VATIS Update Biotechnology . Apr-Jun 2015

Register FREE
for additional services
Download PDF
Biotechnology Apr-Jun 2015

ISSN: 0971-5622

VATIS Update Biotechnology is published 4 times a year to keep the readers up to date of most of the relevant and latest technological developments and events in the field of Biotechnology. The Update is tailored to policy-makers, industries and technology transfer intermediaries.

Co-publisher: Biotech Consortium India Ltd
Editorial Board
Latest Issues
New and Renewable
VATIS Update Non-conventional Energy Oct-Dec 2017
VATIS Update Biotechnology Oct-Dec 2017
VATIS Update Waste Management Oct-Dec 2016
VATIS Update Food Processing Oct-Dec 2016
Ozone Layer
VATIS Update Ozone Layer Protection Sep-Oct 2016
Asia-Pacific Tech Monitor Oct-Dec 2014




First indigenous rotavirus vaccine launched in India

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has launched the first indigenously developed and manufactured rotavi-rus vaccine. Every year, diarrhoea caused by rotavirus results in up to 10 lakh hospitalisations and kills nearly 80,000 children under the age of 5. The 3-dose ROTAVAC vaccine, developed through a collabora-tion between India and the U.S., is expected to help bring about a significant reduction in the 100,000 infant deaths caused by the rotavirus diarrhoea in India. Mr. Modi hoped the vaccine would inspire higher levels of research, development and manufacturing in India, in not just medical science but also in other advanced areas of science and technology. He highlighted the vaccine as a successful example of collaboration be-tween India and the U.S. in the area of medical research.

“We have realised a dream by bringing out the first Made in India Molecule. We have also maintained our pledge to offer ROTAVAC for $1 to governments in low-income countries,” said Krishna Ella, Chairman and MD of Bharat Biotech, which contributed towards product development and testing. A vaccine innovated in India, developed in India and to be made in India, would be a big boost to the “Make in In-dia” initiative, said Dr. Ella. The vaccine has been developed under an innovative public-private partner-ship (PPP) model. It involved a partnership between the Ministry of Science and Technology, institutions of the U.S. government, various government institutions and NGOs in India, and has been supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Japanese generic firms keen to invest in India

According to PV Appaji, director-general of Pharmaceuticals Export Promotion Council of India (Pharmex-cil), which has been set up by the ministry of commerce and industry, Indian pharmaceutical industry is looking to offer contract manufacturing of Japanese generics in India. Around 20 Japanese companies have evinced interest in contract manufacturing benefits from the US FDA-approved facilities in India, he said adding that it would be holding discussions with them during July this year. Pharmexil would look to promote Indian generics in international markets.

Japan remained a tough market for Indian drug manufacturers due to stringent regulations. Japan accounted about Rs 400 crore of the close to Rs 98,000 crore pharmaceutical exports from India last year. Terming In-dia as the pharmacy of the world, Appaji said Indian pharmaceutical products were exported to 220 countries and the market was expected to touch $35 billion by 2020 from the the current year’s $18 billion, a two fold increase. The domestic market was put at Rs 80,000 crore and was registering 15 percent growth. A third of Indian pharmaceutical market was in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. “The 11000 acre allocation for Pharma city by the government of Telangana is extraordinary,” said Appaji.

World’s first malaria vaccine to be used in Africa

The world’s first malaria vaccine, made by GlaxoSmithKline, the United Kingdom, could be approved by international regulators for use in Africa from October after final trial data showed it offered partial pro-tection for up to four years. The shot, called RTS,S and designed for children in Africa, would be the first licensed human vaccine against a parasitic disease and could help prevent millions of cases of malaria, which currently kills more than 600,000 people a year. Experts have long hoped scientists would be able to develop an effective malaria vaccine, and researchers at the GSK have been working on RTS,S for 30 years.

Hopes that this shot would be the final answer to wiping out malaria were dampened when trial data re-leased in 2011 and 2012 showed it only reduced episodes of malaria in babies aged 6-12 weeks by 27 per-cent, and by around 46 percent in children aged 5-17 months. But the final stage follow-up data published in the Lancet journal on Friday showed vaccinated children continued to be protected four years on, albeit at a declining rate – an important factor given the prevalence of the disease – and rates of protec-tion were stronger with a booster shot.

An average 1,363 cases of clinical malaria were prevented over four years for every 1,000 children vacci-nated, or 1,774 cases with a booster shot – the children would normally be expected to have had several cases of infection over that period. In babies, over three years of follow-up, an average 558 cases were prevented for every 1,000 vaccinated, and 983 cases in those who got a booster. GSK submitted an application in July 2014 for regulatory approval by the European Medicines Agency for RTS,S and is expect-ing a decision within a few months. Experts say RTS,S will be only one among several weapons against ma-laria, alongside insecticide-treated bed nets, rapid diagnostic tests and anti-malarial drugs.

Field trials of BT-HT cotton authorized in Australia

The Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR) of Australia has issued a license to Bayer CropScience, Aus-tralia, allowing the field trials of genetically modified (GM) cotton with insect resistance and herbicide toleran-cetraits. The field trials were allowed to take place in July 2015 to July 2021 in New South Wales, Queen-sland, and Western Australia. For the first two years, the maximum planting area allowed is 120 hec-tares/year and 600 hectares/year for the remaining 4 years. The field trials will be conducted to evaluate the agronomic performance and pest resistance of GM cotton under Australian field conditions.

RBI to declare biotechnology as priority sector

To encourage investment in research and entrepreneurial activities in the biotechnology field, the government of India, has asked the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to declare it as a priority sector to make lending easy for start-ups. “We have asked the RBI to consider adding biotechnology as a priority sector for lending, so that the start-ups can easily get loans. We are also working with the Ministry of Fi-nance on this matter. We are also in talks with the Ministry of Micro Small and Medium Enterprises to increase the credit limit given to this sector,” said Union Minister YS Chowdary. Pushing for a greater assistance under the newly announced MUDRA Bank in the Union Budget, the minister said that the biotechnology sector should take advantage this newly announced bank.

Micro Units Development Refinance Agency (MUDRA) Bank, with a corpus of Rs 20,000 crore and credit guarantee corpus of Rs 3,000 crore will help in lending money to small and medium size indus-tries and start-ups. “I am going to establish a help desk in the Ministry for assistance in this initia-tive,” the minister said. He added that while other ministries saw a drop in the budget, the Minis-try of S&T budget has not only remained the same, but there has a been a slight increase in it. Pitching to make India a country for scientific tourism, Choudary said the efforts should be made to in the field of science to create world class laboratories which can encourage foreign scientists to come and research in India.

