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Science & Technology Current Affairs July 5th Week 2017
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Science & Technology Current Affairs July 5th Week 2017

1. Spanish scientists discover novobiocin compound as anti-Zika drug.


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Researchers San Antonio Catholic University of Murcia, Spain have discovered novobiocin compound that could be used as a potential drug to fight the effects of a Zika virus infection.

The novobiocin molecule (compound) was previously used in antibiotic drug to fend off “nosocomial” infections (those acquired inside a hospital). However, the drug was withdrawn from the market because it had lost its potency as an antibiotic.

Researchers have found that this compound can counter the symptoms of the mosquito-borne Zika disease. It has shown phenomenal recovery results in mice with 100-percent cure rate. However, researchers are still figuring out the exact dose needed for humans to achieve the same successful outcome. They also have patented the molecule for anti-Zika treatment.

Zika virus is vector borne disease transmitted primarily by Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, the same mosquito that transmits dengue. It is also found that, sexual transmission of Zika virus disease is possible. The Zika virus has been named after Zika forest in Uganda where it was first isolated in 1947.

The Zika disease had seen swift expansion between early 2015 and January 2016 throughout South America and Caribbean where babies with abnormally smaller heads due to Microcephaly were born. World Health Organization (WHO) had declared the disease as epidemic and global health emergency but later revoked it after the outbreak was brought under control.
 
2. Human antibodies produced in lab for first time.
 
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Scientists for the first time have produced human antibodies in the laboratory. They have developed revolutionary technique which can help in rapid development of new vaccines to treat a wide range of infectious diseases.

Antibodies mainly function in the humoral adaptive immune system by secreting antibodies to fight off infections caused by bacteria, viruses, and other invasive pathogens. They are produced by body’s B cells (B lymphocytes). When an individual B cell recognises a specific pathogen-derived antigen molecule, it proliferates and develops into plasma cells that secrete large amounts of antibody capable of binding to the antigen and fending off the infection.

To develop revolutionary technique, researchers had replicated the process of natural production of antibodies from B cells isolated from patient blood samples in the laboratory to produce specific antibodies. They had found that B cells need a second signal to start proliferating and developing into plasma cells apart encountering a specific antigen at first instance.

For the second signal they used short DNA fragments called CpG oligonucleotides, which activate a protein named TLR9 inside B cells. However, they found that treating patient-derived B cells with CpG oligonucleotides stimulates every B cell, not just the tiny fraction capable of producing a particular antibody.

So to overcome the problem they treated patient-derived B cells with tiny nanoparticles coated with both CpG oligonucleotides and an antigen. With this technique, CpG oligonucleotides were only internalised into B cells recognising the specific antigen. These cells were only ones in which TLR9 is activated to induce their proliferation and development into antibody-secreting plasma cells.
 
3. Government launches Aarambh mobile app for road maintenance.
 
government launches aarambh mobile app for road maintenance

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The Union Ministry of Rural Development launched Aarambh mobile app for performance based maintenance contracting and community contracting for maintenance of rural roads.

It was launched jointly launched by Union Minister for Panchayati Raj, Rural Development, Drinking Water & Sanitation Narendra Singh Tomar and visiting ILO Deputy Director General (Policy) Deborah Greenfield.

Aarambh mobile app aims at use of Geographic Information System (GIS) based mapping for making road inventories, condition surveys and producing cost estimates and other relevant data for preparation and monitoring of annual road maintenance plans. Its usage will help to enhance the service delivery of the state level institutions in planning and implementing performance based rural roads maintenance contracts. 

In addition, the Ministry also launched a Concept Note and Guidance Note for Mobilizing Funds for Maintenance of Rural Road. The note outlines innovative ways, that can be adopted by State Governments for mobilizing additional funds for road maintenance and also adopt international best practices worldwide. It will help states to overcome challenge of resource mobilization for rural roads maintenance.
 
4. Scientists develop new software that can crate 3D models from 2D photographs.
 
Scientists develop new software that can crate 3D models from 2D photographs
 
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Scientists including one of Indian origin have developed new artificial intelligence (AI) software called SurfNet that can create three dimensional (3D) models from 2D photographs. When fully developed SurfNet could have significant applications in the fields of 3D searches on the internet researchers. In an advance version it can allow future robots to navigate in the real world.

SurfNet software using hundreds of thousands of 2D shapes of objects can reconstruct it model in 3D. It utilizes machine learning to analyze 2D shapes and convert them into projected 3D forms. In addition to transforming 2D shapes, the technology can also merge two shapes into one another. The technology becomes more refined over time as the AI learns more about the shapes.

Future potential application: It can be used in robotics, object recognition and even self-driving cars. SurfNet will give them ability to understand the 3D environment around them using standard 2D cameras. It can also be used to create 3D content for virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) by simply using standard 2D photos.

Artificial Intelligence 
Artificial intelligence is the branch of computer science concerned with making computers behave like humans. In contrast to normal hardware and software, AI enables a machine to perceive and respond to its changing environment.

 5. Scientists for first time edit genes of human embryos.


 Scientists for first time edit genes of human embryos

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Scientists from Oregon Health and Science University, US for first time have successfully edited genes of human embryos to correct defective DNA that cause inherited diseases.

They had used the CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing technology to alter human DNA in single-cell embryos, which allows specific sections of DNA to be altered or replaced.

Key Facts

In this experiment, scientists had used sperm donated from men who carried inherited disease mutations to demonstrate that the genes can be corrected. The one-celled embryos were created in the experiment, were never intended to be implanted into a womb and were only allowed to develop for a few days.

They had used a process called “germline engineering” in which genetically modified organisms pass changes to their offspring to eradicate inherited disease. It allowed so-called permanent germline changes to pass down to any offspring.

The research holds great potential to avoid many genetic diseases, but has raised fears of “designer babies”. It is also considered as a milestone in journey for giving birth to the first genetically modified humans.

CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing technology

CRISPR short form of clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats. It allows scientists to selectively edit genome parts and replace them with new DNA stretches. CRISPR is a collection of DNA sequences that direct Cas9 where to cut and paste. Cas9 is an enzyme that can edit DNA, allowing the alteration of genetic patterns by genome modification. CRISPR-Cas9 technology has the potential to revolutionise the treatment of blood diseases, tumours and other genetic diseases.

 

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