Author Archives: Sci Club


Covid19 pandemic has distanced us from nature and has
forced us to embrace the virtual world leading to mental stress and health
disorders. Even though medically advanced as compared to last century, we are
still ill-prepared for the pandemic of this scale that has done little in
saving lives. The world has moved to a new normal as it sees the end of the
lockdown in many countries, including ours. Many of us are excited by the end
of the lockdown in various regions of the country to rejoice with friends and
families in person (within the social distancing norms). However, the fear of
getting infected is confining us under extended periods of lockdown, as
suggested by the scientific community. The lockdown or self-isolation and
social distancing is a crucial measure in combating this deadly pandemic.





Further, this not only offers protection to us but our
elder generations in particular who are more prone to this illness. All of us
are battling inside and trying to do our best to accept the pandemic and its
future disasters, by making sure to stay physically and mentally sound in these
tough situations. We may notice changes in physical health among ourselves and
our loved ones and seek comforting attention when necessary. While we all experience
overgrowing stress due to lockdown and the new life adaptations, post lockdown,
which is shadowed during the everyday struggle.





Hence this interaction with Dr. Karishma Kulkarni might help
in finding answers on how to tackle the tectonic shifts in our mental and
physical health. She says that keeping ourselves busy and being organized and
not bringing negative thoughts could help us to manage this adverse situation. She
stresses to be vigilant and help the frontline workers for their selfless
contribution laying their lives at risk. Maintaining social distancing and
other safety precautions could help tide this difficult situation.





Sayali: As most of us are filling the gaps of being practically
social by spending time on social media and turning the social behavior norms
to virtual behavior adaptations, will this cause any effect on individual
patience level and stress management ability? How should one cope up with such
situation?





Dr. Kulkarni: Humans have not evolved
naturally to interact through screens. Our brains are designed to pick up on
social cues, including nonverbal behavior and body language in the
real world through face to face interactions. The pandemic necessitates
social distancing, and as a result, people have now begun interacting using
technology. The use of screens, though vital for people to stay in touch - does
not satisfy the need for physical presence that most of us have. Interactions
that are devoid of ordinary social cues might, therefore, be more anxiety-provoking
as they do not provide the same level of comfort or support. The best way to
cope with this scenario is to accept the limitations of social media and video
calls as compared to face to face interaction in settings as varied as personal
and professional ones. Often explicitly stating that there is awkwardness and
discomfort in 'virtual behavior' helps lighten the moment and acknowledges that
any social faux pas are to be expected with the virtual medium. This also helps
others be more patient with us and for us to be more patient with them. Of
course, at a future time point, there will definitely be opportunities to
interact in person again so the social skills we have evolved with will still
be important. Man is a social animal for sure.





Sayali: "Starting a new day with new hopes"
was one of the best positive attitude people carried. Since the lockdown all
days seems to be same, and most of us have changed the daily routine.
Unknowingly it has caused a change in cycle of circadian rhythm, causing a
change in behavior leading to be more stressed and disturbed/offensive
behavior, How can one control these negative emotions and not let this behavior
dominate?





Dr. Kulkarni: The best solution to this
to have a structure to one's day. Circadian rhythms have once again evolved
from the time when humans were dependent on nature for their biological cues -
sleeping at night and being active during the day. This becomes a lot harder to
do when there's nothing to wake up and do in the morning. Incorporating
physical activity such as a home exercise program, along with a fixed time
table for meals, for work (if working from home), for recreation (streaming
music or movies online) will be vital to maintaining these social rhythms. If
in lockdown at home with other family members - sharing meals at set times
would allow for a shared space to interact with others. Of course, creating a
routine is something which requires some discipline and cannot be done
strictly. But even a loose time table is better than no time table. The best
way to control negative emotions is through some relaxation exercises - yoga,
mindfulness meditation, deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, Tai chi
are all practices that help with relaxation. Various apps and YouTube videos
can provide basic techniques of these practices. Of course, this also requires the
personal motivation to practice. If negative emotions and negative behavior
become too challenging to control - contacting professionals through a mental
health helpline may be another option. 





This
website provides a list of Indian mental health helpline numbers. 





https://www.unitedgmh.org/mental-health-support/india





Sayali: All the age groups are affected due to
lockdown, while the lockdown might create unnoticed effects on juvenile group
as they are being deprived from being social since schools and play times have
now turned into virtual time zone. How should the family work towards
motivating this age group towards social behavior and help them to overcome
physiological issues leading to anxiety, poor attention and frequent changes in
mood and emotions.





Dr. Kulkarni: The best way for children
and adolescents to cope with the absence of the social and educational
environment that school provides is to create a home school environment where
the parents or grandparents can provide one on one support as the child engages
in online teaching. Providing a gentle, supportive stance to this rather than a
strict one would be most useful for the child. Making time to play with the
child or adolescent - board games or even with toys or cards and including the
whole family in play will help to distract from the temptation of screens and
online video games. Screen time contributes to inattentiveness and listlessness
in children. It's one on one attention with reading books or doing arts and
crafts projects that help children build concentration as well as to develop
good sitting tolerance. Children depending on age level can be engaged in projects
such as home gardening or painting - these are excellent interventions to deal
with children's anxiety. Please remember to be patient with your young person.
It's possible that with positive attention, young people might remember this
lockdown as a time when they had maximum quality time with their
families. 





