SBE Family

SBE Family

BID Fest 2020 Chief Guest, Dr. Jayachandra Bingi, IIITDM Kanchipuram

BID Fest 2020                                Chief Guest, Dr. Jayachandra Bingi, IIITDM Kanchipuram

Siemens Healthineers Ideathon

Siemens Healthineers Ideathon

Latest Posts

BioSkribble 3.0 !!!

Sarbajit Ray

SBE's BioReach Issue 03

Sarbajit Ray

 SBE's NEWSLETTER: BIOREACH

Issue 03


POST 1

The world's newest monkey species was found in a lab,

not on an expedition


Recently, the discovery of the Popa langur, a medium-sized leaf-eating monkey found in central Myanmar, was announced by the scientists. It is roughly calculated there are just 200 to 250 of these monkeys, which tells us that the newly discovered species is critically endangered. While discoveries such as the langur and the gliders are certainly exciting, it is important to know that these were not previously unseen species revealed by some intrepid explorer. Rather, these animals have been identified as a genetically distinct group within an already-known population. In fact, local people have been living with these animals for generations, and have their own ways of identifying and classifying species. When scholars announce a newly defined species based on genetic evidence, it usually means they have elevated an already defined subspecies to the species level.


POST 2

Guess what this prize winning image of Nikon’s 2020 photomicrography Competition depicts?


Baby Nemos grow like this inside their see-through eggs! The depicted developmental sequence of a clownfish came second in Nikon's 2020 Photomicrography Competition. The photographer even captured the little white package of sperm at the top of the egg on day one. Clownfish, like many reef fish, have evolved to hatch after dusk to avoid the threat of being eaten. Newly hatched baby clownfish, like most coral reef fish, are small (about 5mm long) and transparent. Hatching in darkness likely means they are less visible to predators as they emerge from their eggs. Findings show that the presence of artificial light, even at relatively low levels can cause problems in hatching. 


POST 3

For the first time close relatives of SARS-CoV-2 found outside China! Does this tell the actual origin of the virus?


Scientists discovered two viruses in frozen bats and bat droppings stored in Cambodian and Japanese laboratories. COVID-19 caused by the virus SARS-CoV-2, continues to circulate around and hence the scientists have never stopped looking for the pathogen’s point of origin. Like its cousin SARS-CoV, which caused outbreaks of severe acute respiratory syndrome in the early 2000s, SARS-CoV-2 likely originated in horseshoe bats (genus Rhinolophus). But some evidence suggests that the virus may have passed through another animal before infecting humans. By hunting for closely related coronaviruses, scientists can help solve the mystery of how SARS-CoV-2 jumped from bats to people, triggering the current pandemic.


POST 4

World's first: Drug guides stem cells to desired location, improving their ability to heal.


Scientists at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute have created a drug that can lure stem cells to damaged tissue and improve treatment efficacy. A first and major advancement for the field of regenerative medicine. The discovery, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), could improve current stem cell therapies designed to treat such neurological disorders as spinal cord injury, stroke, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and other neurodegenerative disorders.  This can also expand their use to new conditions, such as heart disease or arthritis.

POST 5

What makes the African crested rats deadly enough to kill a human?


African crested rats are rabbit-size fuzz balls and have catlike purr. But they're also highly poisonous as their furs are loaded with a toxin. It is so powerful that just a few milligrams is deadly enough to kill a human. The rats don't produce the poison themselves. A new study shows that they borrow it from a poisonous plant by chewing on the bark, mixing the toxin with their saliva and then grooming the lethal liquid into stripes of specialized hairs on their flanks. Crested rats' bodies measure about 9 to 14 inches (225 to 360 millimeters) long, and they inhabit woodlands in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda. But they were so difficult to trap or observe that little was known about their habits or where their poison came from, researchers reported Nov. 17 in the Journal of Mammalogy. 

SBE's BioReach Issue 02

Sarbajit Ray

 SBE's NEWSLETTER: BIOREACH

Issue 02


POST 1

Microscopic hidden world discovered on Leonardo da Vinci's drawings


Famous for his artwork and new technology ideas, Leonardo da Vinci’s paintings have uncovered a world invisible to the naked eye. The hidden world of these microbes could help in building a microbiome “catalogue” for artwork. Each piece has a collection of microbes unique to them. It could be based on the differences in the storage, the handling by art restorers and other reasons as well. These microbiomes could in the future, help detect forgeries or reveal enticing history behind the artwork. This is possible as the microbiomes have sufficient key elements that can help in identifying differences between the drawings.  The biological material found in seven of his drawings have a surprising diversity of fungi, bacteria and human DNA. It probably landed 501 years after his death, so most of it is from other people who have handled his work, not Da Vinci himself. Shockingly, fungi were not found to dominate his drawings, it was bacteria. A new tool called Nanopore quickly breaks down and analyzes genetic material. This new technique could uncover novel specifics in the history of well-studied artwork as well.


