Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Hydrogen Generation At Room Temperature Using Visible Light: Study

The study may provide an alternative approach to use hydrogen as a source of clean energy. 

By Ratneshwar Thakur

Organometallics & Sustainable Catalysis Lab @ IISER Tirupati  

In an effort to produce clean energy from hydrogen gas, researchers have designed a new catalytic system that operates under room temperature environment. Since hydrogen produces water as the sole by-product upon combustion, this study may provide an alternative approach to use hydrogen as a source of clean energy. 

Researchers from Indian Institute of Science Education and Research Tirupati (IISER-Tirupati) and CSIR-National Chemical Laboratory (CSIR-NCL, Pune) have reported a visible-light mediated dual catalytic system to produce hydrogen and value-added chemicals at room temperature environment from widespread amines in water. 

In the study, a dual catalytic system combining photo-redox and proton reduction catalysts has been used. Researchers explained that the staring material (amine) was taken in a vial along with the catalysts in degassed Milli-Q water under an argon atmosphere. The reaction mixture was irradiated under visible-light, using 36 W blue LED light bulb strips, at room temperature to get desired dehydrogenated product with the concomitant generation of molecular hydrogen. 

“The removal of dihydrogen atoms from adjacent atomic centres of organic molecules is a thermodynamically uphill process. However, this challenge was successfully addressed by designing a dual catalytic system by merging visible-light photoredox catalysis with proton reduction catalysis,” says Dr. Ekambaram Balaraman, Scientist and corresponding author of this study. 

“In this country, energy and sustainability are among the biggest challenge humanity faces. We believe that our strategy might have significant impact on energy storage, clean environment, and sustainable chemical synthesis,” he added. 

The research team included Manoj K. Sahoo and E. Balaraman, and the study was published in journal Green Chemistry. The research work was funded through Science and Engineering Research Board, and IISER-Tirupati.

Room temperature catalytic dehydrogenation of cyclic amines with the liberation of H2 using water as a solvent

Saturday, 4 May 2019

“Gut feelings” Of Worms Might Help In Understanding Sickness Behavior In Humans

Understanding of the message from the gut to the nervous system may provide broad insights into the modulation of behaviors such as appetite and anxiety that are also linked with the sickness behavior syndrome.

Jogender Singh (Left) and Alejandro Aballay 

Humans are not the only ones who hate germs, even the tiny worms try to run away once they recognize harmful microbes. While it could be the psychological issues for humans but running away from pathogenic bacteria is a matter of life and death for tiny worms like Caenorhabditis elegans. Therefore to improve the chances of survival, organisms need to recognize potential pathogens and defend themselves.

Now researchers Dr. Jogender Singh and Prof. Alejandro Aballay from Oregon Health and Science University, USA have shown that in worms bloating of the gut caused by pathogen infection helps both in recognition of pathogenic bacteria and activation of defense mechanisms. The results of this study were published in the journal Development Cell.

Scientists have known that worms like Caenorhabditis elegans use bacteria that are non-pathogenic or beneficial, as its food source, but also encounter pathogenic bacteria. After feeding on pathogenic bacteria for a few hours, the animals learn to avoid the pathogen. 

“We asked why the animals require a few hours to learn that what they are eating is harmful. Surprisingly, our initial results suggested that gut bloating caused by infection led to the pathogen avoidance behavior. However, it was difficult to understand how gut bloating was affecting behavior—a response that is normally controlled by brain or the nervous system,” says Dr. Jogender Singh, co-author in this study.

To understand this puzzle, researchers monitored changes in the nervous system as the gut of animals bloated. “It all made sense when we found that bloating of the gut was sending signals to the nervous system”, said Dr. Singh. 

According to the study bloating of the gut happens on pathogenic, but not on non-pathogenic bacteria, these defense mechanisms are induced only upon feeding on pathogenic bacteria. Therefore the state of the gut (happy vs unhappy) could modulate defense mechanisms and induce behavioral changes. 

It is known that pathogen infections in humans lead to behavioral changes called sickness behavior syndrome that includes symptoms such as lethargy, depression, anxiety, loss of appetite and sleepiness. However, it is not understood how pathogen infection evokes the sickness behavior syndrome. 

