Daily Current Affairs

Prelims Prominence - October 23, 2017

Helathcare Sector (R&D)

IIT teams use plant extract, heat to kill skin cancer cells

  • After 4-5 minutes of irradiation, about 80% of cancer cells were killed
  • Nanoparticle formulation of a chlorophyll-rich biomolecular extract of an Indian medicinal plant Anthocephalus cadamba combined with a near-infrared dye has been found to selectively kill skin cancer cells.
  • Plant extract is particularly toxic to cancer cells as there is enhanced generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS)
  • Dye aids in the destruction of cancer cells through photothermal therapy.
  • Near-infrared light was used to heating up the nanoformulation
  • While the plant extract is hydrophobic and hence the uptake by cells will be less, the nanoformulation of the extract makes it less hydrophobic

IISc: new tool to diagnose malaria

  • Currently, visual microscopic identification of the malarial parasite Plasmodium inside red blood cells (RBCs) is used, but the new tool can detect the disease even in RBCs that do not themselves host the parasite but lie near the infected ones.
  • RBCs that lie close to the infected ones appear rigid much like the affected ones
  • The Brownian motion (random movement of particles) of the normal RBC was found to be different from the infected ones.
  • The researchers quantified the fluctuations using the ‘corner frequency’ measurement.
  • The corner frequency of normal cells was 25 hertz whereas it was 29 hertz for infected cells.
  • The change in frequency was due to the difference in the rigidity of the cells
  • Only 2-5% of the RBCs host the parasite. But we can see the rigidity in other RBCs in the infected pool also. This is called the bystander effect

Artificial Intelligence

Self-taught program beats humans at Go game

  • Go is a traditional Chinese board game played on a checkerboard with ‘stones’ of two colours
  • Researchers at DeepMind, a company that specialises in developing artificial intelligence, have succeeded in developing a program – AlphaGoZero – that can beat human players at the Go game.
  • Now that itself does not sound new – it is well known that earlier versions of AlphaGo have beaten world champions at the game.
  • What is new is that, using the method of deep reinforcement learning, the program has actually learnt the game all by itself – with no human inputs – from scratch, tabula rasa!

Science & Tech.

IIT Hyderabad uses activated jamun to remove fluoride from water

  • The team mixed the jamun seed powder thoroughly with potassium hydroxide and heated it to 900 degree C for an hour to produce activated jamun powder.
  • The activation increases the pore volume several times and the surface area by more than 50 times
  • The fluoride ion removal increases with a decrease in pH, with maximum adsorption found at pH 3.
  • The activated jamun seed acquires a positive charge at low pH and the positive charge attracts the fluoride ions while the negative charge
  • With fluoride adsorption capacity of 3.65 milligram per gram, activated jamun seed was close to tea ash (3.75 milligram per gram) but much higher than other substances such as banana peel, coffee husk, and coconut shell.
  • On heating the activated jamun powder to 50 degree C, the fluoride gets desorbed and the jamun powder can be reused up to five times

Focus

A jumbo cup of Assam tea

  • At the edge of the Bodoland Territorial Area in Assam, where the Brahmaputra valley plains meet the hills of Bhutan, there are two tea farms owned by a farmer named Tenzing Bodosa.
  • Earlier this year, these became the first in the world to receive a new certification launched by the University of Montana’s Broader Impacts Group in the U.S., in partnership with Wildlife Friendly Enterprise Network (WFEN), which describes itself as “a global community dedicated to the development of products and tourism that contribute to the conservation of threatened wildlife
  • The tea from Bodosa’s farms was certified as ‘Elephant Friendly Tea’.