POST 2

CRISPR Genome editing system effective in treating metastatic cancer


With the advancement in technology improved cancer responses with less toxicity have been achieved through immunotherapy and molecularly targeted inhibitors-based treatments but these traditional cancer therapies have high recurrence rate and  requires repeated administration of cancer drugs which in turn increases the treatment related toxicity thus deteriorating the patient quality of life. CRISPR cas9 gene editing system could overcome these limitations, improve the treatment efficacy and has the potential to destroy the tumor cells. Researchers at Tel Aviv University developed a new lipid nanoparticle-based delivery system  that can specifically target the cancer cells and destroy  them by genetic manipulation. A safe and efficient lipid nanoparticle is used to deliver the CRISPR to its target cells and the cas9 enzyme acts as molecular scissors that cuts the cancer cell’s DNA and permanently prevents their replication. There are no side effects associated with this method. Researchers showed that the survival rate of mice with glioblastoma tumors was increased to 30%  and the survival rate of mice with ovarian cancer was increased by 80% after a single treatment with CRISPR-LNPs. With this innovative treatment we can hope treating other rare genetic disorders and viral diseases like AIDS one day.


POST 3

Superspreaders of Malaria: Children?


Malaria spreads from person to mosquito, then to person again. As it’s not person to person, the new study suggesting that children are asymptomatic spreaders of malaria is a cause of worry. Presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH) on November 18th, a new study showed that even a small number of infected kids can transfer the parasites to a great number of mosquitoes, which then infect more humans. Therefore, even in places that have controls like insecticides, free tests and treatment, malaria could rapidly spread. From research in Uganda, it has been shown that  usually children between the ages of 5 and 15 were asymptomatic, and the main source of infection of local mosquitoes. In experiments conducted, where mosquitoes were fed blood samples from infected people, more than 60% could be traced back to only four asymptomatic children. These children never seemed to fall ill, but continued to live normally with those parasites. Although if malaria is controlled in regions, the efforts should never decrease. These children could be the cause of a comeback of the disease.


Post 4

Mystery Behind COVID Smell Loss


Around 80 percent of people infected with Corona Virus have a disturbance of smell or a disruption of taste. Smell loss has become so common, that researchers have recommended it to use it as a diagnostic test, as it may be more reliable. Earlier in the pandemic, physicians and researchers were worried that the virus makes its way into the brain, where it could cause severe damage. However, this is not the case says Sandeep Robert Datta, a neuroscientist at Harvard Medical School. According to him, the primary source of insult is in the nose, in the nasal epithelium. It attacks the support cells and stem cells, not the neurons directly. This does not mean that neurons are not affected at all. Olfactory neurons do not have angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) receptors. This allow the virus to enter the cells. Sustentacular cells however, which support olfactory neurons in important ways, are studded with the receptors. These cells maintain the delicate balance of salt ions in the mucus that neurons depend on to send signals to the brain. If that balance is disrupted, it could lead to a shutdown of neuronal signaling and therefore of smell. 

The Catastrophic Case of Antibiotic Resistance

Sarbajit Ray

The Catastrophic Case of Antibiotic Resistance
By Aparajita Biswas 



“WE REALLY ARE FACING, IF WE DON'T TAKE

ACTION NOW, A DREADFUL POST ANTIBIOTIC APOCALYPSE”

-Chief Medical Officer UK, Dame Sally Davies



The Earth circles, and days go by, in this mysterious order , where life, is often survival , reeked  with struggle, and owing much to this struggle for life, any variation, however subtle and derived from whatever, cause progression, of behaviour and features, if it may be in any degree, advantageous to an individual of any species, in its infinitely complex relations to other beings and to the environment, will result in the continued preservation of that individual, and will generally be inherited by its offspring. Those who fail, go extinct, while others undergo evolution, no matter how evil it may be to the survival of others, but such is the struggle for survival that dictates the ugly mechanism of life.

