Category Archives: Science & Technology

IICB uncovers molecular mechanism of stress-induced gastric ulcer

Damage caused to the stomach by mental stress can be reduced by targeting the mitochondria present in the stomach, says Uday Bandyopadhyay (centre).

The link between mitochondria in the stomach and the brain was found using rats

Researchers at Kolkata’s CSIR-Indian Institute of Chemical Biology (CSIR-IICB) have for the first time identified the molecular mechanism by which acute mental stress affects the stomach causing gastric ulcer or stress-related mucosal disease. Using a rat model subjected to cold-restrained stress, the research team led by Uday Bandyopadhyay from the Division of Infectious Diseases and Immunology at IICB has used drugs that can act specifically on mitochondria present in the stomach to prevent gastric ulcer caused by stress.

When subjected to stress, the mitochondrial respiratory capacity was disrupted, ATP production was reduced and oxidative stress increased. Stress also causes morphological changes to the mitochondria such as increased fragmentation. The results of the study were published in the journal Free Radical Biology and Medicine.

“Due to oxidative stress and fragmentation, the mitochondria in the gastric mucosal lining cannot behave in a normal fashion and ATP production gets further compromised. In the absence of ATP production, cells cannot proliferate and the gastric lining gets thinner due to mucosal cell death. All these cause stress-induced gastric ulcer,” explains Dr. Bandyopadhyay. “This is the first time we could find a link between the mind and mitochondria in the stomach. It is very exciting and fascinating.”

Second brain

The stomach is one of the organs most severely affected by stress and this is due to the link between the stomach and the brain. Moreover, the stomach is also known as the body’s second brain with a specialised neural network, repository of neurotransmitters and different kinds of nerve cells innervating the organ, though fewer in number.

Plenty of corticosterone was released into the blood when the animals were subjected to stress. Once corticosterone gets inside mitochondria it reduces ATP production and respiration capacity. By using a drug that prevents corticosterone from binding to the receptor found inside the cell, the researchers were able to significantly prevent stomach injury in the animals.

Interestingly, some common psychoactive drugs used in the study helped in preventing the pathological manifestations — gastric ulcer. “So we can say that it is indeed the acute mental stress which is causing gastric complications,” says Rudranil De from IICB and first author of the paper.

Role of mitochondria

“We delved deeper to find out the involvement of mitochondria in stress-induced gastric damage,” says De. A compound that scavenges harmful free radicals released from the malfunctioning mitochondria and another compound that inhibits mitochondrial fragmentation significantly prevented the injury and intra-gastric bleeding; although the drugs don’t reportedly act on the brain.

“Although stress is present, we could still prevent the damage caused to the stomach by targeting the mitochondria,” says De. “The use of these two compounds acting directly on the mitochondria confirmed that acute mental stress damages the mitochondria of the stomach ultimately leading to tissue injury and haemorrhage.”

The use of tranquilisers and barbiturates, often prescribed to patients suffering from mental stress and disorders, are associated with inherent problems including withdrawal effects and long-term side effects. “Our study proposes an alternative line of therapeutic strategy which relies on salvaging mitochondrial damage, thereby providing significant protection from stress. This will help avoid the use of existing psychoactive drugs while keeping the subjects alert,” says Somnath Mazumder from IICB, one of the authors.

If further research and human trials confirm the results seen in animal studies, it would lead to a new generation of anti-stress medications with minimal side effects which would aim at targeting the mitochondrial pathology to take care of a bigger psychosomatic health complication.

source: / The Hindu / Home> Sci-Tech / by R. Prasad / January 06th, 2018

Jhargram-born scientist discovers low cost material to build anti-landmine vehicle

Kolkata :

Aerospace Engineering researcher Professor Santanu Bhowmick, who hails from Jhargram district of West Bengal, has discovered a unique raw material to manufacture light weight anti landmine-vehicles.

The anti-landmine vehicles used by the defence organisations in India usually weigh 10-15 tonnes. Whereas vehicles manufactured using raw material discovered by Profesor Bhowmick will weigh only 5 tonnes, resulting in faster spped and greater mobility, especially in hilly terrains. The new material is also capable of withstanding heat upto 2400 degrees celcius. Usually, heat generated during a landmine blast measures upto 2000 degrees celcius.

