Science & Technology Current
Science & Technology Current Affairs February 1st week 2016
Category : Science & Technology Current
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1) India and the NASA entered into a partnership to explore the environment of Ladakh.

  • India and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) entered into a partnership to explore the environment of Ladakh under NASA’s Spaceward Bound programme.
  • Under the partnership, a team of scientists from NASA, the Mars society Australia and the Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeobotany, Lucknow will undertake an expedition to Ladakh in August 2016.
  • During their 10-day expedition, the scientists will study the similarities of certain parts of the region’s topography and microbial life to the surroundings of Mars.
Key facts:
  1. Ladakh offers a cold, high altitude (3500 - 5500 meter above sea level), high UV exposed, dry ecosystem with Mars analogue topological features.
  2. The pristine Ladakh environment will tell us about the origin and evolution of Earth’s topological features and also about how microbial life has adapted itself to sustain itself in such harsh conditions. 
  3. High passes, permafrost regions, glaciers, hot springs, shallow and palaeo lakes and high altitude night skies help the astrobio/ geoscientsts to conduct experiments in order to find answer some of the most fundamental questions about life.
  4. India’s success in executing the Mars Orbiter Mission will be an added advantage for international scientists for achieving greater results as part of the collaboration.
About Spaceward Bound programme
  1. It is an educational program developed at NASA Ames Research Center in California, the USA. 
2) The HFEA of United Kingdom granted license to the Francis Crick Institute.
  • The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) of United Kingdom granted license to the Francis Crick Institute to use new gene editing techniques on human embryos.
  • Under the license, the institute will be allowed to genetically modify human embryos for research purposes in order to better understand infertility and miscarriage issues.
  • With this issuance of license, the UK became one of the first countries in the world to give authorization for experimentation on human embryos. Earlier, China allowed similar research on a limited scale.
Details related to the research:
  1. The aim of the research, led by Dr Kathy Niakan, is to understand the genes human embryos need to develop successfully.
  2. The work carried out at the Crick will be for research purposes and will look at the first seven days of a fertilised egg`s development (from a single cell to around 250 cells).
  3. The knowledge acquired from the research will be important for understanding how a healthy human embryo develops.
  4. This knowledge may improve embryo development after in vitro fertilisation (IVF) and might provide better clinical treatments for infertility, using conventional medical methods.
  5. In line with HFEA regulations, any donated embryos will be used for research purposes only and cannot be used in treatment. 
3) Japan’s ShinMaywa Industries is planning to set up manufacturing plant of US-2 amphibious aircraft.
  • Japan’s ShinMaywa Industries is planning to set up manufacturing plant of US-2 amphibious aircraft in India under ‘Make in India’ initiative to cater to international demands. 
  • The move comes as Indian Navy plans to procure 6 such aircrafts between 2017 and 2022 by signing a government to government deal i.e. initial purchase being off the shelf. 
Key facts 
  1. The government to government defence deal for purchasing of US-2 amphibious aircraft will be having a 30 per cent offset clause. Under this clause, ShinMaywa will set up a manufacturing plant in India to cater to the global market since the demand for the aircraft is high.
  2. If the deal goes through, these aircrafts would be the first major export of Japanese defence item after the pacifist country had lifted its decades-long self-imposed embargo on export of weapons and India its first importer.
US-2 amphibious aircraft: 
 It has long-range civilian and military applications and can land on choppy waters. Indian Navy is seeking to purchase it in order to monitor India’s vast coastline, islands and for use is disaster relief.

3) A Japanese firm plans to open the world’s first fully automated, human-free farm.

  • A Japanese firm plans to open the world’s first fully automated, human-free farm which means robots will do almost every job from watering seedlings to harvesting crops. 
  • Spread, a Kyoto-based company said it intends to start operating the farm by 2017 with an entire staff of robots and produce 30,000 heads of lettuce a day. 
  • The firm also hopes to boost that figure to half a million lettuce heads daily within five years. While the future of farming is going to be all about robots, humans are still going to play one important role in the process.
  • Spread believes that the move would chop personnel costs by about half and knock energy expenses down by nearly one third. 
  • The pesticide-free lettuce will also have more beta carotene than other farm-grown lettuce.
  • The farm, measuring about 4,400 square metres (47,300 square feet), will have floor-to-ceiling shelves where the produce is grown.