Bacteria, are clearly the malicious weapons, glorified in the name of winners, in this race of adaptive evolution, better known as the Darwinian selection. Human survival, is our battle against them, primarily fought by biotechnologists, when the responsibility lies in every human, in the ways that will be elaborated further below.

The battle against microbial infections in ancient civilizations is well found. The modern spring of antibiotics set off with the discovery of penicillin by Sir Alexander Fleming in 1928.Ever since, several antibiotics have transformed what defines modern medicine and treatment and, in the process, saved several millions of lives.

Unfortunately, microbes undergo Darwinian selection to develop some mechanisms to go past the effects of these antimicrobial medications. Organisms may evolve defensive phenomena against them, such as, alterations in the target site, inhibition of drug from entering or drug distribution. Alternatively, they may produce enzymes that may work to degrade antimicrobials. 

Perhaps it is best that we start by defining what is antibiotic resistance all about.

To put it as plainly as possible, antibiotic resistance happens when germs such as bacteria and fungi eventually build up the ability to defeat the drugs designed to destroy them. 

That means that the germs are not killed and continue to grow. 

These infect humans and animals, and then the infections they cause become harder to treat due to the resistant strains developed. Hence, antibiotic resistance has to higher medical costs, prolonged hospital stays, and increased mortality, which, based on the pattern of the increased intensity of the previously mentioned consequences, call for a global, medical emergency.





What has led to cause this issue to the point that it has come to be a persistent global emergency?
Experimentations in evolutionary selection pressure, with the immense amount of antibiotics thrown upon to the planet, to treat diseases and to promote growth in animals used for poultry and food production has eventually led to consequences that are depressingly obvious: the fatal issue of antibiotic resistance in bacteria, rather pathogenic microbes in all. 

OVERUSE
The first and the most primary cause of antibiotic resistance is given over to its overuse. 
Sir Alexander Fleming had himself, in fact, raised his feared concern seeing regarding antibiotic overuse where he had clearly warned that the “public will demand [the drug and] … then will begin an era … of abuses”, and that is what it is today. This major crisis of increasing anti biotic resistance.
The overuse of antibiotics evidently drives the evolution of resistance. 
Studies have proven a direct relationship between antibiotic consumption and the occurrence of resistant strains of bacteria. 
In bacteria, genes can be inherited from related species or from non-related species on motile genetic structures such as plasmids. For instance, the horizontal gene transfer (HGT) mechanism allows for antibiotic resistance transfer between different species of bacteria. 
Sub-inhibitory and sub-therapeutic antibiotic concentrations lead to the development of antibiotic resistance by supporting genetic alterations, such as, but not limited to changes in gene expression, HGT, as mentioned previously, and of course, mutagenesis. Changes in antibiotic-induced gene expression may increase virulence, while the increased mutagenesis and HGT lead to antibiotic resistance and spread.
Resistance may also occur spontaneously through mutation. Antibiotics remove drug-sensitive competitors, leaving resistant bacteria behind to reproduce as a result of natural selection.
Despite the warnings of the consequence of overuse, antibiotics are often overprescribed, or wrongly prescribed, either by medical practitioners or by non-professional recommendations.

UNDERDOSE
Underdose, again is an issue too. Underdose of antibiotics may either happen because of wrong prescription or because some people do not follow the course of antibiotics correctly, abandoning the course of medication just because they think they feel better. This again, is more prevalent in lesser privileged areas, where it comes from the act of saving those medications for later use.
 Fleming himself, had stated,” The time may come when penicillin can be bought by anyone in the shops. Then there is the danger that the ignorant man may easily underdose himself and by exposing his microbes to non-lethal quantities of the drug make them resistant.”
Annually, several thousands of people die from infections acquired from hospitals, a lot of them being multi-drug resistant. Hospital-acquired infections (HAIs) is now a single regular term that is infamously related the adverse health effects of multiple drug resistance (MDR). This has come to be an additional burden to regulate and resolve by the hospital team. 
Infections caused by antibiotic-resistant germs are difficult, and sometimes impossible, to treat. In most cases, antibiotic-resistant infections require extended hospital stays, additional follow-up doctor visits, and costly alternatives.

