Biotrivia is a science blog, maintained by it's administrator P. Venkateswara, a Biochemistry student. People can join the robust biotrivia community in a common search for knowledge or they can start writing on our site after joining the authors team
Chemistry studies the nature of elements, how they react, interact with each other to form compounds, molecules and how these compounds in turn react. Biochemistry is chemistry in all respects but we focus more on (I’d say only on) Biochemicals and their reactions. By the term “Biochemical”, I mean chemicals synthesized by an organism, and chemicals that have an effect on the metabolism of an organism (no matter positive or negative),
A few examples for biochemicals,
These biochemicals are all synthesized in a living body and also have an impact on its metabolism. Modern biochemists try to manipulate these biochemicals for the welfare of us, all of us.
A fair amount of an aspiring biochemist’s time is spent in trying to understand the nature of biomolecules,
Carbohydrates – they give us energy to… well, to do things,
Proteins – they play a whole bunch of roles in our bodies ,
Lipids – just a fancy name for fats,
Nucleic Acids – a broad term for DNA, and RNA.
Biomolecules make us…Us.
Biomolecules and their reactions are what make life possible. Proteins and carbohydrates provide structure to our body. The nucleic acids act as the manual for our cell processes. Proteins read this manual and carry out cell processes using energy from the breakdown of Carbs. So it is kinda important to understand biomolecules and know how they work , in order to understand biological processes. Which is basically what we biochemists do!
Also guys, a great news!
Recently feedspot has selected our blog biotrivia as one of the top 100 upcoming science blogs this year. Here’s the list…Do check it out.
Recently I had applied for an Internship announced by the CSIR-CDRI, lucknow. They got in touch with me and had asked me to write a well versed sample article on Parkinson’s disease. But unfortunately the internship closed before I could finish my article (Bummer). But I didn’t want my half finished work to get wasted , and that’s why I am posting it here.
Also before when I was writing this for an internship, “I HAD STRINGS BUT, NOW I AM FREE”, cause this is my blog!(MINE) and I can improvise as much as I want. So without much ado, let’s dive right in.
….I have no Strings…
The first thing about parkinson’s is that it’s not actually a disease , it’s a disorder, affecting dopamine production (Dopamine.., it’s just a fancy name for the neurotransmitter controlling movement and some other things). The effect of this disorder in the production of dopamine and the symptoms due to this disorder manifested in it’s patients are collectively termed the Parkinson’s disease. The most common symptom associated with Parkinson’s is the tremors and shakes that the patients get. While it may be tempting to shake your body to the rumba beat , It’s doubtful that you would fancy your body shaking vigorously for hours on end!
Just like you guessed, this disorder is named after a person, Mr.James Parkinson.
Dr.James Parkinson Pic Courtesy: Kintera.org
He was a surgeon and an APOTHECARY,(Wait… what does it mean? Well , an Apothecary means a person who formulates and sells medicines to doctors and to patients. It is a pretty archaic and cool term for today’s Pharmacists). Also this guy was a geologist and a paleontologist!( Can’t say which was his hobby… paleontology or….SURGERY!!).
Mr. Parkinson was the first person who identified all the different symptoms of this disease as to belong to the same disease. He named it THE SHAKING PALSY in his research article on the subject “An essay on the Shaking Palsy” (It is available for you to read).In his article he talks a lot about the confusion among doctors and nosologists (NO..definitely no, Nosologists did not have large Noses, they just classified Diseases) who treated the symptoms of this disorder as different diseases. To honor him and to prevent confusion, (cause people confused shaking palsy with other palsies) this disease was named as Parkinson’s Disease. But in my not so humble opinion, it’s definitely not an honor, to have a disease named after you.
Anyway, What is Parkinson’s?
