Science Podcasts

Podcast 25: Fabricating a scaffold for cartilage repair

 Yogendra Pratap Singh from IIT Guwahati explains how the biphasic scaffold fabricated using silk is superior to the existing ones. Since the entire scaffold is made of silk, the junction between the half that is spongy and mimics the cartilage while the other half is less porous and mimics the bone is seamless. In rabbits, the fibre-reinforced scaffold allowed more bone formation, while the cartilage was regenerated and completely repaired.

Podcast 24: Detecting organophosphoporus pesticides in apples and tomatoes

Partha Mahata from Jadavpur University explains how the cadmium-based MOF synthesised by his team is capable of detecting organophosphoporus pesticides both in water solution and in apples and tomatoes. The MOF is highly sensitive and is capable of detecting the pesticides even if present in ppb concentration.

Podcast 23: Sniffing out lung cancer

IIT Bombay researchers explain how the platform that they developed will help sniff out volatile organic compounds in a gas phase at single molecular levels. Since certain organic compounds in exhaled breath are clinically established biomarkers for early stage lung cancer, the platform can potentially be used for detecting early stage lung cancer. Validation on patients is yet to be done. The same platform can also be used to monitor air-pollution levels or detect explosives like TNT.

Podcast 22: Increasing the longevity of C. elegans

Anab Mukhopadhyay explains how the longevity of C. elegans was increased 40-60% by using a gene-diet pairing in a mutant. The lifespan increased even when there was no restriction on the quantity of food consumed. The understanding of gene-diet pairings is important as it will give researchers a handle to engage a targeted approach to regulate lifespan.

Podcast 21: IISc superconductivity claim faces another jolt

Satishchandra Ogale at IISER Pune explains that though the gold-silver thin films synthesised by his team is different from IISc’s Au-Ag nanosized films and pellets and the microstructure is also not the same, no signature of superconductivity in either resistivity or magnetism measurements was seen. This is yet another jolt to IISc claims after MIT physicist Brian Skinner raised a red flag after noticing nearly identical noise in two presumably independent measurements in IISc superconductivity study.

Podcast 20: Drug target to treat Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and cancer discovered

Rearchers from the Institute of Life Sciences, Bhubaneswar have identified the novel mechanism by which misfolded proteins form aggregates and get degraded in the cells. They have discovered that downregulation of TRIM16 protein may help in treating cancers, while activation of the TRIM16 protein may have therapeutic benefits in the case of neurodegerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

Podcast 19: Eco-friendly process developed for textile industry

 By using liquid and supercritical carbon dioxide, researchers at the University of Calicut have done away water for sizing and desizing cotton and polyester yarn. Sizing and desizing processes require huge quantity of water and also leads to enormous water pollution. The eco-friendly process allows both carbon dioxide and sucrose octaacetate, used as a sizing agent, to be recycled

Podcast 18: Finding new drug target for A. baumannii bacteria

 IIT Roorkee researchers have identified the RNA protein Hfq as a potential drug target. Once the Hfq gene is removed, the Acinetobacter baumannii bacteria become less virulent, more susceptible to environmental stress, and survival under desiccation is compromised. Targeting the virulence of the bacteria opens up a  new opportunity to develop more effective drugs.

Podcast 17: New target to reverse iron overload disease

IGIB researchers have discovered a pathway that regulates hepcidin hormone production. The hepcidin hormone is a central regulator of iron in the body and its dysregulation can lead to anaemia or excess iron accumulation in liver and heart, leading to multi-organ failure. The researchers identified the target pathway using a different approach and found a strategy for therapy.

Podcast 16: Striking at the root of head and neck cancer

Researchers at IISER Bhopal have found that depleting the production of a specific protein kinase (PAK2) has a cascading effect in head and neck cancer. The expression of both cancer gene (c-Myc) and cancer-specific metabolic enzyme (PKM2) gets compromised when PAK2 protein is depleted. Inhibitors developed to target the PAK2 protein are more likely to be successful in treating head and neck cancer and reducing resistance to cancer drugs.

Podcast 15: How species can turn invasive in the same ecosystem

Fruit flies selected for dispersal evolved traits — increased aggression, exploration and activity — which together is more likely to make them more invasive, IISER Pune researchers have found. In response to climate change and habitat destruction, there is an increasing possibility for the evolution of these traits in organisms selected for dispersal. This will lead to native species becoming more invasive in the same ecosystem.

Podcast 14: How Zika causes microcephaly

Pankaj Seth of National Brain Research Centre (NBRC) explains how he and his team identified the molecular and cellular mechanisms by which Zika virus causes microcephaly. They found the envelop protein of the virus was responsible for arresting the proliferation of human foetal neural stem cells and for killing the cells that were becoming neuron-like. The combined effect reduces the pool of foetal brain cells leading to smaller size of the brain.

Podcast 13: Increasing the cellular uptake of flurosecent probe

Govindasamy Mugesh explains how the the cellular uptake of fluorescent probe naphthalimide was drastically improved (from 5-8% to up to 98%) by substituting two of its hydrogen atoms with iodine. The iodine atom forms a halogen bond with the MCT8 receptor that ferries the molecule across the membrane. The receptor is known to transport thyroxine, which is a thyroid hormone containing iodine, into the cells.

