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VOL. 83, NOS. 9–10 325 Notes and News Fourth Ila Roy Memorial Lecture T he Fourth Ila Roy Memorial Lecture organized by the Indian Science News Association (ISNA) was held on 9 th February 2017 at 3.30 p.m. in the Seminar Room of Bose Institute, Kolkata. Professor Sunil Kumar Talapatra, Vice-President, ISNA, presided over the programme. The lecture entitled “Are we in the Era of Genomic Medicine?”was delivered by Dr. Mammen Chandy, Director, Tata Memorial Centre, Kolkata. At the beginning of the programme, Professor Parimal C. Sen, Honorary Secretary, ISNA welcomed the audience. He gave a short introduction of Late Ila Roy who was a devoted science teacher. Prof. Sen, on behalf of ISNA also expressed gratitude to Colonel (Dr.) Khaunish Chandra Roy, who donated a substantial amount to conduct the lecture every year in memory of his departed wife Ila Roy. Professor Parimal C. Sen while introducing the speaker mentioned that Dr. Mammen Chandy, is a renowned Clinical Hematologist and presently he is the Director of Tata Memorial Centre, Kolkata. Dr. Mammen Chandy obtained his MBBS and MD degree from Christian Medical College (CMC), Vellore. Dr. Chandy then pursued further training in hematology at the Westmead Centre, Sydney, Australia and obtained his FRACP and FRCPA fellowship. Dr. Mammen Chandy was awarded the fellowship of Royal College of Physicians, London in 2010. Since 1979 Dr. Chandy was a faculty member in CMC, Vellore till his retirement in 2009 as Head of the Department of Hematology. Dr. Chandy is a pioneer in the field of hematology and bone marrow transplantation in India and has led the largest and most successful bone marrow transplant service in India at CMC, Vellore. He has also been responsible for setting up a bone marrow transplant centre in Muscat, Oman. In his deliberation, Dr. Mammen Chandy covered the area of diagnosis and treatment of blood cancer. He narrated about different types of leukemia, widely known as blood cancer. Dr. Chandy mentioned about different methods which are being adapted to combat leukemia and the phenomenal development occurred in the field of medicine for treating the malady. His presentation contained different case studies with the success rate of each type of treatment. He spoke about personalized medicine, target based therapy and gene therapy. In this context he said that genomic medicine has made it possible to personalize therapy and change from carpet bombing of the cancer cell by chemicals and radiations to sniper shooting with targeted therapy which is the beginning of personalized medicine. Genomic medicine with targeted next generation sequencing is allowing us to make a precise diagnosis in many genetic diseases and offering this for antenatal diagnosis, thereby preventing the birth of an affected child in carrier couples. For diseases like haemophilia B and Severe Combined Immune Deficiency due to mutations in the receptor for gamma interferon gene therapy is now available. The advent of gene editing with the crisper cas-9 and talent systems should make gene therapy more easily available when the technology has been perfected. The diagnosis of infectious disease is already being done by genetic tests and the response to therapy documented by quantifying the copy number in virus infections like Hepatitis B. Prof. Sunil Kumar Talapatra, Vice President of ISNA (right) felicitating Dr. Mammen Chandy (left) after the lecture.

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Page 1: 14 Notes and News

VOL. 83, NOS. 9–10 325

Notes and News

Fourth Ila Roy Memorial Lecture

The Fourth Ila Roy Memorial Lecture organized by theIndian Science News Association (ISNA) was held on

9th February 2017 at 3.30 p.m. in the Seminar Room ofBose Institute, Kolkata. Professor Sunil Kumar Talapatra,Vice-President, ISNA, presided over the programme. Thelecture entitled “Are we in the Era of GenomicMedicine?”was delivered by Dr. Mammen Chandy,Director, Tata Memorial Centre, Kolkata.

At the beginning of the programme, Professor ParimalC. Sen, Honorary Secretary, ISNA welcomed the audience.He gave a short introduction of Late Ila Roy who was adevoted science teacher. Prof. Sen, on behalf of ISNA alsoexpressed gratitude to Colonel (Dr.) Khaunish Chandra Roy,who donated a substantial amount to conduct the lectureevery year in memory of his departed wife Ila Roy.

Professor Parimal C. Sen while introducing thespeaker mentioned that Dr. Mammen Chandy, is a renownedClinical Hematologist and presently he is the Director ofTata Memorial Centre, Kolkata. Dr. Mammen Chandyobtained his MBBS and MD degree from Christian MedicalCollege (CMC), Vellore. Dr. Chandy then pursued furthertraining in hematology at the Westmead Centre, Sydney,

Australia and obtained his FRACP and FRCPA fellowship.Dr. Mammen Chandy was awarded the fellowship of RoyalCollege of Physicians, London in 2010. Since 1979 Dr.Chandy was a faculty member in CMC, Vellore till hisretirement in 2009 as Head of the Department ofHematology. Dr. Chandy is a pioneer in the field ofhematology and bone marrow transplantation in India andhas led the largest and most successful bone marrowtransplant service in India at CMC, Vellore. He has alsobeen responsible for setting up a bone marrow transplantcentre in Muscat, Oman.

