Friday, July 27, 2012

Aged termites carry out suicide missions on behalf of their nest mates.

Biologists led by biochemist Robert Hanus of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic in Prague  found something strange with termites in  a forest in French Guiana. The strange thing is presence of  unique spots of blue on the backs of the insects in one nest [see figure below]. When touched with forceps the termites having these spots exploded. Further study of these blue spots showed that they contain   explosive crystals. These spots (crystals) were found only on the backs of the oldest termites in the colony. Their study concluded that the aged termites carry out suicide missions on behalf of their nest mates.

After their initial observation, the team carried out field studies of Neocapritermes taracua termites and discovered that those with the blue spots also exploded during encounters with other species of termites or larger predators. The researchers report online today in Science that the secretions released during the explosion killed or paralyzed opponents from a competing termite species. However, if the scientists removed the blue crystal from the termites, their secretions were no longer toxic.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Rare Genomics Institute - giving free genomic solutions to people affected by rare diseases

An estimated 250 million people worldwide suffer from rare diseases. However, because each individual disease affects such a small number of people, little funding is used to study these conditions. Consequently, these patients are left with neither hope of a cure nor understanding of the disease. Each day is a living struggle for them to find a social identity in a world where they feel socially neglected and lost. Because most rare diseases are genetic in nature, it is believed that genome sequencing has the power to help these patients in a way that conventional diagnostics cannot. However, most families affected with rare diseases are under financial strain, making access to such technologies difficult. To address this need, an institute called Rare Genomics Institute has been established.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Questions on Science Policies for US Presidential Candidates

ScienceDebate [ Science Debate is a nonprofit  organization dedicated to elevating science and engineering policy issues in the national dialogue of the United States] has asked the Obama and Romney campaigns to address the following questions on Science policies by mid-August. It would be interesting to give these questions to our leaders.

1. Innovation and economics: Science and technology have fueled more than half of U.S. economic growth since World War II, but studies suggest that may be changing. What policies will best ensure America remains a world leader in innovation?
2. Climate change: What is your position on cap-and-trade, carbon taxes and other policies to address global warming? What steps can we take to improve our ability to tackle challenges like climate change that cross national boundaries?
3. Research and the future: Many other countries are making big investments in scientific research, but since the next U.S. Congress will inevitably have to curb spending, how would you prioritize research projects in your budget proposals?

Friday, July 20, 2012

Aged people get more cancers than young ones due to use of Non-homologous end joining instead of homologous recombination for repairing double strand breaks

Double stranded breaks are the most dangerous form of DNA damage occurring in the genome. Double strand breaks are caused by internal agents like reactive oxygen species and many external agents like radiation.  Replication errors also cause double strand breaks.   Living organisms have two methods for correcting this error: Homologous recombination(HR) found both in bacteria and eukaryotes and non-homologous end joining (NHEJ) found mostly in eukaryotes. HR is a method which corrects the double strand breaks by using the homologous chromosome as the reference (this is the reason for diploid nature of most eukaryotes). Except for gene conversion, it does not cause mutation  to the genes in which the double strand break has occurred (usually broken ends have damaged bases which are removed  and correct bases are added by HR using the homologous chromosome as the template). But NHEJ just joins the broken ends without replacing the damaged bases (as it does not have a template to refer) leading to mutation of the genes in which double strand breaks occurred.

BT Cotton increased yield by 24 % and profit by 50 %

Bt cotton, the genetically engineered cotton plant, contains genes from Bacillus thuringiensis that make
the plant resistant to the cotton bollworm complex. This inbuilt insect resistance was predicted to reduce the pesticide usage. Most short term analyses showed that farmers are benefited because of reduced  pesticide usage and increased yield. But environmentalists never agreed with these analyses.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


Last year  NASA made a sensational claim about discovery of  DNA in which the phosphorous is replaced by arsenic.  The bacterial strain GFAJ-1 was isolated from the arsenic-rich sediments of California’s Mono Lake by its ability to grow in the artificial Mono Lake medium without phosphate but with high concentrations of arsenate. It was claimed that GFAJ-1 grew in -P medium only when arsenate was provided, and  significant amounts of arsenate were detected in subcellular fractions.  This was interpreted as “ growth due to  use of arsenate in place of phosphate”. Wolfe-Simon et al. further reported that arsenic was incorporated into the DNA backbone of GFAJ-1 in place of phosphorus, with an  estimated 4% replacement of P by As based on the As:P ratio measured in DNA samples embedded in agarose gel slices.

This discovery claim by NASA  Scientists was sensational as

Monday, July 9, 2012

HIGGS BOSON (God Particle) discovered last week may be an impostor

Last week CERN scientists announced proof of the existence of the Higgs boson that  gives us mass and holds the Universe together. Now a group of Scientists have reinterpreted the data and conclude that the particle identified as Higgs Boson may  be an impostor.
Click the link below for the full article about this

Next Generation Genomics Lecture at CPMB

Friday, July 6, 2012

Choosing negative control of cell division: one of the major cause of problems in animal system

Some weeks back when we were discussing about cell division and cancer we were comparing plant vs animal cell cycle and the interesting question came is “Why animals and plants chose different mode of controlling their cell division ?”.  I thought of sharing this with you in this post.
Plants normally do not die (premature death) out of inherent problems (defects in their own genes controlling cell cycle). Mostly their premature death is due to pathogens or stress which are external. In contrast, in animals including human one of the major cause of premature death is the cancer which is due to the defects in cell division control genes.  If we take an aerial view of this problem one thing is clear that plant cells are

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Higgs Boson Particle: Not able to understand ?, Read this Article written by a Dutch theoretical physicist


Just as a start: the most important concept is not the Higgs particle but the Higgs field. By finding and studying the Higgs particle one hopes to find out more about the properties of the Higgs field.

The Higgs field is a field that fills the entire universe and with which we continuously interact and so we "feel" the presence of the Higgs field. Because of this continuous interaction we are heavy and do not fly through space with the speed of light. The Higgs particle is the ripple of the lowest possible energy in the Higgs field.

The best way to picture a field is as a very long but tight rope that at at one end is secured to a wall and that at the other end is held in your hand. If you now move your hand quickly up and down, it will cause a wave to run through the rope. A field is like the rope and a particle is like a wave in the rope. With a rope held in your hand you can make any motion you want and thus make any wave you like. In quantum mechanics you can only move your hand in a definite number of ways and so create only a limited number of particles.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012


3D printing is a method of  manufacturing  things like models of humans, animals, proteins, commonly used tools, jewelry parts of automobiles, machines and aeroplanes etc. using a computer-controlled printer. Printer means not the ink based printers we use daily. These printers  spit  materials like metals, plastic, plaster, polymer, resin etc. Scientifically manufacturing things in 3D printing is called an additive manufacturing technology compared to the normal manufacturing technologies which are called subtractive technologies.   3D objects are generally built out of layers.