Academicians welcome new biotech policy

The government of India, has proposed five Life Science Knowledge Centres in Public Private Part-nership (PPP) mode under the recent Biotechnology Policy – 2015-20, for advancement of the biotechnology sector in the State, and the institutions will be adequately funded to serve their purpose. In addition to funds, these universities will have advanced infrastructure that will help them in their transfor-mation into knowledge centres in the respective areas. The government has drawn a plan to give Rs. 20 lakh per annum for initial operations to the Andhra University (AU), Jawaharlal Nehru Technological Uni-versity (JNTU), Sri Venkateswara Veterinary University (SVVU), Dr. YSR Horticultural University, and NTR University of Health Sciences (NTRUHS), where the said knowledge centres will come up.

Coming to infrastructure, NTRUHS, for instance, which is the apex institution for administration of hundreds of medical and dental colleges across A.P and Telangana, is in an unenviable position, in the sense that it has no ‘university medical college’. AU has campus engineering and medical colleges at Visakha-patnam and SVVU has a veterinary college attached to it at Tirupati. Similar is the case with JNTUK, which has its campus college at Kakinada. But NTRUHS has no campus medical college of its own that would give a fillip to research by directly handling research projects.

While welcoming the government’s initiatives, academicians are insisting that existing infrastructure at the respective institutions has to be upgraded as facilities are sub-optimal. The government has also con-templated setting up biotechnology incubation centres at NTRUHS, SVVU, and JNTUK, and another one in the Mega Life Sciences Park at Visakhapatnam for “nurturing innovations and taking potential tech-nologies to the market place.” These life science projects have been conceived by the Department of Industries and Commerce, which released the new biotech policy.


India to lead APAC non-vascular stents market

According to a recent study by research and consulting firm GlobalData, the United Kingom, the APAC non-vascular stents market consisting of urinary tract, pancreatic and biliary, enteral, and airway stents, will expand in value from $148.1 million in 2013 to $223.8 million by 2021, growing at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 5.3 percent. GlobalData elaborated in its report that key APAC countries like India, Japan and China will experience massive growth in this area, with India leading the race. The firm said that the Indian market value for non-vascular stents will increase at a CAGR of 6 percent.

“India is set to overtake China in becoming the world’s most populous country around 2020, leading to a significant patient base and rapidly-expanding medical device market. The flexibility of manufac-turers with respect to the use of stents, such as employing a pay-as-you-go model, will be hugely important in driving India’s non-vascular stent market in the future. The director also said that few factors such as minimal penetration of these technologies in rural areas and low awareness among public may hamper this growth,” said Ms. Priya Radhakrishnan, at GlobalData.

Republic of Korea to invest $300m in biotech

The Republic of Korea (ROK), Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning, the Ministry of Trade, In-dustry and Energy, and other local agencies have announced plans to invest $300 million in fostering biotechnology over the course of 2015 in order to produce five globally viable products by 2017. The minis-tries are planning to secure 2 percent share by 2017 and 3 percent by 2020 with the new investments. As of 2012, it controlled just 1.3 percent share in global biotechnology. In 2014, the country invested $199 million in the sector. Fresh investments will be placed annually, with the amount of funding and the projects chosen each year depending on promising areas. Single projects will be able to get up to $16 million this year, and $44 million in 2017.

Biotechnology is quickly gaining popularity in Republic of Korea, with startups working on the area account-ing for 13.7 percent of listed companies on the KOSDAW based on market value. In comparison, it ac-counted for only 3.6 percent in 2004. Venture capitalists invested a total of $225 million in biotech last year, more than IT manufacturing’s $150.8 million and IT services’ $131 million. The government expects the global biotechnology market to see rapid growth, and expects it to dwarf the semiconductor, chemical, and automotive industries by 2024, the three major sectors that Republic of Korea is currently most profitable in.

Methylene Blue injection launched in Japan

Pharma major Daiichi Sankyo Company Limited, Japan, has launched Methylene Blue Injection 50mg for the treatment of methemoglobinemia in Japan. Toxic methemoglobinemia is a toxic disorder in which the methemoglobin concentration in the blood is elevated due to various substances found in drugs, pesticides, etc., causing symptoms such as cyanosis, headache, dizziness, shortness of breath, and loss of conscious-ness.

Methylene Blue is one of the agents publicly offered for development by the Review Committee on Unap-proved Drugs and Indications with High Medical Needs, set up by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW). Daiichi Sankyo acquired sole development and marketing rights for Japan from Provepharm SAS, France, before developing Methylene Blue, and received a grant from the Pharmaceutical Development Support Centre for its development. Daiichi Sankyo is committed to making unapproved and off-label drugs available to patients who are waiting for them to be approved.

First CTC Hub launched in China

Shanghai LIDE Biotech Co. Ltd., China, a company that focuses on translational medicine services, and Clearbridge Biomedics, Singapore, have established an exclusive partnership for the contracted research organization (CRO) market in China. The two partners will jointly set up the LIDE-Clearbridge CRO CTC Hub to provide circulating tumor cell (CTC) processing services, the first of its kind in China. This facility will be part of LIDE’s existing 18,298 sq ft facility in Shanghai, and is already up and running.

The Hub leverages the ClearCell® FX1 system, an automated, label-free CTC isolation system. Devel-oped by Clearbridge Biomedics, the ClearCell® FX is able to isolate intact and viable CTCs from a pa-tient’s blood sample. CTCs are cells that have detached from the primary tumor and circulate in the patient’s bloodstream. They are extremely rare—a milliliter of blood contains a few CTCs mixed with billions of blood cells. CTCs play a significant role in metastasis of the cancer, as the ‘seeds’ for the spread and growth of new tumors.

The LIDE-Clearbridge CRO CTC Hub will target biotech and pharmaceutical companies, as well as hospi-tals, to help accelerate their therapeutic and drug discovery research. In addition to CTC processing ser-vices, the facility provides complementary downstream analysis services, including cell enumeration, immu-nohistochemistry testing, fluorescence in situ hybridization, cell culture, patient derived tumor xenograft (PDX) for drug sensitivity testing and genomic profiling using next generation sequencing.

Cipla launches generic Hepatitis C drug

Cipla, India, has launched generic drug Sofosbuvir for treating chronic Hepatitis C under the brand name Hepcvir. Following the non-exclusive licensing agreement signed with Gilead Sciences, the United States, to manufacture and market chronic Hepatitis C medicines, Cipla is now all set to make the drug So-fosbuvir available to Indian patients. “Cipla has always brought accessible and affordable medicines to fight against diseases like AIDS and Hepatitis B; hence, Cipla has made it a priority to bring Hepcvir to patients in India as well as the other developing nations,” said Subhanu Saxena, at Cipla.

The availability of product in other markets is subject to approvals from the regulatory authorities in the re-spective countries, Cipla said. In India alone, around 12-18 million patients are estimated to be infected with Hepatitis C, which is several fold greater than those with HIV/AIDS. Besides, Dr. Reddy’s Labora-tories has entered into an agreement with Hetero, India, to distribute and market generic version of Gilead Sciences’ Hepatitis C drug under the brand Resof.