4) Bharat Biotech develops world’s first Zika vaccine candidates.

  • Hyderabad-based vaccines manufacturer Bharat Biotech has announced a breakthrough in developing the world’s first Zika vaccine by developing two candidates.
  • In this regard, the pharmaceutical company has submitted two vaccine candidates, one each of inactivated and recombinant type to the Government. 
Key facts:
  1. These two candidates are in an advanced stage of development and could be ready soon after pre-clinical studies concluded in the next five months. 
  2. The company already has filed patents for both candidates in July 2015 and is looking to start animal tests soon after getting regulatory approvals for conducting clinical trials.
 Inactivated vaccine:
  • It consists of the disease-causing microbe which is killed with chemicals, radiation or heat. These microbes are grown under controlled conditions and are rendered non-infectious in order to reduce antigenicity. It is more stable and safer vaccine compared to vaccines using live microbes.
 Recombinant DNA vaccine:
  • It is produced through the recombinant DNA technology. This technology involves inserting the DNA encoding antigen (such as a bacterial surface protein) that stimulates immune response. It generally uses an attenuated virus or bacterium to introduce microbial DNA to cells of the body. 
5) India’s first ayurvedic anti-diabetic drug launched.
  • The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has launched India’s first anti-diabetic ayurvedic drug for type two Diabetes mellitus. The drug BGR-34 is developed jointly by National Botanical Research Institute (NBRI) and Central Institute for Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (CIMAP), the Lucknow-based research units of CSIR.
  • While the modern diabetes drugs are known for side-effects and toxicity, BGR-34 works by controlling blood sugar and limiting the harmful effects of other drugs.
  • For the purpose of quality commercial production and extended distribution, AIMIL Pharmaceuticals (I) Ltds, known for its innovative Ayurvedic products, has been transferred the rights and technical knowhow to produce and market it for medical use.
  • BGR-34 costs Rs. 5 per tablet and is available at all major chemist counters in Kerala.
  • BGR-34 for Blood Glucost Regulator, containing 34 identified activephyto-constitutes from herbal resources. AIMIL pharmaceuticals already had one successful technological collaboration with Defence Research and Development Organisation for effective and safe treatment of leucoderma, still considered a big challenge.
6) WHO accords PQP certification to Indian vaccine maker GreenSignal Bio Pharma.
  • The World Health Organisation (WHO), a UN Health agency has accorded PQP (Pre-qualification of Medicines Programme) certification to Chennai based GreenSignal Bio Pharma.
  • The Indian pharmaceutical company was accorded this certification for manufacturing a BCG (Bacillus Calmette–Guérin) vaccine. 
  • With this, it became second Indian company to get PQP certification from WHO.
About PQP certification:
  1. PQP certification helps pharmaceutical companies to participate in the global immunisation programme which is facilitated through international procurement agencies such as UNICEF and others.
  2. These international institutions prefer WHO list of pre-qualified pharmaceutical products while making a decision on procurement for distribution in resource-limited nations. 
7) First Artificial Graphene created.
  • Scientists, led by an Indian-origin researcher, have created an artificial material with a structure similar to the ‘wonder material’ graphene. Discovered in 2004, graphene is a one-atom-thick sheet of graphite.
  • Graphene transistors are predicted to be substantially faster and more heat tolerant than today’s silicon transistors and may result in more efficient computers and the next-generation of flexible electronics.
  • Jak Chakhalian, professor of physics and director of the Artificial Quantum Materials Laboratory at the University of Arkansas in US, said “We’ve basically created the first artificial graphene-like structure with transition metal atoms in place of carbon atoms.