In an organism, message from different tissues are received and read by different receptors in the nervous system. Interestingly, similar forms of the receptor, that receives message from bloating of gut in worms, are also found in humans and other animals. These receptors are involved in the control of a diverse set of behavioral processes, including appetite, biological clock, and anxiety. 

Prof. Alejandro Aballay says, “Understanding of the message from the gut to the nervous system may provide broad insights into the modulation of behaviors such as appetite and anxiety that are also linked with the sickness behavior syndrome.” 

The study was supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health, USA.

Journal Reference:
Microbial Colonization Activates an Immune Fight-and-Flight Response via Neuroendocrine Signaling

Acknowledgement: Special thanks to Dr. Rajesh Gunage (Stem Cell Biologist and Post doctoral Fellow at Children’s Hospital-Harvard Medical School, Boston, USA) for stimulating suggestions to make this report digestible for non scientific people.

Scientists Present Novel Therapeutic Possibility For Inflammatory Disorders

Study provides a new framework to further improve the on-going clinical programs to modulate the human complement system with direct therapeutic implications in a wide range of inflammatory disorders including rheumatoid arthritis and sepsis.

Prof. Arun K. Shukla (right) and Shubhi Pandey at IIT kanpur

Our body has two types of immune system namely- the innate immune system and adaptive immune system. While adaptive immune system continues to evolve throughout our lives, contrary to this- the innate immunity is already encoded in the system at birth. 

A central component of the innate immunity is known as the complement system- a pool of several circulating inactive complement proteins in the blood whose receptors are presents in the cell membrane. When a pathogen attacks our system, the complement protein become active and engages with the membrane receptors for the further actions to clear the pathogens from our body. 

Of these, complement protein C5a works by activating two different membrane receptors, C5aR1 and C5aR2. The interaction of C5a with C5aR1 and their downstream signalling are critical in many inflammatory disorders such as sepsis, inflammatory bowel syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis. Therefore, a better understanding of C5a-C5aR1 interaction, and novel approaches to modulate this important signalling system has tremendous therapeutic potential.

Now in a collaborative study, research team led by Prof. Arun K. Shukla at the Indian Institute of Technology in Kanpur (India), and the laboratory of Prof. Trent Woodruff at the University of Queensland (Australia) have identified that a synthetic peptide C5apep derived from, and modified based on, C5a sequence- may provide an alternative therapeutic candidate compared to currently used ligands. The study is published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

“This is the first example where a designer protein is utilized to fine-tune the key cellular processes in the human complement system which is absolutely critical for body’s immune response. Our study provides a new framework to further improve the on-going clinical programs to modulate the human complement system with direct therapeutic implications in a wide range of inflammatory disorders including rheumatoid arthritis and sepsis,” said Prof. Arun K. Shukla.

The receptors C5aR1 and C5aR2 belong to a large family of cell surface proteins known as G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) and they are present on immune cells like macrophages and neutrophils. Most of the currently prescribed medicines act on GPCRs and work by turning them “on” or “off” i.e. by activating or blocking their downstream responses. 

According to the study, activation of C5aR1 receptor by C5a triggers robust mobilization of immune cells like neutrophils which may result into severe hyper-inflammation, and subsequently, inflammatory disorders. Thus molecules which can block the interaction of C5a with C5aR1 and downstream signal transduction are proposed to be promising therapeutic candidates to combat inflammatory diseases.

However, recent studies have shown that activation of C5aR1 by C5a may also result in inhibition of cytokine called interleukin-6 (IL-6) which is desirable to overcome inflammatory symptoms. Therefore, conventional C5aR1 antagonists may not be the optimal therapeutic candidates as they will also compromise C5a-induced inhibition of IL-6.

This problem was addressed by designing ligand C5apep which maintains the desirable properties of C5a i.e. inhibition of IL-6 but it has significantly lower capacity to trigger neutrophil migration compared to C5a. “C5apep can be a superior choice over conventional C5aR1 antagonists. Such ligands are known as “biased ligands” because they preferentially activate one functional outcome over the other, and this conceptual emerging framework has refined the landscape of novel drug discovery targeting GPCRs,” said Shubhi Pandey, the lead author in this study.