In his deliberation, Dr. Mammen Chandy covered thearea of diagnosis and treatment of blood cancer. Henarrated about different types of leukemia, widely knownas blood cancer. Dr. Chandy mentioned about differentmethods which are being adapted to combat leukemia andthe phenomenal development occurred in the field ofmedicine for treating the malady. His presentation containeddifferent case studies with the success rate of each type oftreatment. He spoke about personalized medicine, targetbased therapy and gene therapy. In this context he saidthat genomic medicine has made it possible to personalizetherapy and change from carpet bombing of the cancer cellby chemicals and radiations to sniper shooting with targetedtherapy which is the beginning of personalized medicine.

Genomic medicine with targeted nextgeneration sequencing is allowing us tomake a precise diagnosis in many geneticdiseases and offering this for antenataldiagnosis, thereby preventing the birth ofan affected child in carrier couples. Fordiseases like haemophilia B and SevereCombined Immune Deficiency due tomutations in the receptor for gammainterferon gene therapy is now available.The advent of gene editing with the crispercas-9 and talent systems should make genetherapy more easily available when thetechnology has been perfected. Thediagnosis of infectious disease is alreadybeing done by genetic tests and the responseto therapy documented by quantifying thecopy number in virus infections likeHepatitis B.

Prof. Sunil Kumar Talapatra, Vice President of ISNA (right) felicitating Dr. Mammen Chandy(left) after the lecture.

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At the conclusion of his lecture which he elaboratelypresented with case studies and recent achievement ofmedical science, he added that these reminded us whatDavid Mathan in a special issue of JAMA in 2001 said:“The new millennium is a remarkable time for medicine,where the potential for bettering human health is unequalledin history. The ongoing revolution in biomedical scienceof unprecedented magnitude, is accelerating dramatically,and promises almost unlimited opportunity for thebetterment of humankind.”

His lucid style of presentation was highly appreciatedby the audience.

Professor Sunil Kumar Talapatra, Vice-President,ISNA praised Dr. Mammen Chandy for delivering awonderful thought provoking and innovative lecture.Professor Talapatra then felicitated Dr. Mammen Chandytraditionally with an Uttorio, a memento and a few bookspublished by ISNA, namely, Sir P.C. Ray : The Father ofChemistry Teaching and Research in India, a Philanthropistand Entrepreneur and another book named EmergingScience and Culture : Connecting People (edited by Prof.S.C. Roy, Editor-in-Chief, Science and Culture) along witha DVD of a documentary film on the life of Acharya P.C.Ray produced by ISNA and a copy of recent issue ofScience and Culture.

The vote of thanks was offered by Professor ParimalC. Sen.

Arunansu DasguptaISNA

Makhana Farming and Processing atKarandighi Block, Uttar Dinajpur –

A Case Study

Fox nut or ‘Makhana’ Euryale ferox is a commercially-important edible aquatic crop of plant origin,

extensively grown in northern and eastern districts of Bihar.About 8-12 small, marble-sized, blackish-brown,membrane-covered seeds are found inside Makhana fruit.Membrane covers the soft white edible portion (starchycotyledon), which is eaten. Starchy, white pea-sized edibleseeds (9.7% of easily digestible protein, 0.01% fat and zerocholesterol content) produced by the hydrophytic Makhanaplant, have high demand and are exported to consumers’markets. Nutritious Makhana puffs and Makhana powderare used as snacks and in preparation of many costly sweet

dishes and porridge. It is cultivated in old, perennial,hygienic and shallow ponds (33-100 dec, waist-heightdepth) having organic load. Resource-poor marginal farmers(downtrodden fishermen community) culture Makhana, thevocation is established in districts of Kishanganj, Katiharand Purnia in Bihar (amongst other districts), adjacent toUttar Dinajpur in West Bengal. Karandighi CD Block inUttar Dinajpur is adjacent to Bihar State Border;surrounded by Purnia and Katihar on its western and south-western sides respectively. Encouraged by the success ofMakhana farmers in neighbouring districts, 90-95 farmersof four Gram Panchayats of Karandighi Block, namelyBazargaon-I, Lahutara-I, Karandighi-I and Karandighi-IIhave adopted Makhana farming seriously.

Sri Abdul Khalil is an experienced Makhana farmerof Andhoria village, Bazargaon-I GP. Since 2009-2010, heis producing Makhana in 4 acre water area, comprisingthree perennial ponds. Culture duration is 5-6 months. Hesows Euryale ferox saplings during 15th March - 15th Aprilin plots having 2.5-3.0 feet depth. Makhana pond isfertilized using a mixture of 80kg DAP, 15kg Potash and40kg mustard oil cake / acre area 8-10 days prior to sowingof saplings. He brought saplings 1.0-1.5 feet in height (3months old) from Bhagalpur, costing 50 paisa. To preventoccurrence of ‘Dhosa rog’ disease in Makhana plants, inevery acre plot, Sri Khalil applies 5ml insecticide and 10gmdisease-preventive medicine Carbendazim mixed in 16litswater; a week before sowing. Symptoms of ‘Dhosa rog’are black patches formed over Makhana leaves in youngerstage of plant, making plants unhealthy. About 2000Makhana saplings are sown / 33 dec plot. On 4th day, amixture of 5ml insecticide, 10gm Carbendazim medicineand 15ml Vitamin is used / acre area, repeated three timesin next 22 days.