Parkinson’s Disease is a Progressive, Neurodegenerative disorder affecting the Dopamine producing ,neuromelanin pigmented neurons of the substantia nigra region of the brain’s basal ganglia.Pretty intense huh? Let me break that for you,
Progressive- means it worsens over time, i.e the effect of this disease increases as the patient ages, (Note, we are not talking about the increase in disease incidence),
Neurodegenerative- meaning it affects the neurons(nerve cells) leading to their degeneration (Destruction, Ka..Boom) making the patients actual degenerates,
Dopamine pro….etc- I said it affects neurons , but which neurons? This disorder specifically affects the neurons present in the substantia nigra ( A region of the mid brain present in the basal ganglia). The neurons present in this substantia nigra have a melanin like pigment called neuromelanin (Melanin is what gives your skin color) .The presence of this neuromelanin makes this region black,( I guess that explains the term Nigra).
What is Dopamine? Well Dopamine is a Neurotransmitter. Well then what is a neurotransmitter? Let me explain it with this analogy,
Our body, its like a Federal Republic. Our brain is the Federal (or Central) Government . It controls everything. All the other organs, like states (or provinces) act under it with certain autonomy. Here blood vessels, and Nerves are like highways. While blood transports materials, like oxygen, nutrients and all, nerves act like an exclusive governmental hotline for sending messages between the brain and the organs.The messagesare sent in the form of chemical signals.Neurotransmitters are the chemicals that transmit these signals. Dopamine is one such neurotransmitter which is responsible for the transmission of signals related to movement control (It also signals reward motivated behavior but its a topic for another day).
Since parkinson’s affects the production of dopamine (less substantia nigra neurons=less dopamine in brain) , it leads to potholes in the neural (nerve) network ,thus causing the tremors and shakes.
…..Neural Network …Courtesy:ColiN00B
What Causes It?
Well, for now we have seen that Parkinson’s affects the substantia nigra neurons, but why? What causes it?
Notice the relatively smaller substantia Nigra in affected brain. Pic: Dreamstime.com
Actually that question can’t be answered right now. For now we don’t know the exact cause for this disorder , we can only speculate. A recent study (1) done by German researchers suggest that Parkinson’s is an autoimmune disorder. In their research they collected skin cells from healthy subjects and subjects with Parkinson’s and used the Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell (iPSC) technology (It’s a cutting edge tech, not unlike magic! that converts a somatic cell into a stem cell that can be again converted into any type of cell). They used the iPSC tech to convert those skin cells into the Substantia nigra nerve cells. Finally the researchers mixed the subject’s respective T-lymphocytes with these hotly made pigmented substantia nigra neurons.
They observed that the Th-17 cells added to the Parkinson’s affected system caused the death of Neurons while the healthy system continued to be healthy. This however establishing the cause of neuronal cell death fails to explain what makes the immune system consider the neurons as a threat. For now scientists have speculated that this could be due to Genetic mutations that somehow made our very own WBC to turn against the pigmented neurons.
Here an important thing to note is that, the pigment neuromelanin increases with age. So older people have more Neuromelanin than young people. The incidence of Parkinson’s also increases with age. Maybe a genetic mutation affected the neuromelanin of the parkinson’s patients leading to the aforementioned effects…who knows, we can speculate. Also the nerve cells of Parkinson’s patients are found to contain something called Lewy Bodies.
Lewy Bodies are abnormal, aggregates of protein (spherical bodies) that were found inside the nerve cells of Parkinson patients. It’s possible that they too play an important role in the activities of this disease.
Why We Should Be Focusing On Parkinson’s:
Today this disease is believed to be affecting an approximate seven to TEN MILLION (that’s One Crore) people worldwide. Most of them are Sexagenarians (60-69), Septuagenarians(70-79), Octogenarians(80-89), and also some nonagenarians and centagenarians. With an aging world population the occurrence of Parkinson’s is only set to increase.
Well, let the aging superpowers worry about it why should we Indians care about this, we are the youngest nation in the world, right?
…India has the world’s largest reserve of young people…Pic Courtesy:Rebecca Zaal
Yeah we may be having the world’s largest reserve of young people, which would be a whooping 60% of our population by 2050, but a recent Government report says that in the year 2050, India will have 340 million (34 crores) people above 60 years of age. They would be comprising 20% of our population. So India TOO SHOULD CARE.
