Friday, December 15

Intelligent Flu Viruses

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Exciting advances against flu influenza (flu) attacks several million people each year, causing 250,000 to 500,000 deaths annually. in pandemic years, the death toll can rise to millions. flu is caused by certain types of rna viruses that attack mammals and birds. in advanced countries it is quite common for the elderly to get themselves vacci- nated against it, so that they are completely or partially protected. however, the virus is quite a scam artist, since it uses ‘smoke and mirrors’ to deceive the attacking antibody or vaccine. it evolves by rapidly changing the structure of the protein coat that it wears on its surface so that vaccines effective against it in one year lose their efficacy in a subsequent year as it has changed its coat (surface protein) by which it was being recognised. the problem is complicated by the fact that there are sixteen different types of coats (surface proteins, proteins hemagglutinin (ha)) that it can wear, so that any vaccine effective against one of these viruses will be ineffective against another. there has, therefore, been a search by researchers to discover a region of that surface protein coat which does not change. the protein is shaped like a mushroom and at the stalk of this mushroom-shaped protein such a region has now been discovered. scientists at scripps research institute in la jolla, california, collaborated with peter palese and colleagues at mount sinai medical school in new york to develop a vaccine which was effective against all flu viruses that attack human beings. experiments carried out on mice infected with these viruses showed that the vaccines developed reduced the severity of the flu attack against all the virus types, thereby holding out hope that an effective vaccine against all types of flu viruses may soon become available. an israeli firm, biondvax, and the american firm, dynavax, are in the process of developing the vaccines commercially ( proceedings of the national academy of sciences, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1013387107). pillows and cushions from milk there are constant efforts being made to develop biodegradable materials in order to reduce environmental pollution. organic materials, such as those of plant or animal origin, break down rapidly and are considered to be desirable. these include wood, paper, cotton, corn, straw, etc. materials such as plastic (such as pvc, rayon, nylon), metals, glasses, foams (used to make cups and coolers), ceramics (used in fibre glass, carbon fibre etc.) do not break down easily in the environment and are considered to be non-biodegradable. the breakdown of biodegradable materials can occur by a number of pro- cesses such as by sunlight (photo-degradation), water (hydrolysis), air (oxidation) etc. now, a key milk component, casein, has been found to be useful for the manufacture of a biodegradable foam that can be used in furniture cushions, pillows, packaging and insulating materials as well as a number of other products. casein has been used in the past in adhesives and paper coatings. david schiraldi and colleagues in usa in collaboration with a research group in thailand have now combined milk with clay along with some other chemicals to produce strong foam that can find many useful applications (biomacromolecules, 2010, 11 (10), pp 2640–2646, doi: 10.1021/bm100615). stunning electric jaguar at the paris car show 2010 held recently, jaguar revealed its concept electric car which left many spectators gasping with awe. the jaguar c-x75 can do an amazing 0 to 100 km/h (62 mph) in just 3.4 seconds! it can also accelerate from 80 to 145km/h (50 to 90mph) in only 2.3 seconds. powered by four 145kw motors, one on each wheel, it produces 780bhp. fitted with micro gas turbines to generate energy which is stored in the lithium-ion batteries, it has a range of 560 miles. it promises to herald a new era in automobile technology. silver and water on moon in october last year, nasa crashed a rocket on the moon and the ejected material was ana- lysed by spectroscopic methods. one of the great surprises was that there was a large amount of water ejected as a result of the crash. about 5.6 per cent of the debris ejected comprised water, indicating that about a billion gallons of water may exist within 10 kilometres of the point of impact. much of this water may exist as ice under the surface in the form of a layer of permafrost. another surprise was that there was a significant amount of silver ejected also. so when you next listen to the 1909 hit song, by the light of the silvery moon, remember that our moon is indeed silvery.

Exciting advances against flu Influenza (flu) attacks several million people each year, causing 250,000 to 500,000 deaths annually. In pandemic years, the death toll can rise to millions. Flu is caused by certain types of RNA viruses that attack mammals and birds. In advanced countries it is quite common for the elderly to get themselves vaccinated against it, so that they are completely or partially protected.

However, the virus is quite a scam artist, since it uses ‘smoke and mirrors’ to deceive the attacking antibody or vaccine. It evolves by rapidly changing the structure of the protein coat that it wears on its surface so that vaccines effective against it in one year lose their efficacy in a subsequent year as it has changed its coat (surface protein) by which it was being recognised. The problem is complicated by the fact that there are sixteen different types of coats (surface proteins, proteins Hemagglutinin (HA)) that it can wear, so that any vaccine effective against one of these viruses will be ineffective against another.

There has, therefore, been a search by researchers to discover a region of that surface protein coat which does not change. The protein is shaped like a mushroom and at the stalk of this mushroom-shaped protein such a region has now been discovered.

Scientists at Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, collaborated with Peter Palese and colleagues at Mount Sinai Medical School in New York to develop a vaccine which was effective against all flu viruses that attack human beings. Experiments carried out on mice infected with these viruses showed that the vaccines developed reduced the severity of the flu attack against all the virus types, thereby holding out hope that an effective vaccine against all types of flu viruses may soon become available. An Israeli firm, Biondvax, and the American firm, Dynavax, are in the process of developing the vaccines commercially ( Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1013387107). Pillows and cushions from milk There are constant efforts being made to develop biodegradable materials in order to reduce environmental pollution. Organic materials, such as those of plant or animal origin, break down rapidly and are considered to be desirable.

These include wood, paper, cotton, corn, straw, etc. Materials such as plastic (such as PVC, rayon, nylon), metals, glasses, foams (used to make cups and coolers), ceramics (used in fibre glass, carbon fibre etc.) do not break down easily in the environment and are considered to be non-biodegradable. The breakdown of biodegradable materials can occur by a number of processes such as by sunlight (photo-degradation), water (hydrolysis), air (oxidation) etc.

Now, a key milk component, casein, has been found to be useful for the manufacture of a biodegradable foam that can be used in furniture cushions, pillows, packaging and insulating materials as well as a number of other products. Casein has been used in the past in adhesives and paper coatings. David Schiraldi and colleagues in USA in collaboration with a research group in Thailand have now combined milk with clay along with some other chemicals to produce strong foam that can find many useful applications (Biomacromolecules, 2010, 11 (10), pp 2640–2646, DOI: 10.1021/bm100615). Stunning electric jaguar At the Paris Car Show 2010 held recently, Jaguar revealed its concept electric car which left many spectators gasping with awe. The Jaguar C-X75 can do an amazing 0 to 100 km/h (62 mph) in just 3.4 seconds! It can also accelerate from 80 to 145km/h (50 to 90mph) in only 2.3 seconds. Powered by four 145kW motors, one on each wheel, it produces 780bhp. Fitted with micro gas turbines to generate energy which is stored in the lithium-ion batteries, it has a range of 560 miles.

It promises to herald a new era in automobile technology. Silver and water on moon In October last year, Nasa crashed a rocket on the moon and the ejected material was analysed by spectroscopic methods. One of the great surprises was that there was a large amount of water ejected as a result of the crash. About 5.6 per cent of the debris ejected comprised water, indicating that about a billion gallons of water may exist within 10 kilometres of the point of impact. Much of this water may exist as ice under the surface in the form of a layer of permafrost. Another surprise was that there was a significant amount of silver ejected also.

So when you next listen to the 1909 hit song, By the light of the silvery moon, remember that our moon is indeed silvery.

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