Intact marble-sized Makhana seeds are harvestedduring August-September. Coat of fruits rupture aftermaturation, resulting in spread of seeds on pond bottomwhich are collected manually. Makhana plants are cut withsickle ‘Kasti’ and split-bamboo built ‘Ganja’ is used asMakhana collecting device, of open-end diameter 35cm.Seeds are cautiously collected as the whole plant bearsthorn except on upper surface of leaf. Skilled labourersfrom Bihar are employed for harvest, who sieve Makhanaseeds from mass of bottom mud, continued several timespatiently. Bottom muck and mud is washed away duringits sieving in Ganja, leaving the intact seeds.

From every 33 dec plot or more, Sri Khalil harvestsmarketable-sized Makhana seeds in 3 phases at fortnight

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interval; 200kg in first, 70-80kg in second and 50kg inthird. Complete harvest is not possible. Rate of productionis 300kg / 33 dec (av.), which increases to 350kg in idealweather conditions. Professional labourers engaged forharvesting are paid Rs 2000/- / quintal Makhana seeds infirst phase, Rs 3500/- / quintal in second and Rs 5000/- /quintal in third. Amount of seeds collected is maximum in1st phase, labourers have to work harder in rest two phases.Some people of Pichhla village of Karandighi-I GP areproficient in harvesting Makhana. At farm site, cleanedmarble-sized seeds are sun-dried to 30% moisture content,stored in jute sacks. Sometimes Sri Khalil markets freshly-harvested wet Makhana seeds from farm site. Makhanaseeds which could not be harvested at the end of first cropremain in pond; those germinate into seedlings/saplings innext season.

Sri Khalil sells his farm produce at Harda wholesalemarket in Purnia. For Sri Khalil, investment cost amountsto Rs 10,000/- in 33 dec pond; expenses incurred on costof Makhana saplings and plantation (Rs 2000/-),maintenance and cost of medicine, insecticide (total Rs2000/-) and wages to labourers for harvesting (Rs 6000/-).By selling Makhana seeds, he earns Rs 27,000/- / 33 decarea (@ Rs 9000/- / quintal according to present marketrate). He makes profit of Rs 17,000/- from every 33 decplot. According to him, price of harvested Makhana variesbetween Rs 70-200/- / kg and most of it is exported toPakistan. Ponds are seeded or saplings sown in first yearonly, maxm water depth 4 feet. Nutritious Makhana powderhaving neutral taste is incorporated as ingredient inpowdered protein drink and other health drinks. It helps inweight loss without compromising normal strength.

Sri Santosh Saha and Sri Seben Saha are another twoprofessional Makhana farmers in Picchla village, who own15 acre and 8.3 acre plots respectively. Their averageproduction is 250kg / 33 decimal. Cool monsoon weatherfavour Makhana production. Freshly-harvested Makhanaseeds may be kept in good condition in water for maxm 14days. Pipeline water is sprinkled for 4-5 days over thosepacked in sacks in storehouses. Since 2012, puffedMakhana is produced at four processing centres each atPicchla and Dalkhola villages in Uttar Dinajpur, from whereMakhana puffs are sold to markets at Delhi, Kanpur,Lucknow and Gwalior via Makhana traders of Dalkhola.About 45 families, native of Darbhanga district andeconomically weak, are involved in Makhana processing.Many Makhana farmers of Karandighi Block sale theirproduce here @ Rs 65-70/- / kg. Sometimes farmers handover their produce to processors, on a condition that 1kg

puffed Makhana will be given to farmers for every 3kgseeds. Sun-dried Makhana seeds are first separatedaccording to size in sieves; fire of earthen oven is keptburning slowly or strongly to produce puffs from differentsized seeds separately. Intact black seeds are heated in blackiron cauldron on glowing earthen oven fire, then hit hardby wide wooden hammer over wooden slab to get puffedMakhana. In the process, hard shells of hot seeds arebroken and the kernel puffs up in expanded form. Almost-round Makhana puffs are packaged in 44 x 27 inch bags,7-8kg in each and sold to traders within four months.Makhana is a sustainable source of income for bothproducers and processors at Karandighi.

Himadri Chandra and Subrato Ghosh*Vill. Amarshi, Dist. Purba Medinipur, West Bengal*122/1V, Monohar Pukur Road, Kolkata - 700026

India March for Science Rallyon August 9, 2017

Breakthrough Science Society (BSS) with Headquartersin Kolkata organised ‘India March for Science’

(IMFS) rallies in several cities, particularly in the statecapitals, in India on Wednesday, August 9, 2017 in supportof the following demands: 1. Allocate at least 3% of GDPto scientific and technological research and 10% of GDPto education. 2. Stop propagation of unscientific,obscurantist ideas and religious intolerance, in conformancewith Article 51A of the Constitution. 3. Ensure that

education system imparts ideasthat are supported by scientificevidence. 4. Enact policies thatare based on scientific evidence.

More than 15,000scientists, researchers, studentsand science enthusiastsparticipated in the rallies whichtook place in 39 Indian citiesand towns including, inter alia,Kolkata, Bengaluru, Delhi,Mumbai, Pune, Chennai,Guwahati, Hyderabad,

Thiruvananthapuram, Chandigarh, Lucknow, Patna, Ranchi,Gangtok and Ahmedabad. The IMFS was organised insupport of the Global March for Science which took placein 600 cities across the globe on April 22, 2017. Curiously,only two cities in India, viz. Hyderabad and Coimbatorearranged rallies on the 22nd April in support of the global

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march. As expressed by one Indian scientist from AgharkarResearch Institute, Pune, Indian scientists felt that the globalmarch held in April was in protest against Trumpadministration’s anti-science attitude and actions in USA,and it was not related to Indian science problems. But headmitted that “In retrospect, we should have participatedmore keenly in that global march.”

