Today's Headlines

Today's Headlines - 14 May 2023

Baby born with three people’s DNA

GS Paper - 3 (Biotechnology)

In a first, a baby in the United Kingdom (UK) has been born using three people’s DNA, UK’s fertility regulator Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) has confirmed. While 99 per cent of the DNA comes from their two parentsaround 0.1 per cent is from a third person — a donor woman. The unique fertility technique is touted to help prevent children from being born with “devastating mitochondrial diseases“.

More about the technique

  1. The technique, called early pronuclear transfer, involves transplanting the nuclear DNA from a fertilised egg into a donated egg, which contains healthy mitochondria, on the day of fertilisation. It has extensively been researched ever since 2015-16.
  2. Notably, using a similar pronuclear transfer technique, researchers at Newcastle University led by Douglass Turnbull in 2016 had successfully transplanted healthy DNA in human eggs from women with mitochondrial disease into the eggs of women donors who were unaffected, according to the study published in the journal Nature.
  3. Notably, mitochondrial diseases are incurable and can be fatal within days or even hours of birth, if diagnosed in a newborn (although they can develop at any age).
  4. This three-person IVF procedure is known to help eliminate mitochondrial diseases that are passed on from mother to child.
  5. Also called Mitochondrial Replacement Therapy (MRT), in the procedure, the nuclear DNA is transferred to another healthy egg cell leaving the defective mitochondrial DNA behind.

What are mitochondrial diseases?

  1. Mitochondria or the power membrane of a cell are unique; they have their own DNA called mitochondrial DNA, or mtDNA. “Mutations in this mtDNA or in nuclear DNA (DNA found in the nucleus of a cell) can cause mitochondrial disorder.
  2. Mitochondrial diseases are chronic (long-term)genetic, often inherited disorders that occur when mitochondria fail to produce enough energy for the body to function properly.
  3. Mitochondrial diseases can affect almost any part of the body, including the cells of the brainnervesmuscleskidneys, heart, liver, eyes, ears or pancreas.
  4. The symptoms of mitochondrial diseases can include poor growthmuscle weaknessmuscle painlow muscle toneexercise intolerance, vision and/or hearing problems, learning disabilities, delays in development, swallowing difficulties, diarrhea or constipation, unexplained vomiting, cramping, reflux, etc.


Snake-like robot to discover life on Saturn

GS Paper - 3 (Space Technology)

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is onto something out of the world, quite literally. It is currently undertaking the task of developing a snake-like robot which is said to explore internal and enclosed dynamic terrain structures, assess habitability and ultimately search for evidence of life.

More about the Mission

  1. The mobile instrument platform named Exobiology Extant Life Surveyor (EELS) is being designed in such a way that it is adaptable to traverse different terrains.
  2. The system sheds special focus on one of the moons of SaturnEnceladus, which was discovered in 1789.
  3. This small icy body has been dubbed as one of the solar system’s ‘most scientifically interesting destination’ by the Cassini spacecraft.
  4. Cassini data reveals that Enceladus has a liquid ocean under its icy crust. It is also highly reflecting and has a surface temperature of about -201 degrees Celsius. However, scientists opine that it is not as cold and inactive as thought.
  5. Enceladus will give much headway to NASA in its search for life due to its global ocean and internal heat.
  6. The spacecraft has found that geyser-like jets spew water vapour and ice particles from an underground ocean beneath its icy crust.
  7. It is learnt that besides Enceladus, the EELS system is equipped to explore martial polar caps and descending crevasses in the Earth’s ice sheets.
  8. The EELS, driven by power and communication electronics, resembles a snake and should work like a self-propelled robot made of multiple, identical, segments containing both the actuation and propulsion mechanisms.
  9. The system uses rotating propulsion units that act as tracksgripping mechanisms and propeller units underwater, enabling it to access a plume vent exit and follow it to its ocean source, which makes it helpful in exploring previously unexplored areas.


India recorded maximum preterm births in 2020

GS Paper -2 (Demography- Social sector)

According to the World Health Organisation’spreterm birth report:Born Too Soon: decade of action, at 3.2 million, India recorded the highest number of preterm births in 2020. The report analyses preterm births across the world and suggests changes to healthcare systems and societies to avoid them.

More about the news:

Preterm births:

Babies born alive before 37 weeks of pregnancy are complete are called preterm babies. Based on gestational age, there are three categories of preterm births, as defined by the WHO:

  1. extremely preterm (less than 28 weeks)
  2. very preterm (28 to less than 32 weeks)
  3. moderate to late preterm (32 to 37 weeks)


Preterm births can happen both spontaneously or for several medical reasons, including infection, or other pregnancy complications that require early induction of labour or caesarean birth.