Abbott introduces glucose monitoring system

Abbott Laboratories, the United States, has launched the professional version of its flash glucose monitor-ing system. “Abbott has chosen India as the first country globally to launch this technology. The glucose assessment tool will cost Rs 1,999 for 14-days, will empower doctors to help their patients manage their diabe-tes effectively,” said Mr. Matthew Bates, at Abbott.

“The glucose monitoring system continuously measures glucose in interstitial fluid through a small fila-ment that is inserted under the skin. It records glucose levels every 15 minutes, capturing up to 1,340 glucose readings over 14 days, thus giving the treating doctor comprehensive data for a complete glucose profile of their patient,” explained Mr Bates. After 14 days the doctor uses a flash glucose monitoring reader to scan the sensor and download the glucose results. This data can help doctors to make more informed treatment deci-sions.

Dr. Reddy’s Labs to enter Japanese market

Pharmaceutical major Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories, India, has announced that it has plans to enter Japanese market through partnerships for specific products. The company may launch its first biosimilar drug in 2018. “Japan is certainly on our target. We are developing products for Japan. But we will enter into this market through a partner. We don’t intend to do direct presence there. We are looking at product specific partnerships there,” said GV Prasad, at Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories. The Indian drug maker and Fu-jifilm Corporation of Japan had earlier entered into a Memorandum of understanding (MoU) for an exclusive partnership in the generic drugs business for the Japanese market and to establish a joint venture in the island nation.

However, it became non-starter for the reasons which were not disclosed. Prasad said the company has fulfilled all the requirements pointed during an inspection by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), at its Srikaku-lam Plant. “After the inspection, we have responded to them. We believe in compliance with them. But we don’t have any indication from them on the next step would be. Perhaps they may re-inspect or take some other remedy. But from our side, we have completed most of the actions that we have committed,” he said. On the launch of Biosimilar drugs, Prasad said they are working through Marc for the near term for the regulated markets and the products are in the clinic. On new acquisitions, he said the company constantly looks at new ac-quisitions or merger of “mid-sized” organisations.


Essential gene found to maintain cancer stem cells

Researchers at the Medical College of Georgia (MCG) at Georgia Regents University, the United States, have found that the gene DNMT1 is essential to maintaining breast, or mammary, stem cells, that enable normal rapid growth of the breasts during pregnancy, as well as the cancer stem cells that may enable breast cancer. They’ve learned that the DNMT1 gene also is highly expressed in the most common types of breast cancer. Conversely, ISL1 gene, a tumor suppressor and natural control mechanism for stem cells, is nearly silent in the breasts during pregnancy as well as cancer, said Dr. Muthusamy Thangaraju, biochemist at MCG. “DNMT1 directly regulates ISL1. If the DNMT1 expression is high, this ISL1 gene is low,” said Thangaraju.

Researchers first made the connection when they knocked out DNMT1 in a mouse and noted the increase in ISL1. Then they got busy looking at what happened in human breast cancer cells. They found ISL1 is silent in most human breast cancers and that restoring higher levels to the human breast cancer cells dramatically reduces the stem cell populations and the resulting cell growth and spread that are hallmarks of cancer.

The findings point toward new therapeutic targets for breast cancer and potentially using blood levels of ISL1 as a way to diagnose early breast cancer. In fact, they’ve found that the anti-seizure medication valproic acid, al-ready used in combination with chemotherapy to treat breast cancer, appears to increase ISL1 expression, which may help explain why the drug works for these patients. The scientists are screening other small molecules that might work as well or better. Mammary stem cells help maintain the breasts during puberty as well as pregnancy, both periods of dynamic breast cell growth. During pregnancy, breasts may generate 300 times more cells as they prepare for milk production. This mass production may also include tumor cells, a mutation that seems to increase with age, Thangaraju said. The study has been published in the journal Nature Communications.

Scientists discover master orchestrator of genome

One of developmental biology’s most perplexing questions concerns what signals transform masses of undifferentiated cells into tremendously complex organisms, a process called ontogeny. According to a research by scientists from University at Buffalo (UB), the United States, provides evidence that it all begins with a single “master” growth factor receptor that regulates the entire genome. “The finding provides a new level of understanding of the fundamental aspects of how organisms develop. Our research shows how a single growth factor receptor protein moves directly to the nucleus in order to program the entire genome,” said Dr. Michal K. Stachowiak, professor at UB. The research has been published in the journal PLOS ONE.

The research challenges a long-held supposition in biology that specific types of growth factors only functioned at a cell’s surface. For two decades, Stachowiak’s team has been intrigued by the possibility that growth factors function from within the nucleus, a point, this current paper finally proves. A more advanced understanding of how organisms form, based on this work, has the potential to significantly enhance the understanding and treatment of cancers, which result from uncontrolled development as well as congenital diseases. The new research also will contribute to the understanding of how stem cells work. This work was conducted on mouse embryonic stem cells, not human cells.

At the center of the discovery is a single protein called nuclear Fibroblast Growth Factor Receptor 1 (nFGFR1). The FGFR1 gene is known to govern gastrulation, occurring in early development, where the three-layered embryonic structure forms. Researchers used genome-wide sequencing of mouse embryonic stem cells programmed to de-velop cells of the nervous system, with additional experiments in which nuclear FGFR1 was either introduced or blocked. They found that the protein was responsible, either alone or with so-called partner nuclear receptors, for ensuring that embryonic stem cells develop into differentiated cells. The research shows that nuclear FGFR1 binds to promoters of genes that encode transcription factors, the proteins that control which genes are turned on or off in the genome.

Scientists modified human embryos

Scientists at the Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, China, have genetically modified a human embryo for the first time. Junjiu Huang, a gene-function researcher at, has confirmed that his team has modified the gene re-sponsible for a potentially fatal blood disorder in non-viable embryos — ones that cannot result in a live birth. They reported their work, which up until now was merely a rumor, in this week’s online journal Protein & Cell. The results will no doubt reignite an already highly contentious debate between those who think editing the genome of a human before it’s born could prevent genetic disease and those who believe the unpredictable effects could be devastating to humankind.

Huang’s team used a technique well known in genetic science called CRISPR/Cas9. Essentially, sci-entists inject an embryo with an enzyme of the same name that can be programmed to bind and splice DNA at a specific gene location. During the process, another molecule is introduced to that location to repair genetic dam-age. Until now, no one has reported trying this technique on a human embryo. The Chinese team tried it on not just one human embryo, but 86. These were obtained from fertility clinics and were unviable because they all con-tained an extra set of chromosomes after being fertilized by two sperm.

After injecting the enzyme into the embryos, the team waited 48 hours, enough time for the enzyme to splice the gene, for the molecule to replace the missing DNA and for the single-celled embryos to grow to about eight cells each. Seventy-one embryos survived, and of those, 54 were tested and of those, only 28 showed a suc-cessful splice. Even more disconcerting, only a fraction of the 28 embryos contained the replaced molecule.

