Daily Current Affairs : 23rd June 2023

Daily Current Affairs for UPSC CSE

Topics Covered

  1. Stem Cell
  2. Jet Engine Tech transfer
  3. Lab Grown Diamond
  4. Facts for Prelims

1 . Stem cell

Context: Cord blood banking is not a ‘biological insurance’ and its role in regenerative medicine is hypothetical.

What is Stem Cell?

  • Stem cells are special human cells that are able to develop into many different cell types. This can range from muscle cells to brain cells. In some cases, they can also fix damaged tissues.

Different types of stem cell

  • There are three main types of stem cell:
    • embryonic stem cells
    • adult stem cells
    • induced pluripotent stem cell

Embryonic stem cells

  • Embryonic stem cells supply new cells for an embryo as it grows and develops into a baby.
  • These stem cells are said to be pluripotent, which means they can change into any cell in the body.

Adult stem cells

  • Adult stem cells supply new cells as an organism grows and to replace cells that get damaged.
  • Adult stem cells are said to be multipotent, which means they can only change into some cells in the body, not any cell, for example:
    • Blood (or ‘haematopoietic’) stem cells can only replace the various types of cells in the blood.
    • Skin (or ‘epithelial’) stem cells provide the different types of cells that make up our skin and hair.

Induced pluripotent stem cells

  • Induced pluripotent stem cells, or ‘iPS cells’, are stem cells that scientists make in the laboratory.
  • ‘Induced’ means that they are made in the lab by taking normal adult cells, like skin or blood cells, and reprogramming them to become stem cells.
  • Just like embryonic stem cells, they are pluripotent so they can develop into any cell type.

What are the uses of Stem Cell?

  • Stem cells have several uses including:
    • research – to help us understand the basic biology of how living things work and what happens in different types of cell during disease.
    • therapy – to replace lost or damaged cells that the body can’t replace naturally.

Stem cell research

  • Research is looking to better understand the properties of stem cells so that it will be used to
    • understand how our bodies grow and develop stem cells
    • find ways of using stem cells to replace cells or tissues that have been damaged or lost.

Stem cell therapy

  • Cells, tissues and organs can sometimes be permanently damaged or lost by disease, injury and genetic conditions.
  • Stem cells may be one way of generating new cells that can then be transplanted into the body to replace those that are damaged or lost.
  • Adult stem cells are currently used to treat some conditions, for example:
    • Blood stem cells are used to provide a source of healthy blood cells for people with some blood conditions, such as thalassaemia, and cancer patients who have lost their own blood stem cells during treatment.
    • Skin stem cells can be used to generate new skin for people with severe burns.
  • Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is an example of a disease where stem cells could be used as a new form of treatment in the future:
    • Some people with age-related macular degeneration lose their sight because cells in the retina of the eye called retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) cells stop working.
    • Scientists are using induced pluripotent stem cells to produce new RPE cells in the lab that can then be put into a patient’s eye to replace the damaged cells.
  • Stem cells could be used to generate new organs for use in transplants:
    • Currently, damaged organs can be replaced by obtaining healthy organs from a donor, however donated organs may be ‘rejected’ by the body as the immune system sees it as something that is foreign.
    • Induced pluripotent stem cells generated from the patient themselves could be used to grow new organs that would have a lower risk of being rejected.

Cord blood banking- What are the concerns in storing Stem cells?

  • Over the past decade or so the popularity of cord blood banking has increased among new parents, witnessed by the many banking facilities that have come up across the country. But doctors’ associations say private banking of cord blood is not a routine recommendation for pregnant women, its use in transplants is decreasing and the areas of regenerative medicine where it could potentially be used, are still, mostly, experimental.
  • The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR)says “the likelihood of the stored blood being used for hematopoetic stem cell transplantations (HSCT) is very small, probably as low as 0.005 to 0.04% in the first 20 years of life.”
  • Consensus has also emerged in recent years, that stored cord blood should not be used for treating one’s own genetic condition in the future, because these stem cells could harbour the same genetic abnormality that caused the primary disease.
  • The use of cord blood in transplants has been on the decline. a newer method – haplo identincal transplants -is more common, where healthy cells from a half-matched donor such as a family member are used to replace the unhealthy ones in a patient.
  • The Indian Academy of Paediatrics, ina2018 statement, said: “Private cord blood banking is not a ‘biological insurance’ and its role in regenerative medicine is still hypothetical. It is recommended only if there is an existing family member (siblings or biological parents only), who is currently suffering from diseases approved to be benefitted by allogenic stem cell transplantation

