Weekly Roundup: Biotechin.Asia

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7 March – 13 March 2016

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Study links gut neurons & immune system and their role in controlling inflammation

The immune system exercises consistent commitment to strengthen a physique from utmost threats—including what we eat and drink. As the digested food travels through the intestinal system a balancing act is played out. As a contingency measure, the immune cells must remain alert to act against damaging pathogens like Salmonella. However, their activity needs to be gradual else an overreaction can lead to equally harmful consequences like inflammation and tissue damage.A group led by Daniel Mucida, head of the Laboratory of Mucosal Immunology at Rockefeller University found that neurons possibly protect intestinal tissue from over-inflammation. Their new findings were published in Cell on January 14. The group’s commentary on their research could have diagnostic implications for gastrointestinal diseases such as irritable bowel syndrome. (Click here to read more)

Cutting cattle carbon: Bad breath and flatulence

Cattle have bad breath and commonly suffer from severe, chronic flatus generating large amounts of methane, which is a greenhouse gas and a driver of anthropogenic global warming. The greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the agricultural sector account for about 25.5% of total global anthropogenic emission. Methane is one of the most important GHGs and it has 21 times more global warming potential than carbon dioxide. Ruminant livestock contributes the major proportion of total agricultural emission of methane. There is an obvious answer to this problem, stop breeding cattle. (Click here to read more)

World’s thinnest lens to revolutionize cameras

Scientists have created the world’s thinnest lens, one two-thousandth the thickness of a human hair, opening the door to flexible computer displays and a revolution in miniature cameras. Lead researcher Dr Yuerui (Larry) Lu from The Australian National University (ANU) said the discovery hinged on the remarkable potential of the molybdenum disulphide crystal. “This type of material is the perfect candidate for future flexible displays,” said Dr Lu, leader of Nano-Electro-Mechanical System (NEMS) Laboratory in the ANU Research School of Engineering. “We will also be able to use arrays of micro lenses to mimic the compound eyes of insects.” The 6.3-nanometre lens outshines previous ultra-thin flat lenses, made from 50-nanometre thick gold nano-bar arrays, known as a metamaterial. “Molybdenum disulphide is an amazing crystal,” said Dr Lu. “It survives at high temperatures, is a lubricant, a good semiconductor and can emit photons too. (Click here to read more)

Major source of methanol in the ocean identified

As one of the most abundant organic compounds on the planet, methanol occurs naturally in the environment as plants release it as they grow and decompose. It is also found in the ocean, where it is a welcome food source for ravenous microbes that feast on it for energy and growth. While scientists have long known methanol exists in the ocean, and that certain microbes love to snack on it, they’ ve been stymied by one key question: where does it come from? Researchers at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) have solved this mystery through the discovery of a massive – and previously unaccounted for – source of methanol in the ocean: phytoplankton. (Click here to read more)

Artificial intelligence beats human champion at the game Go!

What if a task that you thought only humans could perform, like playing a complex man-made board game, could now be done better by a machine? Sounds like sci-fi, but an artificial neural network-based program called AlphaGo has done just that by beating the human world champion at the game Go, creating waves in the computer intelligence world. Not once, but thrice. No, we are not playing games with you here!. Artificial neural networks (ANN) are computational models consisting of a large number of simple computational units called neurons. They are inspired by the plastic nature and structure of the human brain. ANNs are now a hot topic of research because they exhibit the potential to solve a wide variety of problems using a general approach. (Click here to read more)

Teaching the next generation of bioscientists

Research and laboratory work is an art that can often goes wrong but may not be the case if we know what we’re doing and have a little luck on our sides. Passing down the right skills is important in order to ensure that the next generation of bioscientists will continue to forge forward on the quest of advancing mankind through science. Here are some tips gathered from trusted sources on how to train young aspiring bioscientists to learn to love and respect the lab and its culture. (Click here to read more)

MedTech Innovation Ecosystem: What can Asia learn and adapt from Silicon Valley?

Singapore Stanford Biodesign Thought leaders series (TLS) is a biennial event which brings in key opinion leaders from around the world to educate the Singapore community on the latest industry insights and experiences on medical technology development. In Dec 2015, Prof. Paul Yock, Founder and Director of Stanford Biodesign spoke on the radically changing environment in MedTech Innovation. Apart from his keynote lecture, thought leaders from different countries deliberated on the topic- “MedTech Innovation Ecosystem: What can Asia learn and adapt from Silicon Valley?” Prof. Paul Yock is internationally renowned for his work in inventing, developing and testing new devices, including the Rapid Exchange TM balloon angioplasty system, which is now the primary system in use worldwide. Some of his other well-known inventions include a Doppler-guided access system known as the Smart NeedleTM and PD-AccessTM and developing CardioVascular imaging systems (CVIS). (Click here to read more)

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Scientist-entrepreneur-manager-journalist: -Co-founder, Author; Former Assistant Editor and Director, Biotechin.Asia, Biotech Media Pte. Ltd.; -Founder & CEO, SciGlo (www.sciglo.com); -Programme Management Officer, SBIC, A*STAR (former Research Fellow). --Sandhya graduated from University of Madras, India (B.Sc Microbiology and M.Sc Biotechnology) and received her Ph.D from the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. She worked on oxidative stress in skin, skeletal, adipose tissue and cardiac muscle for a decade from 2006-2016. She is currently working as a Programme Management Officer handling projects and grants at Singapore Bioimaging Consortium (SBIC), Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR). Earlier to this she was a Research Fellow in the Fat Metabolism and Stem Cell Group at SBIC. Sandhya was also the Vice President and Publicity Chair of A*PECSS (A*STAR Post Doc Society) (2014-2016). Recently she founded a platform for scientists - SciGlo (www.sciglo.com) and is a startup mentor at Vertical VC (Finland). She is an ardent lover of science and enjoys globe trotting and good vegetarian food.