New breeding programme to improve pig behavior

Aarhus University in collaboration with the Danish Pig Research Centre, Denmark, has launched a new research project to harness information technology to breed pigs that are less inclined to bite tails and that utilise the feed more efficiently. Information about pigs’ pen mates, advanced statistical models and genomic methods are some of the tools that researchers will use in the project, which aims to improve pig welfare and reduce environmental impact. Results from the project will not only improve pig welfare as a result of less tail-biting, but will also be beneficial for the environment. A more efficient use of feed will result in reduced emissions of nutrients and carbon dioxide (CO2) to the environment.

By combining new methods for processing group information with genomic information, the scientists expect to be able to increase genetic progress for these traits. The group information will be used in two ways that are com-plementary. Firstly, data on feed consumption at group level will be used, which is a cost-effective way of improv-ing the certainty in the breeding value assessments. Secondly, they will use the observations on pen mates to assess the pigs’ social breeding values, as pigs kept in pens will be influenced by the other pigs.

The breeding project expects to see a reduction in emissions of 335 tonnes of nitrogen, 56 tonnes of phosphorus and 14.5 tonnes of CO2 based on a production of 19.0 million finishers in 2013, if the efficiency in-creases are achieved. The farmer’s economy is also expected to benefit from the project results. Pigs with a better feed use efficiency cost less to rear for slaughter and will therefore increase the farmer’s profits.

Scientists develop novel genomics technique

Scientists at the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center, the United States, have developed a new method for measuring genetic variability within a tumor that might one day help doctors identify patients with aggressive cancers that are more likely to resist therapy. Researchers used a new scoring technique they developed called MATH (mutant-allele tumor heterogeneity) to measure the genetic variability among cancer cells within tumors from 305 patients with head and neck cancer. High MATH scores corresponded to tumors with many differences among the gene mutations present in different cancer cells.

Cancers that showed high genetic variability, i.e., “intra-tumor heterogeneity,” correlated with lower patient survival. If prospective studies verify the findings, MATH scores could help identify the most effective treat-ment for patients and predict a patient’s prognosis. It’s long been hypothesized that multiple sub-populations of mutated cells within a single cancer lead to worse clinical outcomes; however, oncologists do not use tumor heterogeneity to guide clinical care decisions or assess disease prognosis because there is no single, easy-to-implement method of doing so in clinical practice.

To address this need, scientists developed MATH to make it easier for doctors to measure genetic variability in patients’ tumors and to help guide treatment decisions. Their study reported in the journal PLOS Medi-cine, has confirmed that high genetic variability with a patient’s tumor is related to increased mortality in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma. For the current study, Dr. Rocco and his team used the MATH tool to analyze retrospective data from 305 head and neck squamous cell carcinoma patients from The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA). “To our knowledge this study is the first to combine data from hundreds of patients, treated at multiple institutions, to document a relation between intra-tumor heterogeneity and overall survival in any type of cancer,” said the investigators.


Proteomics identifies DNA repair toolbox

Scientists in the team of Matthias Mann at the Max Planck Institute (MPI) of Biochemistry, Germany, have analyzed how the protein composition of the DNA replication machinery changes upon encountering damaged DNA). To monitor such changes, they isolated DNA at several time points during the replication and repair process, and quantified the bound proteins using mass spectrometry based proteomics. In con-trast to the conventional approach of quantifying a few selected proteins, proteomic analysis allows the si-multaneous quantification of thousands of proteins from a biological sample.

Using this unbiased approach, they found that as the replication machinery collides with lesions in the DNA more than 90 proteins are recruited to help repair the damaged DNA. These include many known DNA repair factors, as well as new proteins of previously unknown function. Together with the team of Professor Mailand at the Center for Protein Research, Denmark, they are now analyzing whether and how these proteins pro-mote the repair process. Because defects in DNA repair pathways are commonly observed in genetically inherited cancer syndromes, such as familially inherited breast cancer, it is possible that mutations in the new factors may contribute to genetic predisposition to cancers.

DNA modifying agents are among the most frequently used class of chemotherapeutics. They work particu-larly well if the cancer cells they attack already have defects in the corresponding DNA repair pathways, as it frequently occurs in breast cancer and other tumors. Adaptation of proteomics for clinical diagnostics may open completely new possibilities. “Acquiring proteomic profiles directly from the tumor tissue may help oncologists to rapidly find the optimal class and dose of drugs. Our hope is that this approach may lead to more effective therapies with fewer side effects,” said Matthias Mann.

Novel regulator inhibits toxic protein aggregates

Researchers from Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC), Germany, has developed a novel computational strategy to identify interaction partners of the huntingtin protein and discovered a novel factor that suppresses misfolding and aggregation. Huntington’s disease is caused by an ex-pansion of glutamine residues in the huntingtin protein, altering its function and ultimately resulting in toxic aggregation of huntingtin fragments in neurons. Proteins that interact with the glutamine-expanded huntingtin protein are thought to strongly influence the formation of the aggregates.

“The challenge that remains is if there are many proteins interacting with the huntingtin protein, we cannot easily determine which are relevant for disease and which are not,” said Erich Wanker at MDC. By combining large datasets of protein-protein interactions and filtering by brain-specific gene expres-sion in patients with and without Huntington’s disease, the scientists narrowed potential interactors to 13 candidates, including 7 that are known targets in Huntington’s disease. The researchers followed up on one candidate, CRMP1, because of its expression in brain and not elsewhere in the body.

Using cell-based model systems and Drosophila, they found CRMP1 overexpression reduces Huntington aggregation and cellular toxicity, while reduced CRMP1 results in increased aggregation and toxicity. In cell-free assays, CRMP1 slows the spontaneous self-assembly of huntingtin fragments with glutamine expan-sions. “CRMP1 was not regarded as a therapeutic target so far, now it is worth exploring as a poten-tial target,” said Wanker. The study has been published in the journal Genome Research.

Researchers use proteomics to profile switchgrass

In a study led by Benjamin Schwessinger, a grass geneticist from U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI), researchers used advanced proteomic techniques to identify 1,750 unique proteins in shoots of switchgrass (Panicum virgatum), a North American native prairie grass that is widely viewed as one of the most promising of all the fuel crop candidates. “This was a pilot study to actually test if these proteomic tools are applicable to switchgrass. That we were able to identify such a large number of proteins in our samples shows that proteomics will be useful when we start digging for proteins that will enable us to manipulate switchgrass for increased biofuel production,” said Schwessinger.

The results of this study are reported in the journal Proteomics. The burning of fossil fuels is responsible for the release of nearly 9 billion metric tons of excess carbon into the atmosphere each year. Fuels made from the sugars in plants and other forms of biomass would provide a clean, green and renewable alternative if the production of biofuels is cost-effective. This will require, among other developments, plants whose sugars are more readily extracted and fermented into fuels by microbes. “Plant cell walls or biomass are costly to deconstruct for sugar release for downstream applications such as biofuels, but genetic modifications to plant cell wall structure could result in significant downstream economic impacts,” said Schwessinger.