Sayali: What are the
effects of lockdown on youth, and how should one support him/herself while
feeling stressed or anxious during COVID-19?





Dr. Kulkarni: The effects of the lockdown
on the mental health of young people can vary depending on each individual.
More introverted persons might be able to engage themselves in hobbies such as
reading or art and enjoy this time while more extroverted young person's might
miss the company of their friends - feeling lonely and isolated. Overall, all
young people might react with some degrees of stress and anxiety along with
worry about the health of their parents and grandparents. The best way to
support one is to find a useful coping strategy. This can range from reaching
out and connecting with peers and friends through technology, taking up and
pursuing a new hobby, engaging in exercising, using relaxation techniques such
as yoga and meditation and if struggling with depression or uncontrollable
panic and anxiety - consulting a mental health professional will be helpful. 





Sayali: How should one help
him/herself towards crisis management and holding intact emotional balance?





Dr. Kulkarni: Identifying the triggers
for a crisis are the best ways to prevent a crisis. Making a crisis management
plan is another useful process. This plan might include - what are the
situations that trigger a crisis, what are the symptoms of being in a crisis,
what are the coping strategies that help with a crisis, who are the people that
act as supports in case of a crisis - friends, family, neighbors, doctor,
mental health professionals etc.





Acknowledging
that all of us can feel emotionally imbalanced from time to time is essential.
The best way to maintain a balance is self - care. Looking after oneself -
sleeping on time, eating balanced meals, regular exercise, routines, making
connections with family and friends and doing what you enjoy - eg. Eating a
piece of chocolate, playing a song on a guitar, watching a comedy film,
watching the sunset from the window. All these are important and help one stay
balanced. 





Sayali: Mental health,
stress and anxiety for essential workers (health care/scientist/ teachers) and
how should family and friends support them?





Dr. Kulkarni: At this time, those who are
on the frontline will be exposed to high levels of stress. This may be due to
heavier workloads, longer hours, anxiety about becoming sick, anxiety about
infecting family members, lack of self-care and recreation as well as the
vicarious trauma of seeing patients suffering from COVID. 





It
is essential to recognize that while work is important to prevent burn out -
self-care for essential workers is also crucial. This includes all the elements
described in response to the earlier questions. Adequate sleep, regular meals,
rest, recreation are all important and should be taken care of, guilt-free for
essential workers. The best way for families and friends to support their
essential workers would be to provide a listening ear, checking in on them,
understanding the need to stay apart from families due to their professional
role as well as to check if they need help with supplies or meals. Even just a
kind appreciative word goes a long way. 





Sayali: How important it is
to provide a mental health awareness post lockdown? What is your suggestion on
seeking mental health support for the one in need?





Dr. Kulkarni: Experts all over the world
agree that the mental health fallout and after-effects of lockdown will be part
of the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic. This makes preventative public
mental health strategies, such as raising awareness crucially. 





Most
mental health professionals continue to practice through the lockdown. Major
hospitals continue to provide emergency mental health services for those in
need. Trained counsellors and mental health professionals are available on
telephone helplines, as mentioned in response to an earlier question. It is
likely that telemental health will be the next most important method in
providing support for persons in need. 





Sayali: A word from you on the
significance of mental health in general, and note for people to support
friends or colleague seeking help.





Dr. Kulkarni: The World Health Organization
has defined health as a combination of physical, mental, social and spiritual
well-being. Mental health is thus a vital component of good health; however, it
is unfortunately often neglected or stigmatized. If you have a friend or
colleague seeking help, please do not treat them with stigma or discrimination.
Be patient with them and provide a listening ear to them. If you find that they
are beyond your help, please recommend them to seek advice from a professional
in a non-judgmental, respectful and caring manner. Though all of us have to
stay apart at present, it is still possible to be able to keep those you care
for, close. 





Closing
remarks:
We thank Dr. Karishma Kulkarni for accepting
our request and becoming part of this interaction. Her views are an eye-opener that
anyone could be an invisible warrior if philanthropic activities are taken up to
serve the nation at difficult times. Surely her thoughts will help many
thinking minds to stay strong and stable, as we all at some point are going
through storms of thoughts stressing us.





Dr.
Karishma Kulkarni, MBBS, MD (Psychiatry), MRCPsych (UK).





Principal Psychiatry Senior Registrar,





Northwestern Mental Health Services and
Melbourne Health, 





Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. 





(Educational background: Post Doctoral
Fellowship in Psychiatry from National Institute of Mental Health and
Neurosciences, Bangalore, Karnataka, India.





Post Graduate Diploma in Medical Law and
Ethics from National Law School of India University)



Stress is an emotion that you experience when
you fail to cope up with the demands. It reflexes the pressure put on the body
and brain. Thus, it is an adaptive response of the body that is controlled by
the brain.





