Plastics Can Be Eaten By Enzymes And Reduce Pollution

The enzyme is able to digest polyethylene terephthalate

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Packs of flattened polyethylene terephthalate (or PET) bottles are carried into a depot before being pulverized as part of a recycling process at Tokyo PET Bottle Recycle Co. in Tokyo, Aug. 13, 2002. Researchers in Britain and the United States have engineered an enzyme that breaks down such plastics.
Packs of flattened polyethylene terephthalate (or PET) bottles are carried.VOA

Scientists in Britain and the United States say they have engineered a plastic-eating enzyme that could help in the fight against pollution.

The enzyme is able to digest polyethylene terephthalate, or PET — a form of plastic patented in the 1940s and now used in millions of tons of plastic bottles. PET plastics can persist for hundreds of years in the environment and currently pollute large areas of land and sea worldwide.

Researchers from Britain’s University of Portsmouth and the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory made the discovery while examining the structure of a natural enzyme thought to have evolved in a waste-recycling center in Japan.

Finding that this enzyme was helping a bacteria to break down, or digest, PET plastic, the researchers decided to “tweak” its structure by adding some amino acids, said John McGeehan, a professor at Portsmouth who co-led the work.

This led to a serendipitous change in the enzyme’s actions — allowing its plastic-eating abilities to work faster.

“We’ve made an improved version of the enzyme better than the natural one already,” McGeehan told Reuters in an interview.

“That’s really exciting because that means that there’s potential to optimize the enzyme even further.”

The team, whose finding was published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal, is now working on improving the enzyme further to see if it could be capable of breaking down PET plastics on an industrial scale.

Plastic pollution
Plastic pollution, Pixabay

“It’s well within the possibility that in the coming years we will see an industrially viable process to turn PET, and potentially other [plastics], back into their original building blocks so that they can be sustainably recycled,” McGeehan said.

‘Strong potential’

Independent scientists not directly involved with the research said it was exciting, but cautioned that the enzyme’s development as a potential solution for pollution was still at an early stage.

“Enzymes are non-toxic, biodegradable and can be produced in large amounts by microorganisms,” said Oliver Jones, a Melbourne University chemistry expert. “There is strong potential to use enzyme technology to help with society’s growing waste problem by breaking down some of the most commonly used plastics.”

Douglas Kell, a professor of bioanalytical science at Manchester University, said further rounds of work “should be expected to improve the enzyme yet further.”

Also read: Ayushmann Khurana speaks against plastic pollution

“All told, this advance brings the goal of sustainably recyclable polymers significantly closer,” he added. (VOA)

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Risk of Multiple Sclerosis High in Urbanites due to Air Pollution

Air pollution could be a risk factor for the development of multiple sclerosis (MS) among urbanites, says researcher

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Pollution
Air pollution may up multiple sclerosis risk in urbanites. Pixabay

Air pollution could be a risk factor for the development of multiple sclerosis (MS), say researchers, adding that MS risk was 29 per cent higher among people residing in urbanised areas.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease in which the immune system eats away at the protective covering of nerves. Whilst MS can be diagnosed at any age, it frequently occurs between the ages of 20-40 and is more frequent in women.

Symptoms can change in severity daily and include fatigue, walking difficulty, numbness, pain and muscle spasms. The study, presented at the European Academy of Neurology (EAN) Virtual Congress, detected a reduced risk for MS in individuals residing in rural areas that have lower levels of air pollutants known as particulate matter (PM).

According to the researchers, it is well recognised that immune diseases such as MS are associated with multiple factors, both genetic and environmental. “We believe that air pollution interacts through several mechanisms in the development of MS and the results of this study strengthen that hypothesis,” said study lead researcher Professor Roberto Bergamaschi from the IRCCS Mondino Foundation in Italy.

Particulate matter (PM) is used to describe a mixture of solid particles and droplets in the air and is divided into two categories. PM10 includes particles with a diameter of 10 micrometres of smaller and PM2.5 which have a diameter of 2.5 micrometres or smaller.  Both PM10 and PM2.5 are major pollutants and are known to be linked to various health conditions, including heart and lung disease, cancer and respiratory issues.

Pollution
Air pollution could be a risk factor for the development of multiple sclerosis. Pixabay

The analysis was conducted in the winter, given that this is the season with the highest pollutant concentrations, in the north-western Italian region of Lombardy, home to over 547,000 people.

For the findings, the research team included over 900 MS patients within the region, and MS rates were found to have risen 10-fold in the past 50 years, from 16 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in 1974 to almost 170 cases per 100,000 people today. Whilst the huge increase can partly be explained by increased survival for MS patients, this sharp increase could also be explained by greater exposure to risk factors.

