Monday, 29 January 2018

A Novel Long-Acting Medicine For The Prevention Of Malaria

Researchers have developed a nanotechnology-based drug delivery system for an antimalarial drug that provides long-term protection from malaria after a single injection into the muscle.


By Ratneshwar Thakur Published in BioTechTimes



Malaria is a serious public health concern for both non-immune travelers and populations that live in endemic areas. Though promising developments are being made in the laboratory, in spite of all these advances we do not have any available vaccine against malaria which could reliably provide high levels of long-lived protection. 

Currently, Antimalarial drugs are the only available alternatives to control malarial infections, thus drugs continue to be the preferred choice of physicians for malaria treatments. The present malaria prophylaxis requires a daily or weekly oral drug-dosing regimen which is commonly associated with nonadherence. 

In a collaborative study conducted by the University of Liverpool and the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine- a novel long-acting medicine for the prevention of malaria has been reported. Researchers have developed a nanotechnology-based drug delivery system for an antimalarial drug that provides long-term protection from malaria after a single injection into the muscle. The results of the study were published in the scientific journal Nature Communications.

“There are no current vaccines for malaria, and although our invention isn’t a vaccine we are hoping it can be deployed in a similar way to some other vaccines in that the injection protects against malaria infection for at least 1 month before another injection is given,” said Prof. Steve Rannard.

“While building upon recent HIV nanomedicine research; we felt there was a real opportunity to provide an additional tool to combat malaria. We are predominantly motivated by an ambition to develop nanotechnology-based healthcare solutions that are effective, but also affordable in low- and middle-income countries. The thought of our research helping to save lives is really what motivates us,” said Andrew Owen, Prof. of Molecular and Clinical Pharmacology at the University of Liverpool.

What is really exciting about this research is that a single administration of newly developed nanomedicine was able to protect mice from malaria for 28 days. “Since the drug we used (atovaquone) has a half-life eight-times faster in mice than humans we would expect much longer protection to be afforded in people. This could clearly have a huge impact on the epidemic,” said Prof. Andrew Owen.

According to the study, long-lasting protection against malaria from a single injection will mitigate the need to take daily oral antimalarial drugs for prophylaxis, which is both more convenient and may be more effective because people sometimes forget to take tablets. 

“It is important to recognize though that any pharmacological strategy for malaria prophylaxis will continue to need to be combined with other measures such as insect repellent, long sleeves and trousers, sleeping in mosquito-free environments and using insecticide-treated bed nets,” said the investigators.

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Water Repellent Coating That Mimics Lotus Surface Developed

Researchers at Indian Institute of Technology-Guwahati have provided a strategy for self-healing and the super-hydrophobic coating which might simplify the process of protecting surfaces from the water.


By Ratneshwar Thakur Published in India Science Wire

( (Right to Left)  Dr. Uttam Manna with his student Avijit Das)

Researchers are trying to mimic biological principles to develop new engineering solutions for medicine, industry and the environment. The approach combines life sciences with engineering and the physical sciences.

In case of a lotus leaf, beaded water droplets readily roll off on slight tilting of the interface. Such super-hydrophobicity of lotus leaf has inspired researchers to develop products or synthetic materials with extremely liquid water repelling surface that could meet real-world challenges.

Researchers at Indian Institute of Technology-Guwahati have provided a strategy for self-healing and the super-hydrophobic coating which might simplify the process of protecting surfaces from the water. The finding has been reported in scientific journal Chemistry of Materials.

“Our aim was to synthesize substrate independent coatings with highly durable bio-mimicked wettability—which would be capable of performing on severe conditions. Synthesis of such material is unprecedented in literature. We have got some promising results,” said Dr. Uttam Manna, who led the research.

The synthetic super-hydrophobic material could provide a general platform to design materials for widespread applications including self-cleaning, oil-water separation, water harvesting, guided water transfer, drug release, drug screening etc.

Researchers formulated Amino-graphene oxide (AGO) 2D Nanosheets--which are well known for its exceptional mechanical property in the reactive and porous polymeric coatings. The covalent integration of this AGO makes polymeric coating elastic and eventually makes it capable of self-healing pressure induced by physical damage.

On the other hand, 'chemically reactive' and porous polymeric coating allowed to tailor the essential chemistry and topography - three-dimensionally - in the material and provided robust bulk super-hydrophobicity.

Researchers have also tested polymeric coating for various physical stresses to check the durability of the embedded antifouling property of the synthesized materials. They claim that the current design is highly durable and has absolutely self-healable super-hydrophobicity without requiring any external stimuli.

Most often, such interfaces suffer from poor durability under diverse circumstances. “Our research interest is to develop self-healing and robust bio-mimicked interface which would be useful in many diverse outdoor energy and healthcare related applications,” said Avijit Das, first author in this study. Since the synthesized coating is capable of withstanding various physical damages without any external interventions, it could find commercial applications in future.

The research team included Avijit Das, Jumi Deka, K. Raidongia and Uttam Manna. The work was funded by the Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB) of the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and the Board of Research in Nuclear Sciences.

Thursday, 11 January 2018

New Approach For Producing Hydrogen Gas Developed

Researchers at National Chemical Laboratory (NCL), Pune has developed a new strategy to replace the expensive noble metal catalysts with an iron catalyst for the production of hydrogen gas.


