Monthly Archives: July 2015

Promising substrate for heart-cell regeneration grown In-vitro

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Across the globe, the lifestyle of the people is increasingly disposed to urban trends and that too at a fast pace.This change has in some or the other way led to an upsurge in lifestyle diseases- hypertension, diabetes, cholesterol, cardiac issues, etc. Increasing stress levels, like strained archers and that too without losing aim, sharply shoot up the blood pressure levels, thus, leading cardiac ailments. In many instances the situation gets so worst that the patient is left with no other option , but to go for heart transplantation surgery. According to a survey, it is estimated that there are approximately 50,000 candidates for transplanting surgery but the number of available donors is just 5000! The situation has annoyed the medical science and researchers are constantly trying their best to find a potent solution to this worriment.

A breakthrough in this direction has been made by the brilliant research team of Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT). The team have succeeded in culturing heart cells on recombinant analogs of spidroin meshes, r-spidroin, therefore, proving r-spidroin a consequential substrate for cardiac tissue regeneration. Spidroin is a protein which forms the construction material for spider web. Recombinant analogs of spidroin have been proved as a potent substrate in tissue engineering.

The researchers from MIPT  synthesized two recombinant analogs of spidroins- rS1/9 and r-S2/12. the genes encoding rS1/9 (source: Nephila clevipes ) and r-S2/12 (source: Nephila madagascareinsis ) were cloned in the yeast Sacchromyces cerevisiae . The recombinant spidroins as well as natural silk from Bombyx mori cocoons were electrospun ( a process that uses an electrical discharge to extract a very fine, of nano and micro scale, fibres from a liquid). Cardiac cells from neonatal Wistar rats were isolated and cultured on a suitable culture medium. The primary culture cells tested for their co-ordinated contraction activity. These cells were then cultured on r-spidroin fiber meshes and their cohesion properties to the fiber meshes were observed. The cells successfully adhered and grew on the recombinant protein meshes nd also showed unified contractile activity.

This research finding has, thus, lit up a ray of hope in medical science and have taken it to a step closer towards in-vitro  cardiac tissue regeneration.

Source: http://www.journals.plos.org/plosone/article.

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All about Carbon Credits.

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These days ‘Development’ and ‘Innovation’ are the key words for every nation. For over a century  the human habitation on the earth has left no stone unturned to keep up the pace with the developed part of the globe. Thus, there is a rapid socio- and economic transformation from an agrarian society to an industrialized one. Industrialization  is one of the prime aspect for the development of a nation. A country being industrialized means setting up of more factories, commercial enterprises and production houses. More industries, more the pollution. And it is this ‘pollution’ that has set the alarm bells ringing. The release of hazardous gases like carbon mono-oxide, nitrous oxide, methane, chlorofluorocarbon carbons, etc  in the environment have adversely affected the ozone layer , our protective sheath, in the atmosphere. Day-by-day their increasing concentration is thinning the sheath up in the atmosphere. As a result, the ozone layer is losing its strength to emit these gases off the environment, thus, reflecting it back to the earth’s atmosphere. This trapping of the gases is gradually raising the earth’s temperature, a phenomenon called ‘global warming’. Multitudinous efforts have been taken up to combat this problem. One such phenomenal solution is the concept of ‘CARBON CREDIT’.

In order to understand the concept, it is mandatory to comprehend the meaning of carbon credit. It is, basically, a generic term for a tradable certificate or permit that grants the right upon an organization or a group to emit one metric tonne of carbon dioxide or any other gas that has mass equivalent to one tonne of carbon dioxide. For example if an environmental group plants trees that are enough to decrease the carbon dioxide emission by one tonne then that group will be awarded one credit.. This group can then trade this one carbon credit by selling it to an industrial group who has emission quota of suppose 12 tonnes but is expecting to produce 13 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

Carbon credits are generated from carbon dioxide or any other greenhouse gas emission reduction activities such as afforestation and reforestation activities. Developing nations are the highest producers of carbon credits as these locations are considered to be environmental ‘hot-spots’.

Carbon Credit and Kyoto Protocol 

To address the problems arising due to rapid climate change and to combat the issue of global warming , the United Nations passed the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, which was ratified by 170 countries. The Protocol have set the target of reducing the emission of green house gases by an average of 5.2% by the year 2012. Nations signatory to the Kyoto Protocol have accepted the targets for reducing the emissions and these targets are expressed as levels of allowed emissions, which are divided into Assigned Amount Units (AAU).

Kyoto Protocol provides for three mechanisms for the industrialized countries to greenhouse gas reduction credits.

1) Emission Trading (ET): It allows countries that have emission units to spare- emissions permitted but not used, to sell this excess capacity to countries that are over their emission targets.

2) Joint Implementation (JI): In this , where an industrialized nation with high costs of domestic greenhouse gas reductions would be able to set up a project in another developed nation.