To this end, Schwessinger and his colleagues carried out the first proteomic analysis of switchgrass material, profiling the proteome of the switchgrass endomembrane from 10-day old dark grown shoots. “The overall number of unique proteins we identified highlights the contributions proteomics can provide as more plant ge-nomes become publicly accessible. You can think of it as a tool that helps us find needles in a haystack. For ex-ample, with proteomics we can determine the four highest expressed members out of a protein family of 60,” concluded Schwessinger.

New protein that helps the immune system

A team of British cancer researchers from Imperial College London, the United Kingdom, has identified and isolated a protein from a line of mutant, cancer resistant mice. The protein, which they called Lymphocyte Ex-pansion Molecule (LEM), promoted antigen-dependent CD8+ T-cell proliferation, effector function, and memory cell generation in response to infection with lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus. Protective CD8+ T cell – mediated immunity requires a massive expansion in cell number and the development of long-lived memory cells. However, in cases of advanced cancer, these types of cells are often unable to proliferate in large enough numbers to fight the disease.

At the molecular level LEM was found to control the levels of oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) complexes and respiration resulting in the production of pro-proliferative mitochondrial Reactive Oxygen Species (mROS). This was accomplished through LEM’s interaction with CR6 interacting factor (CRIF1). Thus, LEM pro-vided a link between immune activation and the expansion of protective CD8+ T-cells driven by OXPHOS and represented a pathway for the restoration of long-term protective immunity. These results were confirmed by experiments performed with mice that had been genetically engineered to lack the LEM gene.

“Cancer cells have ways to suppress T-cell activity, helping them to escape the immune system. Geneti-cally engineering T-cells to augment their ability to fight cancer has been a goal for some time and techniques for modifying them already exist. By introducing an active version of the LEM gene into the T-cells of cancer pa-tients, we hope we can provide a robust treatment for patients. Next we will test the therapy in mice, make sure it is safe and see if it can be combined with other therapies. If all goes well, we hope to be ready to carry out hu-man trials in about three years,” said Dr. Philip Ashton-Rickardt, at Imperial College London.

Researchers identify previously unrecognized proteins

Using proteomics techniques to study injured optic nerves, researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital, the United States, have identified previously unrecognized proteins and pathways involved in nerve regeneration. Adding back one of these proteins – the oncogene c-myc – they achieved un-precedented optic nerve regeneration in mice when combined with two other known strategies. Researchers have been trying for many decades to get injured nerves in the brain and spinal cord to regenerate. Various molecules have been targeted and found to yield nerve growth, but many studies have been hard to repli-cate. Even with most effective manipulations, the “holy grail” of regenerating a nerve enough for it to resume its function has been largely elusive.

“The majority of axons still cannot regenerate. This suggests we need to find additional molecules, additional mechanisms. The proteomics approach fills the gap very well,” said Zhigang He at Boston Children’s Hospital. Studying mice with optic nerve injury – a classic, easy-to-study type of central nervous system injury, researchers applied quantitative mass spectrometry to identify and quantify proteins produced by the injured retinal ganglion cells (RGCs), which run from the retina to the brain. The team used bioinformatics analyses to compare the protein measurements with those in intact RGCs and looked for patterns indicating proteins that act together in concert.

The pathways matched many that were previously identified, but also included some new players, such as c-myc, TGF-b, NFkb, and Huntingtin, that could lead to a much better understanding of how to recover nerves’ regenerative ability. When the researchers induced mice to make more c-myc, optic nerve regeneration was promoted, even when some time had elapsed after the injury. When they combined this approach with deletion of two other molecules known to inhibit regeneration (PTEN and SOCS3), they saw a synergistic effect. The RGCs’ survival was dramatically improved and their axons grew to the op-tic chiasm (the part of the brain where the optic nerves cross) and beyond – an unprecedented de-gree of regeneration. The findings of the study has been published in the journal Neuron.

A protein that initiates organ formation

Researchers from University at Buffalo (UB), the United States, have identified the “master” protein that directs the development of multi-cellular animals. One of developmental biology’s most perplexing questions concerns what signals transform masses of undifferentiated cells into various organs. The new research provides evidence that it all begins with a single “master” growth factor receptor that regulates the entire genome. At the centre of the discov-ery is a single protein called nuclear Fibroblast Growth Factor Receptor 1 (nFGFR1). “FGFR1 occu-pies a position at the top of the gene hierarchy that directs the development of multicellular animals,” said Michal Stachowiak at UB.

The FGFR1 gene is known to govern gastrulation, occurring in early development, where the three-layered embryonic structure forms. It also plays a major role in the development of the central and peripheral nervous systems and the development of the body’s major systems, including muscles and bones. “The finding provides a new level of understanding of the fundamental aspects of how organisms develop. Our re-search shows how a single growth factor receptor protein moves directly to the nucleus in order to programme the entire genome,” said Stachowiak said.

A more advanced understanding of how organisms form, based on this work, has the potential to signifi-cantly enhance the understanding and treatment of cancers, which result from uncontrolled development as well as congenital diseases. The research also would contribute to the understanding of how stem cells work. “We have known that the human body has almost 30,000 genes that must be con-trolled by thousands of transcription factors that bind to those genes, yet we did not understand how the activities of genes were coordinated so that they properly develop into an organism,” said Sta-chowiak. This work was conducted on mouse embryonic stem cells, not human cells.

Potential for ALS treatment found in 3 proteins

Researchers at KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden, has found three proteins that could shed some light on the mechanisms behind this deadly disease. Anna Häggmark, a researcher at KTH, said the three potential biomarker proteins were identified in what is one of the most extensive plasma profiling studies performed in this field of research. In the search for treatments and earlier di-agnoses of ALS, scientists are focused on biomarkers, or biological characteristics that reflect a physio-logical change in the body during or after an illness. A typical example of a biomarker is troponin, which is secreted into the blood when a heart muscle is damaged following a heart attack.

“This is a really nice clue,” Häggmark said. “The three proteins we have found seem to represent different aspects of this disease’s pathogenesis. After further evaluation of their role within ALS, they can perhaps help to support diagnostics or even serve as a drug targets for those stricken with the disease.” There are currently no reliable markers for ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a progressive neurodegenerative disease that destroys the nerve cells that control muscle movement, causing muscles to become weak and then paralyzed. ALS affects all skeletal muscles, includ-ing those used for breathing and swallowing.