In Kolkata, scientists and students from CalcuttaUniversity, Jadavpur University and other institutionsassembled at Rajabazar Science College at 3 p.m. TheChairman and the Secretary of the Advisory Board, IMFSKolkata Organising Committee and the President ofBreakthrough Science Society briefly addressed thegathering and explained the purpose of the march. OneProfessor of Calcutta University flagged off the marchwhich passed through Moulali and terminated at Esplanade,the heart of Kolkata. Dr. Nilesh Maity, Convenor, IMFSKolkata Organising Committee said: “We demandallocation of 3% of GDP for S & T and 10% of GDP tooverall education on an immediate basis.” The marchersalso advocated for drafting an education system that mouldsscientific ideas among students. A delegation from amongthe marchers submitted a memorandum to the Governorwhile some others addressed the marchers at Esplanade.The march ended when the delegation returned fromRajbhavan. “Today’s rally was in continuation of thatglobal campaign,” said Professor Goutam Maity ofJadavpur University.

In Delhi, the rally comprising more than 300participants started from Mandi House at 4.30 p.m. andended at Jantar Mantar. At Jantar Mantar Prof. SoumitroBanerjee from IISER-Kolkata (a Bhatnagar Awardee andGeneral Secretary, BSS), Prof. Prabir Purakayastha (DelhiScience Forum) and others addressed the gathering. Anappeal by scientists, released in the march said: “We notewith deep concern that financial support to even premier

institutions like IITs, NITs, and IISERshas been slashed. Universities are facingshortage of funds to adequately supportscientific research. Research fundingagencies like DST, DBT and CSIR arereportedly impacted by reducedgovernmental support. Scientists ingovernment laboratories are being askedto generate a part of their salary by sellingtheir inventions and from other sources.”

The details of marches at some othercities were as follows: Bengaluru – Town

hall (11 a.m.) to Senate Hall, Bangalore University; morethan 1,000 participants; Mumbai - August Kranti Maidan(4 pm.) to the Wilson College, Chowpatty; Chennai - ElliotsBeach, Besant Nagar, Adyar (4.30 p.m.) North-end toSouth-end; Pune - Mahatma Gandhi statue near Rail station(5 p.m.) to Ambedkar statue (opposite to Collectorate);Guwahati – Cotton University Main Gate (3 p.m.) toDistrict Library; Allahabad - Allahabad University ScienceFaculty, Botany Dept. (12 noon) to Azad Park; Gangtok -Sikkim University Central Library (1 p.m.) to IGNOU HeadOffice; Patna - NIT Patna (11 a.m.) to Bhagat SinghChawk.

Conspicuously, several scientists belonging toGovernment scientific organisations stayed away from theevent. When asked about the reason for this absence, somesaid that they were asked by the authority not to attendthe march (Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology,Delhi and the C.S.I.R., for example) while some others,who did not want to be identified, apprehended retaliatoryrepercussions from higher authority.

Some of the various demands shown in the bannersof the marchers in different cities were as follows: “Defendscience, and not defund science”, “Stop killing science foryour personal and political agenda” “Science for Peace,Not for War” (Delhi), “Celebrate Nature & ProtectScience”, “Promote Scientific Temper” (Bengaluru),“Science, Not Silence” (Mumbai), “Don’t bury yourconscience under con science”, “Always ask for evidence”,etc.

The march was, however, not without its critics whodisagreed on the marchers’ claim of budget cuts to scienceby the authority, citing 17% increase in DST’s budget and12% increase to DBT in the latest budget. They argued,Indian Government, regardless of which political party isin power, has largely been supportive of science, or at thevery least, not against it. Ashutosh Sharma, Secretary, DST,

India March for Science Kolkata at Esplanade

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Strangely, instead of retyping the manuscript replacing thewords ‘we’ and ‘our’ by ‘I’ and ‘my’, Hetherington namedhis pet cat as the co-author with, of course, a fictitiousname, viz. F.D.C. Willard, as explained above. In theGoogle book, “More Random Walks in Science” (1982),Hetherington explained why he did not want to includehuman co-authors – his reasons were “the compensationfor a published piece is changed with each additionalauthor”, “a scientific writer’s reputation is tied up in whatthey publish”, “prestige can take a hit when multipleauthors are involved” (as stated in atlasobscura).

As one may expect, after the publication of thepaper, it did not take long for Willard’s true identity to berevealed. In fact, when a visitor came to the University tomeet the authors, Hetherington was away and his co-author’s true identity was made known to the visitor.Hetherington is quoted (Today I Found Out) to have said“Everyone laughed and soon the cat was out of the bag.”

Hetherington was not embarrassed at all. He ratherenjoyed the situation - he not only issued reprints of thepaper signed by him and by the cat’s pawprint, but alsobegan describing Chester as the University’s “RodentiaPredation Consultant.” Got the inner meaning? TheUniversity officials too loved to consider the cat as a kindof Physics Mascot. Even the Chairman of the PhysicsDepartment wrote to Hetherington: “Can you imagine theuniversal jubilation if in fact Willard could be persuadedto join us, even if only as a Visiting DistinguishedProfessor?” It was only the Editors who didn’t considerthis matter as a fun, as told by Hetherington.