Stress occurs when you encounter a sudden
danger or before a challenge, such as job interviews, presentations at work,
financial obligations, or a shocking event.





During a stressful situation, your brain floods chemicals and hormones that are responsible for stress to your body. 





How it works, and what are the hormones?





The front-line hormones responsible for stress
are adrenaline, along with norepinephrine (noradrenalin), and cortisol.





The stress activates the central stress
response system, known as the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical (HPA) axis,
as it is comprised of the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and the adrenal
cortex.





During fight or flight response to acute
stress, nervous systems stimulate the adrenal glands triggering the release of
catecholamines, which include adrenaline and noradrenaline.
Their release into the bloodstream causes increased blood pressure, heart rate,
breathing rate, trembling, and sweating.





Once the amygdala, a part of the brain
realizes the fear, it activates the hypothalamus to release
corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH). It further triggers the pituitary gland
to release another hormone called adrenocorticotropic (ACTH), which tells
adrenal glands to release cortisol.





The level of various other hormones changes to
stress that include prolactin, and growth hormones.





Though, the optimal amounts
of cortisol can be life-saving. Too much cortisol can suppress the immune
system, increase blood pressure and sugar, produce acne, contribute to obesity,
and more.





Stress is good or bad!





Not all stress is bad. In scientific terms,
good stress is called eustress. During low-level stress, in the case of
non-life-threatening situations, your brain uses more oxygen, and increases
activity which supports creativity, positive feelings of excitement,
satisfaction, and keeps you motivated.





But the long-term stress is harmful to your
health. The episodes of acute stress may lead to chronic stress, with the
symptoms of headaches, sleeplessness, sadness, anger, or irritability. Overtime
it contributes to serious health issues that include, heart disease, high blood
pressure, diabetes, and mental disorders such as depression and anxiety.





To maintain good physical and mental health,
stress management is very essential. Involving yourself in creative aspects,
regular exercise, relaxing activity, setting goals, stay connected, and even
good eat and sleep are the effective practices that may help you to cope with
stress.





The happy hormones such as dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin, and endorphins act positively and aids to overcome stress.





Written by: Yashaswini Devi G. V., JRF, Yenepoya Research Centre, Yenepoya (Deemed to be University), Mangalore-575018, Karnataka, India.









Artwork: Yashaswini Devi G. V.





Edited by: Dr. Venkatesan Jayachandran



What
Is Multitasking? Multitasking refers to performing several tasks at a time or
in other words, switching back and forth from one task to another. If we are
involved in two or more tasks at once, we can call ourselves as a multitasker. Sometimes
our job demands multitasking under pressure to complete work in a predefined
time schedule.





Take
a moment and think, are you multitasking right now? Along with reading this write-up,
perhaps you are engaged in other activities such as talking to your friends, checking
emails, browsing on your computer, writing any article, listening to music, or eating.





Numerous
research studies have been conducted to understand the effect of multitasking
on brain damage, memory, productivity etc. While
multitasking we are bombarded with too much information at a time, so it
weakens the power of our brain to process information in an effective way. Studies
from Wanger’s lab on media multitasking and memory reported that heavy
multitasking lowers the working memory (ability to hold information
temporarily), long-term memory and also affects the attentional scope. Researchers
carried out number of tests to check the working memory ability in heavy media
multitasker and they found that, the performance of heavy media multitasker is
worse compared to light media multitasker. Many of the studies reported a
negative relationship between media multitasking and working memory, it is
because of lack of attention while doing several works at a time. In another study by Joshua
Rubinstein et.al., observed that switching between multiple tasks
resulted in the significant loss of time.





However,
there are studies which report no performance difference between multitasker
and other group who are not engaged in multitasking. Of
course, it’s very hard to say whether multitasking is good or bad. So, more
evident studies are required to understand the effect of multitasking.





Now
let’s delve into how our brain manages multitasking. As we all know, the information
that we are getting from the outside world is processed, interpreted and stored
by our brain. Like any other activity, proper processing of all information
that we are exposed to each and every minute into a meaningful form is
necessary.





Stages of information processing





Several
theories have been proposed regarding the information processing stages.
Generally, the information processing consists of three key stages such as
input, storage and output. In the input stage external stimuli reaches the
brain through various sense organs and it undergoes preliminary evaluation. In
the second stage, the information is stored as short-term or long-term memory
depending upon our focus. There is a chance to forget the information if it is
not reinforced. The last stage is output, in this stage brain give instructions
to respond to the stimuli on the basis of stored information.





Posterior
lateral prefrontal cortex (pLPFC) is the part of cerebral cortex and is
responsible for routing the information input to corresponding centers for
processing and storage. This region plays an important role when we are multitasking.
During simultaneous arrival of information, pLPFC keeps them in a queue rather
than sending them for processing and storage.  If it continues to happen, pLPFC queues two of
them for processing and ignores the rest. This ignored information slip past to
the striatum. Which is a part of subcortical basal
ganglia and plays a pivotal role in the sequential representation of actions. As
this information are not processed and stored, we fail to recall it later.





