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Science Monitor: 5 June 2021

Science Monitor: 5 June 2021

1. CSIR-NCL’s Novel Hybrid Technology to disinfect water:

Context:

Scientists at Puri based CSIR (Council of Scientific and Industrial Research)-National Chemical Laboratory have combined modern technology and traditional knowledge of Ayurveda to provide safe and healthy drinking water. The new hybrid technology is economical and uses natural oils having anti-microbial properties.

About the technology:

  • It is a cost-effective hybrid technology developed under the Water Technology Initiative of the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India and it has been named SWASTIIK.See the source image

  • The safe water and sustainable technology initiative from Indian knowledge base that is SWASTIIK involves boiling of a liquid as a result of pressure reduction and also uses natural oils having anti-microbial properties. This technology can eliminate harmful bacteria including antimicrobial resistant bacteria economically.

  • During testing, this method was found to remove Gram-negative E.coli and Gram-positive S.aureus bacteria and even difficult opportunistic pathogenic bacteria typically in five to ten minutes.

  • The technique integrates the Indian traditional knowledge of Ayurveda for complete disinfection of water and also offers possible health benefits of natural oils. This technology is very cost effective as compared to other modern water treatment procedures and can be easily used at home.

  • This method was demonstrated by researchers at the IIT Bombay Techfest-2020. With the help of SWASTIIK water purification technology, safe and quality drinking water can be made available to all the citizens.

2. Resighting of tagged birds reveal interesting details:

Context:

Mumbai-based Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) has contributed remarkably to environment conservation through its scientific observations and biodiversity studies. The society has revealed a lot of information about the route of the migratory birds, their breeding zones as well as their stop oversights through its systematic large-scale ringing studies. Now, the recent reciting of the birds tagged by the society have once again uncovered the interesting details of the long-distance migration by birds.

About the studies:

  • In 2017, the organization tagged a medium-sized shore bird the Terek Sandpiper in Gujarat’s Kutch which was spotted in Pakistan's Khyber region in may this year. Similarly, in 2019 a tagged Curlew Sandpiper was identified in Tianjin, China.

  • Similar fascinating facts about the migration of birds outside the country's borders and the challenges faced by them have been uncovered by such studies.

  • In the bird ringing study, a lightweight metal ring is placed on the bird's feet with an alphanumeric code. Apart from this, special coloured-bands and neck collars are also placed on some species. Each region has been given a different colour under the international flyway protocol and these colour combinations reveal a lot about the migration of the birds.

  • After this, these birds are identified by members of ornithological networks and bird conservation organizations in different countries.

  • The BNHS has been conducted ringing studies for over 90 years. Now, it has started using social media as well due to which the possibility of sighting of more and more birds has increased.

  • The migratory trend of birds has emphasized the need for international collaboration in bird conservation, for example, India is a breeding ground for the bright orange beaked Indian Skimmer but tagging has exposed its migration to Bangladesh.

  • India comes in the Central Asian Flyway (CAF) zone of migratory birds and plays a major role in migratory bird conservation.

  • Recently, India has also started a National Action Plan for the Central Asian Flyway. Under this, 20 major wetlands and 9 wetland clusters in the country have been identified as critical sites for migratory water birds.

  • These areas are being studied by the BNHS under the CAF National Action Plan. Ringing studies reveal the habitat of these birds, their movements, the challenges faced by them and the exact area of migration.

3. IIT Mandi contributes significantly to SARS-CoV-2 studies:

Context:

Numerous studies are being conducted across the globe to elucidate the structure and functions of SARS-CoV-2 proteins to gain complete information about the virus as well as the disease. Now, researchers from IIT Mandi have made significant contributions to these studies. The researchers have deciphered the confirmation of a crucial region in one of the key proteins of the virus in isolation. This success will lead to better understanding of the disease as the protein plays a key role in suppressing the host immune system.

About the studies:

  • The second wave of the COVID-19 is proving to be more devastating. As far as the treatment is concerned, the strategy is to manage the C0VID-19 symptoms while the host fights off the infection with its immune system. No antiviral drug has yet been confirmed globally to inhibit the virus from replicating.

  • As a virus can also be neutralized by attacking its proteins, so scientists across the world are busy elucidating the structural and functional details of the SARS-CoV-2 proteins.

  • In this series, researchers from the IIT Mandi have uncovered the structure of the C-terminal region of Non-structural Protein (NSP) 1, a key protein of SARS-CoV-2.