2 . Jet Engine Technology Transfer

Context: The American multinational corporation General Electric (GE) announced it has signed an agreement with India’s state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) to make fighter jet engines for the Indian Air Force (IAF). The landmark agreement to facilitate the transfer of critical jet engine technologies had been anticipated.

What is this deal, and why is it so important?

  • The deal will allow the manufacture under licence in India of GE’s F414 engine for the indigenous Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas Mk2.
  • Only a handful of countries — such as the US, Russia, the UK, and France — have mastered the technology and metallurgy needed to manufacture an engine that can power combat aircraft. India is not in this list — its push for self-reliance in manufacturing several critical technologies, including cryogenic rocket engines, notwithstanding.
  • The countries that have the technology to manufacture advanced engines for fighter aircraft have been traditionally unwilling to share them. That is why the deal to manufacture GE’s F414s in India is pathbreaking.
  • This deal will end the “technology denial regime”.

What is the GE-414 military aircraft engine?

  • The turbofan engine, part of GE’s suite of military aircraft engines, has been in use by the US Navy for more than 30 years, according to the GE Aerospace
  • More than 1,600 F414 engines have been delivered, adding up to more than 5 million engine flight hours on a wide variety of missions.
  • The engines are in the thrust class of 22,000 lb or 98 kN, and feature advanced technology such as Full Authority Digital Electronic Control (FADEC) — the latest aircraft ignition and engine control system that controls engine performance digitally
  • The use of advanced materials and cooling techniques improve performance and extend component life.

What is the history of GE’s aerospace arm and India?

  • The India-specific version of the engine, F414-INS6, was selected by the Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) of the Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO) for the LCA Tejas Mk2.
  • The LCA Tejas is powered by a single GE-404-IN20 engine. The GE-404 engine, the basic design of which has been replicated in the F414, was developed in the 1970s.
  • F414 engines may also power the prototypes and the initial batch of the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA), India’s futuristic fifth generation fighter aircraft for its Air Force.
  • The GE website mentions the AMCA as a possible recipient of the engine, even though it will likely face competition from other jet engine makers such as Safran SA of France and Rolls-Royce of the United Kingdom.
  • Safran and HAL have co-developed the Shakti engine for the indigenous Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) Dhruv and Light Combat Helicopter (LCH) Prachand.

What kind of efforts has India made to build its own combat jet engine?

  • The DRDO’s Gas Turbine Research Establishment (GTRE) first worked on developing the GTX-37 engine for the LCA. Subsequently, the ambitious Kaveri engine project was sanctioned in late 1989.
  • Nine full prototype engines and four core engines have been developed, 3,217 hours of engine testing has been carried out, and Altitude Tests and Flying Test Bed (FTB) trials have been completed — but the engines have not been found suitable for fighter aircraft. There was a major shortfall in the wet thrust of the engine, which generated only 70.4 kN as against the targeted 81 kN.
  • In 2011, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) pulled up the GTRE for its inability to produce the engine for the LCA despite heavy cost overruns. While the LCA Tejas was integrated with the GE-404 engine, the government told Parliament in 2021 that technological capabilities built through the Kaveri engine project would be utilised, including as derivatives in drones.
  • The pact between GE and HAL — which will require clearance by the US Congress — finally brings to an end India’s long-drawn pursuit of advanced combat jet engine technology.

3 . Lab Grown Diamond

Context: The 7.5-carat eco-friendly laboratory-grown diamond, which Prime Minister Narendra Modi gifted to the U.S. First Lady Jill Biden in Washington has been manufactured in a Surat factory in Gujarat by recreating the same process that takes place beneath the earth in the formation of natural diamonds.

What are Lab Grown Diamonds?