Professor Bhowmick has already discovered a light weight bulletproof jacket which has been approved by the empowered committee of the Ministry of Defence. The jacket is made from indigenous ultra modern lightweight thermoplastic technology. It has been included in the Prime Minister’s ‘Make in India’ project.

Anti-landmine vehicles used in India are made of steel which tends to melt by the heat generated by landmine blasts, resulting in the death of its occupants -namely security personnel and jawans.

According to Professor Bhowmick, “Primarily the new vehicle will be provided with a heat withstanding ceramic and steel plate fitted to its base. The other portions of the vehicle will be made of steel. Later the entire vehicle can be made entirely of this material which will make it lighter. The material remains unchnged even at the highest temperature limit of 2400 degrees celcius.”

The vehicle base will be made of three layers of heat resistant ceramic plates of 60mm thickness.

Professor Bhowmick claims that the new anti-landmine vehicle will be made by the Tata group at their Jamshedpur workshop. On January 4, a meeting was held between him and the representatives of Tata group. According to Bhowmick, “Tata will supply high quality steel. The vehicle will be entirely made by Indian technology.”

The newly discovered material’s patent has been secured by Bhowmick. The new series of vehicles will be ready by 2020, confirms the scientist.

On Monday, the professor delivered a presentation about the newly discovered technology at the Army Technology Seminar 2018 using slide shows to illustrate his findings. According to him, “In the future this raw material may be used in building army bunkers, tanks, missiles and space research centres too.”

Bhowmick has been assisted in the research by three other scientists – Govindraju M, G Ajesh and V Shivakumar.

Monday’s presentation was attended by the Indian Army chief Gen. Bipin Rawat and many top ranking Army officers. DRDO director S Christopher was also present at the show together with scientists from the Chennai and Gandhinagar IITs.

Professor Bhowmick’s discovery is considered an important progress towards Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Make In India project especially in the Defence sector.

source: / The Telegraph, Calcutta,India / Home> News> City News> Kolkata News / by El Samay / January 09th, 2018

CM to give awards to nine at fest


The chief minister will present Banga Ratna to nine persons from north Bengal for their contribution in different fields at the inauguration of the Uttar Banga Utsav here on Monday.

Mamata Banerjee is scheduled to launch the eight-day cultural fest at Kanchenjungha Stadium here.

Official sources have said among the recipients of the Banga Ratna are Manas Dasgupta (economist from Darjeeling), Dinesh Chandra Roy (researcher on folk culture of the region from Jalpaiguri), Prem Kumar Bhutia (social worker of Kalimpong) and Debkumar Mukherjee (educationist from Cooch Behar).

The others are Malin Das (folk music instrumentalist of Cooch Behar), Dilip Kumar Roy (writer from Alipurduar), Prem Bihari Thakur (retired teacher from North Dinajpur), Tapas Kundu (researcher on Molecular Biology from South Dinajpur) and Radhagobinda Roy (social worker of Malda).

“Each award will carry a prize of Rs 1 lakh, a shawl and a certificate.

Apart from the awards, a total of 54 meritorious students from eight districts of north Bengal will get Rs 10,000 each from the chief minister.

Thirteen of them will get the assistance at the inaugural and the rest will be provided with the amounts by the administrations of their respective districts,” an official of the organising committee of the festival said.

source: / The Telegraph, Calcutta,India / Home> West Bengal / by Bireswar Banerjee / January 08th, 2018

Doc with city roots a star author in Britain


Who is Rangan Chaterjee and why has he suddenly become just about the most famous doctor in Britain – a bit of a heart throb, actually?

For starters, Chatterjee, son of a doctor, Tarun Chatterjee, who came to England from Calcutta in the 1960s, has written a book, The 4 Pillar Plan: How to Relax, Eat, Move and Sleep Your Way to a Longer, Healthier Life, which is now No. 1 on Amazon UK.

“I am a Bengali boy and this book will have special appeal for Bengalis who tend to eat late at night,” Chatterjee told The Telegraph, as he remembered frequent Calcutta holidays at his father’s home in Shyambazar and his mother Bandana’s in Chetla.