  • The researchers studied the structure as well as the changes in this region in different environments.  This knowledge can help in developing better understanding of the virus as well as its mode of action.

  • SARS-CoV-2 has 16 NSP of which NSP1 plays a key role in pathogenicity by disrupting the proteins of the host cell and suppressing its immune functions.

  • This protein is composed of 180 amino acids, the first 1-127 region has been experimentally shown to form an independent structure through a previous research by scientists at the University of Alabama.

  • However, the remaining 131 to 180 amino acids comprising the sea region also have an important role in weakening the immune system of cells.

  • By using Circular Dichroism Spectroscopy and Molecular Dynamics Simulations, Dr Rajneesh Giri and his team from the School of Basic Sciences, IIT Mandi have deciphered the confirmation of this region in isolation. It has been observed that if this region is removed then NSP1 is unable to stop the translation by ribosomes.

  • Understanding the conformational structure and associated functions of key viral proteins such as the NSP1 can help in developing therapeutics that can target these proteins and stop the virus in its tracks and such studies can bring this approach closer to reality. The findings of this study have been published in the research journal Current Research in Virological Science.

4. Science Express

1. Indian Scientists Develop Artificial Synaptic Network That Mimics The Human Brain:

See the source image

  • Scientists at the Bengaluru based Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research, an autonomous institute under the Department of Science and Technology have succeeded in developing an efficient artificial synaptic network that mimics the human brain.

  • This technique is more efficient compared to the traditional tools of artificial intelligence. There are about a hundred billion neurons in the human brain which largely connect with each other through their axons and dendrites forming giant junctions called synapses.

  • This complex bio-neural network is believed to provide superior cognitive abilities. The brain consumes only 20 watts of energy through parallel processing whereas traditional computing platforms consume 1 million watts of energy to imitate basic human knowledge.

  • The novel synaptic network developed by Indian scientists mimics the functioning of the brain synapses and can mimic complex psychological behaviors without external supporting circuits. This achievement can establish a new dimension in artificial intelligence technology.

2. NASA will send two missions to Venus by 2030:

See the source image

  • NASA has selected 2 new missions to study Venus in the near future. On 3rd of June, NASA chief administrator Bill Nelson announced the missions that are worth about $500 million.

  • NASA plans to launch new missions called DAVINCI+ and VERITAS within a decade. The purpose of these missions is to study the planet to help understand why it could not support life despite having many characteristics like earth.

  • The DAVINCI+ spacecraft will investigate the atmosphere of Venus to gain information on how it formed and evolved and will also try to detect noble gases like helium.

  • The second spacecraft VERITAS will do 3D mapping of the surface of Venus. VERITAS will try to trace the planets geological history to know why it has evolved so differently from earth. Venus is believed to be the first planet in the solar system where life could have flourished and possibly had an ocean and climate similar to earth.

3. Low-chilling apple variety developed by Himachal farmer spreads far & wide:

Low-chilling apple variety developed by Himachal farmer spreads far & wide

  • A farmer in Himachal Pradesh has developed a new variety of self-pollinating apple that does not require long periods of chilling to flower and bear fruit.

  • This apple variety can also be grown in various plains and tropical areas of India where temperatures reach 40 to 45 degrees Celsius during summers.

  • This variety named HRMN-99 provides an opportunity for apple cultivation in lower hilly areas. Department of Science and Technology's National Innovation Foundation India has assisted in testing the apple variety and spreading it to other states.

  • Presently, commercial cultivation of this species has been started in Manipur, Jammu. the low-lying areas of Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Chhattisgarh and Telangana.

4. A newly developed electronic ‘nose’ could identify COVID-19-infection:

  • In an effort to develop rapid diagnostic solutions against COVID-19, Israeli scientists have developed a testing technique involving an electronic nose. This study by Israel's Weizmann Institute of Science has recently been published in the international research journal PLOS ONE.COVID "nose"

  • This technique can securely check for COVID-19 infection in a large community in real time. As part of the system developed by the institute a one-way disposable sampling valve has been prepared which can be used to detect covered infection by placing it in people's noses.

  • The technology identifies volatile organic compounds produced by virus infected cells and has been successfully tested with the help of Israel's Ministry of Defense. The easy-to-use technology can prove to be helpful in fighting COVID-19 infections on a large scale.

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