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Future deafness treatments will be genetic in nature

As per estimates released in 2015, Deafness or hearing loss affects 1.1 billion people globally. There are many causes of deafness ranging from trauma to the ear to severe infections, developmental issues as well as exposure to noise. However, 80% of deafness cases are non-syndromic i.e. do not show any other symptoms such as ear malformations and are also genetic in nature. 
Cochlear implants have met a lot of success in recent years but come with its own set of benefits and risks and are definitely not a permanent cure. Like with any other genetic condition, deafness, too, has been known to be non-curable. But recently published research puts hope on the horizon for patients with deafness that gene editing technology could one day become mainstream and allow treatment for genetic deafness. 
Gene Editing technologies have taken the scientific world by storm in the recent years. Among these, CRISPR - Cas 9 system has gained quite a reputation for itself. What was published as general…

RotM: Interview with Dr. Michael Loik

For this month's Researcher of the Month, we spoke to Professor Michael Loik, at the Environmental Studies Department at University of California at Santa Cruz (UCSC). The Loik Laboratory has been studying the impact of short term weather patterns, changes in atmospheric composition and changes in plant physiology as a result of climate change in arid and semi-arid ecosystems.
Using results from their studies, the lab prepares communities for the ongoing climate change and devises information for adapting to fire risks and droughts. With a focus on reducing the emission of green house gases, the Loik laboratory also works on finding innovative solutions for farmers, which we will discuss today. 
Before, we get started, here is a video summary of his recent publication in the journal Earth's Future.



A man of few words, Prof. Loik was quick to revert to our queries regarding this wonderful accomplishment of his team. 
CTS: Where did the idea behind WSPV (Wavelength Specific Photo Vo…

Genetic Mutation helps Amish live longer, healthier!

Genetic mutations are usually associated with bad news. A mutation in BRCA genes could put you at risk of breast or ovarian cancer or give you a blood disorder like thalassemia or haemophilia. From cystic fibrosis to phenylketonuria, colour blindness to polycystic kidney, there is a long list (some rare, some not so rare) of diseases caused by mutations. 

Although, Marvel Comics has done a lot on its part to promote the good that can come out of harboring a rare mutation, the benefits are yet to reach the common man. A commonly cited example for good mutation is the resistance to malaria that is conferred by the Sickle Cell mutation, but it does come with the risk of getting two copies of the mutation and being affected by sickled red blood cells. There are a few other mutations that seem to help people lower their risk for heart diseases, get stronger bones or improve their under water vision.
But, a recently published paper in Science Advances puts light on a mutation in SERPINE1 gene …

RotM: Interview with Marie Hornig

For the current instalment of Researcher of the Month, we spoke to Marie Hornig, a third year PhD student at the Cytology and Evolutionary Biology Department at the University of Greifswald, Germany. Her recently published paper, co-authored by Joachim Haug and Carolin Haug, researchers at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, provides further details about the predator behaviour in mantodeans (animal order that consists of insects such as praying mantis and some 2400 other species). The subject of her study was a praying mantis fossil that is 110 million years old. 


CTS: The smallest of discoveries regarding dinosaurs get highlighted in the media. Here, a fossil preserved over 110 million years exists among us and there is hardly any mention in the media regarding this?
MH: I am fully aware that the focus of media does not represent the recent scientific findings, since non-vertebrate species have never gotten the attention that vertebrates do.
CTS:How do you feel about this? 
M…

Tomato plant turns small worms into cannibals!

For many many years I strongly believed that plants were helpless creatures, slowly trying to make some space for themselves between the concrete jungles and cultivated land that humans occupy. Dependent on the Earth, the Sun and the rains for their survival, plants were still toiling to give away to the world the sweet fruits of their labour and the precious oxygen that we simply cannot do without. 

But as I continue to read about plants while researching for this blog, I realized many things about plants. First and foremost, just like our own guts, they have their own microbiomes and work closely with other microbes for their own survival. If that was not sufficient, I also learnt that plants can actually sense when a herbivore attacks them and can be quite patient with the herbivore, before they decide to release certain chemicals that make the leaves taste so awful that the herbivore probably does not want to eat it anymore. Although it becomes a tasty delight for us is a different…

Can Global warming really ground planes?

On the 20th of June 2017, American Airlines cancelled more than 50 flights to and out of the Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix, Arizona. The primary reason for this cancellation was that the temperature of the region was too high for planes to fly.

Dr. Marshall Shepherd, an internationally known weather expert and the host of Weather Geeks, wrote a  post on Forbes explaining the phenomenon behind flight cancellations and high temperatures, which was then tweeted by Elon Musk, where it went viral.
No need to rely on scientists for global warming -- just use a thermometer https://t.co/0PbtAL8uRK — Elon Musk (@elonmusk) June 20, 2017
To summarize Dr. Shepherd's article and explain why flights were cancelled, we first need to understand the principle of flight in an aeroplane. The wing of the aeroplane is designed to create a difference in the momentum in the air ahead of the wing as it passes over it to create lift. Faster the change in the momentum greater is the lift create…

RotM: Interview with Dr. Suresh Thareja & Dr. Sant Kumar Verma

For this edition of Researcher of the Month (RotM), we interviewed researchers Dr. Suresh Thareja and research fellow Sant Kumar Verma from Guru Ghasidas Central University located in Bilaspur, Chattisgarh, India.  Dr Thareja is the assistant professor for Pharmaceutical Chemistry in the School of Pharmaceutical Sciences at Ghasidas Central University and currently visiting scholar at the Georgia State University, USA. Mr. Sant Kumar Verma is the senior research fellow at the University working on management of diabetic complications. His research is being funded by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). 

Aldose reductase (AR) is an important enzyme since it converts glucose to sorbitol and begins the metabolism of glucose in the body. In patients, with diabetes, the body faces a hyperglycemic condition, which prompts the cells to make high amounts of AR, thereby producing high amounts of sorbitol which is impermeable in the cells and causes osmotic stress. Additionally, AR als…