Scientists from United Kingdom reported success in a new cancer therapy for a type of blood cancer T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (T-ALL).
GS III: Science and Technology
Dimensions of the Article:
- What happens in this form of cancer?
- What is ‘base editing?’
- How did base-editing actually work?
- How effective was the treatment?
What happens in this form of cancer?
- T-ALL affects the stem cells in the bone marrow that produce a particular kind of white blood cells (WBC) called T lymphocytes (T cells). These cells provide a person immunity by killing cells carrying infections, activating other immune cells, and regulating the immune response.
- At least 20% of these WBC are atypical– as they accumulate in the bone marrow, they crowd out “good” WBCs and hence weaken the immune system. These unhealthy cells can also accumulate in other parts of the body like the liver, spleen and lymph nodes.
- While found in both children and adults, T-ALL’s incidence decreases with age.
- Chemotherapy, Bone marrow transplant and radiation therapy are typically used to treat the disease, which progresses quickly.
What is ‘base editing?’
- The genetic code of an individual is made up of various combinations of the nucleotides adenine (A), guanine (G), cytosine (C), and thymine (T).
- Sequences of these bases spell out genes that provide instructions on how to make the huge variety of proteins required for bodily functioning.
- In some cases T-cells may have developed malignancy, maybe as a result of an incorrect arrangement of the bases. A technique to fix this imbalance shall result in a stronger immune system.
- An approach that allows for the alteration of genes and the “fixing” of mistakes has captured the attention of the biomedical engineering community in the past two decades.
- One such leading strategy has been the CRISPR-cas9 technique.
- The CRISPR-cas 9 system employs an enzyme that functions like molecular scissors to cut off and store portions of a virus’ genes, an approach that some bacteria adopt to protect themselves against viruses.
- A guide RNA can be used to introduce a different genetic code at the locations of incision, and it can be programmed to cut a segment of DNA at a specific position.
- There are a various ways to make these alterations, but the CRISPR-cas9 system is thought to be the quickest and most adaptable method.
An upgrade to CRISPR-cas9
- The CRISPR-cas9 method has been modified by David Liu of the Broad Institute in Massachusetts so that particular bases can be changed directly.
- For example, a C can be turned into a G and a T into an A. While still a nascent technology, base editing is reportedly more effective at treating blood disorders which are caused by so-called single point mutations, or when a change in a single base pair can cause terminal disease.
How did base-editing actually work?
- The patient (Alyssa, a 13 year old) received a dose of healthy T-cells from a donor that would hopefully attack her cancerous cells without destroying each other. Known as CAR-T therapy, this principle has been around for a while, but Alyssa’s case was different.
- Traditionally, CAR-T therapy involves adding a gene to T-cells that causes them to seek out and destroy cancerous cells. The modified cells are known as CAR-T cells. First, an individual’s own T-cells are removed, which are then modified and reintroduced to the individual.
- The problem with such an approach (besides the expense) is that very often, when an individual is really sick, it is simply impossible to obtain enough healthy T-cells to create CAR-T cells.
- While donors can provide healthy T-cells to an individual, these T-cells from a foreign body are going to attack every single cell in that patient’s body, making the treatment counterproductive.
- Thus, scientists have resorted to what is known as base editing– through this technique of genetic editing, they make it possible for one donor to supply T-cells to multiple recipients, without the traditional risks associated with it. Thus, Alyssa received genetically modified cells that were programmed to specifically attack her cancer while leaving the rest of her body alone.
How effective was the treatment?
- Three months after the treatment, the cancer seemed to resurface but the most recent investigations suggest no signs of it.
- Whether the treatment has reliably and entirely fixed the immune system, remains to be established.
-Source: The Hindu, Indian Express
India strongly condemned the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation chief’s visit to Line of Control (LoC) from the Pakistani side.
GS II- International Relations
Dimensions of the Article:
- About the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)
- Why is the region important for India?
- How much trade does India do with countries in this region?
About the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)
- The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation is an international organization founded in 1969, consisting of 57 member states, with a collective population of over 1.8 billion as of 2015 with 53 countries being Muslim-majority countries.
- The organisation states that it is “the collective voice of the Muslim world” and works to “safeguard and protect the interests of the Muslim world in the spirit of promoting international peace and harmony”.
- The OIC has permanent delegations to the United Nations and the European Union.
- Some members, especially in West Africa and South America, are – though with large Muslim populations – not necessarily Muslim majority countries.
- A few countries with significant Muslim populations, such as Russia and Thailand, sit as Observer States.
Why is the region important for India?
- India has enjoyed centuries of good relations with countries like Iran, while smaller gas-rich nation Qatar is one of India’s closest allies in the region.
- India shares good relations with most of the countries in the Gulf.
- The two most important reasons for the relationship are oil and gas, and trade.
- Two additional reasons are the huge number of Indians who work in the Gulf countries, and the remittance they send back home.
How much trade does India do with countries in this region?
- The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which includes UAE, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar and Kuwait has emerged as a major trading partner of India and has vast potential as India’s investment partner for the future.
- The GCC’s substantial oil and gas reserves are of utmost importance for India’s energy needs.
- The UAE was India’s third largest trading partner in 2021-2022, and second largest for both exports ($28 billion) and imports ($45 billion) when these are counted individually.
- In terms of total trade volume, the UAE ($72.9 billion) was behind the United States ($1.19 trillion) and China ($1.15 trillion).
- The UAE accounted for 6.6% of India’s total exports and 7.3% of imports in the last financial year, up 68.4% since the previous year when international trade was impacted by the pandemic.