Also Read: Artificial Intelligence Capable of Identifying Personality Based on Selfies

“In the higher risk areas, we are now carrying out specific analytical studies to examine multiple environmental factors possibly related to the heterogeneous distribution of MS risk”, Professor Bergamaschi said. (IANS)

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Safely Disinfect Your Prized Designer Shoes

Here are some simple tips to disinfect your designer shoes.

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shoes
In thse times of COVID its imperative to disinfect your cherised designer shoes. Pixabay

BY N. LOTHUNGBENI HUMTSOE

We know COVID-19 is transmitted via direct contact with respiratory droplets of an infected person (through coughing and sneezing), and touching surfaces contaminated with the virus. But we also know that viruses and bacteria can attach to shoes and remain infectious there for several hours or days too.

As one can run the risk of bringing the virus home through footwear as well, its recommended to leave your shoes out of the home. But how can we disinfect our favorite pair of shoes? IANSlife spoke to Mr Ambud Sharma, Founder and CEO, Escaro Royale to get his tips and directions :

Cleanliness is a vital factor when it comes to combating the spread of the virus. Therefore, it’s important to keep your luxury shoes disinfected as it costs a fortune.

Most of the times, we all are used to spraying a quick spatter cleansers on a pair of trainers or sneakers, but this simply isn’t an option when attempting to sanitize your pure leather shoes and luxury footwear. This needs to be held delicately and therefore it’s not simply only about sanitizing the shoes. Disinfecting kills germs and bacteria with the help of a suitable chemical or cleaner.

Do a thorough Cleaning

Always remember to clean your shoes before disinfecting them. Get rid of the dirt and grime out of the soles and side of a shoe using disposable wipes. You just need to pull one from the pack and use it to remove dust and dirt, while de-odourizing your footwear. The wipes are also great for shining shoes and removing scuff marks too.

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Shoes can be disinfected with these simple tips. Pixabay

Aerosol disinfectant- a savior

Use an aerosol disinfectant meant for fabrics. It has a lower content of disinfectant chemicals such as acetone and bleach, which is likely to stain some fabrics. Ensuring that you’re using an aerosol and not a manual pump spray is also essential, as the application won’t be uniform.

Allow them to dry

After applying the disinfectant, let the shoes dry at room temperature in a clean environment with no sunlight. Let those designer shoes breathe in a new life!

Take proper care of leather and suede too

If you have leather and suede shoes, then you can clean it using a suede eraser. It can be used in removing any kind of dust, dirt or dry stains on suedes and are designed especially for this particular type of leather. You can also use leather cleaners for the same.

Don’t leave shoes wet

Wet shoes are more prone to bacteria. So, if your shoes get wet, it’s important to dry your shoes properly to make sure you don’t cause any damage or let those germs penetrate. The best option here is to let your shoes dry naturally, but if you want to catalyze the process, stuff them with tissue or newspaper to grasp the moisture. If you’re using newspaper, try to avoid sheets with lots of dark ink or pictures, this will help avoid the ink bleeding on to your shoes.

Always Remember!

At last, do not forget to wear gloves when handling potentially contaminated objects, including when disinfecting shoes. After disinfecting your footwear, immediately throw disposable gloves away. The reusable gloves can be stored in a separate laundry basket.

Also Read: Indians Are Spending A Lot More Time E-learning: Survey

Remember to avoid using your luxury shoes to a place which you think can be contaminated until you can have it professionally cleaned and disinfected. (IANS)

 

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Scientists Identify Antibodies With Potential to Block COVID-19 Virus

Journal Science published the study of antibodies that could potentially block the virus

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Coronavirus
Scientists have found a pair of antibodies which could pottentially block the COVID-19 virus. Pixabay

From a patient who recovered from COVID-19, scientists have isolated a pair of neutralising antibodies that could potentially block the virus responsible for the pandemic from entering into host cells.

The study, published in the journal Science, suggests that a “cocktail” containing both antibodies could provide direct therapeutic benefits for COVID-19 patients.

The new information detailed in the study could also aid the development of small molecule antivirals and vaccine candidates to fight the SARS-CoV-2 virus which causes COVID-19.

The twin antibodies identified by the researchers are named B38 and H4.

The study by Yan Wu from Chinese Academy of Sciences and colleagues found that the two antibodies bind to the glycoprotein spike of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and thereby block the entry of the virus into host cells.

doctors
The twin antibodies identified by the researchers are named B38 and H4. (Representational Image). Pixabay

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Preliminary tests of the two antibodies in a mouse model resulted in a reduction of virus titers, suggesting that the antibodies may offer therapeutic benefits.

The researchers found that the antibodies can each bind simultaneously to different epitopes on the spike’s receptor binding domain (RBD), such that both antibodies together may confer a stronger neutralising effect than either antibody on its own — a prediction supported by in vitro experiments.

This feature also means that, should one of the viral epitopes mutate in a way that prevents the binding of one of the two antibodies, the other antibody may yet retain its neutralising activity. (IANS)