Chatterjee, who has been interviewed by BBC News, The Daily Telegraph, the Daily Mail, the Daily Express and elsewhere, appears to have struck a chord by focusing “on finding the root cause of diseases and helping my patients make their illnesses disappear”.

“The handsome 40-year-old father-of-two, star of BBC One’s Doctor in the House, is at the forefront of a new generation of social-media-savvy medics,” wrote one interviewer about the 6ft 6in tall doctor who lives in Wilmslow, Cheshire, with his Gujarati wife, Vidhaata, a criminal barrister, and their children, aged seven and five.

Based on his “experiences serving as a doctor for nearly 20 years”, Chatterjee, MBChB, BSc (Hons), MRCP, MRCGP, says that his “book goes beyond the sort of health advice we’ve all been reading about for so long – beyond the fad diets and the quick fix exercise programmes”.

His plan has been endorsed by, among others. Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver, who believes “Rangan’s easy, common-sense plan can help everyone live a happier, healthier life”.

Two events have shaped Chatterjee’s life – one was caring for his father who died five years ago. He was a consultant at Manchester Royal Infirmary, “a first-generation immigrant, who worked and worked and worked”.

Even more traumatic was the near death of his infant son who was diagnosed with “an easily rectified calcium deficiency”.

With a sensible diet, exercise and meditation, Chatterjee says: “I have routinely helped my patients reverse type 2 diabetes; eliminate irritable bowel syndrome; lower blood pressure without drugs; reduce menopausal symptoms naturally; sleep better and regain their energy; regain control of their autoimmune conditions; restore harmony to their circadian rhythms; add life to their years, as well as years to their life.”

source: / The Telegraph, Calcutta,India / Home> Calcutta / by Amit Roy / January 03rd, 2018

Gratitude to genius behind Boson

Prime Minister Narendra Modi pays tribute to S.N. Bose (below) on his 125th birth anniversary
via video-conferencing from New Delhi on Monday. (PTI)


Physics was his calling but he could play a complex classical raga on the esraj with as much dexterity as he could read out a French novel in impromptu English translation.

Stories highlighting the multifaceted genius of Satyendra Nath Bose, after whom the Boson particle is named, on Monday filled the curtain-raiser to a yearlong commemoration of his 125th birth anniversary.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the event from Delhi through video-conferencing, reminding the audience at the SN Bose National Centre for Basic Sciences in Salt Lake that “just as a quantum particle does not exist in isolation, we should also get out of isolation”.

Modi said the scientific ecosystem needed to connect with innovators, entrepreneurs and technocrats to work on artificial intelligence, big data analytics, machine learning, genomics and electrical vehicles. “These are some of the rising technologies on which we need to get ahead,” he pointed out, holding up Bose as the inspiration to test new frontiers.

Born on January 1, 1894, Bose had collaborated with Albert Einstein to create what came to be called the “Bose-Einstein Condensation”. Physicist and author Partha Ghose, who did his PhD under Bose, recounted one among many instances of how humble he could be despite his brilliance.

“He was in a reflective mood one day and spoke about the ‘photon spin’ aspect in his derivation of Planck’s law. But then, with a mischievous smile, he said, “But the old man (Einstein) struck it off”.

Ghose said the anecdote left him flabbergasted because Nobel laureate C.V. Raman’s research later vindicated Bose’s derivation.

“When I asked him why he didn’t claim credit for his discovery, he said, ” Ki ba eshe gelo? Ke baar korechhilo tatey ki eshe jaye? Baar to hoyechhilo (How does it matter? Who discovered it is not the main thing, is it? At least it was discovered)’,” he reminisced.

Planck’s law is the basis of quantum theory.

In his speech, the Prime Minister said many Nobel prizes had been won for work based on Bose’s research.

Union science and technology minister Harsh Vardhan also paid tribute to Bose.

source: / The Telegraph, Calcutta,India / Home> Calcutta / by Anasuya Basu / January 02nd, 2018

CSIR develops ‘solar tree’ that can light 5 houses

A CSIR laboratory in West Bengal has designed a ‘solar power tree’ that takes up only four square feet of space and produces about three kilowatts (kW) of power, enough to power about five households.

