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Water Pollution Threatens Nearly All Globally Agreed Development Goals

This study was a huge wake-up call to us about the quality of water worldwide

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Water Pollution, Globally, Development
FILE - A fisherman dangles his line to catch fish in polluted water off Beirut's seaside Corniche, Lebanon, June 23, 2019. VOA

Water pollution threatens nearly all the globally agreed development goals to end environmental destruction, poverty and suffering by 2030, economists warned in a report Tuesday, citing the largest-ever database on the world’s water quality.

The World Bank report warned of the ripple effects of water pollution on the health, economies, education and agriculture of rich and poor countries alike.

“This study was a huge wake-up call to us about the quality of water worldwide,” said Richard Damania, World Bank economist and one of the study’s authors.

“The world tends to focus on water quantity such as floods and droughts, but this report focuses on the more invisible threats — the effects of pollutants impacting global water quality,” Damania said.

Water Pollution, Globally, Development
Water pollution threatens nearly all the globally agreed development goals to end environmental destruction, poverty and suffering by 2030, economists warned. Pixabay

The 193 United Nations member states agreed on Sept. 25, 2015, to a lofty 15-year agenda of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with 169 targets aimed at helping everyone live healthier, more prosperous lives on a cleaner planet.

SDG 6 refers to clean water and sanitation for all, but the U.N. World Water Development Report found about three out of 10 people — 2.1 billion — did not have access to safely managed drinking water at home in 2015.

In sub-Saharan Africa, coverage was only 25 percent.

“Chemical contamination such as arsenic in Bangladesh, mercury in Maputo and fluoride in parts of Kenya are major concerns,” said Neil Jeffery, the CEO of water rights group Water Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP).

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“Clean water brings dignity. Entire communities are trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty, with a lack of basic water and sanitation impacting health, school attendance and livelihoods,” Jeffery told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Information key

The World Bank report used satellite data and artificial intelligence and machine learning to analyze nitrogen, salt and oxygen levels — water health markers — of water globally.

“Pollution affects countries both rich and poor. It is just the cocktails of chemicals that change,” Damania said. “Plastics and pharmaceutical contaminants are problems everywhere.”

Water Pollution, Globally, Development
The World Bank report warned of the ripple effects of water pollution on the health, economies, education and agriculture of rich and poor countries alike. Pixabay

Ripple effects of consuming pollutants include childhood stunting, infant mortality, lowered economic activity and food production.

“Information is the first step,” said Damania, in league with water rights groups.

By way of example, Jeffery cited that “informed consumers can make decisions to keep rubbish out of waterways.”

And they can pressure corporations and government “to take the challenge seriously,” said Javier Mateo-Sagasta, senior researcher at the Water Management Institute (WMI).

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The report said that the scale of the problem meant there is “no silver bullet,” but Damania remains optimistic that “social movements, political and corporate will and new technologies” could still save the threatened resource. (VOA)

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Researchers Develop New Tool That Can Detect Cancer

The technology could be used as a screening tool to help rule out cancer, which could mean fewer unnecessary follow-ups

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Cancer
The devices distinguish cell types with higher specificity than previous methods, thus the researchers hope their work might improve diagnosis, and give Cancer therapies better aim. Pixabay

Researchers from Duke University in the US, have created a new Cancer-Detecting Tool, which uses tiny circuits made up of DNA to identify Cancer cells by the molecular signatures on their surface.

According to the study published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, the research team fashioned the simple circuits from interacting strands of synthetic DNA that are tens of thousands of times finer than a human hair.

Unlike the circuits in a computer, these circuits work by attaching to the outside of a cell and analysing it for proteins found in greater numbers on some cell types than others.

If a circuit finds its targets, it labels the cell with a tiny light-up tag.

Because the devices distinguish cell types with higher specificity than previous methods, the researchers hope their work might improve diagnosis, and give cancer therapies better aim.

For the findings, the research team designed a DNA circuit that must latch onto that specific combination of proteins on the same cell to work.

“As a result they’re much less likely to flag the wrong cells,” said study researcher John Reif.

Each basic element of their DNA circuit consists of two DNA strands.

Cancer
Researchers from Duke University in the US, have created a new Cancer-Detecting Tool tool, which uses tiny circuits made up of DNA to identify Cancer cells by the molecular signatures on their surface. Pixabay

The first DNA strand folds over and partially pairs up with itself to form a hairpin shape.

One end of each hairpin is bound to a second strand of DNA that acts as a lock and tether, folding in such a way to fit a specific cell surface protein like a puzzle piece.

Together these two strands act to verify that that particular protein is present on the cell surface.

To look for cancer, the circuit components are mixed with a person’s cells in the lab.

If any cells are studded with the right combination of proteins, the complete circuit will attach.

Adding a strand of “initiator” DNA then causes one of the hairpins to open, which in turn triggers another in a chain reaction until the last hairpin in the circuit is opened and the cell lights up.

Cancer
For the findings, the research team designed a DNA circuit that must latch onto that specific combination of proteins on the same cell to work to detect Cancer. Pixabay

Test runs of the device in test tubes in Reif’s lab showed it can be used to detect leukemia cells and to distinguish them from other types of cancer within a matter of hours, just by the strength of their glow.

The devices can be easily reconfigured to detect different cell surface proteins by replacing the tether strands, the researchers said.

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The technology could be used as a screening tool to help rule out cancer, which could mean fewer unnecessary follow-ups, or to develop more targeted cancer treatments with fewer side effects.

In the future, Reif plans for the DNA circuits to release a small molecule that alerts the body’s immune system to attack the cancer cell. (IANS)