Prof. Shukla says, “Our study uncovers the first instance of a functionally biased ligand in the complement system that has the inherent potential to improve the therapeutic design in inflammatory diseases. We plan to carry out animal studies in future to measure the therapeutic potential of this novel ligand and also understand the molecular details of its interaction with the receptor at high resolution using structural studies.” 

The research team included Shubhi Pandey, Xaria X. Li, Ashish Srivastava, Mithu Baidya, Punita Kumari, Hemlata Dwivedi, Madhu Chaturvedi, Eshan Ghosh, Trent M. Woodruff and Arun K. Shukla. The study was supported by the LADY TATA Memorial Trust, SERB (DST) and the Wellcome Trust DBT India Alliance. (SCISOUP: A Science And Technology Blog)

Journal Reference:

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

New Technology May Help Engineer Natural Proteins In Human Body

The linchpin detaches within physiological conditions and provides unique reactivity for the installation of a probe of interest.

(Research team at Indian Institute of Science Education and Research- Bhopal)

Any machine is an assembly of multiple well-designed and organized components. Their smooth handling requires an understanding of the architecture and toolbox to tune the functions. Likewise, proteins are one of the most important components of the human body or bio-machines.  If we can learn how to engineer proteins with high precision, it could provide a tremendous boost to precision therapeutics.

Now Dr. Vishal Rai’s team at Indian Institute of Science Education and Research Bhopal- provides the first modular platform for precision engineering of native proteins. The study was published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

“Initially, our reagent delivers a reversible intermolecular reaction that places the “chemical linchpins” globally on all the accessible Lys amino acid residues. These linchpins can drive precise covalent labelling of proteins. The linchpin detaches within physiological conditions and provides unique reactivity for the installation of a probe of interest,” said Dr. Vishal Rai.

“The technology would provide researchers to install a reporter in a protein for a better understanding of the biological systems. Also, it will help in the development of next-generation protein-based drugs,” he added.

Researchers say this methodology could label even a single protein in a mixture of proteins without altering their structures. The team could successfully label myoglobin, cytochrome C, aldolase, and lysozyme C without changing their enzymatic activity. Interestingly, labelling of insulin did not alter cellular uptake and its downstream signalling process.

This study is promising and linchpin directed modification (LDM) may provide a route for the conjugation of a fluorophore and drug to the antibody for targeted treatments. The study will have a long-term implication on protein-based therapeutics as it enables the regulation of their design.

Besides Vishal Rai research team included Srinivasa Rao Adusumalli, Dattatraya Gautam Rawale, Usha Singh, Prabhanshu Tripathi, Rajesh Paul, Neetu Kalra, Ram Kumar Mishra, Sanjeev Shukla. This interdisciplinary study was supported by the Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB).

Journal Reference:

Monday, 8 April 2019

Scientists Present New Regulatory Clues To Mammalian Cell Division

Hook2 is behaving like linker protein—that binds to dynein and dynactin and regulates the function of dynein during cell division.

(Right To Left) Dr. Mahak Sharma and her lab member.
Indian researchers have revealed regulatory role of a protein in the process of cell cycle progression and separation of newly formed mammalian cells. This study may help understanding uncontrolled cell division related cues because many regulatory proteins of the cell cycle, such as the one that reported in this study, are mutated in cancer cells.

Scientists have known that dynein, a molecular machine- that generates force to move cellular cargo from one location to another, plays a crucial role during the cell division especially in dissolving or breaking nuclear envelope and separation of the chromosomes into two daughter cells. However, how dynein simultaneously performs multiple functions at multiple places largely remains an active area of study.

Dr. Sivaram and Amrita RCB Faridabad
Now in a collaborative study, published in the Journal of Cell Biology, research team of Dr. Mahak Sharma at Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER, Mohali) and Dr. Sivaram V. S. Mylavarapu at Regional Centre for Biotechnology (RCB, Faridabad) - have uncovered the role of dynein binding partner and member of Hook family of protein, Hook2 in regulating specific dynein localization and thereby the tasks associated with these subcellular locations.