“The challenge was to come up with a design so as to generate more solar power in less land space,” Sibnath Maity, chief scientist at the Central Mechanical Engineering Research Institute (CMERI) in Durgapur, which developed the “tree”, told IANS.

“For one mW of power, one needs five acres of land. To generate 10,000 mW we would need 50,000 acres. Now this poses a dilemma in states like West Bengal and Bihar,” Mr. Maity said.

The “solar tree” was inaugurated on Tuesday by Union Science and Technology Minister Harsh Vardhan during his maiden visit to the CMERI, which is a constituent of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).

Mr. Maity said one conventional solar photovoltaic system of five kW requires 400 square feet of area.

The three kW solar power tree resembles a tree with branches at different tiers and could be squeezed on rooftops and highways with a space requirement of around four square feet.

“The branches hold up the 30 photovoltaic panels and the system costs around Rs.3 lakh with battery back-up,” Mr. Maity said.

Two solar power trees would be installed at the office at Harsh Vardhan’s bungalow according to the Minister’s request, said Mr. Maity.

Harsh Vardhan also inaugurated the ‘Control Container’ developed by the CMERI for lake and sea trial of ‘Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV)’.

“I happily took part in live demonstration of the tractors developed by CSIR-CMERI by being literally in the driver’s seat and actually driving one vehicle,” the Minister posted on his official facebook page.

“I lauded the contribution of the institute in Green Revolution with its immensely successful technological achievements — the ‘Swaraj Tractor’ followed by the ‘Sonalika’ and the ‘Krishi Shakti’ I also drove the ‘e-rickshaw’ developed by the institute with great enthusiasm,” Harsh Vardhan added. – IANS

“Challenge was to come up with a design to generate more solar power in less land space”

source: / The Hindu / Home> News> Cities> Kolkata / IANS / Kolkata – May 21st, 2016

Drone duo soar in start-up dream Army and city police place orders

A drone from RC Hobbytech Solutions Pvt Ltd being tested at the Indian Museum


A start-up born out of a career setback has started soaring on the rotor blades of drones.

RC Hobbytech Solutions Pvt Ltd, started by two friends, specialises in building unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly known as drones, and has already bagged orders from the Indian Army, the railways and Calcutta police, among others.

Flooded with contracts, the fledgling start-up is servicing these orders with a soft loan from IIM Calcutta, project-based finance from banks and the Rs 1.5 crore it won in a competition launched by Balmer Lawrie under the Startup India scheme in November.

For co-founder Biswajit Dey, a graduate in aeronautical engineering from St Peter’s University in Chennai, RC Hobbytech was a seed sown by the disappointment of missing out on a chance to join the Army Aviation Corps because of an accident that put him in hospital for three-and-a-half months.

A dejected Biswajit came to Calcutta to meet his school friend Ritesh Kanu, who had just graduated in business management from Techno India Salt Lake and was to appear for an interview at the RBI.

Ritesh didn’t go for the interview. Instead, he and Biswajit decided to launch their start-up.

“I liked making drones and fiddling with them while Ritesh was trained to market them. That made us a good team,” said Biswajit, who learnt the basics of drone technology in college. “There is a huge market for unmanned aerial vehicles in agriculture, surveillance and mining,” said Ritesh.

Co-founders of RC Hobbytech Solutions Pvt Ltd Biswajit Dey and (right) Ritesh Kanu.
Picture by Sanat Kr Sinha

RC Hobbytech is working on drone technology to replace the army’s system of detecting intruders along the country’s vast borders. “The army sets up poles with two free-hanging bottles to detect intruders. Whenever an infiltrator tries to cross a border fence, the bottles make a noise and alert the sentries at the forward post. They have electric fences but the wiring can be cut and the alarm system switched off,” Ritesh said.

The start-up’s Drones Tech Lab division has devised an Intruder Detection System based on GPS for the army. The system sends alerts to the forward post and control room in three seconds whenever an intruder is detected. The information includes the exact position of the suspected infiltrator.

“Our system is based on sensors and also sends messages over mobile phone, giving the correct location,” said Biswajit.