-Source: The Hindu
Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) Science & Technology; Minister of State (Independent Charge) Earth Sciences; MoS PMO, Personnel, Public Grievances, Pensions, Atomic Energy and Space said that India is not reliant on China for accessing rare earth minerals.
GS-I: Geography (Distribution of Key Natural Resources, Mineral & Energy Resources), GS Paper-II: International Relations (India and its Neighborhood)
Dimensions of the Article:
- What are REMs?
- Heavy dependence
- India Rare Earths Mission
What are REMs?
- The rare earths minerals (REM) are a set of seventeen metallic elements. These include the fifteen lanthanides on the periodic table in addition to scandium and yttrium that show similar physical and chemical properties to the lanthanides.
- The REMs have unique catalytic, metallurgical, nuclear, electrical, magnetic and luminescent properties. While named ‘rare earth’, they are in fact not that rare and are relatively abundant in the Earth’s crust.
Strategic importance of REMs:
- They have distinctive electrical, metallurgical, catalytic, nuclear, magnetic and luminescent properties.
- Its usage range from daily use (e.g., lighter flints, glass polishing mediums, car alternators) to high-end technology (lasers, magnets, batteries, fibre-optic telecommunication cables).
- Even futuristic technologies need these REMs (For example high-temperature superconductivity, safe storage and transport of hydrogen for a post-hydrocarbon economy, environmental global warming and energy efficiency issues).
- Due to their unique magnetic, luminescent, and electrochemical properties, they help in technologies perform with reduced weight, reduced emissions, and energy consumption; therefore give them greater efficiency, performance, miniaturization, speed, durability, and thermal stability.
- In 2019, the U.S. imported 80% of its rare earth minerals from China, the U.S. Geological Survey says.
- The EU gets 98% of its supply from China, the European Commission said last year.
- Amid the transition to green energy, in which rare earth minerals are sure to play a role, China’s market dominance is enough to sound an alarm in western capitals.
- Rare earth minerals, with names like neodymium, praseodymium and dysprosium, are crucial to the manufacture of magnets used in industries of the future, such as wind turbines and electric cars. And they are already being used in consumer goods such as smartphones, computer screens and telescopic lenses.
- In 2021 the U.S. Senate passed a law aimed at improving American competitiveness that includes provisions to improve critical minerals supply chains.
- U.S. aims to boost production and processing of rare earths and lithium, another key mineral component, while “working with allies to increase sustainable global supply and reduce reliance on competitors,” Deputy Director of the National Economic Council in 2021.
- The best hope for boosting American production can be found at the Mountain Pass mine in California.
- Once one of the major players in the sector, the mine suffered as China rose and ate up its market share, aided by Beijing’s subsidies.
- China is expected to remain dominant for some time to come, but experts say that if recycling is scaled up, “20 to 30% of Europe’s rare earth magnet needs by 2030 could be sourced domestically in the EU from literally zero.”
India Rare Earths Mission
- Industries in India have encouraged the government to establish a mission, staffed by experts, similar to the India Semiconductor Mission, and make ocean exploration a key part of the strategy for the Deep Ocean Mission.
- In addition to diversifying sources of supply for these strategic raw materials, it would aim to promote private sector mining in the industry.
- In reference to China’s “Made in China 2025” effort, which focuses on novel materials and employs rare earth minerals to create permanent magnets, the business group has proposed adding rare earth minerals in the “Make in India” campaign.
Why such move?
- Though India has 6% of the world’s rare earth reserves, it only produces 1% of global output, and meets most of its requirements of such minerals from China.
- In 2018-19, for instance, 92% of rare earth metal imports by value and 97% by quantity were sourced from China.
-Source: The Hindu
Recently, Total number of Registered Geographical Indications (GI) rise to 432
GS III: Indian Economy
Dimensions of the Article:
- About GI Tag
- The Union government has granted the Geographical Indication (GI) tag to 9 products from across the country, including the Gamosa of Assam; Alibag White Onion from Maharashtra; Ladakh Raktsey Karpo Apricot; and Attappady Aattukombu Avara, among others.
- Of the 9 GI tags given, five were for products from Kerala, including Attappady Thuvara, an important traditional crop of the Attappady tribal area in Palakkad district, Kanthalloor Vattavada Veluthulli, Kodungallur Pottuvellari, Attappady Aattukombu Avara and Onattukara Ellu.
About GI Tag
- Geographical Indications of Goods are defined as that aspect of industrial property which refer to the geographical indication referring to a country or to a place situated therein as being the country or place of origin of that product.
- Typically, such a name conveys an assurance of quality and distinctiveness which is essentially attributable to the fact of its origin in that defined geographical locality, region or country.
- Geographical Indications are covered as a component of intellectual property rights (IPRs) under the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property.
- GI is also governed by the World Trade Organization’s (WTO’s) Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS).
- In India, Geographical Indications registration is administered by the Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999 which came into force with effect from September 2003, this tag is issued by the Geographical Indication Registry under the Department of Industry Promotion and Internal Trade (DIPIT), Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
- The first product in India to be accorded with GI tag was Darjeeling tea in the year 2004-05.
- The registration of a geographical indication is valid for a period of 10 years.
- It can be renewed from time to time for further period of 10 years each.
- The Geographical Indications Registry would be located at Chennai.
- Any association of persons, producers, organisation or authority established by or under the law can be a registered proprietor.
- Their name should be entered in the Register of Geographical Indication as registered proprietor for the Geographical Indication applied for.
- Karnataka has the highest number of GI tags i.e. 47 products followed by Tamil Nadu (39).