AGRICULTURAL USES
Another issue of antibiotic resistance, rather, a rather significant one, while being the most ignored one, is the extensive use of antibiotics in agriculture.
Antibiotics are extensively implemented as growth supplements in livestock.
Almost 4/5th of the antibiotics sold in the United States, for instance, are used in animals, mainly allow growth and prohibit diseases. Treating livestock with antibiotics apparently improves the overall health of the animals, allowing a larger amounts of higher quality products. However, these very antibiotics that are used rather carelessly in livestock, are taken into human systems during consumption of these products.  The transfer of resistant bacteria to humans brings with its terrible consequences. 
So, this is how the sequence goes:
antibiotic use in food-producing animals kills or suppresses susceptible bacteria, but antibiotic-resistant bacteria to thrive
resistant bacteria are transmitted to humans through the food supply
these bacteria can cause infections in humans that may lead to adverse health consequences

This agricultural use of antibiotics also affects the environmental microbiome. Up to ninety percent of the antibiotics given to livestock are excreted in urine and stool, then widely dispersed through fertilizer, groundwater, and surface runoff. So, it is even more extensive than it meets the eye. Tetracycline, for instance, is often sprayed onto fruit trees in the form of pesticides. 

LACK OF NEW ANTIBIOTICS/EFFECTIVE RESEARCH FINDINGS
Availability of Few New Antibiotics as well as lack of funding research opportunities also poses a worrying issue. Among one of the issues, if antibiotics are used, they are generally used for the short-term, not like the long-term therapies that help bring in revenues for companies.
A lot of the products being approved are second, third or fourth generation antibiotics, without a new mechanism of action. 
Mahesh Patel, the director of drug discovery research at Wockhardt, has said that the largest issue for companies is the regulatory procedures. “The costs of trials are so high and society is not willing to pay the high price for antibiotics; so that is the paradox. Society wants a cheaper antibiotic, but the costs of development will be high. So, we need to manage these two conflicting needs.”
“Helen Davis, executive editor of the UK Medicines Information horizon scanning document Prescribing Outlook, which collates data on new antibiotics, says: “In recent years, new antibiotics have struggled to reach the market due to difficulties in demonstrating efficacy or they have had unacceptable side effects. In addition, in order to gain a licence, new antibacterial will have to demonstrate they are not inferior to existing drugs where the comparator is available generically. This makes establishing a market share difficult.” 
The quick development of antibiotic resistance has also reduced investments in research, demotivating researchers in the field. Comprise all these, and you have a world of a maddening spree of antibiotic resistance spreading through the struggle of bleak developments of new antibiotics.

Just some mechanisms through which Antibiotic resistance may occur:



Restriction of access of the antibiotic
Microbes may prevent entry by changing or limiting the number of paths of entry of antibiotics.
Example:
 Gram-negative bacteria consist  of an outer membrane that shall protect them from external conditions.

Getting rid of the antibiotic
Germs may get rid of antibiotics that have entered with the use of pumps present in cell walls.
Example: 
Pseudomonas aeruginosa can produce pumps to get rid of fluoroquinolones.

Changing or imposing destruction of the antibiotic
Microbes may change or destroy the antibiotics with enzymes.
Example: 
Klebsiella pneumoniae produce carbapenemases, which break down carbapenem drugs and other beta-lactam drugs

Avoidance of the effects that the antibiotic is designed to perform
Germs develop new cell processes that avoid using the antibiotic’s target. 
Example: 
Some Staphylococcus aureus bacteria can bypass the drug effects of trimethoprim

Manipulating the targets for the antibiotic, resulting in incapability of functioning
Many antibiotic drugs are designed to single out and destroy specific parts (or targets) of a bacterium. Microbes can change the antibiotic’s target so the drug can no longer fit and do its job.
Example: Escherichia coli bacteria with the mcr-1 gene can add a compound to the outside of the cell wall so that the drug colistin cannot latch onto it.
The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended 4 solutions to curbing or limiting this crisis:

“PREVENTING INFECTIONS,
PREVENTING THE SPREAD OF RESISTANCE"

Avoiding infections in the first place reduces the amount of antibiotics that have to be used and reduces the likelihood that resistance will develop during therapy. There are many ways that drug-resistant infections can be prevented: immunization, safe food preparation, handwashing, and using antibiotics as directed and only when necessary. In addition, preventing infections also prevents the spread of resistant bacteria.

TRACKING
CDC gathers data on antibiotic-resistant infections, causes of infections and whether there are particular reasons (risk factors) that caused some people to get a resistant infection. With that information, experts can develop specific strategies to prevent those infections and prevent the resistant bacteria from spreading.

