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Scientists find ways to reverse drug resistance, a major burden in treating Tuberculosis

A recent report by the World Health Organization estimates that about two million deaths occur every year due to tuberculosis (TB). An alarming dimension to this problem is the fact that some strains of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb), the causative agent of TB, have developed resistance to some antibiotics used to kill them, leading to the emergence of ‘drug resistant TB’ and causing a global threat. Drug resistance is a way by which bacteria respond to the drug stress they face. Due to improper and irregular use of antibiotics by patients, not all bacteria may be killed, leading to the emergence of drug resistant strains that survive even when further doses of the drug are administered. Now, a team of researchers at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, led by Prof. Nagasuma Chandra and Prof. Amit Singh, have explored the mechanism behind the development of resistance to a front-line anti-tubercular drug called isoniazid, used widely in the clinic.


Scientists leverage the power of shockwaves and antibiotics to treat bacterial infections

Many lifesaving medical devices such as urinary catheters, pacemakers, intrauterine devices and voice prosthesis, which are usually inserted into some part of the body, are plagued by a common problem – ‘bacterial biofilms’. These ‘biofilms’ grow on the surfaces of these devices and may cause infections. They are harder to treat than individual bacteria and need about 1000 – 10000 times stronger dose of antibiotics. But this may no longer be the case, as a group of scientists led by Prof. Dipshikha Chakravortty and Prof. Jagadeesh Gopalan from the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, have found a novel method to fight biofilm infections.


A Foe of my Foe is a Friend - Employing bacteria to fight cancer

But how do bacteria fight against tumours? The answer lies in the environment the tumour creates during its growth. A tumour, by definition, is a mass of cells that have divided in an uncontrolled, abnormal manner without respecting the normal boundaries. Bacteria are known to modulate our immune defence system and strengthen it to fight against tumour cells. Bacteria activate our immune systems and provide an environment for the production of T cells, a type of lymphocyte, that displays greater ability to specifically recognize and act against tumour cells.

Scientists observe structure within the pulses of a Millisecond Pulsar

Indian astronomers have detected microstructure emissions from a millisecond pulsar for the first time. Millisecond pulsars (MSP) are highly magnetized, rapidly rotating neutron stars that take as little as one-thousandth to one-hundredth of a second to rotate about its axis once. In a recently published study, scientists from the Department of Physics at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) and the National Centre for Radio Astrophysics (NCRA), Tata Institute for Fundamental Research (TIFR), have discovered these microstructure emissions using the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope (GMRT), an array of thirty antennae scanning the sky for radio sources. They are now uncovering the processes that produce these microstructure emissions. While similar emissions had been discovered from more slowly rotating pulsars, this is the first time they have been discovered coming from millisecond pulsars.


Scientists develop novel methodology to study temperature controlled gene function

Genetic research is at a colossal high today, and although we know a lot about our genes, the roles of more than 30% of the functional genes in the human body are not really understood. This number can be even lower for other members of the biotic world. Studies to determine gene function involve combinations of various experimental methods at biochemical, cellular, and organismal levels. One such method, that is popularly employed, uses temperature-sensitive mutant genes that behave differently at different temperatures. The process of identifying and generating mutated genes, however, is laborious, time-consuming and relies heavily on chance. It is at this juncture that Prof. Raghavan Varadarajan and his team from the Molecular Biophysics Unit, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, suggest an innovative, yet fairly straightforward, technique to study gene functionality, which would make one wonder how no one thought of this earlier!

Scientists elucidate the mechanism behind Mycobacterium hijacking Macrophages for its own survival

In the movie “Terminator: The Rise of Machines”, the character Terminatrix manipulates the Cyborgs tweaking them to work against humans and to her own advantage. Now, scientists have discovered that some strains of bacteria could do the same to some of our cells. Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the bacterium that causes tuberculosis, is one such. It manipulates the macrophages, a type of white blood cell that hunts and engulfs invading pathogens, to act as bacterial reservoirs and provide a survival niche. This niche not only provides the bacteria with nutrients, but also helps evade the normal immune response. In a recent study, a team of scientists from the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, has explored the mechanism behind the manipulation of macrophages by this bacteria.

How does debris from supernovae make molecules? Scientists may have an answer

‘We are all made of stardust’ goes the common saying. The phrase is more than just rhetoric; it alludes to the formation of atoms and molecules in the universe. Most atoms and a few molecules around us were mostly formed in the bowels of exploding stars, which then went on to form planets, oceans, living organisms and everything in between. Now, a collaborative study by Raman Research Institute (RRI), Bangalore, Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore and P. N. Lebedev Physical Institute, Moscow, is studying the processes that may have led to the formation of these molecules from the debris of the exploding stars.


What causes defective ribosomes? New study may have the answer

Ribosomes are molecular machines that make proteins in cells. That the ribosomes are important can be judged by the fact that the cells spend about 40% of their energy in assembling them. In bacteria, ribosomes are made up of a large (50S) and a small (30S) subunits. Flaws in the assembly and maturation (biogenesis) of any of these subunits affect protein synthesis in various ways and often result in the organism’s intolerance to cold, and impact their resistance to drugs and pathogenity. In higher organisms (including humans), defective biogenesis of ribosomes could lead to various diseases. Hence, an understanding of how cells manage accuracy in the complex process of ribosome biogenesis is of utmost importance in developing therapeutic interventions. Now, a study from the laboratory of Prof. Umesh Varshney at the Department of Microbiology and Cell Biology, Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore, has unravelled the mechanism behind synthesis of ribosomes.


DNA damage in sperm alters Embryo Metabolism, finds study

Science has established that the father’s sperm, which fertilizes the mother’s ovum resulting in the formation of an embryo, decides the sex of an individual. So it’s only logical that if the ‘male factor’ of the sperm/ovum relationship is damaged, the product will be too. Now, a recent collaborative study by a team of researchers led by Prof. Hanudatta Atreya of the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, and Prof. Satish Kumar Adiga of Kasturba Medical College, Manipal, has found that if the sperm, set to fertilize a particular ovum, has damaged DNA, it affects the metabolism of the embryo that it fathers. The study was conducted using samples of sperm and ova from couples undergoing Intra-Cytoplamic Sperm Injection (ICSI), a popular technique to help infertile couples conceive.


Now, scientists design colourful solar collectors to decorate your roofs

Black coloured rooftops have become the norm of many of the cities’ landscape with increasing number of houses switching over to sustainable, efficient and clean energy source – solar energy. Solar-thermal power systems that convert solar energy to heat or electricity are becoming ubiquitous. These systems typically consist of a flat plate collector that utilizes solar absorber coatings to get maximum conversion efficiency from incident solar radiation to heat. These collectors are coated black to enhance the absorptance- the effectiveness of absorbing radiant energy. Now, a group of researchers, led by Prof. Bikramjit Basu from the Material Research Centre at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, and Dr. Harish C Barshilia from CSIR-National Aerospace Laboratories, has developed a new, colourful coating for flat plate collectors, thereby increasing its absorptance without compromising the aesthetic appearance of the roofs where they are installed.