One protein, NEFM, is a structural component of neurons in the central and peripheral nervous system. If found in blood plasma, it could indicate nerve fiber death as a result of ALS. RGS18 on the other hand is a cell signaling protein. The increase of this protein may reflect its leakage from the degenerated muscles in these patients. The third protein, SLC25A20, is a mitochondrial protein thereby representing a cellular structure that that has previously been shown as linked to ALS. The researchers will work further with the verification of their results, using an expanded collection of plasma samples from Sweden, Poland and Germany as well as cerebrospinal fluid from ALS patients.


Researchers create an enzyme to help blood transfusion

Chemists from University of British Columbia (UBC), Canada, and scientists in the Centre for Blood Research, Canada, have created an enzyme that could potentially help patients, who needs a blood transfusion, but don’t find their blood type in the blood bank. The enzyme works by snipping off the sugars, also known as antigens, found in Type A and Type B blood, making it more like Type O. Type O blood is known as the universal donor and can be given to patients of all blood types.

To create this high-powered enzyme capable of snipping off sugars, researchers used a new technology called directed evolution that involves inserting mutations into the gene that codes for the enzyme, and se-lecting mutants that are more effective at cutting the antigens. In just five generations, the enzyme became 170 times more effective. With this enzyme, UBC associate professor Jayachandran Kizhakkedathu and colleagues in the Centre for Blood Research were able to remove the wide majority of the antigens in Type A and B blood. But before it can be used in clinical settings, the enzyme used would need to remove all of the antigens. The immune system is highly sensitive to blood groups and even small amounts of residual antigens could trigger an immune response.

Scientists hope a vaccine for new heart disease

A study done by scientists in India, Hungary and Britain, has suggested a molecule crafted out of human, snake and bacterial proteins to control the human immune system may serve as a vaccine against coronary heart disease. Scientists at the Thrombosis Research Institutes (TRI) in London and India and at the University of Szeged, Hungary, have shown that the protein molecule can reduce the risk of atheroscleoris, the build-up of fatty deposits in arteries that can clog these vessels and trigger heart attacks. According to TRI researchers, their molecule is expected to be more efficient in preventing atherosclerosis than earlier vaccine candidates. The strat-egy of using vaccines to prevent heart disease seeks to control inflammation, a key process that contributes to atherosclerosis.

Most candidate vaccines have been aimed at regulating some element of the inflammatory process that leads to the accumulation of fatty deposits along the walls of arteries. “But atherosclerosis is a multi-factorial chronic condition with several factors involved in the process,” said Xinjie Lu, at TRI. Proteins aimed at a single element of this inflammatory process are likely to reduce about 20 per cent of the athero-sclerotic lesion. Lu and his colleagues have designed what they call a multi-epitope, or chimeric, molecule from several components of human, bacterial and snake proteins to target several inflammatory pathways.

In this new research published in the journal PLOS One, the scientists have shown that the chimeric molecule can significantly prevent the build-up of fatty deposits in laboratory mice. The average size of the atherosclerotic le-sions was much smaller in the mice that received the candidate vaccine than in mice that did not. Scientists say the multi-epitope vaccine may be visualised as a string with multiple beads on them, the snake protein functioning as the string and the human and bacterial proteins as the beads. This molecule has been shown to work on several arms of the human immune system.

Japanese Ebola test gives results in 11 minutes

Researcher from Nagasaki University’s Institute of Tropical Medicine, Japan, has developed a field test for Ebola that gives results in just over 11 minutes – down from the 90-minute test used now. “The breakthrough will allow medics to move much more quickly in treating people with the hemorrhagic fever,” said Professor Jiro Yasuda. “The result time was unexpectedly short,” said Yasuda of the trial conducted in Guinea last month on 100 samples, of which 47 proved positive.

The Guinean government has now asked the institute and its collaboration partner Toshiba to supply equip-ment to roll out the test, he added. The test hinges on what the researchers have called a “primer”, a substance that amplifies only those genes specific to the Ebola virus found in a blood sample or other bodily fluid. Using existing techniques, ribonucleic acid – biological molecules used in the coding of genes is extracted from any viruses present in a sample.

Researchers cultivate cardiac cells from stem cells

In a new breakthrough, researchers at the Indian Institute of Science, India, have cultured cardiac cells from stem cells. Lead researcher, Mr Polani B Seshagiri said that the cardiac cells developed exhibited properties and functions identical to the original cell. Mr. Seshagiri said that stem cells had several advantages as they could transform into any type of cell that can be used to treat ailments. India, however, has no proper guidelines to regu-late stem cell research and nurture this burgeoning sector.

Mr. Nazeer Ahmed, deputy Drug Controller of Karnataka said that the state health authorities are in the process of developing a regulatory framework to nurture stem cell research. Mr. Sudarshan Ballal, medical director, Manipal Health Enterprise, India, said stem cells had enormous potential as they never die and can be con-verted into organs and may be years later, organs can be cultivated in labs through stem cells.

World’s first blood test for Alzheimer’s

National Taiwan Normal University (NTNU), Institute of Electro-optical Science and Technology researchers and National Taiwan University Hospital (NTUH) Department of Neurology, has announced the creation of the world’s first blood test for Alzheimer’s disease. The test is said to be able to move up detection of the disease by at least eight to ten years, often the earliest stage of Alzheimer’s, which is the mild cognitive decline phase. It also reports an 85-percent accuracy and requires a short testing procedure, at around 5 hours, the research team said.

The research team designed the pathogen tests for the disease with nano metal powder, and hopes to replace the traditional invasive testing method of collecting Cerebral Spinal Fluid (CSF). Nano metal powder as the chemical agent saves time and effort. “The current testing method for Alzheimer’s disease re-quires taking CSF, which is a high-risk process, as it can possibly result in paralysis. It is also time consuming and usually entails a weeklong testing procedure,” said Hsieh Chen-chieh at NTUH. The blood test is a breakthrough, as it can detect Alzheimer’s in its earliest stages, yet early discovery of the disease has raised ethical debates in other countries.

The program uses a nucleonic method to detect whether a patient’s blood contains certain chemicals that are often used as indicators for Alzheimer’s disease. The biggest obstacle for Alzheimer’s is in its treatment. If used correctly, tests can discover potential signs for the disease as early as eight to ten years be-fore it develops into a more serious form. “Patients at this point are often still working, living a relatively normal life. By knowing they could possibly develop Alzheimer’s in ten years, the patients could end up becoming depressed instead” said Chen Jui-hsing, director of Taipei City Hospital.

Candy-sized heart-on-a-chip to help screen drugs

Anurag Mathur, a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of California, Berkeley (UCB), the United States, has helped develop a human heart-on-a-chip, a device the size of a chocolate candy loaded with heart cells that mimic the real organ to serve as a novel tool to screen medicines. This heart-on-a-chip, is the world’s first microphysiological system built from human heart cells arranged in the same 3-D geometry of heart tissue to beat like human hearts. The device may emerge a powerful tool for the pharmaceutical industry to screen candidate drugs more reliably than now possible through animal tests.