By Ratneshwar Thakur      Published in India Science Wire
Also appeared in TheHindubusinessLine

(Dr. E. Balaraman with his research team)

Hydrogen is considered one of the best sources of green energy. But economic production and storage remain major challenges in propagating this green fuel. Scientists believe that developing specific catalysts could help produce hydrogen from cheap starting materials.

A research team led by Dr. E. Balaraman at National Chemical Laboratory (NCL), Pune has developed a new strategy to replace the expensive noble metal catalysts with an iron catalyst for the production of hydrogen gas. The process, they claim, is economical and sustainable. The study was published in the journal Nature Communications.

Researchers used abundantly available alcohols, N-heterocycles, and amines as starting reaction materials, along with the iron catalyst synthesized in the laboratory. Argon gas was then passed through the reaction tube to create inert reaction conditions in place of air. This reaction mixture was refluxed to get maximum conversion of starting material, resulting in the generation of hydrogen.

Hydrogen gas generated from various organic transformations indicated the successful performance of the new catalyst. “After completion of the reaction, the catalyst can be recovered to reuse for further reactions, simply by using a magnet,” Garima Jaiswal, a member of the research team, told India Science Wire.

Inspired by naturally occurring hydrogen processing in anaerobic bacteria, protozoa, fungi, and algae, chemists have been trying to design new catalysts. However, designing new catalytic systems based on abundant and inexpensive starting material is challenging.

It is known that removal of hydrogen atoms from an organic molecule can be achieved either by the use of strong oxidants or sacrificial hydrogen acceptors, which often produce plentiful waste. In the new study, the catalytic material was obtained by thermally pyrolyzing iron complex on the carbon support by using the unique core-shell architecture.

“The economics of hydrogen energy depends on the cost of starting material and the entire process. When we observed that alcohols could give rise to hydrogen by a simple reaction, we were excited. This reaction could be important because there are several types of alcohols which are available in abundance and can be obtained from indigestible biomass such as lignocellulose and some are presently considered as waste in chemical industrial sectors. By further fine-tuning the catalyst, if we can achieve production of hydrogen gas from such alcohols, we have the potential to convert waste into fuel,” said Dr. Balaraman.

Researchers point out that energy storage and use of abundantly available feedstock as a carbon source are the two main issues in developing economical green fuels. “The use of hydrogen will diversify energy sources and will reduce pollution and greenhouse gas emissions during energy conversion. We believe that our strategy may solve the issues related to energy and environment, said Dr. Balaraman.

The research team included Garima Jaiswal, Vinod G. Landge, D. Jagadeesan & E. Balaraman. The study was funded by Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB) of the Department of Science and Technology (DST) under its start-up grant for young scientists.

Journal Ref.: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-017-01603-3

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Scientists Find Genetic Switch That Decides Fate Of Embryonic Stem Cells

A team of researchers at the Bangalore-based Institute of Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine (InStem) has shown how a genetic switch controls the development of organs and body plan of animals.



(Dr. Ramkumar Sambasivan and his team members)

For normal birth or physical development of animals, regulation of their size, shape, and number of organs is very critical when the embryo is developing. Researchers are trying to understand mechanisms that regulate this during embryonic development.

A research team led by Dr. Ramkumar Sambasivan at the Bangalore-based Institute of Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine (InStem) has shown how a genetic switch controls the development of organs and body plan of animals. 

The team used mouse model for this study and revealed that when a gene called Tbx6 was mutated in mouse embryos, it led to the development of five spinal cords instead of one seen in normal embryos. The extra spinal cords were formed at the expense of a tissue, which gives rise to muscles and skeleton, according to results of the study published in journal Development.

“The novel observation in mutants highlighted the important role of Tbx6 and led us to investigate the connection between the spinal cord and muscle-skeleton development,” explained Alok Javali, a member of the research team.

Earlier studies had shown that during embryonic development of vertebrates, the axial growth is contributed by a small number of stem cells called neuro-mesoderm progenitors (NMPs). These cells generate spinal cord (neural tissue) as well as muscle-skeleton system (mesodermal tissue). However, it was not clear how NMPs with dual potential make a particular choice.

“We were trying to generate NMP-like cells in the dish from embryonic stem cells and made a surprising find that these cells express Tbx6. This led us to hunt for similar populations in developing embryos,” added Aritra Misra, another co-author of the paper.

Researchers observed Tbx6 expression in NMPs in mouse embryos. They found that the gene is specifically expressed in NMPs fated to become mesoderm, which goes on to make muscle and skeleton. When Tbx6 is absent (in the case of mutant embryos), instead of giving rise to both mesoderm and spinal cord, NMPs make only spinal cord, resulting in extra spinal cords. This means Tbx6 is critical in regulating ‘fate choice’ of NMP stem cells.

“Studying bizarre mutants with multiple limbs or heads or spinal cords is not driven by caprice, but is rather an important exercise in elucidating how nature generates tissues and organs during embryonic development. This knowledge could possibly be harnessed to design methods in the repair or regeneration of damaged tissues such as in spinal cord injuries in patients,” said Dr. Ramkumar, who is a recipient of the DBT-Ramalingaswami Fellowship.

The research team included Alok Javali, Aritra Misra, Karolis Leonavicius, Debalina Acharyya, Bhakti Vyas and Ramkumar Sambasivan. The study was funded by the Department of Biotechnology. (India Science Wire)

Journal Ref. : http://dev.biologists.org/content/early/2017/10/28/dev.153262