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Researchers find potential way to combat MERS virus

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New York: Researchers, including one of Indian-origin, have found molecules that shut down the activity of an enzyme essential to the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) virus replication.

The virus is in the international spotlight again as South Korea faces the largest MERS outbreak outside the Middle East.

More than 2,800 people have been quarantined during the outbreak. The World Health Organisation (WHO) reported 27 deaths and 172 confirmed cases in its most recent update on June 22.

Professors Arun Ghosh and Andrew Mesecar from Purdue University in the US have been studying the virus and creating and testing molecular compounds that could lead to potential treatments since shortly after MERS was discovered.

“The team identified molecules that inhibit an enzyme essential to MERS virus replication and discovered a characteristic of the enzyme that is very different from other coronaviruses, the family of viruses to which MERS-CoV belongs,” Mesecar said. He added, “This enzyme is a prime target – an Achilles’ heel of the virus.”

The team was targeting an enzyme within the MERS virus called 3C-like protease, without which the virus cannot create more viruses to further an infection.

“We captured the protease’s atomic structure through this work, which provides the map to design potent new drugs to fight MERS,” said Mesecar.

The MERS virus emerged in 2012 and was mostly confined to the Middle East until 2014 when cases were identified in the US, Britain, France and Italy. Till date, 25 countries have reported cases, according to the WHO.

“It is a threat to public health and there currently is no treatment or vaccine. We continue to study the virus to improve our understanding of how it works and ways to prevent its spread.”

The study was published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

(IANS)

 

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New Research Suggests Modern Apples Evolved from Kazakhstan 10,000 years ago

The birth of the modern apples ultimately led to 7,500 varieties of the fruit

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Modern Day Apples evolved from Kazakhstan. Wikimedia
  • The latest research suggests that the modern apples originated from Kazakhstan
  • The study was carried out by researchers from Boyce Thompson Institute in the United States
  • It was the genetic exchange from traders who used the Silk Road that the modern apples emerged in Kazakhstan

US, August 17, 2017: A new study suggests that the modern apples that are so crisp, yet so juicy, actually originated from Kazakhstan 10,000 years ago.

The study by researchers at Boyce Thompson Institute (BTI) in the US reveal that during the back and forth traveling by traders on the Silk Road, the genetic exchange occurred that led to the emergence of modern day apples in Kazakhstan’s mountainous regions. Malus Domestica is the scientific name for our modern domesticated apples.

The Silk Road connected the East to the West. Hence, it led to an exposure of knowledge and ideas. Researchers hypothesize that this exchange of ideas resulted in the birth of the tasty Malus Domestica.

Lead Author of the study and Professor at Boyce Thompson Institute, Zhangjun Fei, explains his team’s study which is published in the journal Nature Communications.

ALSO READ: Fruits responsible for larger Brain size in Primates: Researchers

To carry out the study, the team of researchers sequenced 117 different apples and compared their genomes. These included the wild species extracted from Europe, North America, Central and East Asia.

The birth of the modern apples ultimately led to 7,500 varieties of the fruit. Interestingly, the quality of the fruit changed as from region to region as it first traveled from the East to the West. When the apples returned to go back to the west, the dropped seeds on the way helped the growth of trees in wild places.

M Sylvestris was dominant in the Apple’s growth. It’s ancestor, M Sieversii is found predominantly in Kazakhstan.

Our modern day apples have well-balanced sugar and higher organic acid contents. Hence, it is no wonder now that Apple is one of the favorite fruits for many people.

– prepared by Saksham Narula of NewsGram. Twitter: @Saksham2394


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Fossil of Patagotitan Discovered in Argentina: The Heavyweight Champion of all Dinosaurs weighs 76 Tons

The New Heavyweight Champion of Dinosaurs is Patagotitan

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Museum attendees walk by the head of the newly named Patagotitan mayorum, a 122-foot (37.2 meter) titanosaur, at the American Museum of Natural History in New York
Museum attendees walk by the head of the newly named Patagotitan mayorum, a 122-foot (37.2 meter) titanosaur, at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. VOA
  • The dinosaur’s fossils were found in southern Argentina in 2012
  • The researchers named the dinosaur Patagotitan dinosaur Patagotitan mayorum after the Patagonia region where it was found and the Greek word titan, which means large
  • A cast of the dinosaur’s skeleton is on display at the American Museum of Natural History

USA, August 10, 2017: A study proclaims a newly named species the heavyweight champion of all dinosaurs, making the scary Tyrannosaurus rex look like a munchkin.

