2015 October | Think Science India

Monthly Archives: October 2015

Supermoon Total Eclipse

The Sep 27/28 Lunar eclipse was intently watched all over the world for it was a rare occurrence indeed. It was a total lunar eclipse, which was a part of a series of eclipses called a tetrad, at a time when it was closest to the earth in its orbiting path.

SEP15 Supermoon1 copy SEP15 Supermoon2

Pictures sent by our readers

Only about one in three lunar eclipses are total lunar eclipses. Every once in a while, four total lunar eclipses happen in a row. This is called a lunar tetrad.

According to NASA, the current century – 2001 to 2100 – will have eight tetrads. They have only occurred 5 times in the 1900s -1910,1928,1946,1964,1982


Fig: Total lunar eclipse


supermoon is the coincidence of a full moon or a new moon with the closest approach the Moon makes to the Earth on its elliptical orbit, resulting in the largest apparent size of the lunar disk as seen from Earth. The term “supermoon” is not astronomical, but originated in modern astrology. The technical name is the perigeesyzygy of the Earth-Moon-Sun system. A full moon at perigee is visually larger up to 14% in diameter (or about 30% in area) and shines 30% more light than one at its farthest point, or apogee.


Blood Moon is not really a scientific term either and is sometimes used to describe a Total Lunar Eclipse. When the Earth casts its shadow on a Full Moon and eclipses it, the Moon may get a red glow

The red color of the moon is due to the Rayleigh scattering of sunlight through the Earth’s atmosphere, the same effect that causes sunsets to appear red


Like solar eclipses, lunar eclipses tend to occur in 18 year long cycles called Saros cycles. Lunar eclipses separated by a Saros cycle share similar features, including time of the year and the distance of moon from earth. Eclipses that are separated by a Saros cycle are included in a Saros series.


The September 27/ 28, 2015 Lunar Eclipse belonged to Saros Series 137. It was the 28th eclipse and the last total lunar eclipse in a series of 81 lunar eclipses. The series began with a penumbral eclipse on December 17, 1564 and will end with another penumbral eclipse on April 20, 2953.


The next Super moon eclipse of the tetrad is slated to happen on October 8, 2033.

Horticulture – Aspects and Importance

Horticulture is not just farming or growing of plants. It is the science and art of growing vegetables, fruits, medicinal plants, mushrooms, flowers, ornamental plants and herbs in an economically viable way. It also involves design of gardens, conservation of endangered plant species and the reuse of waste land. Horticulture also includes the production of non edible plant products of high economic value.


Horticulture deals with the science of cultivation with advanced techniques from the early stage of tissue culture, till the final productivity from the plants.

It includes the modern day practices like:

  • Tissue culture
  • Examination of minerals found in soil and its enrichment
  • Preparation of soil according o the needs of the plants to be grown
  • Plant propagation through stems, bulbs and roots (for e.g. now thousands of varieties of roses are available by using the grafting and budding propagation technique)
  • Plantation of best quality seeds or seedlings or plants
  • Control of pests and weeds
  • Proper cutting and pruning
  • Use of greenhouses or controlled environment rooms
  • More improved techniques likes genetic engineering of plants are also involved in horticulture
  • Architecture

Horticulture can be divided into culture of ornamental and edible plants.


Importance of Horticulture of edible plants:

  • Fruit plants: Demands of fruits are increasing day by day. To meet the needs horticulture is extensively used to grow fruit plants throughout the year. Examples include apple, banana, grapes, orange, pears, pineapple etc., according to the climate of the region.
  • Nut Plants: These plants earn a good income to the owner through oil seeds and nuts. Examples include almonds, cashew nuts, peanuts, pistachio, flaxseeds, soyabean, sesame etc.
  • Tea and coffee plantations:
  • Vegetables: To meet the increasing needs of the vegetables throughout the year Horticulture is practiced. It leads to high yields per square hectare of the land and also the engagement of the labour throughout the year. So the wastage of manpower is minimal.
  • Herbs: Examples include coriander, cumin, dill, fennel, funugreek, garlic, ginger, laurel, marjoram, mint, mustard, nutmeg and mace, onion, oregano, parsley, pepper, poppy seed, rosemary, saffron, sage, savory, sesame, star anise, tarragon, thyme, and turmeric. , anise, basil, capsicums, caraway, cardamom, cinnamon, chervil, clove, etc.
  • Mushroom Culture: Mushrooms are nutritious and have good demands in markets. They are cultivated extensively as a good source of earning. There are many institutes which emphasize on Mushroom culture and also conduct researches to increase its production. White button Mushrooms are most popular in India. Now through the development of technology and increased commercial practices, mushrooms are grown all year long and not only in winters.


