New insights into the origins of mutations in cancer

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Researchers at the European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI), the University of Dundee and the Wellcome Sanger Institute have used human and worm data to explore the mutational causes of cancer. Their study, published today in Genome Research, also shows that results from controlled experiments on a model organism — the nematode worm C. elegans — are relevant to humans, helping researchers refine what they know about cancer.

Enigmatic DNA mutation and repair

Cancer is caused by DNA mutations which can be triggered by a range of factors, including UV radiation, certain chemicals and smoking, but also errors occurring naturally during cell division. A cell recognises most of these mutations and corrects them through multiple repair mechanisms. However, DNA repair is not perfect, so it can leave certain mutations unrepaired or repair them incorrectly leading to changes in DNA. Understanding the footprints of these mutational processes is an important first step in identifying the causes of cancer and potential avenues for new treatments.

“The DNA mutations we see in cancer cells were caused by a yin and yang of DNA damage and repair,” explains Moritz Gerstung, Research Group Leader at EMBL-EBI. “When we study a patient’s cancer genome, we’re looking at the final outcome of multiple mutational processes that often go on for decades before the disease manifests itself. The reconstruction of these processes and their contributions to cancer development is a bit like the forensic analysis of a plane crash site, trying to piece together what’s happened. Unfortunately, there’s no black box to help us.

Controlled experiments in model organisms can be used to mimic some of the processes thought to operate on cancer genomes and to establish their exact origins.”

What worms can tell us

Previous research has shown that one of the first DNA repair pathways associated with an increased risk of cancer is DNA mismatch repair (MMR). The current study uses C. elegans as a model system for studying MMR in more detail.

“Dr Bettina Meier in my team initiated this project by assessing the kinds of mutations that arise when C. elegans is defective for one specific DNA repair pathway,” says Professor Anton Gartner, Principal Investigator in the Centre for Gene Regulation and Expression at Dundee. “As it only takes three days to propagate these worms from one generation to the next, the process of studying how DNA is passed on is greatly expedited. DNA mismatch repair is propagated for many generations and this allowed us to deduce a distinct mutational pattern. The big question was if the same type of mutagenesis also occurred in human cancer cells.”

To address this question, EMBL-EBI PhD student Nadia Volkova compared the C. elegans results with genetic data from 500 human cancer genomes.

“We found a resemblance between the most common signature associated with mutations in MMR genes in humans and the patterns found in nematode worms,” explains Volkova. “This suggests that the same mutational process operates in nematodes and humans. Our approach allows us to find the exact profile of MMR deficiency and to understand more about what happens when DNA repair goes wrong.”

These findings could lead to a better understanding of the causes of cancer and potentially help to identify the most appropriate treatment.

[“Source-sciencedaily”]

Police launch probe into agriculture recruitment racket

A preliminary enquiry found that 15 candidates from Haryana used unfair means to excel in the examination held on September 4, 2016.

Police on Wednesday launched a probe into an alleged cheating racket pertaining to a nationwide examination conducted by the Agricultural Scientist Recruitment Board (ASRB) in 2016.

A preliminary enquiry found that 15 candidates from Haryana used unfair means to excel in the examination held on September 4, 2016. At least 13 of them appeared for the test at the Indian Veterinary Research Institute (IVRI) in Bareilly.

Officials of the institute lodged a complaint in this regard on the ASRB’s direction.

All the candidates under question were found to be residents of Sonepat and Rohtak districts of Haryana. They have also been accused of involvement in scams pertaining to other central government recruitment examinations, including those conducted by the army.

“The 15 candidates scored similar marks in the examination, much higher than the average score of other candidates. We became suspicious and reported the matter to the police,” said IVRI director Dr RK Singh.

The complaint was filed at the office of Bareilly senior superintendent of police (SSP) Joginder Kumar on Tuesday. He then directed a circle officer to investigate the matter, and lodge an FIR in this regard. “We will share inputs in the case with our counterparts in Haryana to nab the racketeers,” said Kumar.

Meanwhile, the ASRB has decided to hold a re-examination on June 24. A notice put up on its website cites “administrative issues” as the cause for cancellation of the previous test.

The examination is conducted to ensure recruitment for technical posts in agricultural institutes across the country. Over 70,000 candidates appeared for the exam to fill 150 vacancies that year.

[“source=hindustantimes”]

Israeli Firm Says It Can Turn Garbage Into Bio-Based Plastic

Israeli Firm Says It Can Turn Garbage Into Bio-Based Plastic

Hawks, vultures and storks circle overhead as Christopher Sveen points at the heap of refuse rotting in the desert heat. “This is the mine of the future,” he beams.

Sveen is chief sustainability officer at UBQ, an Israeli company that has patented a process to convert household trash, diverting waste from landfills into reusable bio-based plastic.

After five years of development, the company is bringing its operations online, with hopes of revolutionising waste management and being a driver to make landfills obsolete. It remains to be seen, however, if the technology really works and is commercially viable.

UBQ operates a pilot plant and research facility on the edge of southern Israel’s Negev Desert, where it has developed its production line.

“We take something that is not only not useful, but that creates a lot of damage to our planet, and we’re able to turn it into the things we use every day,” said Albert Douer, UBQ’s executive chairman. He said UBQ’s material can be used as a substitute for conventional petrochemical plastics and wood, reducing oil consumption and deforestation.

