Lab Report

Chip to ‘smell out’ diabetes:
Calcutta researchers have found a novel method of diabetes detection that is better and easier than the current process. According to scientists from two Calcutta-based institutions — the Central Glass and Ceramic Research Institute and the Institute of Child Health — a breath is all it takes to check whether someone is suffering from diabetes or not. Their work, reported in the January 25 issue of Current Science, uses tiny sensors made of iron sulphate that check the level of acetone in an individual’s breath. The scientists reckon that the acetone levels in breath and blood sugar count are strongly correlated. It is said that the acetone level in a healthy human being will not be more than 0.9 parts per million. Any value beyond this could indicate diabetes. The achievement — though still far from being perfected — is remarkable, considering that the sensors are so sensitive that they can detect the characteristic odour of acetone from more than 200 volatile organic compounds found in the breath of a normal human being. The conventional technique for diabetes detection is blood sugar testing, which requires blood collection and is an invasive procedure.

Cleaning oil spills is easy:
If you have to clean up a place contaminated with a diesel spill, where can you turn to? Nothing but thin air, says a team of researchers in Himachal Pradesh. Biotechnologists at the Jaypee University of Information Technology in Solan have found that certain microbes found in the air can effectively be used for bioremediation of soil and water polluted by oil spills. The method, reported in the latest issue of the journal Current Science, is said to be unique and relatively simple. The scientists also found that the bacterial strains they isolated were effective for varying concentrations of diesel in the contaminated sites.

Manure from chicken feather :
Researchers in Hyderabad have isolated an enzyme from a bacterium found in slaughterhouses that can convert chicken feather into a feed additive or manure. “Chicken feather is full of nutrients but is not easily degradable,” says Lakshmi Narasu Mangamoori of the Centre for Biotechnology at the Jawaharlal Nehru Technological University (JNTU), who is also the principal author of study. The enzyme — a protease, extracted and purified by a team that included scientists from the Indian Institute of Chemical Technology, also in the city — exhibits optimal activity in a highly alkaline environment at temperatures closer to 45 degrees Celsius. It is also highly stable in the presence of detergents and other solvents and is hence suitable for use in the leather industry as well. The findings are reported in the April 2008 issue of the journal Bioresource Technology.

Morphine cure for tuberculosis:
A shot of morphine — an active agent in opium — can cure tuberculosis, at least in animals, say scientists at the National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research in Chandigarh. When morphine was injected into mice that were artificially infected with Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the researchers found that it suppressed the infection and at times even completely eliminated it from the lungs and spleen of the animals. The optimum dosage for suppressing the infection was found to be 5 mg per kilogram weight of the animal. Morphine works by boosting the immune response of the animals, the researchers write in the January issue of Life Sciences. The scientists also found that naloxone — a drug used to counter morphine overdose — nullied the protective effect of morphine, indicating that morphine does play a role in curing TB in mice.The findings will be useful in developing new treatment strategies against the disease, they feel.

Sources: The Telegraph (Kolkata, India)

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