Willard published another paper, written in French,in the popular French science magazine, La Recherche in1980. Now a sweet ending! Inspired by thekitty’s contributions to physics, the American PhysicalSociety declared in 2014: “all cat-authored papers wouldnow be available as open-access documents.” But mind it- the date of this declaration was April 1.

Professor Manas Chakrabarty, FRSCFormerly, Department of Chemistry

Bose Institute, Kolkata

Has Science Gone to the Dogs?

Perth, Australia has recently come to limelight becauseit is home to the world’s smartest dog, Ollie who is a

Staffordshire terrier. People think so about Ollie simply

Govt. of India said, the funding for the Science andTechnology ministry of the Govt. of India has risen bydouble-digit percentages annually since 2014-2015, whilethe DST’s funds for basic and applied science have almostdoubled in the last five years.

One thing is for sure – rallies involving thousands ofparticipants across some 40 cities in India demanding formore budget allocation to science, for evidenced-basedscience and science policies and crusade against anti-science is unprecedented in the history of science inIndia.

Professor Manas Chakrabarty, FRSCFormerly, Department of Chemistry

Bose Institute, Kolkata

Co-authorship in Phys. Rev. Lett. –A Feline Falsehood

Physical Review Letters is no doubt a premier journalin physics. A paper entitled “Two-, Three- and Four-

Atom Exchange in bcc 3He” and authored by J.H.Hetherington and F.D.C. Willard was published in Phys.Rev. Lett. (vol. 35, pp. 1442-1444, 1975; DOI: https://doi.org/10.1103/PhysRevLett.35.1442). This piece of workdealt with an in depth view into atomic behaviour atdifferent temperatures and was cited many times after itspublication in this esteemed journal. Hetherington was aProfessor of Physics at the Michigan State University, EastLansing, Michigan, USA, but who was his co-author?Barring close associates of Professor Hetherington,scientific community at large did not know about the trueidentity of Willard. Only on August 30, 2016, one EricGrundhauser disclosed the true identity of Willard in thesite atlasobscura. Could anyone possibly imagine thatF.D.C. Willard was indeed Hetherington’s pet Siamese cat!“F.D.” stands for Felis domesticus (domestic cat), “C.” isthe first letter of ‘Chester’ (the actual name of the cat) andWillard is the name of the cat’s father. Finally, the cat wasout of the bag, however incredible it may appear.

Here goes the story. When Hetherington completedtyping of the manuscript, he requested one of his colleaguesto have a last minute look at it. His colleague pointed outto Hetherington that he had used plural pronouns andadjectives like ‘we’ and ‘our’ throughout the manuscriptalthough he was the sole author. He was also remindedthat the journal Phys. Rev. Lett. published papers with thiskind of plural words only if the paper had multiple authors.

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because she has managed to dupe seven peer reviewingmedical journal authorities into appointing her into theireditorial boards. Six of these journals are: (1) ECPulmonary and Respiratory Medicine, (2) Journal ofCommunity Medicine & Public Health Care, (3) Journalof Tobacco Stimulated Diseases, (4) Journal of Alcoholand Drug Abuse/Alzheimer’s and Parkinsonism: Researchand Therapy, (5) Journal of Psychiatry and MentalDisorders and (6) Austin Addiction Sciences. The seventhjournal is Global Journal of Addiction and RehabilitationMedicine, in which she has even become an AssociateEditor and a member of the Editorial Board. One journaleven wrote to her: “We are delighted to have such aneminent person such as yourself.” But how could thispossibly happen on earth?

The answer lies in her owner, Professor Mike Daube,a Professor of Health Policy at Curtin University, Perthwho created the ‘persona’ with a solid resume as a reactionagainst academic journal scams. Thus, Ollie, alsoaffectionately called ‘Oll the Doll’, was named Dr. OliviaDoll, aged 35 years (actually five dog years), having aDoctorate degree, DCS, i.e. Doctorate in Canine Studies.Her doctoral Thesis was on ‘Canine Responses to AvianProximity’ because she naturally hates birds. She earnedher Doctorate degree from the Subiaco College ofVeterinary Science because she lives in Subiaco. Herphotograph was that of one Kyle Minogue who, withglasses, looked remarkably like Ollie. Her Bachelor degreewas stated to be from the Staffordshire College ofTerritorial Science because she is a Staffordshire terrier.Her MECS (Master of Early Canine Studies) degree wasfrom the Shenton Park Institute for Canine Refuge Studiesas she came from a dog pound there three years ago. Ollie’sresearch interests were expectedly ‘Relationships betweenDoberman Pinschers and Staffordshire Terriers in domesticenvironments’, ‘Role of domestic canines in promoting

optimal mental health in ageing males’ and ‘the impact ofskateboards on canine ambulation’ (the latter because ofOllie’s hate for skateboards).