A pilot run of the system at Udhampur in Kashmir from March to April earned a letter of appreciation from the army, Biswajit said.

He is currently modifying the system to give it an industrial finish along with camouflage.

From a drone start-up, Biswajit and Ritesh are now a “solutions provider in surveillance industry, leveraging unmanned technology and integrating hardware, software and data analysis”.

They had started with a capital of Rs 4 lakh in 2014 and ended up burning the cash in a year. When their families started asking what they were up to, the duo stopped going home. They then floated a company called EduRade to teach drone technology in institutes and raise money. “It was in 2016 that we pitched for incubation at IIM Calcutta. We met Subhranghshu Sanyal, CEO of the IIMC Innovation Park, at an event and he liked our product. We were incubated in October 2016,” Biswajit recalled.

Sanyal is impressed with what the duo have done so far. “They are providing real-time solutions to problems that are quite risky for human beings to solve. Their work for the army takes risk away and improves accuracy, which is fantastic,” he said.

source: / The Telegraph, Calcutta,India / Home> Calcutta / by Anasuiya Basu / December 28th, 2017

Docspeak on Hepatitis cure 12 weeks for treatment


Hepatitis C is now curable with 12 weeks of treatment and the chances of developing liver cancer from Hepatitis B has gone down, a professor of medicine from Weill Cornell Medicine said here on Saturday.

The most common liver disease in the world now is non-alcoholic fatty liver disease that can develop because of obesity, excess fat and genetic factors, Patrick Basu said.

“There are medicines that can cure Hepatitis C in 12 weeks. Vaccines can reduce the chances of development of cancer from Hepatitis B. There is a lot of advancement in treatment of hepatitis,” Basu told Metro.

Basu was in Calcutta to speak at a seminar for doctors at the Belle Vue Clinic.

Both Hepatitis C and Hepatitis B are viral infections.

Hepatitis C is a blood-borne virus and modes of infection include unsafe injection practices, unsafe health care, and the transfusion of unscreened blood and blood products, according to the World Health Organisation.

Hepatitis B is a potentially life-threatening liver infection. The Hepatitis B virus is transmitted through contact with the blood or other body fluids of an infected person.

When non-alcoholic fatty liver disease worsens, it can cause cirrhosis, a doctor said. It is possible to reduce the amount of fat in liver if detected early. Ideally, the liver should have no or little fat, he said.

Arun Sen, a professor in the Texas A&M University, spoke of the benefits of telemedicine in Bengal where doctors are few in rural areas.

Saurabh Kole, in-charge of Belle Vue’s intensive care unit, said the hospital was trying to create an organised platform of doctors for telemedicine in the state.

source: / The Telegraph, Calcutta,India / Home> Calcutta / by Staff Reporter / December 24th, 2017

Diagnosing early-stage cervical cancer using artificial intelligence

New approach: “The change in tissue morphology as the disease progresses can be picked up by light scattering,” say Prof. Prasanta K. Panigrahi (right) and Sabyasachi Mukhopadhyay

The AI identifies precancerous tissue, and also the stage of progression in minutes

The morphology of healthy and precancerous cervical tissue sites are quite different, and light that gets scattered from these tissues varies accordingly. Yet, it is difficult to discern with naked eyes the subtle differences in the scattered light characteristics of normal and precancerous tissue. Now, an artificial intelligence-based algorithm developed by a team of researchers from Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER) Kolkata and Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur makes this possible.

The algorithm developed by the team not only differentiates normal and precancerous tissue but also makes it possible to tell different stages of progression of the disease within a few minutes and with accuracy exceeding 95%. This becomes possible as the refractive index of the tissue is different in the case of healthy and precancerous cells, and this keeps varying as the disease progresses.

“The microstructure of normal tissue is uniform but as disease progresses the tissue microstructure becomes complex and different. Based on this correlation, we created a novel light scattering-based method to identify these unique microstructures for detecting cancer progression,” says Sabyasachi Mukhopadhyay from IISER Kolkata and first author of a paper published in the Journal of Biomedical Optics.