3) Clean Development Mechanism (CDM): It aspires  to advocate clean development in developing nation. In this system a developed country sponsors a greenhouse reduction project in the developing country where the costs of project activities is low. Developed country would be given credits for meeting its emission reduction targets whereas the developing nation would be benefited with capital investment and clean technology initiatives.

CDM has Certified Emission Reductions (CERs) as their tradable units, which are commonly known as ‘carbon credits’, where each unit is equivalent to reduction of one metric tonne of carbon dioxide. CDM is supervised by CDM Executive Board and is under guidance of the Conference of the Parties of UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change). UNFCCC is an international environmental treaty negotiated at the UN Conference, Earth Summit, held in Rio de Janerio in 1992, to stabilize the concentrations of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with climate system.

Potential Markets for Carbon Credits

Broadly speaking, there are two types of markets for trading carbon credits. First, is the compliance market , which comprises of legally-binding mandatory emission trading schemes largely established under Kyoto Protocol. Second is the voluntary market , which enables the companies and individuals to purchase carbon credits on voluntary bases to satisfy personal or Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).

For trading purposes CER ( equivalent to one metric tonne of carbon dioxide emission) is considered which can be traded either privately or in the international market at the prevailing market price. Each international transfer is validated by UNFCCC.

India and Carbon Credits

India is a developing nation. Companies that opt for eco-friendly mode  for achieving their production targets or invest in windmill, bio-gas or bio-diesel production projects are the one which generate carbon credits whereas industries dealing in cement, steel, textile, fertilizer production , that pollute the environment but also try to reduce their emissions, can buy the credits and make money. India is a strong supplier of carbon credit and supply second highest number of CERs. One CER in Indian rupees is Rupees 1600. The must mention example is of Delhi Metro Rail corporation (DMRC) that has become the world’s first rail project to earn carbon credits using regenrative braking system.

India has two Commodity Exchanges trading in carbon credits. First is the Multicommodity Exchange (MCX) , which is the Asia’s first ever commodity exchange to offer trade in carbon credits ( other examples being Chicago Climate Exchange and European Carbon Exchange), and second is National Commodity and Derivatives Exchange (NCDEX) that has also offered trading in carbon credits since 2008.

India , being a developing nation , has a huge growth potential by opting Clean Development Mechanism as it would bring in more opportunities for clean technology development, foreign investments and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

Electrical Nerve Stimulation- A hope for reversing the spinal cord nerve damage.

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Every year, across the globe, 2.5 lac to 5.0 lac people suffer from spinal cord injury. In India approximately 15 lac people live with spinal cord injury, with 10,000 new cases being added to this group of individuals every year. As per the reports from WHO, people with inured spine are 2-5 times more likely to die prematurely than people without a spinal cord injury, with worse survival rates in low- and middle- income countries.

A spinal cord injury (SCI) is an injury in the spinal cord that leads to either temporary or permanent loss in the cord’s normal motor, sensory or autonomic function. Major reasons for SCI are road accidents, falls, sporting activities and violence. The severity of the injury and its location on the spinal cord are the two parameters that decide the symptoms of SCI. The general symptoms include chronic pain, partial or complete loss of sensory function or motor control of arms, legs or complete body. The injury takes its harsh form when starts affecting the systems that regulate bowel or bladder control, breathing, heart rate and blood pressure. SCI can be diagnosed using an X-ray, MRI and CT scans.

If the injury is in the cervical (neck) region of the spine then it usually results in complete or partial tetraplegia / quadraplegia (loss of functions in limbs). Injury at or below thoracic spinal levels result in paraplegia (loss of motor or sensory functions of lower extremities). If lumbosacral regions of the spinal cord are injured then it results in decreased control of legs and hips, urinary system and anus.

A SCI is generally treated using medication (intravenous methylprednisolone) , immobilization (traction to stabilize spine), surgery (removing fragments of bones, foreign objects, fractured vertebrae that compress the spine). Researchers around the globe are working to find novel approaches to make SCI completely repairable.

As per the new study released in The American Physiological Society researchers from The University of Sydney in Australia reported that an intensive short-term nerve stimulation treatment could improve peripheral nerve function after the spinal cord injury. Patients with SCI had less excitable nerves with altered responses to electrical stimulation, indicating nerve dysfunction. In their research, patients with SCI underwent 30 minutes of electrical nerve stimulation therapy for 5 days a week for 6 weeks on one limb, while other limb remained untreated. After 6 weeks of the therapy, the nerves in the treated limb responded to electrical stimulation more like nerves in healthy subjects. On the other hand, nerve function in the untreated limb did not change over the six week period.

According to the researchers short-term peripheral nerve stimulation may be a new approach to prevent long-term damages in the nerve and muscle function and improving the rehabilitation outcomes. Electrical nerve stimulation has , thus, raised hopes for the patients suffering from SCI to again lead a normal dignified life in the society.