  • Lab-grown diamonds are diamonds that are produced using specific technology which mimics the geological processes that grow natural diamonds. They are not the same as “diamond simulants” – LGDs are chemically, physically, and optically diamond and thus are difficult to identify as “lab-grown.”
  • Materials such as Moissanite, Cubic Zirconia (CZ), White Sapphire, YAG, etc. are “diamond simulants” that simply attempt to “look” like a diamond, they lack the sparkle and durability of a diamond and are thus easily identifiable.
  • However, differentiating between an LGD and an Earth Mined Diamond is hard, with advanced equipment required for the purpose.
  • In nature, diamonds are created when carbon deposits deep underground—usually 95 to 125 miles below the surface—are subjected to extreme pressure and heat. Scientists believe that it can take over 1 billion years to form a diamond in natural circumstances. However, in laboratory settings, the production process is much faster.

How are LGDs produced?

  • There are multiple ways in which LGDs can be produced. The most common and cheapest method is the “High pressure, high temperature” (HPHT) method.
  • This method requires extremely heavy presses that can produce up to 730,000 psi of pressure under extremely high temperatures (at least 1500 celsius).
  • Usually graphite is used as the “diamond seed” and when subjected to these extreme conditions, the relatively inexpensive form of carbon turns into one of the most expensive carbon forms.
  • Other processes include “Chemical Vapor Deposition” (CVD) and explosive formation that creates what are known as “detonation nanodiamonds”.
  • In the CVD process, the seed is heated to around 800 degrees Celsius inside a sealed chamber filled with a carbon-rich gas. The gas sticks to the seed and gradually builds into a diamond.
  • The world’s first-ever lab-grown diamond was created in 1954 by scientists working at a General Electric research laboratory in New York.

What are LGDs used for?

  • LGDs have basic properties like natural diamonds, including their optical dispersion, which provides them the signature diamond sheen. However, since they are created in controlled environments, many of their properties can be enhanced for various purposes
  • LGDs are most often used for industrial purposes, in machines and tools. Their hardness and extra strength make them ideal for use as cutters. Furthermore, pure synthetic diamonds have high thermal conductivity, but negligible electrical conductivity.
  • This combination is invaluable for electronics where such diamonds can be used as a heat spreader for high-power laser diodes, laser arrays and high-power transistors.
  • Earth’s reserves of natural diamonds are depleted, LGDs are slowly replacing the prized gemstone in the jewellery industry.
  • Like natural diamonds, LGDs undergo similar processes of polishing and cutting that are required to provide diamonds their characteristic lustre.

 Future of lab grown diamonds

  •  India contributes around 15 per cent in global production of lab-grown diamonds for which it is presently self-sufficient, as per the Ministry of Commerce & Industry. 
  • India’s exports of polished lab-grown diamonds were $274 million, $473 million, $637 million and $1.29 billion during 2018-19, 2019-20, 2020-21 and 2020-21, respectively. Annual growth during the same periods were 72 per cent, 35 per cent, and 103 per cent, respectively.

Why is India expanding its LGD program?

  • From 2018 to 2021, India more than quadrupled the dollar value of its polished synthetic diamond exports, going from $274 million to $1.29 billion in sales.
  • This year, India’s finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced that the government would subsidize research and development costs in the LGD industry by providing a grant to one of the Indian Institutes of Technology for five years.
  • Lab-grown diamonds is a technology and innovation sector with high employment potential. These are environmentally-friendly diamonds which have optically and chemically the same properties as natural diamonds.
  • Currently, India produces 15% of all LGDs in the world, according to India’s Ministry of Commerce and Industry. China is believed to be the leading producer of them around the world, accounting for 50% of the global market share. According to Allied Market Research, the industry was worth $22.3 billion in 2021, and is expected to more than double over the next decade to $55.6 billion.
  • The lab-grown diamond (LGD) is at the heart of India’s bid to become a global leader in producing the synthetic alternative, which has a much smaller carbon footprint than mined diamonds and is seen as “conflict free.”

Why are LGDs important?

