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Science Monitor: 19 June 2021

Science Monitor: 19 June 2021

1. The biochemical link between overconsumption of sugar and NAFLD:

Context:

Indian researchers have now unraveled the molecular mechanism by which excess sugar consumption leads to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. According to the researchers, their findings have conclusively shown that excessive sugar intake leads to a fatty liver and this can also help in developing appropriate therapeutics for the chronic condition.

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About the findings:

  • Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a serious ailment in which fat accumulates on the liver. The scary thing is that many times symptoms of this medical problem do not show up even for two decades. The excess fat can irritate the liver cells resulting in scarring of the liver, cirrhosis and in advanced cases can even lead to liver cancer in India.

  • About 9 to 32 percent of the population suffers from this problem. The disease has increased to alarming levels even among school children who are obese.

  • One cause of any FLD is the consumption of too much sugar and other forms of carbohydrates. The liver converts these into fat via a process called Hepatic De Novo Lipogenesis. However, the reason behind this biochemical relationship had not been ascertained so far.

  • Now, a research team led by researchers from the IIT Mandi has been able to establish the underlying biochemical relationship between the over consumption of sugar and the development of fatty liver. The findings of this study have recently been published in the journal of Biological Chemistry.

  • Researchers studied the complementary experimental procedure on mice models and found a correlation between the carbohydrate-induced activation of a protein complex called NF kappa beta, an increased DNL.

  • The research has shown that the activation of hepatic NF-kappa Beta p65 reduces the levels of another protein called Sorcin which in turn activates liver DNL through a cascading biochemical pathway, essentially meaning that it reduces the fat controlling ability of the liver and leads to accumulation of fat.

  • This correlation between this complex protein and increasing DNL had not been recognized yet. With the molecular linkage of this process becoming clear, it will now be easier to find a cure for this disease.

  • NF kappa beta also has a role in other inflammatory diseases such as cancer, alzheimer's, stroke muscle wasting and infections and scientists around the world are developing therapeutics that can block NF kappa beta. This research led by IIT Mandi also proves that fatty liver disease can be avoided by minimizing the consumption of sweets.

  • India is the first country in the world to understand the severity of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and the need for action against it. The government of India has recently included NAFLD in the National Program for Prevention and Control of Cancer Diabetes Cardiovascular Diseases and Stroke (NPCDCS). The recent discovery by IIT Mandi is an important initiative towards controlling this disease

2. Affordable technology for oily wastewater treatment:

Context:

Researchers from Jadavpur University, Kolkata have developed a new technology for the treatment of oily wastewater. The technology uses a membrane separation device operated with the help of an electric field. With the use of this smart and affordable technology medium and small-scale industries can also set up efficient water treatment plants. This will reduce water pollution to a great extent.

About the technology:

  • Urban wastewater disposal and waste water from industries are the biggest causes of river pollution in our country. Even though pollution control rules state that all industries must treat their waste water before discharging them into aquatic bodies, the rule is seldom followed due to the high cost of wastewater treatment.

  • This potentially stops industries especially the small and medium scale ones from cleaning their oily waste water at the source point itself. Small and medium scale industries are often unable to bear the costs of treatment and so dispose of their waste water without treatment.

  • Now Dr Chiranjeeb Bhattacharjee, a professor at the Chemical Engineering Department of Jadavpur University, Kolkata has developed a new technology that promises to solve this problem. With the technology developed by Dr Bhattacharjee, low and medium scale industries including the automobile servicing and food industry can install an efficient and cost-effective electric field-driven membrane separation device to treat oily waste water.

  • Electrocoagulation and Electroflotation enhanced membrane module technique for water purification has been used to prepare the system. Electrocoagulation helps to aggregate matter in the water by using an electric charge to change the surface charge of the particles while Electroflotation is the separation of suspended particles from water using hydrogen and oxygen bubbles generated by passing electricity through water.

  • Both these techniques are linked to the membrane in a single indigenous setup. The turbulence generated by the hydrogen bubbles moving through the waste water prevents oil from accumulating on the membrane helping it function efficiently for a long time. There is no need to change the membrane frequently, so it helps reduce the maintenance cost to a great extent. This feature makes it practical for small and medium scale enterprises.

  • In this single hybrid ECEFMM setup, the plant can be set up in a very small area significantly reducing the initial capital investment. High technical skill is also not required to operate this technology. Also, the oil obtained after refining can be used again as an industrial burner oil, furnace oil, mould oil or hydraulic oil. This innovation fueled by the Make in India initiative is now being tested at a pilot scale after which the technology will be available for commercial use.

3. IISER Bhopal discovers a new species of African Violets in Mizoram:

Context:

Researchers from the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Bhopal have recently discovered a new species of plant belonging to the ‘African Violets’ family in Mizoram and adjacent areas of Myanmar. The discovery is an outcome of extensive fieldwork across northeastern India coupled with rigorous study of the past collections kept in herbariums across the world. The discovery also shows that more studies are needed to fully understand the biodiversity of northeast India.