Podcast 12: Ten-year journey to develop a diagnostic test for TB meningitis

Sagarika Haldar explains how AIIMS in collaboration with THSTI developed the rapid, point-of-care diagnostic test for TB meningitis. The test, which uses the DNA aptamer, has already been adapted to a sensor format and is being evaluated on clinical samples. It has taken the team 10 years to reach this stage.

Podcast 11: Isotope labelling to measure protein digestion

By using isotope-labelled proteins, researchers at St. John’s Research Institute, Bengaluru have developed a novel method to accurately measure the digestibility of dietary proteins. While only 57% of protein was absorbed in the case of both chickpea and mung beans, protein digestion was way higher in meat (chicken) and egg.

Podcast 10: Drug loaded in nanovesicles improves cancer drug delivery

IISER Pune researchers have increased the uptake of poorly water-soluble anticancer drug by loading it in nanovesicles that self-assemble. The nanovesicles can be loaded with both hydrophilic and hydrophobic drugs. The encapsulated drug produced 94% silencing of the target AURKA leading to 25% inhibition of RalA. As a result, there was 38% inhibition of anchorage independent growth of cancer cells — metastasis

Podcast 9: How cholesterol helps bacterial toxins kill cells

IISc researchers have found cholesterol present in cell membrane playing a central role in the two-step process of stabilising and binding together the pore-forming toxin Cytolysin A. On binding to cholesterol, the structure of the toxin protein that is bound to the cell membrane undergoes a change and is also stabilised. Cholesterol is also essential in holding together the molecules before the toxin forms the pore.

Podcast 8: Prolonging the stemness of mesenchymal stem cells

In a breakthrough, IIT Bombay researchers could ensure that human mesenchymal stem cells could multiply and retain their stemness (stem cell-like nature) for up to 51 days (20 generations) and differentiate into bone, cartilage or fat cells. The trick was to use soft hydrogel plates in place of the usually used plastic plates to culture the stem cells. A huge difference in the doubling time was seen — 512 times more stem cells were obtained when they were cultured on gel than on plastic plates.

Podcast 7: Developing bioactive wound dressing, skin graft

IIT Guwahati researchers have developed bioactive wound dressings and bio-artificial skin by using silkworm silk fibroin as matrix and coating it with recombinant spider silk proteins. The recombinant spider silk reduced bacterial population by nearly four-fold and showed good anti-biofilm properties and recruited cells to the site of wound. The skin graft was bilayered (demis and epidermis) and vascularised.

Podcast 6: The novel role of OVGP1 protein in embryo implantation

Mumbai-based researchers have discovered how the embryo signals the endometrium to express the OVGP1 protein for a brief period at the time of implantation. They found that the OVGP1 protein is required for balancing the expression of a few genes required for embryo implantation. This work in long term might have implications in management of infertility.

Podcast 5: Possibility of finding a promising target to reduce TB’s tissue-damaging effects

IGIB researchers have for the first time discovered that necrosis in granulomas result in the development of lipid-rich foamy macrophages, thus overthrowing the general belief that TB bacteria make the host cells accumulate lipids. They also report for the first time that foamy macrophages show more inflammatory response than normal macrophages. So targeting the tissue-damaging effects of inflammation may be helpful in TB patients.

Podcast 4: How bacteria develop resistance even when not exposed to antibiotics

Dr. Shraddha Karve and other researchers at IISER Pune found that when E. coli are subjected to different stresses simultaneously and in a unpredictable manner they evolved to tolerate novel stresses that they were never exposed to such as antibiotics and heavy metals. Also, the ability to cope with stress was significantly better when the exposure to complex, unpredictable environment continued for 100 days than 30 days.

Podcast 3: FDA-approved asthma drug effectively treats TB

Archita Mishra and other researchers from IISc found a FDA-approved asthma drug can be used for treating TB. Laboratory studies found the drug to be more effective in curtailing the growth of TB bacteria when used alone and in combination with anti-TB drugs — rifampicin and isoniazid. The drug was also able to prevent the bacteria from causing inflammation thereby proving to be more potent in killing the microbes. In mice models too the drug was effective in killing the TB bacteria both when used alone and in combination with rifampicin.

Podcast 2: Latent TB of the uterus can cause infertility

Dr. Padma Rekha Jirge and other Indian researchers have for the first time found an association between latent TB of the endometrium and fewer eggs in the ovary (low ovarian reserve) in infertile women. Though how latent TB actually causes this reduction is not known, treating the infection led to significant improvement in pregnancy outcomes in infertile women.

Podcast 1: Nandita Venkatesan is a fighter despite losing her hearing due to TB treatment

When she woke up after a short afternoon nap on November 22, 2013, two days after her 24th birthday, Nandita Venkatesan could see her mother and brother talking to her but could understand nothing; she could hear sounds but could not comprehend them. The noisy world around her almost fell silent. Her hearing loss was 80 per cent in the left ear and 50-60 per cent in the right ear. It has since deteriorated to over 90 per cent in both ears. The villain was the second-line anti-tuberculosis injection kanamycin that she had had for about three months.