“There’s nothing in the laboratory today that comes close to mimicking the structure and function of the human heart as this device. The heart cells in our device cluster among themselves to form 3-D heart tissue that beats at 55 to 80 beats a minute,” said Mathur. According to Mathur, the device is not in-tended to serve as a replacement for human hearts as it mimics only the minimal structure and function of the heart – enough to support drug screening, disease modelling, and personalised medicine, but not to function as a substitute heart.

The first application of the heart-on-a-chip would be to screen new drugs for their effects on the cardiovascular system. While all candidate drug molecules currently go through rigorous experimental animal studies and hu-man trials, the results are not always reliable. The researchers estimate that nearly one in three drugs that have been withdrawn from the market because of safety concerns were pulled out because of their effects on the hu-man cardiovascular system that were not detected during animal studies. The cardiomyocytes were then loaded into the chip, an enclosure made of synthetic rubber-like material called silicone. The scientists have described their work in the journal Scientific Reports.

Ready-to-use flu vaccine in sight

Serum Institute of India (SII) has developed a ready-to-use influenza vaccine that promises to offer pro-tection against three influenza viruses, including swine flu. The ready-to-use liquid vaccine will be easier to administer than the present reconstituent vaccine, Nasovac-S, which requires one to mix the vaccine powder with a diluent before vaccination. SII will apply to the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) shortly to intro-duce the new intra-nasal vaccine in the market. “We will apply to the DCGI in the coming days for au-thorisation for this product. If all goes as planned, the liquid trivalent seasonal influenza vaccine should be available any time this year,” Adar Poonawalla, at SII.

The influenza virus is transmitted primarily by droplets or respiratory secretions of infected persons. Influenza occurs all over the world, with an annual global attack rate estimated at 5-10% in adults and 20-30% in children. Influenza is associated with considerable economic burden arising from healthcare costs, lost days of work or education, and general social disruption across all age groups. Secondary bacterial pneu-monia is a frequent complication of influenza infection, particularly among the elderly and individuals with certain chronic diseases, resulting in a significant level of morbidity and mortality.

SIIS has also developed a next-generation quadrivalent seasonal influenza vaccine which will offer protection against four strains of influenza viruses, including swine flu.

New device separates cancer cells from blood

Scientists at Penn State University (PSU), the United States, have developed a low-cost device that uses sound to separate circulating cancer cells from blood samples for diagnostic, prognostic and treatment pur-poses. “Typically, the circulating tumour cells (CTCs) are about one in every one billion blood cells in the sample,” said Tony Jun Huang at PSU. Unlike conventional separation methods that centrifuge for 10 minutes at 3000 revolutions per minute, surface acoustic waves can separate cells in a much gentler way with a simple, low-cost device.

Acoustic-based separations are potentially important because they are non-invasive and do not alter or damage cells. However, in order to be effective for clinical use, they also need to be rapidly and easily appli-cable. Researchers worked both experimentally and with models to optimise the separation of CTCs from blood. They used an acoustic-based microfluidic device so that the stream of blood could continuously pass through the device for separation. Using the differential size and weight of the different cells they chose ap-propriate acoustic pressures that would push the CTCs out of the fluid stream and into a separate channel for collection.

The researchers used two types of human cancer cells to optimise the acoustic separation - HELA cells and MCF7 cells. These cells are similar in size. They then ran an experiment separating these cells and had a separation rate of more than 83 per cent. They then did the separation on other cancer cells, ones for which the device had not been optimised, and again had a separation rate of more than 83 per cent.

Bioactive gel to treat knee injuries

An orthopedics research team from University of Iowa, the United States, is working on a solution for arthritis with hopes that it will result in a minimally invasive, practical, and inexpensive approach for re-pairing cartilage and preventing osteoarthritis. “We are creating an [injectable, bioactive] hydrogel that can repair cartilage damage, regenerate stronger cartilage, and hopefully delay or eliminate the de-velopment of osteoarthritis and eliminate the need for total knee replacement,” said Yin Yu.

The researchers had previously identified precursor cells within normal cartilage that can mature into new carti-lage tissue. This was a surprising discovery because of the long-held assumption that cartilage is one of the few tissues in the body that cannot repair itself. The team also identified molecular signaling factors that attract these precursor cells, known as chondrogenic progenitor cells (CPC), out of the surrounding healthy tissue into the damaged area and cause them to develop into new, normal cartilage. One of the signals, called stromal cell-derived factor 1 (SDF1), acts like a homing beacon for the precursor cells.

In an experimental model of cartilage injury, Yu loaded the custom-made hydrogel with SDF1 and injected it into holes punched into the model cartilage. The precursor cells migrated toward the SDF1 signal and filled in the injury site. Subsequent application of a growth factor caused the cells to mature into normal cartilage that repaired the injury. The new tissue is not as mechanically strong as normal cartilage, but researchers think that mechanical loading, the type of stress that is exerted during physical therapy and exercise, might improve the mechanical properties.


New strategy in identifying SNP in cotton genome

In a study conducted by researchers from Texas A&M University, the United States, and USDA-Agricultural Research Service has developed a new strategy to ease the identification of SNP in Gossypium spp. (cotton) Malvaceae genome. By employing the Illumina next-generation sequencing platform, a total of 54 million reads were collected from restriction-enzyme-digested DNA from the four cotton species. These were then filtered by a bioinformatic software, Stack, producing over 20,000 new cotton SNP combinations. This strategy will be helpful in plant genetic mapping, linkage and genetic diversity studies and can also be applied to other plant species having complex genomes.

Reusable Bt cotton seed

Punjab Agricultural University, India, may become the first in India to develop genetically-modified (GM) open pollinating varieties of cotton whose seeds farmers can reuse, saving them a recurring cost and ad-dressing a major criticism of Bt technology. Bt cotton is the only GM crop technology approved in India but only hybrids are available. These are under price control and the most used version cannot sell for more than R930 and R1,000 a packet of 450 gram in south and north India, respectively. Private firms say they have to recoup investments, but Baldev Singh Dhillon, at PAU, insists the seeds “are very, very costly”.

India permitted Bt cotton seeds for commercial cultivation in 2002. These were those of Mahyco Monsanto Biotech, the United States, which developed the technology and Maharashtra Hybrid Seed Company, India. So far three Bt genes have been approved: Cry1Ac, Cry2Ab and Cry1C. Currently, these combinations are offered by four Indian companies including Nath Seeds, JK Seeds and Metahelix, of the Tata Group, but the Monsanto subsidiary has over 90% market share. Dhillon said PAU’s seeds will be cheaper but could not specify by how much as they will be available for sowing in farmers’ fields only after about five years.

