Medical Science Current Affairs - 2019

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Researchers found novel route to discover new drug targets

Researchers from the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB), Delhi have found a novel route to discover new drug targets and potential drugs.

These new drug targets route and potential drugs are mainly for parasites such as Loa loa nematode (roundworm) and Schistosoma mansoni platyhelminths (flatworm) that cause several diseases.

Why these parasites are dangerous?

  • Both these parasites are the major cause of health burden, particularly in African countries.
  • They have limited treatment options and there is the threat of drug resistance.
  • There also little interest in developing drugs for these diseases by pharmaceutical companies as they do not stand to benefit much commercially.

How it was found out?

  • Researchers first looked at Aminoacyl-tRNA synthetases (aaRSs) of the two parasites instead of blindly screening molecules, which is expensive and takes a long time.
  • Then they had picked up one of the enzymes that contribute to protein synthesis and validated it as a drugable target.
  • The researchers studied the crystal structure of the enzyme with cladosporin, a very potent compound (drug) that targets these parasites.
  • It revealed how tightly the compound binds within the active site of the enzyme. Thus, this approach of looking at the conserved region of the parasites is direct, quicker and cheaper.

aaRSs: These are vital enzymes that decode genetic information and enable protein translation. This enzyme family has 20 members and each one of enzymes contributes to protein synthesis. Even if one of 20 enzymes is missing then protein synthesis cannot happen.

Month: Categories: InternationalScience & Technology

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Doctors from Netherlands perform brain implant for the first time in history

Doctors from Netherlands have performed the first-ever brain implant on a 58-year-old woman paralysed by Lou Gehrig’s disease (also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis-ALS).

With this, she became the first patient to use a brain-computer interface. The implant has enabled paralysed women to communicate in day-to-day life via a speech computer.

What is the case?

Prior to this implant, the ALS disease had caused nerve degeneration in the women and she was left completely locked-in. Her motor neurons had deteriorated to the point where she could only control her eye muscles.

First-ever brain implant

  • Doctors in first-ever brain implant directly installed a device called an electrocorticograph (ECoG) on the women’s brain. The device has electrodes fitted in the brain.
  • Using these electrodes in brain, the patient can control the computer using brain signals, spell out messages at two letters per minute.

How it works?

  • These implanted electrodes detect brain activity that results when she moves fingers in her mind, and coverts it into a mouse click.
  • The patient has a screen in front of her that includes the alphabet and some additional functions (such as selecting previously spelled words or deleting letters).
  • Each letter on screen lights up one at a time, and by using her brain to click the mouse at the right time, she can compose words one letter at a time.
  • These words then are vocalized by a speech computer. The entire process is done wirelessly.

Month: Categories: InternationalScience & Technology

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