Multitasking it seems is like a better way to finish all our work at once, but research has shown that it can actually reduce the productivity. So, to avoid this it’s better to reduce the simultaneous work burden to our brain by prioritising our work and allocating enough time in between each task.





Written by: Akhina P., UGC-JRF, Yenepoya Research Centre, Yenepoya (Deemed to be University), Mangalore-575018, Karnataka, India.









Artwork: Akhina P.





Edited by: Saketh Kapoor



Antibiotics work effectively in most people
but not for all. The same antibiotic does not work for all individuals. One may
ponder about the differences in antibiotic sensitivity among various
individuals? Could genetic variations lead to variations in antibiotic
sensitivity? Not genetics rather, overexposure to antibiotics make bacteria
increases the probability of bacteria to become resistant to it. According to reports,
India tops the list of
countries with the highest incidence of antibiotic resistance. Awareness in
this aspect is essential to avoid hassles in treatment strategies. It is the
responsibility of every country, to enlighten citizens about the serious impact
of antibiotic resistance and to educate the population regarding the proper use
of antibiotics. 





How does antibiotic resistance occur?





Well,
there are many possible reasons for it.





Taking antibiotics without prescription from professional expert. This constitutes as one of the main reasons for development of antibiotic resistance. Considering anexample, the causative organism for common cold are viruses. Consuming antibiotics to treat common cold makes no or little  difference to the affected individual but rather it may prompt the bacterial population to become resistant to a particular antibiotic. So remember, take only prescribed course of drugs else it may give way to antibiotic resistance. Avoid buying or selling antibiotics over the counter without proper prescription. Additionally, sometimes antibiotics are prescribed due to wrong diagnosis. This clinical misdiagnosis leads to unnecessary consumption of antibiotics often leading to development of antibiotic resistance.





Low grade of antibiotics. In several developing nations, antibiotics are of substandard quality, may not be stored properly and some are consumed even after the actual expiration dates. Continuous intake of such antibiotics in doses lower than what is recommended to treat the disease also leads to development of antibiotic resistance.





Antibiotics used as prophylactics. In several developed countries antibiotics are given to individuals with low immune conditions such as those who have recently undergone operation or those undergoing chemotherapy. These factors may also contribute to resistance and ease of international travel facilitates the transfer of antibiotic resistant bacteria to several places in a short span of time.





Nosocomial infections. Hospital-acquired antibiotic resistance contributes largely to the number of antibiotic resistant infections. The excessive use of antibiotic for multiple purposes often leads to development of resistant bacteria. The resistant bacteria quickly cross-contaminate patients thereby increasing their numbers. Use of antibiotics based on rotations may reduce the development of such resistant bacteria.





Antibiotic resistance is through poultry
or animal husbandry.
Here, in
addition to use of antibiotics to treat disease conditions, they are also used to
avoid the spread of diseases. In some cases, antibiotics are also used as
growth stimulators in animals. The resistant bacteria can be introduced into
the human body through consumption of food derived from animals infected with the
resistant bacteria. The later impact of it is the failure of an individual to
fight against bacterial diseases. 





Stance of World Health Organization (WHO) on antibiotic resistance 





Considering the importance of antibiotics WHO has labelled antibiotic resistance as a global threat. This highlights the importance of creating awareness in this aspect. WHO has launched Global Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance System (GLASS) that supports global surveillance and research related to antibiotic resistance. In the future, a growing number of infections like pneumonia, tuberculosis, gonorrhoea, and salmonellosis that we can control today with the help of antibiotics will become extremely difficult to treat tomorrow.





Written by: Apoorva H. N., DST-JRF, Yenepoya Research Centre, Yenepoya (Deemed to be University), Mangalore-575018, Karnataka, India.









Artwork: Apoorva H. N





Edited by: Saketh Kapoor







How to introduce stem cells to a layperson? If they are not up to date with the recent advances in science, they might think we are talking about plants. First usage of the word “stem cell” was seen in the literature dated back to 1868 in the works of evolutionary biologist Ernst Haeckel. He used the word “Stammzelle” to describe the unicellular ancestor from which all multicellular organisms have evolved according to his presumption. Not to go too deep into the history, let us focus on the matter at hand – what are stem cells? 





To put it straight we can say - stem cells are babies! A baby has the potential to become whoever he wants to be when he grows up - a doctor, an engineer, a scientist, a techie, an entrepreneur, an artist, a movie star, a singer, or anyone. As he grows up, the choices he makes further narrows down this fate. For instance, choosing biological science over computer science or commerce for the higher secondary education and doing undergraduate courses in the preferred stream. Anyway, you get the picture. Just like a baby, stem cells can become whatever cell it wants when grown up (differentiated to be specific). 