  • Diamonds are used for many purposes, not just jewelry. In fact, 80% of the world’s diamonds are used for industrial purposes. Because diamond is an incredibly sturdy material, it is frequently used in electronics that are designed to last for a long time, like high-end speakers or satellites. Diamonds are also important for dentistry tools, since they are one of the few substances that can easily drill into teeth. The substance is also used in countless other industrial applications that require extremely strong materials.
  • LGDs are on average cheaper than mined diamonds by 30-40%. They are less likely to rely on dangerous and exploitative labor practices and do not harm the natural habitat in the way mining frequently does.
  • The production of the diamond gifted to the Bidens produced just 0.028 grams of Co2 per carat, which is over 100,000 times less emissions per carat than the production of the average mined diamond.

4 . Facts for prelims

The Reserve Bank of India (Relief Measures by Banks in Areas Affected by Natural Calamities) Directions, 2018

  • The Reserve Bank of India (Relief Measures by Banks in Areas Affected by Natural Calamities) Directions, 2018 has been issued to banks in regard to matters relating to relief measures to be provided in areas affected by natural calamity. These Directions are in effect from October 2018.
  • The provisions of these Directions shall apply to every Scheduled Commercial Bank (including Small Finance Banks (SFBs) and excluding Regional Rural Banks (RRBs)) licensed to operate in India by Reserve Bank of India.
  • Background- Periodical but frequent occurrence of natural calamity takes a heavy toll on human life and cause wide spread damage to economic pursuits in one or the other part of the country. The devastation caused by natural calamities calls for massive rehabilitation effort from all agencies. The Central, State and local authorities draw programmes on economic rehabilitation for the people affected by natural calamities. The developmental role assigned to the commercial banks including Small Finance Banks warrant their active support in reviving the economic activities of those affected by the occurrence of a natural calamity.
  • The role of the scheduled commercial banks including Small Finance Banks (SFBs) is to provide relief measure through rescheduling existing loans and sanctioning fresh loans as per the emerging requirement of the borrowers.
  • To enable banks to take uniform and concerted action expeditiously, these directions are issued covering four aspects viz. Institutional Framework, Restructuring of Existing Loans, Providing Fresh Loans and Other Ancillary Relief Measures.

Matsya 6000

  • Matsya 6000 is an Indian crewed deep-submergence vehicle intended to be utilised for deep-sea exploration of rare minerals under the Deep Ocean mission.
  • The manned submersible, designed to carry three people in 2.1 meter diameter Titanium Alloy Personnel Sphere, is being developed by the Ministry of Earth Sciences and NIOT, Chennai, under the aegis of Deep Ocean Mission.
  • It will have an operational endurance of 12h and systems to support emergency endurance up to 96h for deep ocean exploration of non-living resources such as polymetallic manganese nodules, gas hydrates, hydro-thermal sulphides and cobalt crusts, located at a depth between 1,000 and 5,500 meters.

Medicines Patent Pool

  • The Medicines Patent Pool (MPP) is a United Nations-backed public health organisation working to increase access to, and facilitate the development of, life-saving medicines for low- and middle-income countries. MPP was founded by Unitaid, which continues to be MPP’s main funder. 
  • Through its innovative business model, MPP partners with civil society, governments, international organisations, industry, patient groups, and other stakeholders, to prioritise and license needed medicines and pool intellectual property to encourage generic manufacture and the development of new formulations.
  • Its public health driven business model aims to lower the prices of HIV, tuberculosis and hepatitis C medicines and facilitate the development of better-adapted HIV treatments through voluntary licensing and patent pooling.
  • Its goal is to improve access to affordable and appropriate HIV, hepatitis C and tuberculosis medicines in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC).
  • In May 2020, the MPP become an implementing partner of the WHO’s Covid-19 Technology Access Pool (C-TAP).

National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting (NCMRWF)

  • The National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting (NCMRWF) is a Centre of Excellence in Weather and Climate Modelling under the Ministry of Earth Sciences.
  • The mission of the Centre is to continuously develop advanced numerical weather prediction systems, with increased reliability and accuracy over India and neighbouring regions through research, development and demonstration of new and novel applications, maintaining highest level of knowledge, skills and technical bases.

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