Mushroom cultivation can be divided into Six Phases:

Phase of Cultivation Time Required Temperature and Conditions
1. Phase I composting 6–14 days Compost is prepared in this phase by mixing straw (as substrate), fertilizers, manure, gypsum and water. It is left for some days for the anaerobic microbial action which produces ammonia and CO2. This results in the food ready for the mushrooms, to grow. Compost is rich in nutrients and carbohydrates. The compost is turned in approx every two days and watered. It is stopped once temp reaches 145°F.
2. Phase II composting 7–18 days This step involves the sterilization of the compost to reduce harmful microbes and worms. It can be done by increasing the temp of the compost and is done in environmentally controlled rooms. This process also removes ammonia and carbon dioxide gas produced, as this can hamper the mushroom growth. At the end of this phase the temp of the compost is lowered to around 75°F.
3. Spawning 14–21 days At this stage spawn is added to the prepared bed. Mushrooms are like fruits which grow on the roots like structure called as Mycelium. At temp around 75°F and high humidity, spawn begins to grow forming Mycelium. They form a bed of spawn of white color. Once a spawn colony is developed properly, next step is done.
4. Casing 13–20 days Casing is done by spreading the soil over the fully grown spawn, encasing it. It results in the formation of mushroom pins.Fertilizers and moisture level are increased for the good production.
5. Pinning 18–21 days Pin like formation of recognizable mushrooms from mycelium can be seen in this phase. The pins grows into buttons and eventually Mushrooms.The level of Temperature, humidity and CO2 will also affect the number of pins, and mushroom size
6. Cropping Done in cycles Mushroom harvesting. From a single culture, mushrooms can be harvested till 45-60 days in cycles. Ventilation is very essential part. It takes approx 15-16 weeks for the completion of entire production cycle.


Horticulture of ornamental plants includes generation of new varieties of ornamental plants and flowering plants.

Horticultural Societies in India: To set up an autonomous society Government of India came up with National Horticulture Board (NHB) in 1984. This was the major landmark in the awareness and utilization of horticulture sector in India. A National Horticulture Mission was launched in 2005-06 for the growth and spreading awareness about Horticulture. The Mission has been a part of Mission for Integration Development of Horticulture (MIDH) in 2014.

Education and Awareness: There is now increasing demand of horticulturists, tissue engineer scientists, and experts from this field, thus now there are many courses available in the universities on Horticulture. Also, more and more farmers have been educated about the modern techniques of Horticulture through, camps, village panchayats, televisions, horticultural societies and organizations, to increase their income.

 Author : Ms Anushri Panwar




All About Stem Cells


The new evolving field of science is stem cells and in particularits promising applications in medical therapeutics, cosmetics, and drugs. Stem cells are finding good potential invarious fields of science and technology. The unique properties of stem cells is inducing keen interest of scientists all over the world and is driving them to utilize stem cell strategies to develop potential cure and treatments for various ailments, disorders and cancers. Over the past few years, research and development in stem cell technology has revolutionized the traditional methods of treatment and is emerging as an interesting field of study for the future. Many institutes and universities around the world provide various study programs for the younger generations to pursue. With this rate of progress, we can expect many life changing technologies in future that could leap miles of distance in the field of science.


Figure1: Microscopic image of dopaminergic neurons derived from mouse embryonic stem cells by California Institute of Regenerative Medicine.


Stem cells are of different differentiation potencies and patterns as they traverse their biologically destined pathways. There are many types of stem cells forming organs based on their homing sites. In mammals, stem cells are found in embryonic stage as the inner cell mass of the blastocyst and these are known as embryonic stem cells (ESCs). In adults, stem cells can be isolated from brain, adipose (fat) tissue, skeletal muscles, bone marrow (pelvic region), heart, and liver. Stem cells are also isolated from umbilical cord of the new born (hematopoietic stem cells). Cord blood is rich in hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) and the mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are extracted from the epithelium of the cord tissue. Each type of stem cellshas their own importance in a particular field. For example, HSCs are best used to treat blood related diseases likeleukaemia and lymphoma and MSCs are used to generate organs for organ transplants.


