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    Two vials showing stem cell modified Retinal Pigment Epithelium cells (which appear brown/black). The quantity of each vial is enough for five patients. PIC Courtesy: Dr Jogin Desai

    Two vials showing stem cell modified Retinal Pigment Epithelium cells (which appear brown/black). The quantity of each vial is enough for five patients. PIC Courtesy: Dr Jogin Desai

    A city-based medical science startup is gearing up to halt the progress of degenerative eye disease in Indians after trials in blind rats showed the creatures regaining their sight in a few months.

    Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is a form of blindness that affects a segment of the adult population after they reach the age of 50. It accounts for 8.7% of all blindness worldwide. Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP), meanwhile, is a rare genetic  disorder, which affects one child in 4,000.

    Dr Jogin Desai

    Dr Jogin Desai

    There is no known cure for the diseases. However, Dr Jogin Desai, whose startup, Eyestem, which has been under incubation by the government’s Centre for Cellular and Molecular Platforms (C-Camp) for the past three years, believes its work can halt the progression of the diseases by using genetically modified stem cells to restore the pigment epithelium in the cornea.

    The pigment epithelium, which is only 1.5 mm thick, performs critical functions that support photoreceptor health and integrity. It was likened to the ‘foundation’ of a building. The therapy will also seek to restore the photoreceptor cells in the retina, which were likened to ‘buildings’. Phase 1 human clinical trials are set to start in 12 to 15 months.

    Existing research postulates that using biodegradable ‘scaffolding’ upon which modified cells are stacked can help rebuild the pigment epithelium. However, Dr Desai said that current work delivering modified Eycyte-RPE (or Retinal Pigment Epithelium) cells, which are suspended in the liquid, is even more effective.

    “We have found that cells delivered in this way automatically seek out their ‘body niche’ and assimilate into the system,” he said, adding that trials in blind lab rats had showed the animals regaining their vision over a two-month period.

    ‘Most discoveries fail’ 

    Desai, however, cautioned that no amount of promise can legitimise an idea if its time has not yet come. “In fact, just one of 1,600 scientific discoveries made in research labs makes it into a fully fledged development where it can impact people’s lives,” he explained.
    Most scientific discoveries are weeded out in exacting, three-phased clinical trials, based on the criteria of safety, scalability and effectiveness.

    source: http://www.deccanherald.com / Deccan Herald / Home> City> Life in Bengaluru / by Akhil Kadidal / DHNS, Bengaluru / December 09th, 2019

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    The idea came to fruition when Dr Omkar interacted with farmers and was told about the difficulty in identifying crop disease.

    A farmer works in his sugarcane field (File | Reuters)

    A farmer works in his sugarcane field (File | Reuters)

    Bengaluru :

    With just a click, sugarcane growers will be able to identify as many as five diseases in their crop using the app ‘Safal Fasal’.

    The app is being developed by Dr SN Omkar, chief research scientist, Department of Aerospace Engineering, Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru, who has finished programming the algorithm that identifies diseases. A database of remedial measures is also being put in place, in case a disease is detected.

    The idea came to fruition when Dr Omkar interacted with farmers and was told about the difficulty in identifying crop disease.

    While many farmers would be adept at assessing the health of their crops, newcomers in the sector would benefit the most from this app.

    “There are young agriculturalists, who may not be acquainted with crops and diseases. This will help them immensely. Also, since a few farmers whose crops have been affected by diseases, could visually inspect their crops because of experience, there are many farmers who would benefit immensely by the democratisation of this information. This can even prevent the large scale loss of crops due to disease,” Omkar told The New Indian Express.

    Experts, including those from the biotechnology sector, have helped pick five popular diseases prevalent in the region and ways to identify them with certain characteristics. This has helped in programming the apps’ algorithm that analyses pictures through image processing in the cloud. With just five pictures of the yield, one can know the state of the sugarcane. The app will provide health reports as well.

    At present, the team is working on increasing the precision of identifying diseases through pictures. “We are trying to get a larger database of pictures of more healthy and unhealthy crops. Currently, the precision of the app is at 86%,” said Dr Omkar.

    source: http://www.newindianexpress.com / The New Indian Express / Home> Good News / by Pearl Maria D’Souza / Express News Service / December 10th, 2019

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