Science and Technology Current Affairs

China successfully produces gas from flammable ice under South China Sea

China has successfully produced natural gas from methane hydrate, also known as “flammable ice”, in an experimental project in the South China Sea (SCS).

As part of the experiment, a drilling platform had produced a total of 309,000 cubic metres of natural gas from gas hydrate in 60 days.

Methane hydrate has been identified as a potential new gas source for China, with the South China Sea thought to contain some of the world’s most promising flammable ice deposits. India, Canada and US are also believed to be looking at hydrates as an alternative energy source.

Flammable ice

Flammable ice (also known as methane hydrate or methane clathrates) consists of methane trapped within water crystals. It is the world’s largest natural gas resource is trapped beneath permafrost and ocean sediment where low temperature and moderate pressure combine to trap methane in this specific way.

The methane hydrate is highly flammable and energy-intensive fuel as one cubic metre of the compound can releases about 160 cubic metres of gas. It can break down into water and methane after temperature is raised or pressure is lowered.

It is likely to be the world’s last great source of carbon-based fuel and has potential to be a revolutionary energy source that could cater future energy needs. Its vast deposits exist underneath all oceans around the globe, especially on the edge of continental shelves.

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Scientists for first time edit genes of human embryos

Scientists from Oregon Health and Science University, US for first time have successfully edited genes of human embryos to correct defective DNA that cause inherited diseases.

They had used the CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing technology to alter human DNA in single-cell embryos, which allows specific sections of DNA to be altered or replaced.

Key Facts

In this experiment, scientists had used sperm donated from men who carried inherited disease mutations to demonstrate that the genes can be corrected. The one-celled embryos were created in the experiment, were never intended to be implanted into a womb and were only allowed to develop for a few days.

They had used a process called “germline engineering” in which genetically modified organisms pass changes to their offspring to eradicate inherited disease. It allowed so-called permanent germline changes to pass down to any offspring.

The research holds great potential to avoid many genetic diseases, but has raised fears of “designer babies”. It is also considered as a milestone in journey for giving birth to the first genetically modified humans.

CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing technology

CRISPR short form of clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats. It allows scientists to selectively edit genome parts and replace them with new DNA stretches. CRISPR is a collection of DNA sequences that direct Cas9 where to cut and paste. Cas9 is an enzyme that can edit DNA, allowing the alteration of genetic patterns by genome modification. CRISPR-Cas9 technology has the potential to revolutionise the treatment of blood diseases, tumours and other genetic diseases.

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