The big question is: why did Daube, the dog’s owner,create this mess? He said, it started as a bit of light heartedfun, but his sole idea was to expose the so called ‘predatoryjournals’ like the Medical Journal of Australia. Thesejournals target primarily young or naïve, aspiring butgullible Academics, mainly from low income countries likeIndia and China, who are eager to publish early papers inwhatever foreign journals. They categorically state that thereis no publication charge but there is a processing fee whichis usually quite high. As Daube said, “They are not realjournals. — These people say: Send us your paper andwe will publish it.— It’s a con. It’s a fraud.”

Professor Daube says, Ollie is a trailblazer, being thefirst dog ever to get a berth in the editorial board of amedical journal. To him it was even more bizarre that oneof these journals actually asked Ollie to review an articleentitled “Malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumours andtheir management.”

What a Canine Deception!

Professor Manas Chakrabarty, FRSCFormerly, Department of Chemistry

Bose Institute, Kolkata

Nanovaccines Tested for CancerImmunotherapy

Nanotechnology is not a new concept. It has attainednotable momentum in recent years. Nanoparticles have

become increasingly important for their applications in thefields of biology and medicine. There are significantapplications of nanoscience in biology and biotechnology,especially in cancer therapy by targeting the body’s immunesystem. The initiative that a nanostructure could beassembled, constructed and introduced into the human bodyto carry out cellular repairs at the molecular level ispromising.

The utilisation of nanotechnology in medicine, knownas nanomedicine, deals with the use of accuratelyengineered nanomaterials to build up novel therapeutic anddiagnostic tools. Nanovaccines are vaccines that consist ofnanoparticles and are rising as a new class of vaccinesthat directly target the site in the body where a disease orinfection originated, as opposed to traditional drugs which

Ollie the dog, AKA Dr Olivia Doll, DCS, MECS.

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affect all parts of the body. Now, for the first time, a teamof researchers from the University of Texas Southwestern(UTSW) Medical Center in Dallas, USA, have shown thatusing a nanovaccine to deliver cancer immunotherapy canslow tumour growth and prolong survival in mouse modelsof several types of cancer (Nature Nanotechnology, 24April 2017| DOI: 10.1038/nnano.2017.52). Nanovaccine,the authors say, offers a simple, safe and robust strategy inboosting anti-tumour immunity for cancer immunotherapy.

The nanovaccine is made up of tumour antigens –tumour proteins that can be recognised by the body’simmune system – inside a synthetic polymer nanoparticle.Nanoparticle vaccines deliver minuscule particulates thatstimulate the immune system to mount an immune response.According to the researchers, the goal is to help people’sown bodies fight cancer. A significant advantage of usingnanovaccine is that the nanoparticles take the antigendirectly to the lymph nodes to help generate primed immunecells called T cells to fight cancer. Conventional vaccinesdo not do this – they require the immune cells to collectthe antigens in a “depot system” first and then transportthem to the lymph nodes to prime the T cells.

Co-senior author Jinming Gao, a UTSW Professor ofPharmacology and Otolaryngology, says, “What is uniqueabout our design is the simplicity of the single-polymercomposition that can precisely deliver tumour antigens toimmune cells while stimulating innate immunity. Theseactions result in safe and robust production of tumour-specific T cells that kill cancer cells”.

The team tested the nanovaccine on a variety ofmouse models of cancer, including colorectal cancer,melanoma, and HPV-associated head, neck, and cervix,cancers. They noted that in nearly all cases, the treatmentled to slower tumour growth and prolonged survival. Theauthors conclude that “in small animals, a good number ofnanovaccines have shown the ability to induce anti-tumour

immunity and can be combined with many other therapeuticmodalities for synergistic cancer therapy. It is expected thatin the next few years, more types of nanovaccines can bemanufactured on large scales and at good manufacturingpractice (GMP) grade and GMP-produced nanovaccinescan be tested in humans for safety and therapeuticefficacy”.

Biman BasuDream 2047

July 2017, Vol. 19 No. 10

Growing Hair Cells of Inner Ear toTreat Deafness

Our life would lose a lot of charm if we lose the senseof hearing. Hearing is the ability to perceive sound,

which we do by detecting vibrations in air caused by soundwaves that impinge on our eardrums. Hearing loss ordeafness occurs when sound signals cannot reach the braindue to various reasons. There are two main types of hearingloss, depending on where the problem lies. The one called‘sensorineural hearing loss’ is caused by damage to thesensitive hair cells inside the inner ear or damage to theauditory nerve. Sensorineural hearing loss occurs naturallywith age or as a result of injury or loud noise. Sensorineuralhearing loss can also be the result of diseases such asmumps, meningitis, multiple sclerosis, or the use of certaindrugs, in particular aspirin, quinine or the antibioticsstreptomycin and gentamicin. The other type, known as‘conductive hearing loss’, happens when sounds are unableto pass from our outer ear to the inner ear, often becauseof a blockage such as earwax or glue ear.

The ear hairs involved in hearing are actually tiny,sensory hair cells in our cochlea or inner ear. There areabout 15,000 of them in each ear, and they are crucial toour ears for detecting sound waves. They also help usmaintain our balance. But the tiny hair cells are very fragileand can be easily damaged from loud noises, and it reallydoes not take a long exposure. The bad thing is that oncedamaged, cochlear hair cells do not regenerate. So rightnow, damage to them is permanent, and people withsensorineural hearing loss cannot regain their hearing,although some people find hearing aids very helpful.