Elaborating on this further, Prof. Prasanta K. Panigrahi from IISER Kolkata and corresponding author of the paper says: “The collagen network is more ordered in normal tissues but breaks down progressively as cancer progresses. This kind of change in tissue morphology can be picked up by light scattering.” White light spectroscopy (340-800nm) was used for the study.

Statistical biomarker

The change in scattered light as disease progresses is marked by a change in tissue refractive index. The team has quantified the changes in tissue refractive index using a statistical biomarker — multifractal detrended fluctuation analysis (MFDFA). The statistical biomarker has two parameters (Hurst exponent and width of singularity spectrum) that help in quantifying the spectroscopy dataset.

While MFDFA provides quantification of light scattered from the tissues, artificial intelligence-based algorithms such as hidden Markov model (HMM) and support vector machine (SVM) help in discriminating the data and classifying healthy and different grades of cancer tissues.

“The classification of healthy and precancerous cells becomes robust by converting the information obtained from the scattered light into characteristic tissue-specific signature. The signature captures the variations in tissue morphology,” says Prof. Panigrahi.

“The MFDFA-HMM integrated algorithm performed better than the MFDFA-SVM algorithm for detection of early-stage cancer,” says Mukhopadhyay. “The algorithms were tested on in vitro cancer samples.”

In vivo samples

The team is expanding the investigations to study in vivo samples for precancer detection. While the accuracy achieved using in vitro samples was over 95%, based on a study of a few in vivo samples the accuracy is over 90%.

“In the case of in vitro samples we were able to discriminate between grade 1 and grade 2 cancer,” says Prof. Nirmalya Ghosh from IISER Kolkata and one of the authors of the paper. “More testing is needed using in vivo samples.”

“Superficial cancers such as oral and cervical cancers can be studied using this technique. And by integrating it with an endoscopic probe that uses optical fibre to deliver white light and surrounding fibres to collect the scattered light we can study cancers inside the body,” says Prof. Ghosh.

source: / The Hindu / Home> Sci-Tech> Science / by R. Prasad / December 23rd, 2017

IACS develops hydrogel to remove toxic dyes and metal ions

Useful tool: “The hydrogel can be used by the industries for effective treatment before wastewater disposal,” says Prof. Arindam Banerjee (Centre)

It could begin absorbing dyes within 15 minutes, metals in about 6 hours

Scientists from Indian Association for Cultivation of Sciences (IACS), Kolkata, have developed a new gel that can remove toxic organic dyes and metal ions from waste water. They found the hydrogel began absorbing various commonly used dyes within 15 minutes. The dyes tested were malachite green, congo red, brilliant blue and rhodomine B. In the case of metals, the hydrogel was able to considerably remove commonly found ones such as cobalt and nickel from industrial effluents in about six hours.

Basic amino acids like leucine and phenylalanine were used to make the gel; the gel is biodegradable. It was stable at room temperature and remained as a gel for several months.

Effective treatment

The current methods used for treating wastewater — adsorption using activated carbon, chemical precipitation or electrochemical techniques — are largely ineffective due to incomplete removal or high energy requirements. In comparison, the new hydrogel-based material is able to remove the hazardous waste effectively as it has high water permeability, large surface area for adsorption and is also simple to use.

“We monitored the uptake capacity of the hydrogel using UV spectroscopy and found that within a few hours the gel absorbed the dyes and the waste water turned almost colourless. The hydrogel can absorb the wastes for up to 60 hours before reaching a saturation point. The gel was able to remove 78-92% of the dyes and more than 80% metals ions,” explains Nibedita Nandi, research scholar at IACS and first author of the paper published in Peptide Science.

Reusable resource

“The hydrogel can be washed with sodium bicarbonate and ethyl acetate and reused. As the dyes and metal ions are soluble in water they get washed out from the gel and the hydrogel can be used for up to four cycles. It can be used by the industries for effective treatment before wastewater disposal,” says Prof. Arindam Banerjee, senior professor at the Department of Biological Chemistry, IACS, and corresponding author of the paper.

The researchers say that the production of the gel can be scaled up to the desired volume for use in water treatment at industries.

source: / The Hindu / Home> Sci-Tech> Science / by Aswathi Pacha / December 23rd, 2017