“We have been exploring the role of a recently characterized family of proteins known as the “Hook proteins” that bind to dynein and regulate its location and cellular function. Our gene silencing experiments revealed improper cell division upon loss of a Hook family member, and we started to pursue its role in dynein activation and mitosis,” said Dr. Mahak Sharma, Scientist at IISER, Mohali and study leader in this study.

During the separation process of newly formed cells, communication and the material transfer happen by transport of cellular cargo. “The transport itself is executed by the molecular machines or motors that generate force to move cargo on the cellular highways or as scientifically called “microtubule tracks,” explained Devashish Dwivedi, the first-author of the study.

In this study, microscopic imaging of cultured human cells were performed to determine the defects in cell division process when cells were depleted of the dynein or its newly identified regulator. “We observed that Hook2 is behaving like linker protein—that binds to dynein and dynactin and regulates the function of dynein during cell division,” said Dwivedi.

“Earlier studies have reported chromosomal translocations in the Hook protein in various cancer cells. Since unregulated cell division is a hallmark of all cancer cells, our findings might provide a partial explanation of why such changes in Hook2 gene locus might be a contributing factor in governing cancer progression,” added Dr. Sharma.
Besides Sharma M., Dwivedi D, Rathi S from IISER-Mohali, research team included Kumari A and Mylavarapu SVS -from RCB, Faridabad. The study was supported by Wellcome Trust/Department of Biotechnology India Alliance, and Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB), Govt. of India. (SCISOUP)

Monday, 4 February 2019

New Method Can Produce Designer Hydrogels

A new technique that promises to produce hydrogels that could be used for a variety of applications like cleaning of industrial wastewater.

BY Sunderarajan Padmanabhan & Ratneshwar Thakur Published in India Science Wire 

(Prof. Tapas Maji at his lab in JNCASR)

A team of scientists at the Bengaluru-based Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR) have developed a new technique that promises to produce hydrogels that could be used for a variety of applications like cleaning of industrial wastewater.

The method involves self-assembly of tiny cubes of metal-organic compounds into hydrogels with the help of molecular binders. The make-up of the resulting hydrogel depends on the size, shape and geometry of the molecular binder.

For instance, when researchers used cationic ammonia-based molecular binder, the resulting hydrogel had a nano-tubular shape with negative charge on its surface. It can be used as a gel-chromatography separator to separate cationic species from their anionic counterparts from any material.

This hydrogel can bind different types of metal ions including toxic heavy metal ions.The researchers have tried it out with waste water samples containing dyes. When they passed the samples through a column of the hydrogel, the dye with positive charged got attached to the surface and cleaner water flowed out.

“The hydrogel is responsive to changes with the acid and base content of the water. Addition of acid breaks the gel. It again reconstructs upon addition of alkaline solutions. This means the hydrogel can be reused multiple times by just changing the acid level. This could bring down the cost of wastewater treatment substantially. Further, the separation was found to be much faster than the conventional methods,” explained Prof. Tapas Maji, leader of the research team, while speaking to India Science Wire.

The second hydrogel was developed with a binder based on an organic chromophore, tetraphenylethene. It turned out to be highly photo-responsive. “The cyan colour emitting hydrogel can be used in writing. It will be visible only in ultraviolet light. It could have immense application for agencies dealing with highly sensitive documents,” Dr. Maji added.

Further, the group has developed a tri-component white light emitting hydrogel based on two different molecular binders. It can find potential application as white light-emitting substance.

Apart from Maji, his colleagues Papri Sutar, Venkata M. Suresh, Kolleboyina Jayaramulu and Arpan Hazra were involved in the work. The research results have been published in journal Nature Communication.The project was partly funded by Science and Engineering Research Board.

Journal Reference:
Binder driven self-assembly of metal-organic cubes towards functional hydrogels

Also Appeared in:

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Tomato Gene Involved In Viral Infection And Heat Stress Identified

Scientists at New Delhi-based National Institute of Plant Genome Research (NIPGR) have deciphered critical role of a single gene - SlDEAD35 - in tomato plant whose expression controls its response to both heat stress and viral infection.

Team of researchers at NIPGR, New Delhi
While trying to understand genetics of stress to make tomatoes and other crop plants more productive, Indian researchers have identified a gene that helps tomato plant tackle pathogens as well as heat stress.

