Today's Headlines

Today's Headlines - 05 September 2023

Court allows stem cell therapy for autistic kids

GS Paper - 3 (Biotechnology)

The Delhi High Court permitted two children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) to undergo stem cell therapy for treatment of their condition. The order came in a petition moved by family members of the two children, challenging a 6 December 2022 recommendation of the Ethics and Medical Registration Board (EMRB) of the National Medical Commission (NMC) against the use of stem cell treatment for ASD.

What are stem cells?

  • Simply put, stem cells are cells from which all other cells, with their respective specialised functions, are generated.
  • The human body, under certain conditions, “divides” stem cells to either create new stem cells or cells with specific functions, such as blood cellsbrain cellsbone cellsmuscle cells, etc.
  • There are two main categories of stem cells: pluripotent stem cells, or cells with the ability to differentiate into all of the cells of the adult body, and adult stem cells, which are tissue or organ-specific and regenerate to form cells only of that particular organ.
  • Pluripotent stem cells are naturally found only in embryos. However, in 2006, researchers identified conditions that would allow some mature human adult cells to be reprogrammed into an embryonic stem cell-like state. Those reprogrammed stem cells are called induced pluripotent stem cells.

How are stem cells used in medicine?

  • The regenerative properties of stem cells make them extremely valuable in medicine. This is why stem cell treatments are also termed as regenerative medicine.
  • For over 90 years now, hematopoietic stem cell transplantation has been used to treat people with conditions such as leukaemia and lymphoma.
  • After chemotherapy or radiation therapy wrecks the patient’s healthy cells (along with the cancerous ones), a donor’s healthy bone marrow reintroduces functional stem cells to replicate inside of a patient and to produce additional normal blood cells.
  • There are typically a very small number of adult stem cells in each tissue, and once removed from the body, their capacity to divide is limited.
  • This is the fundamental limitation of stem cell therapies at the moment. That is why, scientists have been focussed on manipulating adult stem cells to exhibit characteristics of pluripotent stem cells.

What is autism spectrum disorder and how is it treated?

  • Autism spectrum disorder is a neurological and developmental disorder that affects how people interact with otherscommunicatelearn, and behave.
  • According to the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), people with ASD often have difficulty with communication and interaction with other people, restricted interests and repetitive behaviours, and symptoms that affect their ability to function in school, work, and other areas of life.
  • Currently, there is no cure for ASD – treatments and therapies are geared towards managing symptoms and helping someone with ASD lead a happy and functional life.
  • Conventional therapies include social skills trainingearly intensive behaviour therapyapplied behaviour analysisspeech therapy, and occupational therapyPsychotropic drugs and transcranial magnetic stimulation are also commonly used.

Can stem cell treatment be used for ASD?

  • ASD has potential to be a good candidate for stem cell therapy because evidence exists that some types of stem cells, given intravenously, can improve the overall regulation of the immune system and the neural connectivity in the brain.
  • However, stem cell therapy is not typically used for treating ASD yet, and initial clinical trials have shown mixed results.
  • Currently, the treatment is very much in an experimental stage and there is simply not enough data to make definitive claims.

A sunrace of significant global missions

GS Paper - 3 (Space Technology)

In the wake of the Indian Space Research Organisation's successful launch of its inaugural solar mission, Aditya-L1,, let's embark on a journey through key missions from space agencies worldwide, all dedicated to unravelling the enigmatic secrets of the Sun.

A Sunrace


  • US: National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the US space agency, launched the Parker Solar Probe in August 2018. In December 2021Parker flew through the Sun's upper atmosphere, the corona, and sampled particles and magnetic fields there. This was the first time ever that a spacecraft touched the Sun, according to NASA.
  • In February 2020, NASA joined hands with the European Space Agency (ESA) and launched The Solar Orbiter to collect data to find out how the Sun created and controlled the constantly changing space environment throughout the solar system.
  • Other active solar missions by NASA are Advanced Composition Explorer launched in August, 1997Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory in October, 2006; Solar Dynamics Observatory in February, 2010; and Interface Region Imaging Spectrograph launched in June, 2013.
  • Also, in December, 1995, NASA, ESA and JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) jointly launched the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO).


  • JAXA, Japan's space agency, launched its first solar observation satellite, Hinotori (ASTRO-A), in 1981. The objective was to study solar flares using hard X-rays, according to JAXA.
  • JAXA's other solar exploratory missions are Yohkoh (SOLAR-A) launched in 1991; SOHO (along with NASA and ESA) in 1995; and Transient Region and Coronal Explorer (TRACE), along with NASA, in 1998.
  • In 2006, Hinode (SOLAR-B) was launched, which was the successor to Yohkoh (SOLAR-A), the orbiting solar observatory. Japan launched it in collaboration with the US and the UK. The objective of Hinode, an observatory satellite, is to study the impact of the Sun on the Earth.
  • Yohkoh's objective was to observe solar flares and the solar corona. It was the first satellite to track almost an entire 11-year solar activity cycle.


  • In October, 1990, the ESA launched Ulysses to study the environment of space above and below the poles of the Sun, giving scientists information about the variable effect the Sun has on the space surrounding it.
  • Other than solar missions launched in collaboration with NASA and the JAXA, the ESA launched Proba-2 in October, 2001.
  • Proba-2 is the second of the Proba series, building on nearly eight years of successful Proba-1 experience, even as Proba-1 was not a solar exploratory mission. On-board Proba-2 were four experiments, two of them were solar observation experiments.
  • Proba stands for Project for On-Board Autonomy. Upcoming solar missions of the ESA include Proba-3, scheduled for 2024 and Smile, scheduled for 2025.


  • The Advanced Space-based Solar Observatory (ASO-S) was successfully launched by the National Space Science Center, Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), in October, 2022.
  • The ASO-S mission is designed to reveal connections among the solar magnetic fieldsolar flares, and coronal mass ejections (CMEs).
  • Solar flares and CMEs are eruptive solar phenomena, thought to be driven by changes in the Sun's magnetic field.


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