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World’s oldest fossils discovered in Quebec, Canada

Scientists have claimed that they have discovered oldest fossils on Earth in rocks from Quebec, Canada.

Carbon dating techniques suggest that these rocks are at least 3.8 billion years old and might even be 4.3 billion years old.

Key Facts
  • The fossils are tiny and consist of tubes and filaments up to half a millimetre in length and around half the width of a human hair.
  • The fossils are thought to be the remains of bacteria that lived on iron and dwelt around hydrothermal vent systems i.e. mineral rich hot springs on the seafloor.
  • They’re made of haematite, a type of iron oxide (known as rust). Some of the filaments are branched, some resemble loose coils and others appear to be joined to knobs of haematite.
  • These structures were found to contain graphite as well as the minerals apatite and carbonate which are basically associated with biological matter.
  • Iron—oxide granules was also found and in other sections of the rocks, structures such as carbonate rosettes were discovered which might have formed as biological matter broke down.
  • The rocks in which the fossils were found are metamorphic i.e. they have experienced high temperatures and pressures since they were formed.
  • The size and arrangement of the haematite structures indicates that these microbes were breathing oxygen at a time when oxygen is thought to have been scarce.
Significance
  • This discovery supports the idea that life emerged from hot, seafloor vents shortly after planet Earth formed.
  • Thus, provides strong evidence that the first life on Earth and formed around nutrient-rich hydrothermal vents at the bottom of the ocean.
  • It is one of leading theories to show signs of how life spawned on Earth, as opposed to other theories such as panspermia, which suggests that life was deposited by asteroid or other rocky body that crashed into Earth.

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India rejects attempts of EU, Canada for global investment agreement

India, along with Brazil, Argentina and some other nations rejected an informal attempt of European Union (EU) and Canada to work towards a global investment agreement at World Trade Organisation (WTO)-level.

The EU and Canada proposed agreement incorporates a contentious Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism. They wanted their investment pact to be the template for a similar multilateral agreement.

What is Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanism?

The ISDS mechanism permits companies to drag governments to international arbitration without exhausting the local remedies. It also allows them to claim huge amounts as compensation citing losses they suffered due to reasons, including policy changes. The contentious ISDS mechanism already has been incorporated by investment pact by the EU and Canada.

What is India’s position?

India has rejected such mechanism. It clearly held that only after all local options have been exhausted for settling disputes between a corporate and a government, then the issues can be taken up in international arbitration tribunals. It also held that such provisions could be a part of bilateral agreements but they can’t be allowed in a multilateral agreement.

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Scientists develops first Biological Pacemaker using Human Stem Cells 

Scientists from Canada have developed the first functional pacemaker cells using human pluripotent stem cells. 

The cells can regulate heart beats with electrical impulses. It paves the way for alternate biological pacemaker therapy.

Key Facts 
  • Pluripotent stem cells have the potential to differentiate into more than 200 different cell types that make up every tissue and organ in the body.
  • These cells can be coaxed in 21 days to develop into pacemaker cells. For this purpose researchers had used developmental-biology approach to establish a specific protocol for generating pacemaker cells.
  • These human pacemaker cells were tested in rat hearts and have shown to function as a biological pacemaker, by activating the electrical impulses that trigger the contraction of the heart.
Significance of this research
  • Learning how to generate pacemaker cells could help in understanding disorders in pacemaker cells, and provide a cell source for developing a biological pacemaker.
  • Biological pacemakers offers promising alternative to electronic pacemakers and overcome their drawbacks as a lack of hormonal responsiveness and t inability to adapt to changes in heart size in pediatric patients.
Comment

In general Sinoatrial node pacemaker cells are the primary pacemaker of the heart that controls the heartbeat throughout life. Defects in these pacemaker cells can lead to heart rhythm disorders that are commonly treated by implantation of electronic pacemaker devices. A pacemaker is a device which is placed in the chest or abdomen to help control abnormal heartbeats using low-energy electrical impulses.

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