Blog

Indian Express Synopsis 10th February 2020

1)EXPLAINED: MAPPING INDIAN GENOME

The government has cleared an ambitious gene-mapping project that is being described by those involved as the “first scratching of the surface of the vast genetic diversity of India”.

What is a genome?:- Every organism’s genetic code is contained in its Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid (DNA), the building blocks of life. The discovery that DNA is structured as a “double helix” by James Watson and Francis Crick in 1953, for which they won a Nobel Prize in 1962, was the spark in the long, continuing quest for understanding how genes dictate life, its traits, and what causes diseases.

A genome, simply put, is all the genetic matter in an organism. It is defined as “an organism’s complete set of DNA, including all of its genes. Each genome contains all of the information needed to build and maintain that organism.

Has this Mapping been done before? :

The Human Genome Project (HGP) was an international programme that led to the decoding of the entire human genome. It has been described as “one of the great feats of exploration in history.

Beginning on October 1, 1990 and completed in April 2003, the HGP gave us the ability, for the first time, to read nature’s complete genetic blueprint for building a human being.

What then is the ‘Genome India’ Project?

This is being spearheaded by the Centre for Brain Research at Bengaluru-based Indian Institute of Science as the nodal point of about 20 institutions, each doing its bit in collecting samples, doing the computations, and then the research. Its aim is to ultimately build a grid of the Indian “reference genome”, to understand fully the type and nature of diseases and traits that comprise the diverse Indian population.

The mega project hopes to form a grid after collecting 10,000 samples in the first phase from across India, to arrive at a representative Indian genome.

What are the challenges involved?:- 

MEDICAL ETHICS: In a project that aims only to create a database of genetic information, gene modification is not among the stated objectives. It is important to note, however, that this has been a very fraught subject globally. The lure to “intervene” may be much more if this kind of knowledge is available, without one being fully aware of the attendant risks.

DATA & STORAGE: After collection of the sample, anonymity of the data and questions of its possible use and misuse would need to be addressed. Keeping the data on a cloud is fraught with problems and would raise questions of ownership of the data. India is yet to pass a Data Privacy Bill with adequate safeguards. Launching a Genome India Project before the privacy question is settled could give rise to another set of problems.

SOCIAL ISSUES: The question of heredity and racial purity has obsessed civilisations, and more scientific studies of genes and classifying them could reinforce stereotypes and allow for politics and history to acquire a racial twist.

In India a lot of politics is now on the lines of who are “indigenous” people and who are not. A Genome India Project could add a genetic dimension to the cauldron.

 

2)EXPLAINED : LESSONS FROM MELTING ANTARCTICA GLACIER

A 2019 study had discovered a fast-growing cavity in the glacier sized roughly two-thirds the area of Manhattan. Then last week, researchers from New York University detected warm water at a vital point below the glacier.

In the Antarctic floats a massive glacier, roughly the size of Britain, whose melting has been a cause of alarm for scientists over the years.

What is the glacier and why is it important?

Called the Thwaites Glacier, it is 120 km wide at its broadest, fast-moving and melting fast over the years. Because of its size (1.9 lakh square km), it contains enough water to raise the world sea level by more than half a metre. Studies have found the amount of ice flowing out of it has nearly doubled over the past 30 years. Today, Thwaites’s melting already contributes 4% to global sea level rise each year. It is estimated that it would collapse into the sea in 200-900 years. Thwaites is important for Antarctica as it slows the ice behind it from freely flowing into the ocean. Because of the risk it faces — and poses — Thwaites is often called the Doomsday Glacier.

What has the new study found?

Researchers from New York University detected warm water at a vital point below the glacier.

Why is that significant?

When glaciers melt and lose weight, they float off the land where they used to be situated. When this happens, the grounding line retreats. That exposes more of a glacier’s underside to seawater, increasing the likelihood it will melt faster. This results in the glacier speeding up, stretching out, and thinning, causing the grounding line to retreat ever further.

How was the warming water detected?

Scientists dug a 600-m-deep and 35-cm-wide access hole, and deployed an ocean-sensing device called Icefin to measure the waters moving below the glacier’s surface.

 

 

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x
%d bloggers like this: