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Current Affairs 28th February 2024 for UPSC Prelims Exam

10,000 genome Project

Context: The Department of Biotechnology (DBT) officially announced the completion of the ‘10,000 genome’ project.

More In News

  • India first sequenced a complete human genome in 2006.
  • Creating a database that is representative of India’s population diversity is seen as a key step to being able to learn about genetic variants that are unique to India’s population groups and use that to customise drugs and therapies.
  • The project sees collaboration from around 20 institutions nationwide, with the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru, and the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), Hyderabad, leading the coordination.
  • Key benefits of this project include:
    • Enhancing our understanding of India’s population genetics,
    • Improving diagnostic and medical counselling techniques,
    • Identifying genetic disease predispositions,
    • Enabling the creation of personalised drugs,
    • Advancing gene therapy, and
    • Increasing our knowledge of individual susceptibility to infectious diseases.
  • Established a biobank at the Centre for Brain Research, IISc, which stores 20,000 blood samples for genome sequencing.
  • All data are stored at the Indian Biological Data Centre (IBDC), initiated by the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India, located at the Regional Centre for Biotechnology (RCB), Faridabad.

What Is Genome?

  • A genome is the complete set of genetic information in an organism.
  • It is made of DNA (or RNA in some viruses) and includes genes and other elements that control the activity of those genes. .
  • The genome contains all the information needed for the organism to develop, function, and reproduce.
  • Human Genome: contains about 3 billion base pairs of DNA, which are organised into 23 pairs of chromosomes.
    • Each base pair is made up of two nucleotides, adenine (A), guanine (G), cytosine (C), or thymine (T).
    • The sequence of nucleotides in the genome determines the genetic code, which is the set of instructions for building proteins.

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Important Terms

  • Nucleotides are the building blocks of nucleic acids, which include DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) and RNA (ribonucleic acid).
  • These molecules play a fundamental role in the storage, transmission, and expression of genetic information in living organisms.

Genome v/s Gene

  • Genome is the entire set of genetic material or DNA, while gene is a specific segment of DNA that codes for a particular protein or RNA molecule.

Melanistic Tigers

Context: The Odisha government, noting the high number of pseudo-melanistic tigers in the Similipal Tiger Reserve (STR) due to inbreeding, has requested the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) to introduce female tigers from different regions to the reserve.

Melanism in Tigers

  • Melanism is a condition caused by increased melanin production, leading to dark pigmentation in skin, feathers, or hair.
  • Similipal Tiger Reserve’s (STR) royal Bengal tigers exhibit higher melanin levels, resulting in black and yellow stripes, termed pseudo-melanistic.

Genetic Basis of Pseudo-Melanism:

  • Research by the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS, Bengaluru) identified a mutation in the Transmembrane Aminopeptidase Q (Taqpep) gene as responsible for enlarged stripes in black tigers.
  • Genetic analyses and simulations suggest Similipal’s black tigers originated from a small, inbred founding population.
  • Isolation and Inbreeding: STR’s tigers are isolated, leading to inbreeding within the population due to the lack of genetic diversity from external sources.

Tiger Population in Similipal:

  • The 2022 All-India Tiger Estimation recorded 16 tigers in STR, with 10 displaying melanism.
  • Preliminary data from the state’s ongoing tiger survey indicates a higher tiger count than reported by NTCA.

About National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA)

  • Establishment: 2006, under the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972.
  • Ministry: Environment, Forest, and Climate Change (MoEFCC).
  • Governance: Statutory body with a multi-level structure.
  • Chairperson: Minister in charge of MoEFCC.
  • Key Objectives:
    • Empowering Project Tiger with legal authority.
    • Ensuring accountability from both central and state governments in managing tiger reserves.
    • Enabling parliamentary oversight for tiger conservation efforts.
    • Addressing the livelihood concerns of local communities around tiger reserves.
  • Membership:
    • Minister in charge of MoEFCC (Chairperson)
    • MoEFCC Minister of State (Vice-Chairperson)
    • Three members of Parliament
    • Secretary (MoEFCC)
    • Additional members


Context: India announced the names of the four astronaut-designates for the Gaganyaan human spaceflight mission, planned for launch in 2025.