Scientists at New Delhi-based National Institute of Plant Genome Research (NIPGR) have deciphered critical role of a single gene - SlDEAD35 - in tomato plant whose expression controls its response to both heat stress and viral infection.

It has been known that RNA helicases, one of the largest gene families that function in almost all aspects of RNA metabolism, play a role in growth, development and stress response of a species. They are present in most of the organisms ranging from bacteria to humans, and plants. However, its role in tomato plant’s response towards environmental stresses is not known.

The NIPGR team has observed that two genes (SlDEAD23 and SlDEAD35) help plants to withstand biotic and abiotic stresses. “We had looked into the transcriptome dynamics of a tomato variety tolerant to Tomato leaf Curl New Delhi Virus infection. Comparative transcriptome analysis of virus infected as well as uninfected plants showed a significant up regulation of one DEAD-box RNA helicase gene which prompted us to go for its characterization,” explained Dr. Manoj Prasad, who led the research team.

“We find that SlDEAD35 gene plays crucial role against virus as well as heat stress, which might provide the framework for improved yield and tolerance against combined stress in tomato,” he added.

Developing systems for tolerance or resistance against combined stresses is important for future crop production. “We have found a candidate gene which might provide the framework to understand the science behind plants’ response against combined stresses. We can introduce the gene through molecular breeding to develop varieties for the combined stress tolerance in tomato,” said the lead author, Saurabh Pandey.

The results have been published in journal Environmental and Experimental Botany. The team included Saurabh Pandey, Muthamilarasan, Namisha Sharma, Vaishali Chaudhry, Priya Dulani, Shweta, Sarita Jha, Saloni Mathur and Manoj Prasad.

Journal Reference:

Also appeared in:

Friday, 14 December 2018

New Polymeric Material Developed For Controlled Release Of Two Different Drugs

A bio-compatible polymeric material that promises to help in the simultaneous and extended release of two different drugs from a single platform.

Dr. Uttam Manna (Center) with his research team at IIT Guwahati

A team of researchers at Indian Institute of Technology, Guwahati has developed a bio-compatible polymeric material that promises to help in the simultaneous and extended release of two different drugs from a single platform.

Combination of two or more drugs is increasingly becoming necessary to address drug resistance and treat cancer and neurological disorders. During severe infection, defense mechanism of the body gets activated at multiple levels and single-molecule drugs can’t control multistage complications.

Providing for extended and controlled release of more than one drug molecule simultaneously is challenging. Materials in use to carry molecules tend to have high affinity towards water. As a result, when a drug is delivered, water molecules in the body infiltrate drug-loaded matrix quickly resulting in fast diffusion and release of drug molecules. The new material developed by the IIT-Guwahati team promises to address this issue.

The new polymer mimics the chemistry and features of lotus leaf which make it to repel water. This helps in controlling the rate of infiltration of water molecules and thus allows release of drug molecule in a sustained manner.

Speaking to India Science Wire, Dr. Uttam Manna, a member of the study team, said, “our study has introduced a new general basis for loading and release of various combinations of bioactive molecules. This approach will eventually help to combat challenges related to improved efficacy of drugs and resistance. We hope such material would be useful in controlling multiple diseases as well”. The team is in the process of developing an implant for dual and controlled drug delivery using natural polymers.

The study was performed in the collaboration with Dr. Biman B. Mandal’s research groups, IIT-Guwahati.

Besides Dr. Manna, the team included Adil M Rather, Arpita Shome, Bibhas K Bhunia, Aparna Panuganti, and Biman B Mandal. The study results have been published in the Journal of Materials Chemistry B.

Journal Reference:
Simultaneous and controlled release of two different bioactive small molecules from nature inspired single material

Friday, 7 December 2018

Balancing Act at The Edge of Cells: Study

Study suggests each Cell senses the force and regulates the CLIC/GEEC pathway to maintain membrane homeostasis.

BY Ratneshwar Thakur Appeared In BiotechTimes BioVoice

(Left to Right ) Joseph Jose Thottacherry, Prof. Satyajit Mayor and Dr. Mugdha Sathe

We are made up of trillions of cells and they use endocytosis to take up nutrients and growth factors. Endocytosis is a process by which a cell makes small vesicles or bags to take in nutrients from the outside environment. In order to maintain its shape and size, a cell has to maintain the area of its plasma membrane.