There are three main characteristics of stem cells and they are listed as below:

Self-renewal: the stem cells have potential to regenerate themselves during cell division. There are two types of replication methods named obligatory asymmetric replication where stem cell divides into two daughter cells – one resembles its parent and the other is a new progeny cell. Stochastic differentiation where one stem cells divides into two differentiated daughter cells and another stem cell divides into the parent stem cell.

Potency: stem cells have remarkable ability to grow and develop into a complete organism from single cell. This is called Totipotency. Other potencies of stem cells are also imbibed in stem cells such as Pluripotency where a single cell can give rise to many precursor cells and differentiate into particular cells and later develop into a particular organ. Stem cells also have Unipotencywhere they divide into single type of cells and later they all differentiate and develop into a tissue of particular function.

Identification: In a mixed population of cells, stem cells can be distinguished from other cells through certain specific markers called cluster of differentiation markers or commonly known as CD Markers.

Some research institutes design certain codes called as SLAM codes (Signalling Lymphocyte Activation Molecule) which belong to a family of cell surface molecules that are found tandem on a chromosome belonging to a subset of immunoglobulin gene super family.


As, mentioned earlier, there are many sites in the body of an organism from where the stem cells are obtained. They are classified based on their source as listed below:

Embryonic stem cells: These are obtained the inner cell mass of the blastocyst.


Figure 2: Blastocyst where 1 is the outer layer called Trophoblast; 2 is the fluid filled space called Blastocoel and; 3 is the inner cell mass.

Umbilical Cord Blood stem cells:Both hematopoietic and mesenchymal stem cells are extracted from the umbilical cord blood and epithelium layer.


Figure 3: Two sources of stem cells from umbilical cord of the new born.

Adult stem cells: These stem cells have varied sites in the body like brain, skeletal muscle, adipose tissue, bone marrow (usually the pelvic region). The region chosen for the isolation depends on the case of the patient.


Figure 4: Various locations for isolation of adult stem cells.


The different types of stem cells are as listed below:

Hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) are the precursors to myeloid and lymphoid lineage of blood cells. These stem cells give rise to all kinds of blood cells and hence they find massive application in treating blood related disorders and cancers like Leukaemia and Lymphoma. HSCs have been in therapeutic use for more than 50 years. In the year 2006, 50,417 hematopoietic stem cell transplants were performed globally out of which 43% were allogeneic and 57% were autologous. The principal sources for HSCs are bone marrow (BM), umbilical cord stem cells (UCB), and mobilized peripheral blood stem cells (PBSC).


Figure 5: Hematopoietic stem cell lineages.

Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) were initially identified in 1976 as bone marrow stromal cells with the capability to form mesenchymal components such as fat, cartilage and bone. They are also obtained from the epithelium of the umbilical cord tissue. Along with the large regenerative potential of damaged mesenchymal tissues, MSCs are powerful immune modulators with promising results in the autoimmune diseases and GVHD.


Figure 6: Mesenchymal stem cells and the different types of cells that MSC gives rise to after differentiation.

Human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) are primitive precursor cells with an unlimited potential for self-renewal and the capability to differentiate into any cell type derived from all three germ cell layers. This pluripotent property makes hESCs powerful candidates for regenerative cellular therapies.


Figure 7: The inner cell mass of the blastocyst consists of hESCs and it is isolated for stem cell culture.


There are three types of transplants that may be performed:

Autologous: a patient receives his or her own stem cells. So there is less risk of rejection or graft-versus-host disease GVHD.

Allogeneic: a patient receives stem cells from someone else- either a relative or an unrelated donor.

Syngeneic: a patient receives stem cells from an identical twin.



The method of extracting the stem cells from a specified site and processing it for the preservation is termed as harvesting. The method of harvesting most commonly used in clinical practice is closed technique which is similar to the standard blood collection techniques. There are three locations for isolation of stem cells in the human body: umbilical cord of the new born, peripheral blood and bone marrow (pelvic) region. The harvesting protocol depends on the site of isolation of stem cells.

If the site of isolation is umbilical cord then the technician cannulises the vein of severed umbilical cord using a needle that is connected to a blood bag and the cord blood flows through the needle into the bag. On average closed technique enables collection of about 75 collected cord bloods.


Figure 8: Blood collection bag for the umbilical cord tissue.

