

  • In an earlier study, 50 percent nitrous oxide gas was used on 20 patients. This led to rapid improvements in the patient's depressive symptoms but also led to some effects like nausea. Side effects decreased by a quarter when only 25 percent nitrous oxide was mixed in the oxygen.

  • Laughing gas is often used in dentistry and surgery as anaesthesia for short-term pain relief. This study may now provide an effective treatment option for patients suffering from depression.

4. New study to help accurate estimation of black carbon over Himalayas:

Representative image

  • A study by Aryabhatta Research Institute of Observational Sciences (ARIES) will help in accurate estimation of black carbon in the Himalayan region and improve weather and climate forecasts. Black carbon is the second most important contributor to global warming after carbon dioxide.

  • Scientists at ARIES, an autonomous institute under the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India, in collaboration with scientists from the University of Delhi, IIT Kanpur and Space Physics Laboratory, ISRO have made extensive observations of black carbon and elemental carbon.

  • An estimated monthly and wavelength dependent values of Mass Absorption Cross-section (MAC) over the central Himalayan region for the first time. MAC is an essential parameter to measure the mass concentration of black carbon. The study has been published in the Asia-Pacific Journal of Atmospheric Sciences.

  • This research will help in source apportionment studies done to constrain the sources of black carbon emissions. This can provide important information to formulate mitigation policies.

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