Endocytosis decreases the plasma membrane area while the reverse process, exocytosis adds it. A cell needs to balance the two to maintain homeostasis. Imagine removing the membrane bit by bit using endocytosis, the cell will end up shrinking. This means the cell membrane will tense up slowly as the rate of endocytosis is increased. To relieve this tension, the cell needs to lower its endocytosis or increase its exocytosis.

Thus, apart from taking nutrients, endocytosis helps in maintaining the shape and size of the cell.

Now, Prof. Satyajit Mayor’s team has shown how cells regulate this membrane tension using a novel endocytic pathway called the CLIC/GEEC or CG pathway. The study done by lead author Joseph Jose Thottacherry shows that the CG endocytosis is intimately connected to membrane tension by sensing and responding to changes in membrane tension.

“We have shown that increase in endocytosis increases the membrane tension. When we perturb the pathway to decrease endocytosis it decreases the tension. Thus, addition and removal of membrane directly influence the tension of membrane” said Joseph Jose Thottacherry. The results of this study were published in the journal Nature Communications.

Traditionally, endocytosis requires a coat protein to bend the membrane that forms a cage-like structure, and another protein to cut the vesicle. However, the CG pathway, unlike the traditional pathway, works without the coat raising the question, how would a cell bend its membrane for making vesicles?

This was worked out in another published report in Nature Communications  from Prof. Mayor’s lab by lead authors Dr. Mugdha Sathe & Gayatri Muthukrishnan. They found that in the absence of a coat, the cell uses membrane curvature sensing proteins that recognize convex and concave kind of curvatures. They find two proteins called PICK1 (convex) and IRSp53 (concave) that help in vesicle formation by bending the membrane.

Prof. Mayor said, “Our study suggests each cell senses the force and regulates the CLIC/GEEC pathway to maintain membrane homeostasis. If the force goes higher, the CLIC/GEEC pathway is shut down helping the membrane relax while if tension goes lower, endocytosis increases and extra-membrane is taken in.”

So what is this CLIC/GEEC pathway important for? 

Earlier studies have shown that many viruses use this pathway to enter the cells. This pathway is also involved in fruit fly wing development and cell migration. Now, it has been shown that it can help with plasma membrane homeostasis.

Since this pathway is involved in cell migration, it can be involved in spreading of cancer cells to different organs during metastasis or immune cells chasing pathogens. Thus, these two studies are promising and show the importance of understanding non-traditional pathways for their potential translational value.

This study was carried out at National Centre of Biological Sciences (NCBS), Bangalore. The research work was funded by Wellcome Trust-DBT India Alliance and Dept. of Science and Technology (DST), Govt. of India.

This report was prepared with the help of lead authors Dr. Mugdha Sathe and Joseph Jose Thottacherry.

Journal Reference:

Thursday, 29 November 2018

IISc Seeks To Deliver Clean Water And Sanitation As Part Of An International Initiative


(Dr. Rachel Helliwell, Project Coordinator and a senior research scientist
at the James Hutton Institute, lights a lamp during the inauguration of the project.
Scotland’s Deputy First Minister John Swinney watches on)
Researchers from the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) are collaborating with their counterparts from a consortium led by James Hutton Institute, University of Glasgow and the Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE) on a project funded by Scottish Government to deliver a low-cost, decentralized wastewater treatment system.

The pilot facility has been set up in a school – the Berambadi Primary School in the Chamarajanagar district of Karnataka – to serve the needs of its students and staff. It was inaugurated on 28 November 2018 by Scotland’s Deputy First Minister Mr. John Swinney during an official visit to India.

The toilet block at the Berambadi Primary School
At the launch, Mr. Swinney said that it was Scotland’s duty to share its expertise and experience in the area of wastewater treatment with the wider world. Rachel Helliwell, Project Coordinator and a senior research scientist at the James Hutton Institute in Scotland, added that the initiative, which aims to improve public sanitation and environmental health in rural India, drew on the academic and research excellence of scientists from both Scotland and India. Following a screening of a short film tracing its journey, the event saw an interactive session on the lessons learnt from the project and the potential for new partnerships in wastewater treatment.