Now let us get a little technical. Stem cells are the cells which can self-renew (make identical copies of themselves) and differentiate into other cells types. During the early development, when the egg is fertilized, the cells thus formed are totipotent stem cells. Each cell can grow into a new individual, if separated. These cells can give rise to embryonic as well as extra embryonic structures. The first segregation of stem cell fate begins at blastulation – formation of blastula. In mammals, blastulation is the formation of a hollow sphere of cells with a fluid filled cavity and group of cells in one corner named inner cell mass. The totipotency is lost at this stage and the cells now become pluripotent. The cells in the inner cell mass of the blastula can give rise to all three germ layers (ectoderm, endoderm, and mesoderm) of the embryo proper but not the extraembryonic membranes. As the growth and differentiation progresses, the pluripotent stem cells become multipotent and limits the differentiation to fewer lineages. The mesenchymal stem cells present in adult tissues such as bone marrow, adipose tissue as well as the umbilical cord of the foetus and the haematopoietic stem cells present in bone marrow and peripheral circulation are multipotent. Further the progenitors of these multipotent stem cells are oligopotent. They can only give rise to fewer cell types. For instance, haematopoietic stem cells, which are multipotent, can differentiate into oligopotent myeloid or lymphoid progenitors. The myeloid progenitors can only differentiate into the blood cells (RBCs and WBCs) whereas the lymphoid progenitors can give rise to B cells, T cells and NK cells. Then there are unipotent stem cells, whose potency is limited to one lineage. Muscle stem cells or myosatellite cells are one of the examples for unipotent stem cells. They can only differentiate into skeletal muscle cells. Thus, the potency of stem cells varies depending on the site or stage at which they are isolated. As for the therapeutic research, the choice of stem cells depends on the abundance of the source and the feasibility of differentiating them into the cell type of interest. 





What we discussed are the naturally occurring stem cells. Understanding the genetics of embryonic stem cells (ESCs) have made it possible to induce a differentiated cell of an adult body to become pluripotent. These induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) were made by introducing four genes – Oct3/4, Sox2, Myc and Klf4, known as Yamanaka factors, to a differentiated cell such as a skin cell. Shinya Yamanaka discovered this for which he shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2012 with John B. Gurdon who had earlier proved in 1962 that specialisation of cells is reversible. These iPSCs are equivalent to ESCs in their properties and they do not cause any ethical issues that pertains in the isolation of ESCs from human embryos. Around the world scientists have created neurons, blood cells, egg and sperm precursors, liver cells, pancreatic beta islets, cardiomyocytes, bone precursors and a whole lot of cell types from iPSCs for the therapeutic research. Clinical trials are underway in using iPSCs for Parkinson’s disease, heart diseases, macular degeneration, spinal cord injury, diabetes, osteoarthritis, and the list keeps on increasing. The advent of iPSCs have revolutionized stem cell research by creating a new platform to study diseases and introduce patient specific regenerative therapies.





Having said that, we cannot just do stem cell therapy for anything everything like those quackery advertisements claim. There are strict regulations put forward by the health authorities. The Indian Council of Medical Research only permits the transplantation of haematopoietic stem cells from bone marrow and umbilical cord blood to treat cancers and different blood disorders. Therapies involving other stem cells or other diseases are still being researched and yet to be approved officially. Any other treatment or therapy violates the NGSCR 2017 (National Guidelines for Stem Cell Research) is considered unethical and a malpractice. Unproven stem cell treatments may have health benefits as they claim, but there are greater risks associated with it. The transplanted cells may not stay at the site in the body where we intent it to be and it might differentiate into some other cell type and multiply. Sometimes it may not work or worst case it will develop into a tumour. What we can do is wait for the day when all the clinical trials are done with and stem cell therapy for other diseases are approved by the authorities. 





In case you are wondering if stem cells can be of any use in the fight against the SAR-CoV-2 virus and the COVID-19 disease – Yes, they can! Stem cells can help us learn a lot about the virus as well as heal the damage done by the virus. iPSCs can be used to create lung organoids to study how the virus infects the cell and find an effective way to fight it. The damages in the lungs and other organs of the COVID-19 patients can be healed with stem cells and the quality of life can be improved. As of now these, treatments can only be done under the strict guidelines of clinical trials. There are still a few challenges that needs to be tackled so that stem cells can reach its full potential in therapeutic research. Immunogenicity and tumorigenicity are the major risks associated with the transplantation of stem cells and their derivatives. Researchers are still finding ways to improve the quality and safety of stem cells. Hopefully, within the next decade, we might find stem cell transplantation facilities in most of our hospitals. 





Written by: Muhammad Nihad A. S., JRF, Yenepoya Research Centre, Yenepoya (Deemed to be University), Mangalore-575018, Karnataka, India.













Artwork: Muhammad Nihad A. S





Edited by: Dr. Raghu Bhushan



Sanitizers are
one of frequently purchased products world-wide especially due to the current
COVID-19 pandemic. The efficacy of the hand hygiene product determines its
activity against bacteria, yeasts, and coated
viruses.





Among the
available products, alcohol-based sanitizers are in trend due to its active
action against germs such as bacteria, fungi and viruses. Alcohol is treated as
a good antiseptic and does not show toxic effect on human skin however,
continuous use may cause irritation and dryness. Different concentrations of
alcohol are available in the market. Although a higher concentration of alcohol
acts effectively against germs, the best efficacy can be achieved by using
ethanol (60-85%), isopropanol (60-80%), and n-propanol (60-80%) based
sanitizers. As per literature, 95% ethanol has the highest action against naked
viruses. Moreover, the synergistic action could be seen by mixing a different
combination of alcohols. As proof, propanol and isopropanol are presently
available as good disinfectants in the market.