UBQ has raised $30 million (roughly Rs. 195 crores) from private investors, including Douer, who is also chief executive of Ajover Darnel Group, an international plastics conglomerate.

Leading experts and scientists serve on its advisory board, including Nobel Prize chemist Roger Kornberg, Hebrew University biochemist Oded Shoseyov, author and entrepreneur John Elkington and Connie Hedegaard, a former European Commissioner for Climate Action.

The small plant can process one ton of municipal waste per hour, a relatively small amount that would not meet the needs of even a midsize city. But UBQ says that given the modularity, it can be quickly expanded.

On a recent day, UBQ Chief Executive Tato Bigio stood alongside bales of sorted trash hauled in from a local landfill.

He said recyclable items like glass, metals and minerals are extracted and sent for further recycling, while the remaining garbage – “banana peels, the chicken bones and the hamburger, the dirty plastics, the dirty cartons, the dirty papers” – is dried and milled into a powder.

The steely gray powder then enters a reaction chamber, where it is broken down and reconstituted as a bio-based plastic-like composite material. UBQ says its closely-guarded patented process produces no greenhouse gas emissions or residual waste byproducts, and uses little energy and no water.

According to the United Nations Environment Program, 5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions are produced by decomposing organic material in landfills. Roughly half is methane, which over two decades is 86 times as potent for global warming as carbon dioxide, according to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

For every ton of material produced, UBQ says it prevents between three and 30 tons of CO2 from being created by keeping waste out of landfills and decomposing.

UBQ says its material can be used as an additive to conventional plastics. It says 10-15 percent is enough to make a plastic carbon-neutral by offsetting the generation of methane and carbon dioxide in landfills. It can be moulded into bricks, beams, planters, cans, and construction materials. Unlike most plastics, UBQ says its material doesn’t degrade when it’s recycled.

The company says converting waste into marketable products is profitable, and likely to succeed in the long run without government subsidies.

“What we do is we try to position ourselves at the end of the value chain, or at the end of the waste management hierarchy,” Sveen said. “So rather than that waste going to a landfill or being incinerated, that’s kind of our waste feedstock.”

The wonder plastic isn’t without its sceptics, however. Duane Priddy, chief executive of the Plastic Expert Group, said UBQ’s claims were “too good to be true” and likened it to alchemy.

“Chemists have been trying to convert lead to gold for centuries, without success,” Priddy, a former principal scientist at Dow Chemical, said in an email to The Associated Press. “Likewise, chemists have been trying to convert garbage to plastic for several decades.”

UBQ said it is confident its technology will prove the sceptics wrong. “We understand that’s people’s perceptions. We hope to convince them in a professional and scientific manner,” Sveen said.

Even if its technology is ultimately successful, UBQ faces questions about its long-term viability. Building additional plants could be expensive and time-consuming. It also needs to prove there is a market for its plastic products. The company said it is negotiating deals with major customers, but declined to identify them or say when the contracts would go into effect.

The UN Environment Program has made solid waste disposal a central issue to combatting pollution worldwide. Landfills contaminate air, water and soil, and take up limited land and resources. A December 2017 report by the international body devoted five of its 50 anti-pollution measures to reducing and processing solid waste.

“Every year, an estimated 11.2 billion tons of solid waste are collected worldwide,” the organisation says. “The solution, in the first place, is the minimisation of waste. Where waste cannot be avoided, recovery of materials and energy from waste as well as remanufacturing and recycling waste into usable products should be the second option.”

Israel lags behind other developed countries in waste disposal. The country of roughly 8 million people generated 5.3 million metric tons of garbage in 2016, according to the Environment Ministry. Over 80 percent of that trash ended up in increasingly crowded landfills. A third of Israel’s landfill garbage is food scraps, which decompose and produce greenhouse gases like methane and carbon dioxide.

To UBQ, that means a nearly limitless supply of raw material.

“The fact is that the majority of waste goes to a landfill or is leaked into our natural environments because there simply aren’t holistic and economically viable technologies out there,” said Sveen.

[“Source-gadgets.ndtv”]

Early insights into ADB’s priority sectors for 2018-2020

Monitoring operations in Lahendong Geothermal Plant, which provides clean and sustainable energy to the residents of Manado, North Sulawesi Province, Indonesia. Photo by: Asian Development Bank / CC BY-NC-ND

MANILA — In 2017, the Asian Development Bank merged its lending windows so as to allow it to increase and expand its lending portfolio amid growing resource needs of its member countries and in the face of competition from emerging sources of infrastructure funding in the region. But where might the bank allocate those resources?

The data isn’t complete yet, but available information from the bank’s 2018-2020 country operations business plans for 37 developing member countries — which Devex examined over the past few weeks — provides early indications on priority sectors and how much money is expected to flow to countries. It also provides insights on some of ADB’s biggest projects for climate financing, which plays a central role in the bank’s upcoming strategy.

The data reveal that indicative ADB commitments — which can change in the course of discussing or negotiating projects — to the 37 member countries will reach more than $75 billion over the next three years. The bulk of the money is likely to come from the bank’s lending windows, with less than 5 percent forming grants and technical assistance.

Click here to see a larger version of the chart.

A large part of that funding is projected to cover projects in the transportation sector, followed by projects related to energy, and governance and institutional development.

[“Source-devex”]