Here is what Indian scientists achieved in 2018

A gel that can protect farmers from toxic pesticides

  • Most farmers do not wear any protective gear while spraying chemicals in fields, which often leads to pesticide exposure and toxicity. Scientists at the Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine, Bangalore developed a protective gel—poly-Oxime—that can be applied on skin and can break down toxic chemicals into safe substances, preventing them from going deep into the skin and organs like the brain and the lungs. The research group plans to develop a mask that can deactivate pesticides.

World’s thinnest material with novel technique

  • Pushing the envelope in nanotechnology, researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology Gandhinagar have developed a material that is 100,000 times thinner than a sheet of paper. They synthesized a two-dimensional material of just one-nanometre in thickness (a human hair is about 80,000 nanometre wide) using Magnesium diboride—a compound of boron. This is said to be the world’s thinnest material. It can find a range of applications—from next-generation batteries to ultraviolet absorbing films.

Gene editing applied to banana genome

  • Using the gene editing technique—CRISPR/Cas9—researchers at the National Agri-Food Biotechnology Institute, Mohali, edited the banana genome. This is the first such work in any fruit crop in India. Banana is the fourth most important food crop after wheat, rice and corn in terms of gross value of production. Gene editing could be deployed to improve nutritional quality, agronomical important traits as well as pathogen resistance in banana.

Discoveries to tackle Zika, dengue, JE and chikungunya

Faster diagnostic tests for tuberculosis

  • Scientists at the Translational Health Science and Technology Institute, Faridabad and All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, have jointly developed highly sensitive and rapid tests for detection of tuberculosis infection in lungs and surrounding membranes. Unlike current tests that use antibodies for detection of bacterial proteins in sputum samples, new tests use Aptamer Linked Immobilized Sorbent Assay (ALISA) and Electrochemical Sensor (ECS) for detection of a bacterial protein in the sputum.

Arsenic found in Punjab groundwater

  • Till now arsenic was a major problem in West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Manipur and Chhattisgarh. It was also known that there is arsenic contamination in groundwater in Punjab. Now a new study done by New Delhi-based TERI School of Advanced Studies has found that that Punjab’s floodplains are severely affected by arsenic contamination. In some wells, arsenic levels were found to be 20 to 50 times higher than the World Health Organisation (WHO) prescribed limit.

Space weather warning model rules out ‘mini ice age’

  • A team of scientists from the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) Kolkata have dismissed the speculation that the upcoming sunspot cycle is going to be stronger, based on calculations using a model developed by them. The near-Earth and inter-planetary space environmental conditions and solar radiative forcing of climate over the upcoming sunspot cycle 25 will likely be similar or marginally more extreme relative to what has been observed during the past decade over the current solar cycle. The method makes it possible to make predictions almost a decade before the next sunspot cycle activity peaks in strength.

New tool developed for autism screening

  • In many cases, autism is misdiagnosed as mental retardation and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Early identification and interventions may help children with autistic disorders. To help this process, scientists at the Government Medical College and Hospital, Chandigarh, have developed an Indian tool for screening children for autism. The Chandigarh Autism Screening Instrument (CASI is designed to help community health workers to carry out initial screening for autism.

Hope for Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s patients

  • Scientists at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru, have figured out the way memory deficit develops in early stages, resulting in Alzheimer’s disease. They have found that early breaking down of a protein, fibrillar actin or F-actin, in the brain leads to disruption in communication among nerve cells and consequently memory deficits. This knowledge can be used to develop early diagnosis test in future. In another study done in fruit flies, researchers at Department of Genetics at Delhi University South Campus found that it was possible to restrict the progression of Huntington’s disease by increasing insulin signaling in the brain neuronal cells.

Green technique can address plaster of Paris pollution

  • A team of scientists at Pune-based National Chemical Laboratory (CSIR-NCL) has developed a technique that helps recycle plaster of Paris waste from hospitals in an eco-friendly and economical way. The new technique disinfects waste and converts it into useful products like ammonium sulphate and calcium bicarbonate. The technique can also be used to disintegrate PoP waste from idols immersed in water bodies.

Stone Age tools, genetic studies throw new light on early civilisation in India

  • The Stone Age tools discovered in a village near Chennai suggest that a Middle Palaeolithic culture was present in India around 385,000 years ago—roughly the same time that it is known to have developed in Africa and in Europe. The discovery pushes back the period when populations with a Middle Palaeolithic culture may have inhabited India, and challenges popular theory that the Middle Palaeolithic was brought to India by modern humans dispersing from Africa only around 125,000 years ago or later. In the North, a population genetic studyhas revealed that the Rors who inhabit modern Haryana came to the Indus Valley when it was flourishing during the Bronze Age and inducted West Eurasian genetic ancestry.

Sikkim gets real-time landslide warning system

  • A real-time landslide warning system has been set up in the Sikkim-Darjeeling belt of north-eastern Himalayas which is highly vulnerable to landslides. The warning system consists of over 200 sensors that can measure geophysical and hydrological parameters like rainfall, pore pressure and seismic activities. The system is capable of warning about 24 hours in advance. It has been deployed by researchers of Kerala-based Amrita University and Sikkim State Disaster Management Authority.

Computing capacity for weather forecasting gets a boost

  • During the year, the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) upgraded its computing capacity for weather forecasting and climate monitoring, taking its total high performance computing (HPC) power to as high as 6.8 Petaflop. With this, India rose to the fourth position, next only to United Kingdom, Japan and USA in terms of dedicated capacity for HPC resources for weather and climate proposes.

Scientists use silk polymer to develop artificial vertebral disc

  • Scientists at Indian Institute of Technology, Guwahati, developed a silk-based bioartificial disc that may find use in disc replacement therapy in future. The group has developed a fabrication procedure for a silk-based bioartificial disc adopting a “directional freezing technique”. The disc mimics internal intricacy of human disc and its mechanical properties too are similar to those of the native ones. The use of a silk biopolymer to fabricate a biocompatible disc can reduce the cost of artificial discs in future.

Transgenic rice with reduced arsenic accumulation, flowering mustard

Source: India Science Wire & Downtoearth

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