Lakshminarayana Rao, the lead researcher from IISc, says that the choice of a rural primary school to house the plant was a deliberate one. “Rural schools in India have a mid-day meal scheme. There’s a lot of wastewater coming from the kitchen and handwash. This is a low-hanging fruit because this water can be recycled to be used in toilets for flushing,” he explains.

Most wastewater we generate is called grey water (wastewater that does not originate in toilets). By contrast, wastewater which contains faeces and urine, and therefore pathogens, is referred to as black water.

To recover grey water, the Berambadi project uses, among other methods, plasma technology developed by Rao’s team at IISc. “We’re using a component of plasma to generate ozone which disinfects the water,” he elaborates. His lab has developed a high-throughput ozonator which provides large volumes of ozone while ensuring that its energy demands are lesser than conventional technologies.

On the other hand, black water is treated before it is discharged by a multi-step anaerobic digestion process developed by the Scottish water scientists. This ensures that neither the groundwater nor the river downstream is contaminated.

Besides grey water recovery and black water treatment, the project also has a rainwater harvesting system which collects about 60,000 litres of water during the rainy season for use by the school. In addition, it has an incinerator to help dispose sanitary napkins. The entire system – as well as lighting for the school – is powered by solar energy, which Rao says makes it a “stand-alone, grid-independent system.”

A critical feature of the project, which began over a year-and-a-half ago, has been its engagement with the local community. It has been designed keeping in mind the local socio-cultural and economic conditions as well as sanitation behaviours. “This initiative is hugely exciting because it integrates social science and new technologies to deliver on an ambitious and important Sustainable Development Goal: providing clean water and sanitation for all by 2030,” says Helliwell.

Rao believes that this modular system can be replicated as well as scaled up. He says that these decentralised plants can also be built in urban settings like apartment complexes and educational institutions, especially those with hostels. According to him, by merely combining a grey water recovery system with a rainwater harvesting plant, the use of fresh water – which he describes as a luxury for a country like India – could go down by as much as forty percent.

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

NIPGR Researchers Open A Window On The Secrets Of Plant Life to Public

NIPGR organized an Open day for the general public in order to popularize research in plant sciences and its applications.

BY SCISOUP  Appeared In BiotechTimes ResearchStash

On October 26, 2018, New Delhi based National Institute of Plant Genome Research (NIPGR), an autonomous institute under the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India, had organized an Open day for the general public in order to popularize research in plant sciences and its applications.

Students and teachers were invited from various National Capital Region (NCR) based schools and colleges to visit laboratories of NIPGR. Here is a link to a short report on NIPGR Science Outreach event: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wL-BYlJERag
In this event, a total of 1079 students participated along with their teachers. Among the participant, 958 were school students from 30 different government and private schools and 121 college students from 3 colleges. The NIPGR community presented 31 posters and 18 exhibits on various aspects of life sciences in general and plant sciences in particular.

“The open day is an opportunity for NIPGR to open its doors to the local community and contribute towards inculcating in students a passion for science,” said Prof. Ramesh V. Sonti, Director at NIPGR, New Delhi.

NIPGR scientists, technical specialists, and young researchers explained in very simple language about ongoing plant research activities in the institute. They covered various aspects of plant sciences including photosynthesis, ecological nitrogen fixation, plant-pathogen interactions, crop yield improvement etc.

Various posters, exhibitions, and practical demonstrations like how to isolate DNA from plants, how to visualize protein and DNA in gel etc. were arranged to provide real experiences of a working molecular biology laboratory. The visitors were also provided a tour of the research facilities at NIPGR, where they were explained about the working of various scientific instruments like the Confocal Microscope, automated DNA Sequencer, PCR, Real-time PCR, central instrumentation facility etc.

School students got an opportunity to witness the banana plant tissue culture techniques for a better understanding of working with plants in the laboratory. Students were also shown plant cells under the foldscope microscope. They were shown videos clearly demonstrating how plant stem cells look like under advanced microscopes.

Day-Long activities and interactions with NIPGR researchers have sensitized and inspired students and teachers about the opportunities in plant sciences, particularly in plant molecular biology.