At 76 tons (69 metric tons), the plant-eating behemoth was as heavy as a space shuttle.

The dinosaur’s fossils were found in southern Argentina in 2012. Researchers who examined and dated them said the long-necked creature was the biggest of a group of large dinosaurs called titanosaurs.

“There was one small part of the family that went crazy on size,” said Diego Pol of the Egidio Feruglio paleontology museum in Argentina, co-author of the study published Tuesday in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

The researchers named the dinosaur Patagotitan dinosaur Patagotitan mayorum after the Patagonia region where it was found and the Greek word titan, which means large. The second name honors a ranch family that hosted the researchers.

Six fossils of the species were studied and dated to about 100 million years ago, based on ash found around them, Pol said. The dinosaur averaged 122 feet long (37 meters) and was nearly 20 feet high (6 meters) at the shoulder.

ALSO READ: Frogs’ Survival Possible due to Dinosaurs’ Death: Study

A cast of the dinosaur’s skeleton is on display at the American Museum of Natural History. It’s so big that the dinosaur’s head sticks out into a hallway at the New York museum.

Legendary T. rex and other meat-eaters “look like dwarfs when you put them against one of these giant titanosaurs,” Pol said. “It’s like when you put an elephant by a lion.”

Scientists have known titanosaurs for a while, but this is a new species and even a new genus, which is a larger grouping, Pol said. Another titanosaur called Argentinosaurus was previously thought to be the largest.

“I don’t think they were scary at all,” Pol said. “They were probably massive, big, slow-moving animals.”

“Getting up. Walking around. Trying to run. It’s really challenging for large animals,” he said.

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The big question is how did these dinosaurs get so big, Pol said. Researchers are still studying it but said it probably has to do with an explosion of flowering plants at the time. Along with a forest, it was like an all-you-can-eat buffet for these dinosaurs and they just got bigger.

“It’s hard to argue this isn’t a big deal when it concerns the [probable] largest land animal ever discovered,” University of Maryland paleontologist Thomas Holtz, who wasn’t part of the study, said in an email.

Kristi Curry Rodgers, a paleontologist at Macalester College who wasn’t part of the study, praised the work as important. She said the fact that Patagotitan’s bones show signs that they haven’t completed their growth “means that there are even bigger dinosaurs out there to discover.” (VOA)

 

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Indian Origin Researcher Part of team that Developed New Device which Can Heal Any Organ with a Single Touch

A new device called Tissue Nanotransfection (TNT) has been developed by researchers that can non-invasively convert skin cells into elements of any organ with a single touch

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Any organ can be healed using a single touch by a new device
Any organ can be healed using a single touch by a new device. Pixabay
  • The device called Tissue Nanotransfection (TNT) does not require any laboratory-based procedures and may be implemented at the point of care
  •  It instantly delivers new DNA or RNA into living skin cells to change their function
  • The team conducted experiments on mice and pigs, where they reprogrammed skin cells to become vascular cells in badly injured legs that lacked blood flow

August 9, 2017: Researchers, led by one of the Indian-origin, have developed a new device that can non-invasively convert skin cells into elements of any organ with a single touch, a finding that may help repair injured tissues, blood vessels, and nerves.The device called Tissue Nanotransfection (TNT) does not require any laboratory-based procedures and may be implemented at the point of care.

 It instantly delivers new DNA or RNA into living skin cells to change their function, with a small electrical charge that’s barely felt by the patient, thus aiding the speedy repair of injured tissue as well as restoring the function of ageing tissue, including organs.

“With this nano chip technology, we can convert skin cells into elements of any organ with just one touch. This process only takes less than a second and is non-invasive, and then you’re off. The chip does not stay with you, and the reprogramming of the cell starts,” said Chandan Sen, Director at The Ohio State University in the US.

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For the study, published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, the team conducted experiments on mice and pigs, where they reprogrammed skin cells to become vascular cells in badly injured legs that lacked blood flow. Within one week, active blood vessels appeared on the injured leg and by the second week, the leg was saved.

In lab tests, the technology was also shown to reprogram skin cells in the live body into nerve cells that were injected into brain-injured mice to help them recover from the stroke, the researchers said.

“This is difficult to imagine, but it is achievable, successfully working about 98 per cent of the time,” Sen said, adding the researchers plan to start clinical trials next year in humans. (IANS)