Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

At the end of their days, most people end up six feet under or up in flames, others get frozen or mummified. But some lucky ones are spending eternity as sparkling diamonds, thanks to a peculiar chemical transformation.

For a fee, a company called Algordanza in the eastern Swiss canton of Graubuenden offers a service to turn ashes into precious stones. Every month, it gets 40 to 50 commissions — some as far away as Japan.

Rinaldo Willy, 28, one of two co-founders of Algordanza, said the commissions come from “all kinds of people — they could be bus drivers or professors in philosophy.”

At the firm’s laboratory, about 15 machines run non-stop alongside employees wearing plastic protective glasses who work behind a yellow and black line that visitors are not allowed to cross — out of respect for the dead.

“Five hundred grams (one pound) of ashes is enough to make a diamond while a human body leaves behind on average 2.5 to three kilograms of ashes,” said Willy.

Potassium and calcium, which make up some 85 per cent of the ashes, are first separated from the carbon. The carbon is then subject to extremely high pressure and heat — 1,700 degree Celsius, a process which compresses it into graphite, a carbon allotrope or a structurally different form of carbon.

More pressure and heat are applied to the graphite to turn it into diamonds —the hardest allotrope of carbon.

The entire process takes six to eight weeks, hardly a fraction of the time it takes for the formation of natural diamonds which take thousands of years.

When the process is complete, the crude diamond still requires polishing and cutting.

Source: Hindustan Times

They say white horses are a mythical image of purity and sanctity. Now, a group of scientists have come up with an answer for the white colour mystery.Researchers at Uppsala University in Sweden say that the white colour of these horses is a result of a defective gene called “greying with age” gene. In their study, the scientists have claimed that white horses are in reality mutants whose defective DNA carries a gene that speeds up ageing and rapidly turns their coats grey.

The study’s key finding is that almost all white horses apparently carry an identical gene, which indicates that they all belonged to a single common ancestor.

It’s not easy for white horses to survive in the wild as the white colouring makes them easy prey for predators, while the gene sharply raises the risk of such horses getting skin cancer. This led the researchers to conclude that humans probably intervened to make sure they flourished.

“It is a fascinating thought that once upon a time a horse was born that turned grey and then white and the people that observed it were so fascinated that they used the horse for breeding so that the mutation could be transmitted from generation to generation,”

The Times Online quoted Leif Andersson, as saying. This discovery in white horses could shed light on ageing and cancer development in humans as well.

Source: Hindustan Times

CHICAGO: A personalized vaccine made using tobacco plants — normally associated with causing cancer rather than helping cure it — could aid people with lymphoma in fighting the disease, US researchers said.

The treatment, which would vaccinate cancer patients against their own tumour cells, is made using a new approach that turns genetically engineered tobacco plants into personalized vaccine factories.

“This is the first time a plant has been used for making a protein to inject into a person,” said Ron Levy of Stanford University School of Medicine in California, whose research appears in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“This would be a way to treat cancer without side effects,” Levy said in a statement on Monday. “The idea is to marshal the body’s own immune system to fight cancer.”

Levy was working with a team of scientists from the now defunct Large Scale Biology Corp, which helped fund the study, as well as Bayer AG’s Bayer HealthCare, CBR International Corp, Integrated Biomolecule Corp, The Biologics Consulting Group Inc and Holtz Biopharma Consulting.

They were working on a type of cancer known as follicular B-cell lymphoma, a kind of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma that attacks the immune system. The cancer makes a specific antibody that is not found in healthy cells.

The technology exploits the tobacco plant’s vulnerability a virus that only attacks tobacco plants, which most people associate with causing cancer, and not curing it.

The researchers altered the virus, adding the specific antibody gene from a patient’s cancer cells. Then, they infected the tobacco plants with the gene-carrying virus.

“You scratch it on the leaves and it turns the plants into a protein-producing factory for the protein of interest,” Levy said.

Other approaches that use animals to make the vaccines can take months, but the plant-based approach is very fast.

“A week later, you extract the protein. It’s that fast.”

In a test of 16 patients with follicular B-cell lymphoma, 70% of people injected with a made-to-order vaccine developed an immune response, and none had any side effects.

Levy said the study suggests personalized cancer vaccines could be produced efficiently and cheaply using plants. The early-stage study only focused on the safety and immune-stimulating ability of the plant-produced vaccines.

Future studies will be needed to show how effective they are as a treatment.

Source: Times of India

LONDON: Vehicles will soon run on fuel made from household waste as a chemical company in Britain has found a way to make bioethanol from rubbish.

INEOS, world’s third largest chemical company, said it had patented a method of producing fuel from municipal solid waste, agricultural waste and organic commercial waste and it planned to sell the bioethanol fuel in industrial quantities by 2010. The bioethanol that INEOS produces will have to be combined with a fossil fuel as very few cars in Britain run solely on bioethanol.

Peter Williams, the chief executive of INEOS Bio, told the Times : “This should mean that, unlike with other biofuels, we won’t have to make the choice between food and fuel.” Williams said the company planned to produce commercial amounts of bioethanol fuel for cars from waste within two years.

INEOS claims that it can produce about 400 litres of ethanol from one tonne of dry waste. The new process works by heating the waste to produce gases, then feeding the gases to bacteria, which produce ethanol that can be purified into a fuel. The development of fuel from waste could be a relief for motorists who have watched pump prices soar.

According to the report, INEOS is talking to authorities in the United States, Canada and Europe about selling the fuel when it is made on an industrial scale. The company began research into the biochemical process about 20 years ago in Arkansas. A pilot plant was built and researchers have been working with a variety of waste materials since 2003.


November 2020

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