Also having the world’s largest reserve of young people means that we have a moral obligation to solve this problem on behalf of others. So it’s imperative that we focus on this disease.
Th17 Lymphocytes Induce Neuronal Cell Death in a
Human iPSC-Based Model of Parkinson’s Disease by Sommer, A., Maxreiter, F., Krach, F., Fadler, T., Grosch, J., Maroni, M., … Winner, B. (2018). Th17 Lymphocytes Induce Neuronal Cell Death in a Human iPSC-Based Model of Parkinson’s Disease. Cell Stem Cell, 23(1), 123–131.e6. doi:10.1016/j.stem.2018.06.015
Wikipedia,Google and Quora -for clearing occasional doubts,
An Essay On The Shaking Palsy -Mr.James Parkinson.
Yeah , today you are a detective, cause we are gonna investigate… about FINGERPRINTS.
P.S:Wherever I use the term fingerprints, I intend to denote the fine ridges you have in your fingers, palms, soles, and toes, not just your fingers.
…your fingerprint is the impression made by the friction ridges of your skin… Pic courtesy:Pixabay
I got hold of this topic yesterday , when I was in my class. The subject was Chemistry: For CRIME INVESTIGATION (oooh.. that’s an uncanny subject!!). This subject was solely my choice, I chose it , cause it felt,….cool. Ok enough blabbering, Let’s get on to the topic .
I was in my class and it was at first, just the usual, boring, BS, but… at one point the discussion touched upon the uniqueness of everybody’s finger prints. Everybody in the class didn’t take it seriously, they were I like, “Well, I already know this”.But to me, it kinda got stuck in my mind . I wasn’t able to rub it off with the usual excuse “I already know everything there is to know about this” , cause actually I don’t know a lot about it, and maybe you too….don’t.
SO GRAB A MAGNIFIER AND A HAT GUYS….. We are gonna investigate.
Let’s investigate Mr. Holmes!! Pic courtesy: Pixabay
Each and every one of us have our own unique fingerprint, It’s not much unlike the AADHAR system (but with no shitty photographs..lol) .
Pic courtesy: pixabay
Even the most identical of the identical twins cannot have the same fingerprints. And also the fingerprint scheme in two of your own fingers won’t match even if they were of the same type (For example the right and the left index fingers of the same person won’t have the same prints).
Now get ready for a flashback…
When I was young and curious ( I am still young and curious), well when I was younger and much more curious, I’ve wondered about my fingerprints. I had always thought that these fingerprints went down deep into my skin , into my body and they represented the younger stages of me, i.e I thought they were remnants of my growth. To understand better use this analogy, “ Consider an onion, you know how it has multiple layers, it starts very small and as it grows layerupon layer get’s added to it“, the same way I thought I grew in layers and the fingerprints were it’s remnants!!! (Comment how many of you thought the same way, and If you have some other interesting theory comment it too)
…My fingerprints reminded me of the layers of an onion… Pic courtesy:Pixabay
I was only part right , the appearance of these friction ridges (cause they help with your Grip) had something to do with my growth but it wasn’t the way I thought it would be. Actually the fingerprint you now have had already been decided even before you were born. You had your fingerprints completely ready around the time you were “-0.5” years old i.e when you were a six month fetus in your mom’s womb! And this process according to scientists starts even earlier at 10 weeks since your inception as a zygote.
…At -10 weeks old you were the size of a golf ball!…
Pic courtesy: Pexels
At -10weeks old you would have been the size of a golf ball! And by the time you become a 6 month fetus you would have grown Six times your size and weigh an approximate 1 kilogram. So that’s a lot of growth! Your body was in a continuous growth streak (relate: the fast growing, tip of a plant would always be soft). So your body is kind of really soft right now and the amniotic fluid ( The juice you happily floated on in your mom’s womb ) is really chaotic (i.e it has a lot going on ,with lots of motion). It seems much more chaotic when you couple the fact that the baby’s size was at this time really small (around 3 cm!!) .
