Topic Covered :
Vehicle Scrappage Policy
Vizag gas leak: What is styrene and how it can kill if inhaled
US Spl envoy on Afghanistan visits India amid COVID-19; holds talks with Jaishankar, Doval
Tiger population in Sunderbans rises to 96
Band-like clouds seen over Sun’s neighbour
Why in news?
An emerging technique that uses lab-grown tiny human organs to study viral diseases can accelerate research on the novel coronavirus, and pave the way for new Covid-19 therapies, leading scientists say.
Organoids, are lab-grown organs, which closely resemble human tissues that are relevant for disease.
In these human organ-like structures scientists are beginning to perform more experiments to explore how the SARS-CoV-2 virus replicates in hosts, or even test vaccines and drugs against Covid-19.
Cultured from undifferentiated cells in the human body called stem cells these tiny organs contain cells which are also present in a "real" human organ.
For instance, organoids of blood vessels are perfect mini versions of the vascular tissue, made up of an empty cavity, cells that stabilise it, and a membrane wrapped around and keeping it all together.
Research using organoids can open new doors for studying Covid-19 symptoms.
The tiny organs have previously helped scientists understand how the Zika virus, an emerging mosquito-borne pathogen, causes smaller head size, and intellectual disability in developing new-borns.
Normally preliminary experiments on viral infection use only mouse models or lab-grown animal or human tissues, which do not possess the complexity seen in human organs
VEHICLE SCRAPPAGE POLICY
Why in news?
Road transport and highways minister Nitin Gadkari on Thursday said the ministry is pursuing the long-delayed vehicle scrapping policy to support the domestic automobile industry amid the covid-19 pandemic.
The vehicle scrappage policy, which awaits clearance from the finance ministry, aims to eliminate the fleet of old polluting vehicles and boost demand.
The coronavirus-led crisis has only made matters worse for the local automobile sector that was already struggling due to weak demand.
The proposed policy had got a fresh push in August last year even when the automobile sector reeled under slowdown pressure.
Separately, the road ministry had issued draft guidelines in October to set up vehicle scrapping centres in the country to protect the environment and promote a legally-backed dismantling and scrapping industry.
Last year, finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman had announced several steps for the automobile sector, including a scrappage policy for vehicles, aimed at increasing production and capacity utilisation.
VIZAG GAS LEAK: WHAT IS STYRENE AND HOW IT CAN KILL IF INHALED
Why in news?
At least 11 people died and close to 1,000 were affected after a chemical from a factory leaked and hung as smog over nearby villages in Visakhapatnam district in the early hours of Thursday.
Styrene gas, which leaked from a chemical plant in Visakhapatnam on Thursday killing at least 11 people, is a synthetic chemical that is used to manufacture synthetic rubber and plastic packaging.
The colourless liquid evaporates easily, and can be fatal if inhaled or ingested in high quantities.
High exposure can cause coma and pulmonary edema (chest swelling) while low and moderate exposure can result in burning sensation, skin irritation and affect the nervous system.
No definite medicine to reverse the effects i.e. largely symptomatic treatment.
Remove the individual from the affected area
Wash eyes with water
Use towel, tissue or water to clean the skin.
Monitor the affected individual for breathing difficulties or drowsiness.
Ease airway restriction by putting those with severe breathing distress on ventilator.
Many would require only oxygen therapy.
Nebulisation to ease breathing difficulties.
Steroids if there’s acute lung injury.
US SPL ENVOY ON AFGHANISTAN VISITS INDIA AMID COVID-19; HOLDS TALKS WITH JAISHANKAR, DOVAL
Why in news?
In the midst of the coronavirus crisis, US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad landed in New Delhi and held crucial talks with External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and National Security Adviser (NSA) Ajit Doval today on the peace process in the war-ravaged nation.
Khalilzad provided to his Indian interlocutors an update on the US peace and reconciliation efforts in Afghanistan while recognising India’s constructive contribution in economic development, reconstruction and humanitarian assistance to the war-torn nation.
Both Jaishankar and Doval reiterated India’s continued support for strengthening peace, security, unity, democratic and inclusive polity and protection of rights of all sections of the Afghan society, including Afghan Hindus and Sikhs.
They told the US official that India was deeply concerned at the upsurge in violence and supported call for an immediate ceasefire and need to assist the people of Afghanistan in dealing with coronavirus pandemic, the External Affairs Ministry said.
It was emphasised that putting an end to terrorist safe havens and sanctuaries was necessary for enduring and sustainable peace and stability in Afghanistan.
The US point man on Afghanistan is on a three-nation trip to Qatar, India and Pakistan to discuss the Afghan peace process and seek an accelerated timeline for the start of intra-Afghan negotiations to end violence in the troubled nation.
TIGER POPULATION IN SUNDERBANS RISES TO 96
Why in news?
The latest estimation of tiger numbers in the Indian Sunderbans indicate an increase in the population of big cats. According to the West Bengal Forest Department, the tiger count for the year 2019-20 rose to 96, from 88 in 2018-19.
The Sunderbans delta, spread over India and Bangladesh, is the only mangrove forest in the world inhabited by tigers.
Giving details of the tiger estimation exercise, West Bengal Forest Minister Rajib Banerjee said that the increase in the number by eight was significant as it was the biggest annual jump reported from the Sunderbans.
The Sunderban mangrove forest is spread over 2,585 sq. km and includes the Sundarban Tiger Reserve and the 24 Parganas (South) Division.
Estimation of the number of tigers in the Sunderbans, a world heritage as well as a Ramsar site, has always been a challenge because of the difficult terrain that comprises dense mangrove forests, with creeks and rivulets, and floods twice a day during the high tides.
BAND-LIKE CLOUDS SEEN OVER SUN’S NEIGHBOUR
Why in news?
A group of international astrophysicists have identified cloud bands on the surface of Luhman 16A, one of a pair of binary brown dwarfs in the Vela constellation.
They have used an idea put forth nearly two decades ago by Indian astrophysicist Sujan Sengupta, who is at the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bengaluru, that the light emitted by a cloudy brown dwarf, or reflected off an extrasolar planet, will be polarised. He suggested that a polarimetric technique could serve as a potential tool to probe the environment of these objects.
Many astronomers have detected polarisation of brown dwarfs. But what is special in the newest study of Luhman 16 is that the researchers have found the actual structure of the clouds — that they form bands over one of the pair (Luhman 16A) of brown dwarfs.
Understanding the cloud system over a brown dwarf can shed light on the pressure, temperature and climate on the surface of the celestial body.
Luhman 16 is a binary star system, the third closest system to the Sun after Alpha Centauri and Barnard’s star.
Brown dwarfs are also called failed stars, because their masses are intermediate to the largest planets and the smallest main sequence stars. Their masses being too small, they are unable to sustain fusion of their hydrogen to produce energy.
It is believed that some of the more massive brown dwarfs fuse deuterium or lithium and glow faintly.
The group, by using the Very Large Telescope at European Southern Observatory, Chile, found that Luhman 16A had band-like clouds in its atmosphere, whereas the same was not true of Luhman 16B.