Why alcohol is so important in
sanitizer?





A bacterial
membrane entails basic compounds such as phospholipids and lipopolysaccharides
and their interactions are alleviated by Mg2+ and Ca2+
ions. When ionized, disinfecting molecules are absorbed or repelled by
electrical charges at the initial contact and absorption stage, leading to cell
membrane damage and the electrolyte leakage which can activate cell death pathways.





Alcohol is a
combination of organic molecules such as carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen. Alcohol
clears most of the disease-causing pathogens by breaking the protein-lipid and
dissolving their membranes. The bacterial membrane contains hydrophobic or
lipophilic tails and a hydrophilic head phosphate group. Sanitizers act at
lipophilic ends to break the cell membranes by rupturing its structure and
denaturing the proteins. The novel SARS-CoV-2 virus is surrounded by a ‘fatty’
membrane layer, which can also be disrupted by using alcohol-based sanitizers.
In particular, when the concentration of alcohol exceeds 60%, it has high
efficiency to kill certain bacteria and viruses. In addition to alcohol,
limited concentrations of hydrogen peroxide are added to avoid the growth of
microbes and glycerol or caprylyl glycol or isopropyl myristate is added to
moisturize the skin and prevents dermatitis. Moreover, water acts as a catalyst
in sanitizer, which helps to improve penetration and leads to cell membrane
rupture. Besides, fragrances are also used to give a pleasant odour. When
sanitizer is rubbed on hands, ethanol evaporates and leaving behind soothing
compounds.





Not only
alcohol-based sanitizers, even less concentrated i.e., 0.3% of benzalkonium
chloride or triclosan based sanitizers also kill germs. However, the
effectiveness is lower compared to alcohol-based sanitizers. So, alcohol and
its percentage are very important in sanitizer preparation and purchase.





Written by: Kumara B N, DST-SERB-JRF, Yenepoya Research Centre, Yenepoya (Deemed to be University), Mangalore-575018, Karnataka, India.









Artwork: Kumara B N





Edited by: Dr. Pratigya Subba



Diagnostic and therapeutic advancements are among the key factors in improving the quality of living. An advanced health care system is a cardinal scale for measuring the development of a country. Till date, the discovery of vaccines is one of the most remarkable advancements in modern medicine. Vaccines enabled humans to eradicate some of the most life-threatening diseases. Rather than finding an external agent to kill the pathogen, the immune system is trained to fight off the pathogens. The diverse and complex nature of the immune system, remarkable specificity and an efficient regulatory system makes it a powerful target for the development of modern therapeutics.





The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, 2018 was jointly awarded to Dr. James P. Allison and Dr. Tasuku Honjo for the discovery of immune checkpoint molecule CTLA4 and PD1, which act as a molecular brake in anticancer immune response. But the concept of targeting the immune system to treat cancer is not a new idea. In the late 1800s, a physician Dr. William B. Coley observed that patients with cancer underwent spontaneous remission after erysipelas development. Upon injecting mixtures of live and inactivated Streptococcus pyogenes and Serratia marcescens into patients’ tumors Dr. Coley observed a complete durable remission in several types of malignancies. Lack of known mechanisms about how the cancers were affected by such infection and ethical issues related to deliberately infecting patients with potential bacteria hindered the adoption of this strategy over surgery and radiotherapy. After a century, the Bacille Calmette-Guerin (BCG) was tested for preventing the recurrence of nonmuscle-invasive bladder cancer. The successful trials led to worldwide usage of BCG as a preventive therapy against several cancers.





The original concept underlining cancer immunotherapy was proposed by Thomas and Burnet in 1957. The immune cells function as a surveillance system to find mutated, abnormal cells, or cancer cells. Lack of scientific evidence to support the theory due to the inability to culture immune cells impeded the field of cancer research until the T cell growth factor Interleukin-2 (IL-2) was identified in 1976. Ability to culture immune cells using IL-2 led to the understanding of immune surveillance capability and cancer-killing action of T cells. Effectiveness of large quantities of IL-2 in patients with metastatic cancers led to the expansion of lymphocytes and increased the survival of patients. IL-2 as an immunotherapeutic was eventually granted FDA approval for treating metastatic kidney cancer in 1991 and against metastatic melanoma in 1998. In 1984 Dr. Niels K. Jerne, Dr. Georges J.F. Kohler and Dr. Cesar Milstein were awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine for the theories concerning the specificity in development and control of the immune system and generation of monoclonal antibodies. Research on antibody-based therapeutics opened a new arena for targeted therapies. The development of the first monoclonal antibody Rituximab approved by FDA for the treatment of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 1997. Rituximab antibody binds to CD20 receptors on immature B cells and eventually induces elimination by natural killer (NK) cells. 