This chaos shaped your epidermis (your skin’s external layer) that was already under a lot of strain along with the dermis (your skin’s internal layer) due to the relatively fast growing basal layer (your skin’s middle layer) which causes the epidermis to bend into (I mean literally “into” ) the dermis. This bent epidermis is what gets shaped into those ridges by factors like pressure, movement inside the amniotic fluid.
So these fingerprints are not just superficial ,they go deep into the third layer of your skin. That’s why people working in hard environments and criminals who destroyed these ridges by burning their hands will soon have their ridges recovered , once lenient situation dawns .(CRIMINALS ….. Get back to using Gloves).
Now for the reason everyone’s finger prints are unique is that the amniotic fluid is so chaotic that there is barely any chance for two individuals to have the same fingerprint. No two individuals would have experienced the exact same pressure at the exact same time and would have done the exact same thing and would have been at the exact same place at the exact same time , inside the holy grail, their mother’s womb. Here Probability plays on our side ( don’t confuse Possibility with probability). It is just not possible ,the possible different finger prints are innumerable that there are barely any humans to have had the same finger prints.
Everybody has their own unique fingerprint,
Don’t even identical twins have the exact same fingerprint,
Even the same person will not have the same print in two of his fingers,
A baby would have completely gotten it’s finger prints by the time it is a 6 month fetus,
The development of fingerprints depend on the pressure of the amniotic fluid, the movement of the baby and the total chaos in the amniotic fluid,
The relatively faster growth of the basal layer too played an important role.
Take the analogy of a sculpture,
If you consider the bent epidermis ( due to strain from the basal layer) as the stone to be sculpted , in this case into your fingerprint then the factors like the pressure of the amniotic fluid were the chisels that shaped it into your beautiful finger print.
P.S: Fingerprint is nothing but the impression of the ridges in your skin made willingly (as in legal documents), or unwillingly ,as in crime scenes. For relative ease I have used the term fingerprint even though the correct terminology would have been, friction ridges (cuz, you can’t question me , it’s my blog)
P.P.S: The P.S at the beginning of the article is the Pre.script and the P.S above is the Post.Script.
I intend to make sequels to this post , so stay tuned folks.
The Chief minister of Tamil Nadu Mr. Palanisamy on June 5 (aptly The World Environment Day ) announced a much-needed ban on all plastic products. This ban however late and biased is a good start.
With just a day to go before the ban kicks in, the suggestions for alternatives that the government has issued are far from feasible. Banana leaves and Earthen vessels seem far from plausible. These can never be mass-produced at the rate conventional plastics are being produced in industries before the ban.
Banana leaf image for representation. Pic courtesy:Photo by icon0.com from Pexels
…earthen pots and Banana leaves can never be mass- produced and are not convenient enough… Pic courtesy:Photo by Fancycrave.com from Pexels
One feasible way forward from this mess today is by bringing the so-called Bio Polymers into mass public consumption.
Before delving deep you must understand that just because something has the terms bio-, or organic- affixed to it ,doesn’t gain it any credibility.
People today have confused the terms bioplastic and biodegradableplastic to be synonyms. But they are not the same.
Also there is another controversy , concerning the compostability of bioplastics.
There are some stark differences between a bioplastic and a biodegradable plastic.
In general all materials are plastic to a degree. The ability of clay to mold into different shapes without breaking that gave us joy when we were young is because of its plasticity.
But the masses use this term (plastic), to denote the moldable class of polymers , and mostly to the synthetic ones. So today we only consider Petrochemical polymers as plastics. There are seven types of petrochemical polymers that people consider as plastics.
This above mentioned list covers most plastics that are considered ill to the Environment and to us. Among them PVC is called the POISONPLASTIC and you apparently know why. Its harmful when ingested and PVC fumes are said to release harmful cancer inducing agents called dioxins.