If the site of isolation is bone marrow then the protocol followed is different. Stem cells are 10-100 times more concentrated in bone marrow than in peripheral blood. The (pelvic) bone contains the largest amount of active marrow in the body and large numbers of stem cells. Extraction from bone marrow is considered painful and whole procedure is carried out under anaesthetic condition. Several small punctures are made in skin over the pelvic bone and a special needle attached to a syringe is inserted through these punctures into the bone marrow. The doctor draws the marrow and blood out of the bone marrow until enough stem cells are collected for the transplant. The whole process is carried for about 2 hours. About 500-1000ml of bone marrow is removed for the treatment purpose. Puncture sites are covered with bandages or a pressure dressing and the patient is prescribed few medicines to relieve pain from the sore developed in hip area.


Figure 9: Isolation of stem cells from the bone marrow using special aspiration needles.

If the site of isolation is peripheral blood then the protocol is much simple and easier. It is called as Aphaeresis. In the preceding week before aphaeresis is performed the donor receives drugs to increase the number of stem cells in his or her bloodstream. During Aphaeresis, the donor’s blood is removed from usually through the arm and it flows through a machine that isolates the stem cells. The blood then flows back to the donor while the extracted stem cells are frozen untilthey are transferred to the recipient. The entire process lasts for about 5 hours.

Sometimes, a simple blood collection process is carried out using a syringe and the sample is sent to clinics for the further processing. The amount of blood extracted depends on the requirement of the patient.


Figure 10: Extracting the peripheral blood from the patient.



After harvesting the stem cells they are stored through a process called Cryopreservation. Cryopreservation is a process where cells,or whole tissues are preserved by cooling to sub-zero temperatures. The cells are stored at -196°C in Liquid Nitrogen cans. This way the cells can be stored for long durations ranging from few months to many years. DMSO (Dimethyl Sulfoxide) is used as a cryoprotectant, added to the cell media to reduce ice formation and thereby prevent cell death during the freezing process. Approximately 10% is used with a slow-freeze method, and the cells are frozen at -80°C or stored in liquid nitrogen containers.



Figure 11: Embryonic cryopreservation.                                Figure 12: Cells stored in liquid nitrogen cans.


The research and development in science has given new outcomes to the world such as induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (iPSCs). These are adult somatic cells that are genetically reprogrammed to an embryonic stem cell-like state by being forced to express genes by introducing certain transcription factors. These genes are important for maintaining the defining properties of embryonic stem cells. iPSCs were first reported in 2006 by Shinya Yamanaka of the university of Kyoto, Japan, who was awarded nobel prize in 2012 in Physiology or Medicine for his discovery. He shared his prize with John B.Gurdon of Gurdon institute in Cambridge, UK, who is known as “godfather of cloning”. Later human

iPSCs were reported in 2007. iPSCs are useful tools for drug development, modelling of diseases and scientists hope to use them for transplantation medicine. Currently viruses are used to reprogram but this has to be controlled effectively because the viruses introduced into the animal for reprogramming the cells might cause cancers. But, recent studies involve non-viral delivery strategies. Tissues derived from iPSCs will be a nearly identical match to the cell donor so this avoids the rejection by the immune system. This new technique will also pave way for the researchers to learn how to reprogram cells to repair damaged tissues in the human body.


Figure 13: Scientists who won Nobel Prize for their discovery in the field of stem cells technology.


Figure 14: Image shows the formation of an induced pluripotent stem cell cell(iPSC) colony after 12 days of reprogramming of mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs). The cells are stained with antibodies for histone H3 acetylated on lysine 27 (H3K27ac, red), and the pluripotent marker Nanog (green); DNA is stained with DAPI (blue). The cells in the background are MEFs that have not been reprogrammed. 


About the authors

Srikruthi N, Kaushik Dilip Deb, Prasad S.Koka – DiponEdBiointelligence


DiponEdBiointelligence LLP is a Bangalore based company that works as a technology support provider, with a focus on developing intelligent solutions- services and products to serve no-option medical conditions and unmet healthcare needs, through a personalised approach. At DiponEd, we offer study programs and conduct workshops for students aspiring to learn new biological, cellular therapies, POC stem cell transplantation and processing. Contact info@diponed.com for more details.


















Contact Information

Think Science India

Mumbai, India.

Terms & Conditions

The material and information in the contents contained in it belong to the writer of the article and Think Science India serves as a platform for dissemination of such material and information. This site and the contents thereof (including but not limited to software, interfaces, files, graphics, text and data found on the site) is the property of and owned by Think Science India


Santalum Ventures