IMPROVING ANTIBIOTIC PRESCRIBING/STEWARDSHIP
Perhaps the single most important action needed to greatly slow down the development and spread of antibiotic-resistant infections is to change the way antibiotics are used. Up to half of antibiotic use in humans and much of antibiotic use in animals is unnecessary and inappropriate and makes everyone less safe. Stopping even some of the inappropriate and unnecessary use of antibiotics in people and animals would help greatly in slowing down the spread of resistant bacteria. This commitment to always use antibiotics appropriately and safely, only when they are needed to treat disease, and to choose the right antibiotics and to administer them in the right way in every case,is known as antibiotic stewardship.

DEVELOPING NEW DRUGS AND DIAGNOSTIC TESTS
Because antibiotic resistance occurs as part of a natural process in which bacteria evolve, it can be slowed but not stopped. Therefore, we will always need new antibiotics to keep up with resistant bacteria as well as new diagnostic tests to track the development of resistance. “


Much more than 2.8 million antibiotic-resistant infections occur in the U.S.  alone each year, and more than 35,000 people die as a result, which is an alarming amount, clearly.
Antibiotic resistance has risen pretty dangerously. New resistance mechanisms have come up and are spreading worldwide, threatening our ability to treat common infectious diseases. Increased time of treatment and procedures due to antibiotic resistance have given rise to a catastrophic financial burden on healthcare systems across the world.  A rising amount of infections, such as tuberculosis, , gonorrhoea,  food borne diseases and pneumonia are becoming more complex to treat, or often even impossible, since lesser antibiotics are now effective. Without any immediate action, we will lead to that treacherous, hopeless, post-antibiotic climate, where even the most common infections and minor injuries could destroy us.

SBE's BioReach Issue 01

Sarbajit Ray

 SBE's NEWSLETTER: BIOREACH

Issue 01

POST 1

OXIDANTS CAN SLOW DOWN CELL AGEING

Benefits of anti-oxidants are immense; and one of them is the neutralization of oxidants. Oxidants are chemical compounds which in higher concentrations can damage the DNA, cell membrane, proteins and also the normal metabolism of the cell. Although thought to be only harmful, a recent study by Chalmers University of Technology showed how a well-known oxidant called Hydrogen peroxide can slow down the ageing of yeast cells. The researchers studied the enzyme TsaI, a part of peroxiredoxin anti-oxidant group. The study shows how TsaI controls a central signaling pathway in which it oxidises an amino acid in Protein Kinase A, an important enzyme for regulation of metabolism. Tasl reduces the kinase activity by weakening the portion of the enzyme that binds to the other molecules, this in turn downregulates the entire cell division process and stimulates their defence against stress. The study also shows how TsaI does not affect the levels of Hydrogen peroxide activity in aged yeast cells, rather it uses less amounts of peroxide to reduce the activity of a central signaling pathway when the cells are getting fewer calories. This also slows down cell division and stimulates the cell’s defence, which causes them to age slowly. Through this research, scientists hope to come closer to understanding the molecular aspect of various common diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Diabetes and to also develop peroxiredoxin stimulating drugs to combat ageing in cells.


POST 2

COHESIN: A key player behind parental chromosome matching during meiosis

 

Meiosis is a distinctive cell division type that takes place during gametogenesis, i.e, the formation of sperm and egg in males and females respectively. Here, both the maternal and paternal chromosomes get aligned through Homologous Chromosome Pairing. This recombination results in the partial exchange of genetic information between the two. Without proper recombination, the gamete formation cannot take place. This Homologous Chromosome Pairing process has a mechanism which monitors it and this monitoring mechanism was recently studied by researchers at Kumamoto University’s Institute of Molecular Embryology and Genetics (IMEG) in collaboration with the University of Tokyo’s Institute for Quantitative Biosciences. Through this study, they found out that the key player in this checking is a protein called Cohesin. Although in previous studies HORMAD1 protein was considered to be the main player, the one which brought the two proteins Cohesin and SYCP2 together during the process of matching of chromosomes, it is now confirmed through gene knockout and genome editing that this entire system works only when Cohesion is involved. It became clear that Cohesin acts as a marker to call HORMAD1 to the chromosome prior to the pairing. Thus, this research could be potentially useful in helping with advances in the field of reproductive medicine and cure of infertility.