The Bt gene is derived from a soil bacterium and is named after its initials. It is toxic to bollworms which are stealthy and stubborn pests. They used to wreak havoc on cotton crops and drive up the cost of cultivation by requiring as many as 25 sprays before Bt cotton was introduced. The pink and spotted bollworms are hid-den feeders, while the American bollworm is partially so. However, PAU is following a two-pronged ap-proach. It is also developing a Bt version of its cotton hybrid LHH 144. Two years ago it signed a deal with Gujarat State Seed Corporation (GSSC), India, which in turn has an understanding with Mahyco Monsanto for incorporation of its gene into PAU’s hybrid.

Brazil approves yield enhanced eucalyptus

The Brazilian National Technical Commission on Biosafety (CTNBio) has approved the commercial use of the yield enhanced eucalyptus developed by FuturaGene, Israel, a wholly owned subsidiary of Suzano Pulp and Paper, Brazil. Field experiments conducted since 2006 at various locations in Brazil have demon-strated an approximate 20% increase in yield compared to its equivalent conventional variety. This is the first genetically modified (GM) eucalyptus event to be approved worldwide and represents the most significant productivity milestone for the renewable plantation forest industry since the adoption of clonal technology in the early 1990’s.

This approval also represents the beginning of a new era for sustainable forest management by enabling the production of more fiber, using less resources. Brazil is the first country to complete the development cycle of such a technology. The yield increase provided by the GM eucalyptus will provide economic, envi-ronmental and social benefits. The economic benefits include increased competitiveness for the Brazilian forestry sector. The main environmental benefits derived from using less land to produce more fiber will in-clude lowered carbon emission through the reduction of distance between the forests and the mills, reduced use of chemical inputs and greater availability of land for other purposes, such as conservation and food production.

Partners of Suzano Pulp and Paper’s outgrowers program, including small landholders, who have already benefited from the company´s best seedlings for years, will have access to the technology under terms of current contracts, which do not involve the payment of royalties. “Producing more wood with-out increasing the use of natural resources is a constant challenge for all industry players. We are very proud to have developed an innovative technology that is capable of potentiating forestry industry competitiveness while benefitting society as a whole”, said Stanley Hirsch, at FuturaGene. Subsequent to the approval, Suzano and FuturaGene will expand the field testing of the yield enhanced eucalyptus in a graded and responsible manner.

Researchers use plant oils for novel bio-based plastics

Researchers at Washington State University (WSU), the United States, have developed a new way to use plant oils like olive and linseed oil to create polyurethane, a plastic material used in everything from foam insulation panels to tires, hoses and sealants. The research team led by Michael Kessler, have published a paper on the work in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces. Polyurethane is extremely tough and corrosion- and wear-resistant, but researchers would like a more environmentally friendly alterna-tive to the petroleum-based product. About 14 million tons of polyurethane was produced in 2010, and pro-duction is expected to increase by almost 30 percent by 2016.

While there are already some polyurethanes made from plant materials, Kessler’s research group developed a new method that uses vegetable oils to create materials with a wide variety of flexibility, stiff-ness and shapes. Plant oils are inexpensive, readily available, renewable and can be genetically engineered. In the study, the researchers made polyurethane using olive, canola, grape seed, linseed and castor oils. While other researchers have struggled with using petroleum-based solvents, the WSU researchers, working with colleagues from Iowa State and from Cairo universities, didn’t use solvents or a catalyst in their production.

To make polyurethane, manufacturers combine two types of chemical compounds in a reaction. One of the chemicals is a polyol, which is a compound with multiple hydroxyl functional groups that are available for re-action. Some oils, like linseed oil, have five or six reactive sites, making the material stiffer. Others, such as olive oil, have fewer reactive sites, making the material more flexible. “What’s new about this is specifically the way we make the polyols. It is the same concept with these chemical groups. They click to-gether and form a chemical bond. The novelty of this particular work is that these polyurethanes are using a new chemistry made by a combination of castor oil fatty acid and modified vegetable oils,” said said Kessler.

New GM rice shows improved disease immunity

According to a new research from the University of California - Davis (UC Davis), the United States, rice disease immunity can be improved by transferred genes from other species. Rice is well equipped with an effective immune system that enables it to detect and fend off disease-causing microbes. However, the new study showed that immunity can be further boosted when the rice plant receives a receptor protein from a completely different plant species via genetic engineering.

“Our results demonstrate that disease resistance in rice, and possibly related crop species, could very likely be enhanced by transferring genes responsible for specific immune receptors from dicotyledonous plants into rice, which is a monocotyledonous crop,” said lead author Benjamin Schwessinger, at UC Davis. Immune receptors are specialised proteins that can recognise patterns associated with disease-causing microbes, including bacteria and fungi, at the beginning of an infection. These receptors are found on the surface of plant cells, where they play a key role in the plant’s early warning system. Some of the receptors, however, occur only in certain groups of plant species.

Researchers successfully transferred the gene for an immune receptor from the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana, a member of the mustard family, into rice. The rice plants that produced the Arabidopsis im-mune receptor proteins were more resistant to Xanthomonas oryzae pv. oryzae, an important bacte-rial disease of rice. This demonstrated that receptors introduced to rice were able to make use of the rice plants’ native immune signalling mechanisms and cause the rice plants to launch a stronger defen-sive immune response against the invading bacteria.


The Status of Commercialized Bt Brinjal in Bangladesh

ISAAA Brief 47 is a comprehensive report on the status of commercialized Bt brinjal in Bangladesh. Brief 47 presents a thorough review and analysis of the deregulation of Bt brinjal in Bangladesh – from the scientific and biosafety assessment and commercial release to the planting of Bt brinjal by farmers in Bangladesh.

Contact: Bangladesh Biotech Information Centre, Department of Biotechnology, Bangladesh Agricultural University, Mymensingh 2202, Bangladesh. E-mail:

Methods in Plant Molecular Biology and Biotechnology

This book emphasizes a variety of well-tested methods in plant molecular biology and biotechnol-ogy. For each detailed and tested protocol presented, a brief overview of the methodology is provided. This overview considers why the protocol is used, what other comparable methods are available, and what limitations can be expected with the protocol.

Other chapters in the book present overviews regarding how to approach particular problems and intro-duce unique methods, such as how to use computer methodology to study isolated genes.

Bulbous Plants Biotechnology

Bulbous plants are those with organs for nutrient storage and these include tubers, corms, and bulbs. They can be ornamental or edible, herbaceous or perennial. Important examples of such plants are potato, sweet potato, yam, arrowroot, and dahlias.

This book focuses mainly on economically important food crops, their propagation strategies, plant growth and development, tuber quality, and crop protection.

For the above two publications, contact: Jain Book Depot, C-4 Opposite PVR Plaza Cinema Hall, Con-naught Place, P.O. Box No. 51, New Delhi - 110001, India. Tel: +91-11-23416101; Fax: +91-11-23416103; E-mail:


This website is optimized for IE 8.0 with screen resolution 1024 x 768
For queries regarding this website, contact us
Copyright © 2010 APCTT | Privacy Policy | Disclaimer | Feedback