Findings of the report:

  1. According to the WHO reportrates of preterm birth have barely changed between 2010 and 2020. In fact, it is even rising in some parts of the world. In 2020, an estimated 13.4 million babies were born preterm.
  2. Preterm birth rates were 9.9% in 2020, compared to 9.8% in 2010. In high-burden regions, change in preterm births was barely measurable – in South Asia, it stood at 13.3% in 2010 and 13.2% in 2020, while in Sub-Saharan Africa it was 10.1% in both 2010 and 2020.
  3. Preterm birth is the single largest killer of children under five years of age.According to estimates, around one million newborns died due to preterm birth-related complications in 2020.
  4. Ten countries which reduced their preterm birth rates by more than 5% between 2010 and 2020 were the Czech Republic, Austria, Brunei, Singapore, Spain, the Netherlands, Denmark, Hungary, Brazil and Sweden, although this amounts to an annual average reduction of only about 0.5% per year.
  5. Preterm birth rates increased by more than 5% in 13 countries – Poland, Iceland, Croatia, the U.K., Bulgaria, Armenia, Bahrain, Ireland, Chile, Georgia, Colombia, the Republic of Korea, and North Macedonia – in the same period.
  6. In 2020, around 1.2 million preterm newborns were estimated to be born in the ten countries most affected by humanitarian crises – Afghanistan, Chad, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Myanmar, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.

Effect of Covid-19 on preterm births:

  1. Covid-19 is one of the “four Cs”,alongside conflict, climate change, and the cost-of-living crisis, that the WHO report identifies as new and intensified challenges. Further, Covid-19 also destabilised healthcare services for women and newborns.
  2. The evidence, that maternal Covid-19 infection, may directly affect the foetus, through pathways of viral transmission from mother to baby, poorer placental functioning and reduced maternal capacity due to systemic disease.
  3. It is suspected that these transmission pathways could have contributed to an increased risk of preterm birth as well as a greater need for neonatal intensive care.
  4. In high-income countries, studies have shown that, the Covid-19 pandemic did not affect preterm birth rates. However, in both low and high-income countries, mothers infected with Covid-19 had a higher rate of giving birth preterm.

Preterm births and survival rate:

  1. It is the fourth leading cause of loss of human capital worldwide, at all ages, behind ischaemic heart disease, pneumonia and diarrhoeal disease.
  2. It is associated with long-term damage to respiratory and cardiac systems for many survivors and can also have a neurodevelopmental impact. Disabilities can range from less severe outcomes to major disabilities like diplegia.
  3. The report says that most preterm babies are born between 32 and 36.9 weeks and that being born even a few weeks preterm can cause learning and behavioural disorders. Babies born between 37 and 39.9 weeks are at a slightly higher risk of adverse neurodevelopmental outcomes.

Sustainable Development Goals and new-born mortality:

  1. The United Nations aims to end preventable deaths of newborns and children fewer than five years of age by 2030 as part of its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with all countries aiming to reduce both neonatal and under‑five mortality.
  2. According to WHO, 54 countries will fall short of meeting the SDG target for under-5 mortality and 63 countries will not achieve the SDG target for neonatal mortality, unless quality of care for newborns and young children is improved.


Long-range Storm Shadow cruise missiles

GS Paper -3 (Defence)

The United Kingdom will provide long-range Storm Shadow cruise missiles to Ukraine, which it has been requesting in a bid to push back invading Russian forces. The weaponry is the latest addition to the long list of military aid given to Kyiv by its Western allies.

More about the news:

  1. Ukraine has so far received a wide variety of weapons and ammunition, including anti-tank missiles, anti-aircraft systems and artillery, since Russia invaded it in February 2022.
  2. The Storm Shadow missiles, each costing around £2 million, will give Ukrainian forces the ability to strike Russian military targets located well behind the front lines, especially in Crimea, which Moscow illegally occupied in 2014.

Capabilities of long-range Storm Shadow cruise missiles:

  1. It is a long-ranged, air-launched, conventionally armed, deep-strike missile, which is manufactured by the France-based MBDA Missile Systems.
  2. The missile features the BROACH (Bomb Royal Ordnance Augmented Charge) warhead, a high-technology warhead, which first cuts the surface of the target, penetrates into it and then explodes.
  3. The use of Storm Shadow will allow Ukraine To push back Russian forces based within Ukrainian sovereign territory.

Usage of missile:

  1. According to MBDA, Storm Shadow is operated from Eurofighter Typhoon, Rafale, Mirage 2000 and Tornado.
  2. It is in service with the Royal Air Force, the French Air Force, the Italian Air Force and a number of export countries and has seen operational service in Iraq, Libya and Syria.

Storm Shadow helps Ukraine fight Russia:

  1. Experts suggest Storm Shadow missiles could bolster Ukraine’s much anticipated counter-offensive.
  2. Due to owing to the long range of the weapon it would enable Ukrainian forces to strike targets virtually anywhere across Russia.
  3. The Ukrainians could use Storm Shadow to destroy the Kerch Bridge that connects Crimea to the Russian mainland.
  4. The Kerch Bridge is an important logistical node in Russian military planning and is critical to Russia’s resupply efforts in Ukraine’s southern Kherson region.
  5. Losing the bridge would constitute a major setback to Russia’s armed forces and an important symbolic defeat for Vladimir Putin.

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