The concept of cancer vaccine emerged after the identification of tumor antigens. Even though the cancer cells contain the same genetic material like normal cells, the adapted mutations, alteration of the protein expression and change in cellular metabolism differentiate them from the normal cells. Such alterations generate tumor antigens which can be used to target cancer and also develop a vaccine approach to treat efficiently and prevent any chance of relapse. In 1991 researchers cloned a melanoma derived antigen that was successful in generating an anticancer response from cytotoxic T cells. In recent years the tumor antigen-based anticancer immunotherapies have evolved. The development of antigen-activated allogenic and autologous T cells has shown promising responses in both, laboratory studies and clinical trials. The process of mass expansion of T cells, dendritic cells and NK cells collected from patients or healthy donors and their expansion into target tumor cells using specific antigens are the current cell-based vaccine approaches. The development of genetically modified Chimeric antigen receptor T cells (CAR T cells) has shown significant responses against various cancers. Currently, multiple CAR T cell therapies have been approved by FDA for the treating various types of leukemia. Identification of immune checkpoint inhibitory molecules CTLA4, PD1 and its ligand PDL1 are a potential target anticancer therapy. Ipilimumab an antibody targeted against CTLA-4 is approved by FDA for use in melanoma patients. Antibodies that inhibit PD1 and PDL1 are currently in phase III clinical trials and reportedly showing a promising response. 





Even though immunotherapies are promising and efficient in providing long-term protection from cancer relapse, the humongous costs involved for the treatment make it unaffordable for major affected populations. Many undergoing studies are refurbishing conventional therapies such as chemotherapy, radiotherapy and modern advancements such as photodynamic therapy, radiofrequency hyperthermia, etc. along with immunotherapeutic methods will hopefully lower the costs. The potential of the immune system, diversity of different immune subpopulations and heterogeneity of patient groups is opening up a modern era for research to fight cancer. The major challenge in treating solid tumors is the harsh tumor microenvironment, which enables the rapid evolution of cancer cells to develop therapy resistance and immune escape. Identifying the potential modulators of immune microenvironments in various cancers and targeting such mechanisms to reactivate the immune surveillance is possibly what lies ahead for cancer therapy.





Written by: Sooraj M, ICMR-JRF, Yenepoya Research Centre, Yenepoya (Deemed to be University), Mangalore-575018, Karnataka, India.













Artwork: Sooraj M
Edited by: Saketh Kapoor








Sleep
is a necessary routine in our life, similar to food and water, to keep our body
healthy, and recharging of our brains to keep and prepared for a fresh day. Enough
sleep is essential to keep the brain active, which is critical in
concentration, learning, and memory storage. Researchers revealed that sleep
deprivation not only makes us cranky and irritable but also imparts health
burdens like blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, depression, and obesity. Evidently,
sleep follows circadian rhythms and homeostasis mechanisms. The controlled time
of sleeping and waking up without an alarm is due to circadian rhythms followed
by the synchronization of the body with the external factors such as light,
temperature and many others, and even continue in the absence of these factors.
Human body is reminded to sleep at a certain time by sleep-wake homeostasis. As
the sleep deprivation period increases, which results in a longer and deeper
sleep.  





Its interesting to have a thought about the chemistry behind sleep! Well, not everyone knows that numerous chemicals are involved throughout the sleep and wake cycle. Melatonin and adenosine, are the two most crucial molecules released in the body, which plays a pivotal role in sleep regulation. As a result of various activities, the human body burns a lot of energy, which results in the production of adenosine.  The activity of neurons is suppressed by the binding of the adenosine to the adenosine receptors embedded in neurons or nerve cells and makes us feel drowsy. The feeling of exhaustion caused by the creation of adenosine makes you sleepy as the day ends, and incomplete sleep results in tiredness. Notably, the ideal sleep burns off all the created adenosine.





The pineal gland produces melatonin when the retina is not exposed to light. The darkness inhibits the signal transfer from the suprachiasmatic nucleus (an area of the brain), which in turn causes melatonin production by the pineal gland. The melatonin is derived from tryptophan through multistep process with the aid of various enzymes. Among, one of the key enzyme is serotonin-N-acetyltransferase (SNAT), and its activity decides the melatonin production. The signal transferred by the exposure to light to the pineal gland from retina passes through the suprachiasmatic nucleus results in degradation of SNAT. Whereas, it gets phosphorylated at night and thus increases the melatonin, which is why we tend to wake up in the morning. Well, from now on, if someone stops you from sleeping, tell them you have too much adenosine left to burn off !





Written by: Supriya Jain, DST-JRF, Yenepoya Research Centre, Yenepoya (Deemed to be University), Mangalore-575018, Karnataka, India.









Her profile: https://yenepoya.res.in/team/supriya-jain/#1561549713017-7925d3bc-4beb





Artwork: Supriya Jain





Edited by: Dr. Renjith Johnson and Saketh Kapoor



New coronavirus (CoV) is
the recent talk of the town; novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a single-stranded RNA
virus that is creating havoc in East Asian countries, especially China.
Although the new type of coronavirus virus was first isolated on January 07, 2020,
the first incidence of the disease was reported on December 31, 2019, in Wuhan
City, the capital of China's Hubei province. The patient was reported with
pneumonia with unknown etiology.