The good news is, now there is hope for bettertreatment for sensorineural hearing loss. Researchers fromthe Indiana University (IU) School of Medicine, USA, havesuccessfully developed a technique for growing inner earLaser beam can be seen scattered by nanoparticles in a solution of the

UTSW-developed nanovaccine. (Credit: UT Southwestern)

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tissues, including sensory hair cells, from human stem cells.According to the researchers, lab-grown human inner eartissues offer unprecedented opportunities to develop andtest new therapies for various inner ear disorders includinghearing loss. The researchers used CRISPR gene editingtechnology to engineer stem cells that producedfluorescently-labelled inner ear sensory cells. Further studiesrevealed that the population of sensory cells they hadcreated have the same functional characters as cells thatdetect gravity and motion in the human inner ear (NatureBiotechnology, 1 May 2017 | DOI: 10.1038/nbt.3840).

Human inner ear organoid grown from stem cell showing sensory haircells (cyan) and sensory neurons (yellow). (Credit: Image courtesy ofKarl Koehler)

According to Karl R. Koehler, who led the research,“We also found neurons, like those that transmit signalsfrom the ear to the brain, forming connections with sensorycells. This is an exciting feature of these organoids becauseboth cell types are critical for proper hearing andbalance”.

Biman BasuDream 2047

July 2017, Vol. 19 No. 10

Global Warming May TurnAntarctica Green

Antarctica is the fifth largest continent and is the driest,coldest and windiest place on Earth. It is also known

as the ‘Great White Continent’, made up of 90 per cent ofthe world’s ice and has 98 per cent of its surface coveredby ice. Very little vegetation grows in the freezingtemperatures of Antarctica. But scientists fear that warming

temperatures due to climate change may be turningAntarctica ‘green’ with rapid growth of plant life on theEarth’s southernmost continent. In a recent study,researchers from the University of Exeter in the UnitedKingdom have discovered rapidly growing banks of mosseson the ice continent’s northern peninsula, providing strikingevidence of climate change in the coldest and most remoteparts of the planet. According to the researchers, in thepast 50 years the quantity and rate of plant growth hasshot up, suggesting further warming could lead to rapidecosystem changes (Current Biology, 18 May 2017 | DOI:10.1016/j.cub.2017.04.034).

The researchers looked to the Antarctic Peninsula (thenorthernmost part of Antarctica) because it is one of themost rapidly warming regions on Earth; annual temperaturesthere have increased by up to 0.56°C per decade since the1950s. The consequence, the study found, was a four- tofive-fold increase in the amount of moss growth in the mostrecent part of the record. The researchers have found thatgrowth rates and microbial productivity have risen rapidlysince the 1960s – in a manner that is unprecedented in thelast 150 years – consistent with climate change. Soilsamples from a 700-km area along the northern part of theAntarctic Peninsula showed dramatic changes in growthpatterns.

Normally, less than 1 percent of present-day Antarcticafeatures plant life. But in parts of the Peninsula, Antarcticmosses grow on frozen ground that partly thaws in thesummer – when only about the first few centimetres ofsoil ever thaws. According to the researchers, the surfacemosses build up a thin layer in the summer and then freezeover in winter. As layer builds on top of layer, older mosses

Thick banks of moss growing on the Antarctic Peninsula (Credit: MattAmesbury)

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subside below the frozen ground, where they areremarkably well preserved due to the low temperatures.

Says Matthew Amesbury, a researcher with theUniversity of Exeter in the United Kingdom who led thenew study, “People think of Antarctica quite rightly as avery icy place, but our work shows that parts of it aregreen, and are likely to be getting greener. Even theserelatively remote ecosystems, that people might think arerelatively untouched by human kind, are showing the effectsof human induced climate change.”

According to some experts, if greenhouse gasemissions continue unchecked, Antarctica will head evenfurther back in geologic time...perhaps the peninsula willeven become forested again someday, like it was duringthe greenhouse climates of the Cretaceous and Eocene,when the continent was ice-free.

Biman BasuDream 2047

July 2017, Vol. 19 No. 10

Robotic Arm to Clean up Space Debris

Since mankind entered the Space Age with the launchof the first Sputnik on 4 October 1957, thousands of

artificial satellites have been launched by many countriesincluding India. Many of those satellites have fallen backto Earth and have been destroyed on entering the Earth’satmosphere. But a huge number of defunct satellites androcket parts and debris continue to remain in orbit.According to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL),right now about 5,00,000 pieces of human-made debris suchas old satellites and lost equipment are in orbit around ourplanet, which can be a threat to operating satellites, spacevehicles and astronauts in space. To tackle this problem,researchers from Stanford University in USA and NASA’sJPL have created a robotic gripper to grab and dispose ofthe debris. The interesting thing about the gripper is that itattaches to and captures space objects using a techniquethat the common gecko uses to stick to walls and surfaces.Similar to a gecko’s foot, the robotic gripper is only stickyif the adhesive flaps are pushed in a certain direction. Aprototype of the gripper has already been tested in multiplezero-gravity settings, including inside the InternationalSpace Station (Science Robotics, 27 June 2017 DOI:10.1126/scirobotics.aan4545).

The need for a special gripper arises from thelimitations of conventional methods like suction cups which

don’t work in a vacuum. Traditional sticky substances liketape are largely useless because the chemicals they rely oncannot withstand the extreme temperature swings in space.Magnets only work on objects that are magnetic. Othersolutions, including harpoons, either require or causeforceful interaction with the debris, which could push thoseobjects in unintended, unpredictable directions in zero-gravity environment rather than capturing them.

