Heart attack (myocardial infarction) — loss of blood supply to the heart — triggers loss of large numbers of cardiomyocytes, or heart cells, leading to heart failure. A fourth of the cardiomyocytes can be gone immediately after a heart attack.

Prof Mauro Giacca of the School of Cardiovascular Medicine and Sciences, King’s College, London, has discovered three naturally occurring ‘cardio-protective proteins’ that can retain the heart tissues damaged by the myocardial infarction. Giacca’s work began at the International Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB), Trieste, Italy. ICGEB is an autonomous organisation, set up by the governments of India and Italy.

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The three proteins can prevent the progression of heart attack towards heart failure. A UK-based biotech start-up, Forcefield Therapeutics, of which Giaccia is the ‘Scientific Founder’, is developing easily administrable formulations to enable rapid treatment soon after an MI event, before the heart damage becomes irreversible. In a press release from Forcefield Therapeutics, Giacca notes, “Despite decades of research, no current treatment is able to prevent the death of cardiomyocytes or a reduction in lifespan and quality of life following acute MI. By redefining the search for cardioprotective therapies, we have identified proteins that have not been previously linked to cardiac health, but which hold the potential to retain heart function, preventing premature death of heart cells and thus counteracting the deleterious effects of MI.”

New wheat, chapati sweet

Scientists at the Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) have developed a new wheat variety — ’PBW1Chapati’ — which they say will make for a dough that is more pliable, sweet, chewy and fluffy. The wheat variety has just been released to Punjab farmers for cultivation.

Till now, the ‘gold standard’ wheat varieties for chapatis have been C306 and PBW175. Both yield lovely chapatis, but the plants have become susceptible to ‘stripe and brown rust’ diseases. The challenge, therefore, was to combine high-yield potential and disease resistance.

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The wheat breeding team at PAU has developed a new variety using marker-assisted selection for a linked stripe rust and leaf rust gene, Lr57/Yr40, in the PBW175 background. The team has retained the chapati making parameters using biochemical tests.

Methane capture

Scientists at the Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (IICT), Hyderabad, have computationally designed a hybrid material that can capture methane and also act as catalyst to convert it to high-purity hydrogen. They have also simulated and designed a process for in situ capture of carbon dioxide and its conversion to high-purity hydrogen from non-fuel grade bioethanol through a mechanism called optimised intensified chemical looping reforming. The latter research has been published in the Elsevier journal Chemical Engineering and Processing.

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The researchers have also fabricated a facility at the institute to further the study on carbon capture and conversion. The facility, a dual operational fixed-cum-fluidised bed reactor system (FBR) can carry out ‘sorption enhanced steam methane reforming’ (SESMR) for high-purity hydrogen production based on the modelling and preliminary experimental studies, according to a press release from the Department of Science and Technology.