IUPAC gives the following definition for biobased polymers,
“Biobased polymers derived from biomass or issued from monomers derived from the biomass and which, at some stage in its processing into finished products can be shaped by flow.”
…the International Union for Pure and Applied Chemistry suggests the usage of the term biobased polymer in place of bioplastic…
IUPAC suggests the usage of the term biobased polymer since the term bioplastic is misleading. Not all bioplastics are biodegradable.
IUPAC says that “ Bioplastic is misleading , because it suggests that any polymer derived from biomass is environment friendly.”
In bioplastics the Carbon, hydrogen and Oxygen come from renewable bio mass sources like Vegetable oils, corn, soy, sugarcane, whereas conventional plastics get their Carbon, Hydrogen and Oxygen from petrochemicals.
Bioplastics are plastics where the C, H and O in it’s chain come partially or completely from renewable resources,
They are derived from the biomass (vegetable oils,corn,etc..) directly, or by artificial polymerization of monomers derived from the biomass,
They should be shape-able by flow (plasticity) in some stage of their manufacturing process,
The term bioplastic is quite misleading and not all bioplastics are biodegradable and environment friendly.
BIOPLASTIC VS BIODEGRADABLE PLASTIC:
Biodegradability of a material is its susceptibility to be eaten (broken down) by a micro-organism and released into the environment as harmless CO2, H2O, biomass and inorganic compounds. The only catch is the rate(speed) of biodegradation should be in par with natural compostable materials ,(else it would be meaningless, since conventional plastics are also degradable in a few hundred years).
Some organisations and countries have now started to use the term compostability instead of biodegradability specifying the factory compostability of a material.
Compostable Bioplastics are degradable in 6 months in an industrial composting facility. So it is not the source of the plastic that matters only its compostability is important. A bioplastic can be as much a burden as a petroplastic when its compostability is not good. So not all bioplastics are superior to conventional plastics. People must be aware of this to protect themselves from getting baited into buying bioplastics equally dangerous as conventional plastics.
Also without proper composting centres these compostable bioplastics too can become a burden on the environment since they may take years to degrade outside a composting facility.With the rate at which we are generating wastes this sure is trouble.
But an Indian company Envigreen has patented a new starch based raw material which doesn’t require a factory composting facility and thus is degradable in normal environment.
Their website says
“Envigreen is not just a brand, it is a Green Technology. Envigreen’s products are made from natural starch, vegetable oil derivatives and vegetable waste. These products are non-toxic to the environment, animals and plants. Envigreen contains no conventional plastics at all. Envigreen products have an electric dissipative feature (suitable for electronic wrapping) along with anti-static feature-dust repellent, oxygen barrier-corrosion prevention, oil/grease resistance. It dissolves in hot water (80 degree Celsius) and softens in water at room temperature.”
CHALLENGES TO BIOPLASTICS:
The main challenges the bioplastic industry faces are that
They are made from plant resources which is price-wise not competitive with fossil fuels,
Also at present most indian manufacturers import the raw materials (Poly Lactic Acid, Poly Hydroxy Alkanoates) used to make bioplastics which adds to the price burden.
Like the phrase NEED IS THE MOTHER OF INVENTION,
The Indian startup environment is coming up with new ideas to bring this price gap down. Now it is in the hands of our policymakers to nurture this startup environment.
SOME INDIAN STARTUPS IN THE BIOPLASTIC INDUSTRY:
Envigreen -Bangalore based,
Greendiamz Biotech-Ahmedabad based,
Ecolife LLC-Chennai based,
With the amount of plastics having accumulated in the past 100 years there is much room for more such innovators..
Priyanka Pulla- article on The Hindu dated 30/12/2018,
Welcome to my site(Use the link to view my site). I am Venkateshwar , your Admin. You may or may not know me, it’s ok I haven’t done anything big yet .For those who don’t, I am a Biochemistry student (that explains the BIO) and I love TRIVIA (Tada… the Site’s name).
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