Human Space Flight Mission: Gaganyaan Status Update

Technological Developments

  • Launch Vehicle: ISRO’s launch vehicle, LVM3, is set to be used for the Gaganyaan missions.
  • Cryo Stage Testing: The cryogenic stage, essential for the spacecraft’s journey into space, has undergone testing and validation.

Mission Planning

  • Unmanned Missions: Prior to the crewed flight, two unmanned missions are planned, with the first expected by the end of 2024 to test mission readiness.
  • Crew Module & Escape System: The crew module for the Gaganyaan-1 mission includes an Environment Control and Life Support System (ECLSS) to ensure Earth-like conditions during space travel.

Safety Measures

  • Mission Safety: ISRO is developing and testing the re-entry technology to ensure the astronauts’ safe return, which includes a special parachute system and a crew escape system.

International Collaboration

  • Training Abroad: The astronaut candidates have undergone training in Russia, and the final four will also be trained by NASA.
  • Partnership: ISRO has signed an agreement with Glavkosmos, a subsidiary of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, for joint training programs.

Environmental and Data Monitoring

  • Mission Data: A complete life support system and the Vomit Comet flight will record all parameters to study the environmental impact on astronauts.

Future Projections

  • Ongoing Adjustments: ISRO continues to refine and adjust mission parameters based on test results and learning.
  • Continual Training: The astronauts are continuously training, focusing on subsystem functionality and comfort during space travel.

Power to Destroy Surveillance orders

Context: The Union government has now empowered the Home Secretary with the ability to eliminate interception orders.

Previous Regulation

  • Previously, only certain security agencies had the authority to destroy these orders.
  • The regulations from 2009 dictated this power, mainly concerning the monitoring of phone communications.
  • Scope of Power: Initially, 10 agencies, including the Enforcement Directorate and the Intelligence Bureau, had the permission to terminate interception orders.
  • Surveillance Concerns
    • There has been centralization of power in the Home Ministry to manage surveillance documents.
    • There are issues raised regarding the potential for untraceable surveillance actions.
      • An instance cited is the alleged tapping of phones of Jayalalithaa, the former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, by the government in 2012.
    • Impact on Privacy and Business
      • There are concerns that government orders could lead to the suppression of dissent, the blocking of content, and could adversely affect businesses.
      • A lawyer and digital rights activist emphasised the lack of accountability and the possibility of erasing any traces of such orders.


Context: Scientists at Stanford University have identified a novel, simple life form named ‘obelisks’ using next-generation sequencing (NGS).

About Obelisks

  • Obelisks are newly discovered microscopic biological entities found in the human mouth and gut.
  • They are circular pieces of genetic material (RNA) containing one or two genes.
  • They self-organise into a rod-like shape, resembling an obelisk (hence the name).

Classification and Uniqueness:

  • Obelisks fall somewhere between viruses and viroids:
    • Like viroids, they have a circular RNA genome and no protein coat.
    • Unlike viroids, they have genes that potentially code for proteins (like viruses).
  • The protein coded by obelisks is called obulin, with two types identified so far (obulin 1 and 2).
  • Obelisk protein sequences show no similarity to any known proteins, making their function unclear.

Discovery and Prevalence:

  • The research is in the preprint stage, meaning it hasn’t undergone peer review yet.
  • Despite this, the discovery has gained significant scientific attention.
  • Obelisks were discovered using a new method to search databases for specific RNA molecules.
  • They are surprisingly widespread, found in:
    • 7% of human gut microbiome datasets
    • 50% of human mouth microbiome datasets
    • Diverse datasets from around the globe

Relationship with Hosts:

  • Obelisks likely rely on microbial hosts to replicate, potentially including those in humans.
  • The exact host species remain unknown, but bacteria or fungi are possible candidates.
  • The study suggests Streptococcus sanguinis, a common bacteria in dental plaque, might host a specific obelisk type.

Uncertainties and Future Research:

  • The impact of obelisks on their hosts and human health is unknown.
  • They could be:
    • Parasitic and harmful
    • Beneficial
    • Neither harmful nor beneficial (simply existing and replicating)
  • More research is needed to understand:
    • The evolutionary and ecological significance of obelisks
    • Their potential role in human health (positive or negative)
    • The function of obulin proteins

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