About the discovery:

  • The northeast region of India is a treasure trove of beautiful natural wealth, but for the most part this region of the Himalayas has remained untouched due to lack of access to these areas. The region is also home to some rare species of flora about which very little is known.

  • Recently, a team of researchers from IISER, Bhopal has discovered a new species of plant belonging to the ‘African Violet’ family in Mizoram. The species Didymocarpus vickifunkiae is currently known to be in just 3 places in Mizoram and some parts of neighbouring Myanmar.

  • It is as an endangered species which grows on trees and produces light pink flowers during the monsoons. The species is named after the late Dr Vicki Ann Funk, a renowned botanist who worked at the Smithsonian Institution in America.

  • The team of IISER, Bhopal made this discovery while studying the evolution and biogeography of the Didymocarpus plants. Didymocarpus is a genus of plants belonging to the family ‘African Violets’ and its members are found in the region from the western Himalayas to Sumatra.

  • Most of these species are narrow endemics that require specialized habitats to survive, in this way these plants also act as indicators of pristine habitats. There are currently 106 known species of this genus of which 26 are present in the northeastern states of India.

  • While collecting the plants for study, the scientists stumbled upon a plant that was distinct from all botanically known plants. The plant has been described as a new species after a long trial based on morphology, published literature and prior collections.

  • According to the researchers, the diversity of plant species in northeast India is very high and unique due to the two biodiversity hotspots the Indo-Burma hotspot and the eastern Himalayas and many species are yet to be detected.

  • This discovery by Indian researchers has given another indication of the richness of Indian biodiversity. The findings of the study have been published in the international research journal Systematic Botany.

4.Science Express

1. Single-dose vaccine may be enough for people who have recovered from COVID, says study:

  • According to a study supported by the Science and Engineering Research Board of the Department of Science and Technology, single dose of the vaccine may be effective for patients who have recovered from COVID-19. This is because the immune memory developed during recovery from a mild COVID-19 infection lasts for a few years.

  • The study conducted by Dr Nimesh Gupta of the National Institute of Immunology in collaboration with Dr Ashok Sharma and Dr Poonam Kaushik of the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences found that nearly, 70 percent of the Indians infected with SARS-CoV-2 have very high levels of reactive white blood cells or CD4+ T cells that are an essential part of the human immune system. These T cells were already present in people carrying the common cold virus and this was found to limit the virus burden.

  • Researchers believe that immunological memory is mainly associated with the spike protein of the virus and it can induce a vaccine-like immune response in patients with mild infections. Based on this study, it is seen that in such people only one dose of the current vaccine can keep their immune system at work against the virus for a long time.

2. Ceiling-mounted alarm can detect anyone infected with Covid-19:

  • British scientists have succeeded in creating a device that can detect coronavirus infection inside a room in just 15 minutes. Preliminary results of the research by scientists from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and Durham University have shown great results.

  • The COVID-19 alarm detects the deadly infection by detecting volatile organic compounds produced by the skin and breadth of the infected individuals. In other words, viruses bring a change in the body odour and this can be detected by devices with organic semiconducting sensors.

  • A startup called Robo Scientific is developing this device. The level of accuracy of the results during testing ranged from 98 to 100 percent. This technology can prove to be extremely effective for screening inside aircraft cabins, classrooms, care centres, homes and offices.

  • The company is also developing a portable device based on the same technology which can be used to identify infected persons individually. Apart from coronavirus, the alarm system can prove to be effective for identification of other future epidemics.

3. Indian researchers have found a way to improve images taken during low visibility:

See the source image

  • It will now be possible to take clear pictures of objects even in dense fog. Researchers at the Raman Research Institute, Bangalore, an autonomous institute under the Department of Science and Technology have been working in this direction for a long time and have now come up with a solution to improve the quality of images without the help of heavy computations.

  • The technique involved modulating the light source consisting of 10 red LED lights and then demodulating it and the observers end to achieve better images. A significant improvement was observed in the quality of images obtained using the modulation-demodulation technique.

  • This technology can help find obstacles that are not usually visible during fog and be extremely useful in rail sea and road transport. The research has been published in the journal OSA CONTINUUM.

4. Scientists have made a breakthrough towards solving the grand scientific structural mystery of glass:

Diamond Crystal Structure

  • The study by an international research team co-led by the City University of Hong Kong found that amorphous and crystalline metallic glass have the same structural building blocks and the connectivity between these blocks is what makes a glass crystalline or amorphous.

  • The findings of this recent study shed light on the understanding of glass structure. Glass is a non-crystalline amorphous solid that has practical and technical uses in daily life. Many types of glass are being used nowadays and metallic glass is one among them.

  • The outer material of glass behaves like a solid but the inside appears as a liquid in disordered form, so its structure has long been the focus of scientific research.

  • The research team has now discovered a crucial structural link between a glass solid and its crystalline counterpart and the study has been published in the journal Nature Materials.

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