POST 3

SCIENTISTS UNRAVEL THE MYSTERY OF AMAZON TREE DEATHS

A study undertaken by the Universities of Birmingham and Leeds in collaboration with more than 100 scientists was the first large-scale study conducted to analyze the cause of tree death in the Amazon. The main finding was that the mean growth rate of the tree-species is the main risk factor behind the Amazon tree mortality, with faster growing trees dying off at a younger age. This helps in predicting and planning the future of the forest which has more than 15,000 different species of trees. It was found out that faster growing trees die more, which means that they have shorter live spans and their services of carbon sequestration is also declining at a faster rate. The huge amount of data for this study was provided by The RAINFOR network which had more than 30 years of contributions from 100 scientists. It included records from 189 one-hectare plots, each visited and monitored every 3 years. In this entire study, more than 124,000 living trees and 18,000 tree deaths were studied and analysed. When the trees died, the researchers followed a fixed protocol to discover the actual cause of their death. This ensured that their study goes in the right path and everybody is on the same page with regards to the planning. Hopefully, this grand research and analysis will prevent the collapsing of the Earth’s lungs.


POST 4

NEW RICKETTSIA SPECIES FOUND IN DOGS

Rickettsia pathogens are categorized into four groups of which the spotted-fever group is the most common and has most of the known species. These are transmitted by ticks and there are more than 25 species of tick-borne, spotted-fever group Rickettsia species worldwide. The R. rickettsii species is the most virulent and dangerous and the only known species to cause clinical disease in dogs in North America. Symptoms of the disease the Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF) caused by them are similar in dogs and humans, some of which include fever, lethargy, weight loss, inflammation etc. In 2018-19, three dogs from the states of Tennessee, Illinois and Oklahoma with exposure to ticks and showing RMSF associated symptoms were taken, and their blood was collected to test for R. rickettsii. The blood samples reacted positively to antibody tests for R. rickettsii but when researchers at NC State did the PCR analysis of the pathogen, it was found to be only 95% similar to R. rickettsii. Further studying of several different regions of the bacterial DNA and also the creation of a phylogenetic tree confirmed that the pathogen isolated from the samples were a new species altogether. The researchers are now trying to locate its geographical range and they have also asked veterinarians to collect ticks associated with dogs who show RMSF symptoms for testing. The advance studies and analyses of this pathogen will hopefully lead to a cure as well.


POST 5

NEW MUTATION IDENTIFIED IN SARS- COV -2 GENOME

Team of researchers at Nitte university Center for Science Education and Research (NUCSER),  have identified a novel mutation in the genome of covid-19 virus. This mutation affects the E gene which encodes for the viral envelope protein which is important for the structural organization of the virus. The E-gene is the target for detection of virus by RT-PCR technique. Usually the RT-PCR for Covid-19 diagnosis takes place by two steps, first is the screening test which involves the detection of E-gene, and if the result is positive, confirmatory test is followed which involves the detection of RdRp genes encoding for enzyme involved in viral replication or the detection of N gene which encodes for a nucleocapsid protein.  In certain laboratories samples may be negative for E-gene but show positive for RdRp gene or N gene, depending on the confirmatory test used. Since in most of the laboratories the confirmatory test will be done only if the screening test shows positive. So, for those samples that test negative for E gene will not be processed for further confirmatory test and will be reported as negative. Researchers observed that in 34 viral genomes from Karnataka, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, New Delhi and Odisha, reported a partial deletion in the C- terminal region of the E-gene which would affect the virus assembly, and leads to viruses having lower virulence.

Food Allergy and Food Intolerance: A Hazard of Human Health

Sarbajit Ray

 

Food Allergy and Food Intolerance: A Hazard of Human Health

 

- By ANKAN GHOSH


Food Allergy:          

                     The term ‘Allergy’ is basically defined as an immune response that takes place after eating a particular food. Food allergy is also known as food hypersensitivity. From long past, as humans changed their food habit and became omnivorous for the availability of more food, food allergy has become a companion of them. The interesting thing about food allergy is that, different people can be allergic to different food items. It is not necessary that all the people are susceptible to a particular food item. And also, people never come to know if he or she is allergic to a particular food item before they consume it for the first time.

 

1.    Reasons:

                     Food allergies can be hereditary, ie they pass from parents to offspring. But most of the time it is not hereditary. The substance present in the particular food item that cause allergic reactions is called allergen. Allergen is commonly a protein. When this protein is ingested and after its absorption in the intestine, comes into the blood stream, it stimulates the immune system, causing histamine and other chemicals to be released and starts immunological reaction. The immune system reacts to an allergen by producing IgE antibody. These antibodies move mainly to nose, throat, lungs, skin and start allergic reactions like swelling, secretion etc.