As of January 26, 2020,
over 1,975 people have fallen sick due to this virus, including 56 deaths, and
the virus is now spreading rapidly. Few cases have been reported from Thailand,
Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and the Republic of Korea, where the travelers who
visited Wuhan City were detected at their respective airports by thermal
surveillance.





The virus can cause the
common cold, fever with chills, sore throat, and headache to more severe
diseases such as the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and severe acute
respiratory syndrome (SARS). The disease is zoonotic, implicating that the
virus can spread between humans and animals. Animal to human transmission
occurs through the consumption of meat or animal products. That is why it’s
first transmission has been traced back to the wet markets of Wuhan that trade
exotic wild animal food and fish which has now been shut down.





It’s nothing new or
surprising that the transmission of the virus from animals to humans exists.
Earlier, the CoV which was responsible for SARS also traveled from bats to
exotic cats, which were again sold in exotic food markets. And the aftermath of
the epidemic of SARS is a well-documented tragedy. The genome sequencing of
nCoV has identified 96% similarity with that of the bat coronavirus.





In India, no case has been
reported so far as of January 26, 2020. However, as per some media reports,
around 100 people have been kept under observation. And specimen from 7 people
with mild respiratory symptoms who have traveled from China has been sent for
investigations to the National Institute of Virology, Pune.





No drug or vaccine has
been shown to be effective against coronavirus in humans so far. It has been
reported that the nCoV and SARS CoV binds to the same receptor on human cells.
Therefore, scientists are trying to block the receptors on human cells by which
the virus finds its way to infect the human body.





Having said all this, one must follow the basic safety practices such as washing hands with soap, especially after returning from crowded places or any fish/animal market. Avoid any kind of close contact with people suffering from respiratory infections. Do not panic by reading any social media reports and let experts do the rest.





Written by: Saketh Kapoor, Research Associate, Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine Centre, Yenepoya Research Centre, Yenepoya (Deemed to be University), Mangalore-575018, Karnataka, India.





Further readings:

























Image source: https://media.nature.com/lw800/magazine-assets/d41586-020-00190-6/d41586-020-00190-6_17590326.jpg


 

“Unity and co-ordination” are the two key mantras for designing a successful system or organization. Co-ordination can be achieved by forming healthy interactions between the constituent elements of the system. Interacting elements form a network and proper interaction results in the efficient flow of information or flux to achieve a particular target. So, proper networking among the constituents plays a crucial role in the success of that organization.

The essence of networking is beautifully explained by some of the well-organized systems exists in nature. Flashing pattern of light by a group of firefly may seem meaningless to us, however, it is actually their license to find a mating partner. Female firefly responds to their conspecific male partner by the synchronous flashing. A shoal formed by a group of fish is another example of nature driven network. Movement of individual fish in such a group may look like a random one while the complete system tells us how well they are coordinating with each other. Similarly, focusing on the movement of individual ant or starling may not provide much information, however, studying the movement of a group of ants or starlings can help to discover the beautiful formation of marching ants in a straight line or a murmuration of thousands of starlings. These individual elements formed a network and practiced to co-ordinate with each other to successfully build such organizations.

The list of biological metaphors for networks is huge, be it in macroscopic (organism) level to the microscopic (genes, proteins, or metabolites) level. We live in a society and interact with each other with different kind of relationships. Some of the relationships are bi-directional such as a friend, foe or unidirectional like being a fan or follower of someone. Friendship and love are some of the positive interaction exist around us whereas foe, hatred are some of the negative interactions added to such a network. Being in a society, we all are coordinating and managing these positive and negative interactions to maintain harmony in our surrounding. In the current scenario, we can clearly see and feel the network around us, and all credit goes to the growing social networking.

Protein-protein interaction, regulation of genes by transcription factors are some of the well known microscopic network present in the body. Like that of networks at the macroscopic level, we also experience positive and negative interactions at the microscopic level. Considering an instance of Gene Regulatory Network (GRN), where genes and the regulatory factors are the elements of the network, enhancing the gene expression can be considered as positive interaction whereas inhibition of gene expression is a negative interaction.

To understand the function of a system, it is important to understand the structure of the system. “System biology” is an emerging area where it entertains the systems level understanding of any functional organization. A system can be modeled into a network using the concepts of graph theory. Nodes represent the elements of the system while edges denote the interaction exists between the two nodes or elements. Studying various properties of the network helps in better understanding of the system and its behavior in various conditions. Studies have shown the existence of well co-ordination between the elements of the successful system.

These systems-level studies reiterate the essence of the well said proverb “United we stand, divided we fall”. This holds true for every functional system, be a macroscopic or microscopic one.

Written by:  



Mr. Santosh Kumar Behera, DBT-BINC, Junior Research Fellow, Centre for Systems Biology and Molecular Medicine, Yenepoya Research Centre, Yenepoya (Deemed to be University), Mangalore-575018, Karnataka, India.

 

 

 

Artwork: Ms. Nupur Agarwal

Edited by: Mr. Saketh Kapoor and Mr. Jagdish k