Geckos can climb walls because their feet have microscopic flaps that,when in full contact with a surface, create a Van der Waals force betweenthe feet and the surface.

The adhesives developed by the researchers havepreviously been used in climbing robots and even in asystem that allowed humans to climb up certain surfaces.According to the researchers, they were inspired by geckos,which can climb walls because their feet have microscopicflaps that, when in full contact with a surface, create aVan der Waals force between the feet and the surface. Theseare weak intermolecular forces that result from subtledifferences in the positions of electrons on the outsides ofmolecules.

The researchers say the gripper they have developedis not as intricate as a gecko’s foot – the flaps of theadhesive are about 40 micrometres across while a gecko’sare only about 200 nanometres; that is, 200 times smaller

Scientists tested their robotic gripper on NASA’s reduced gravity aircraft,the Weightless Wonder. (Credit: Jiang et al., Sci. Robot. 2, eaan4545(2017))

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– but the gecko-inspired adhesive works in much the sameway. Like a gecko’s foot, it is only sticky if the flaps arepushed in a specific direction and making it stick onlyrequires a light push in the right direction. This is a helpfulfeature for the kinds of tasks a space gripper wouldperform. The pads unlock with the same gentle movement,creating very little force against the object. This ensuresthat the object being grabbed is not pushed away in thezero-gravity environment.

The current prototype of the gripper is made of laser-cut plywood and includes rubber bands, which wouldbecome brittle in space. According the researchers, the nextstep would be to create a version made of longer lastingmaterials capable of being attached able to the end of arobot arm hold up to high levels of radiation and extremetemperatures and test it outside the ISS.

Biman BasuDream 2047

August 2017, Vol. 19 No. 11

How Eggs Get Their Shapes

To a housewife an egg is an article of food, and itsshell serves to protect it from physical damage and to

prevent the entry of dirt and microorganisms. To the henan egg is a potential chick, and the shell serves not onlyas a protective covering but also as a source of calciumfor the embryo and as a membrane through which theembryo breathes.

The surprising thing about eggs is that although theyall serve the same purpose, they come in not only differentsizes but also different shapes. Egg shapes range fromalmost spherical, as in case of some owls, to simpleelliptical, as in case of the hummingbird, to that of a sharplypointy teardrop-shape, as in case of the sandpiper.

Scientists have long pondered over the question ofegg shapes. Why do birds’ eggs come in so many differentshapes and sizes? In the past, bird lovers and scientistshad come up with all sorts of hypotheses for egg shape –most related to the life history of the bird or theenvironment in which they live. Other hypotheses includedclutch size – the number of eggs in a clutch could influenceegg appearance, with some shapes optimised for sharingthe warmth; calcium conservation – spherical eggs haveless surface area, which could help conserve calcium inplaces where the mineral is rare; and the roll factor –

spherical eggs could easily roll off a cliff, while conicaleggs roll in a tight circle, making them perfect for cliff-nesting birds. Some scientists had put forward the theorythat precocial hatchlings – those that are usually capableof leaving the nest within a few days and are more matureat birth, like ducks – had asymmetrical eggs because theblunt ends have more pores, letting in more oxygen to helptheir brains develop faster before hatching. But recentresearch by a team of international researchers puts all thesetheories at rest and points to a strong correlation betweenegg shape and birds’ ability to soar through the air (Science,23 June 2017 DOI: 10.1126/science.aaj1945).

Bird eggs vary widely in shape and size.

Six researchers from four countries and manydisciplines – evolutionary biologists, computer scientists,mathematicians, and physicists – conducted the firstcomprehensive study to explain the wide range of shapesof bird eggs. For their study the team, led by researchersat Harvard and Princeton Universities, with colleagues inthe UK, Israel and Singapore, used methods and ideas frommathematics, physics and biology to crack the egg-shapepuzzle. The team examined photos of some 50,000 eggsfrom a vast digital collection at the University of CaliforniaBerkeley Museum of Vertebrate Zoology. The eggs, whichwere collected by naturalists around the world during the19th and early 20th centuries, came from a wide of birdsizes and locations. The team wrote a computer programcalled ‘Eggxtractor’ that picks out the egg in any imageand measures its length, width, and shape. Using theprogramme, the researchers plotted egg shapes in terms ofasymmetry and ellipticity, resulting in a gigantic map ofbird egg shapes. The researchers found that egg shape wasa continuum – with many species overlapping. The shapesranged from almost perfectly spherical eggs to conical-shaped eggs.

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To find out the factors that led to the difference inshapes, the team introduced different variables like bodymass, diet, nest type and environment into their computermodel. But only when they used a variable called the ‘hand-wing index’ – a ratio that expresses a bird’s flight ability –did the eggs turn out like they do in real life. The studyshowed that egg shape indeed correlates with flight abilityon broad taxonomic scales, suggesting that adaptations forflight may have been critical drivers of egg-shape variation

in birds and that birds that have strong flight ability alsohave eggs that are elliptical and asymmetric. So an albatrossand a hummingbird, while two very different birds, mayhave evolved similarly shaped eggs because both are high-powered fliers.

Biman BasuDream 2047

August 2017, Vol. 19 No. 11