Fig 1: Mechanism of development of food allergy

1.    Symptoms:

                     Symptoms of allergy can develop within a few seconds to few hours. The symptoms of food allergy are of a wide range. The general symptoms are swelling of cheeks, lips throat and skin. Squeezing of respiratory tract which leads to breathing problems, itching of eyes, development of rashes on skin, dry cough, watery nose, wheezing, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain etc.

 

Commonly Known Allergic Foods:

·       Milk (casein)

·       Wheat (Gluten)

·       Eggs

·       Meat

·       Shellfish

·       Brinjal

·       Soy

·       peanuts

Fig 2: Food allergens

 

Treatment:

               Currently there is no effective therapy for food allergies. Needless to say, a person is not allergic to all the food items. So, the best way is to avoid that particular food to which the person is prone to allergy. The development of treatment procedure is going on. Some of the effective treatment options for future would be:

·       Sublingual Immunotherapy (SLIT)

·       Introduction of antihistamines

·       Oral Immunotherapy

·       Vaccination. Like if the weakened allergen is introduced continuously to the patient’s body, he or she develops tolerance.

 

Genetic Engineering to treat Food Allergy:

                To treat food allergy, genetic engineering can play a major role. The allergic gene in the food item can be removed by ‘molecular scissor’. Or the mRNA produced by that gene can be inactivated by RNAi (RNA interference or RNA silencing) technology. The product of the gene, ie the allergic protein can be destroyed by introducing suitable ligand molecules. Thus anti-allergic strains of the food items can be produced.

 

Food Intolerance:

                  Food intolerance is a situation where an individual is unable to digest a particular compound of a food item because of lack of the functional enzyme for digesting the compound. Therefore, if they intake that particular food item, they suffer from indigestion. Nowadays, lactose intolerance is seen in many children, they are unable to digest milk sugar lactose which is composed of two sugar units, one galactose and one glucose. Enzyme lactase hydrolyze the lactose to form galactose and glucose. But lactose intolerant individuals do not have this lactase enzyme.

Fig 3: Reason of food intolerance

 

Some common compounds that can be intolerant:

·       Lactose (Milk products)

·       Gluten (Wheat)

·       Caffeine

·       Salicylates

·       Amines

·       FODMAPs (Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polysaccharides)

·       Sulfites

·       Fructose

 

Fig 4: Some common food items that cause food intolerance

Symptoms:

                Maldigestion, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, feeling lethargic and tired, headache, constipation, diarrhea etc.

 

Treatment:

·       Ingestion of those food items should be limited, avoiding the food is most preferable.

·       The food can be reacted with the particular enzyme synthesized outside the body by biotechnological methods. After this the product can be marketed for those who are intolerant to the particular food. Eg: dairy products can be treated with lactase before marketing.

·       Gene therapy is also a solution. But it’s not practical because gene therapy is possible only in embryo stage and also, the person can easily live his or her life avoiding that food item.

           

Fun Events!!

Sarbajit Ray

                                        

Bioskribble 2.0: 12th November 2020 

Second edition of online game of pictionary based on biology and conducted on the domain, Skribbl.io




Apocalypse: 24th October 2020

Brainstorming event about finding solutions to save earth from impending catastrophe using biological skills.



BioPlot: 9th-10th Sep 2020

Conducted in collaboration with the film society of VIT which was a scriptwriting contest based on biological phenomena.



BioSkribble 1.0: 4th September 2020

An online game of pictionary based on biology and conducted on the domain, Skribbl.io



Amemeba: 24th and 25th August

A science meme contest wherein participants had to submit memes inspired by foundations of STEM and they were judged on creativity and relevance. 



Microbite: 20th August

An online quiz on vectors and vector borne diseases.


BioTalks!!

Sarbajit Ray

 

BioTalks 5.0: 2nd September 2020

Dr Munish Chhabra (Research scientist, Molecular Assemblies, San Diego, California) shared his experience and delivered a lecture on life as a research scientist and opportunities that could be undertaken by aspiring researchers.



BioTalks 4.0: 26th August 2020

Dr Bhargav Patel from Gujarat Forensic Sciences Uni delivered a lecture on DNA fingerprinting and its role in forensic sciences.