- Scientists from inStem, Bangalore, have developed a gel to protect farmers who are exposed to harmful effects of pesticides.
- Indian farmers are exposed to high levels of pesticide as a result of not wearing any protective gear while spraying chemicals in fields.
- A gel known as poly-Oxime is developed by scientists from Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine, (inStem) which protects the farmers exposed to pesticides.
- The protective called poly-Oxime when applied on skin protects the farmers by hydrolyzing the harmful organophosphates present in common pesticides.
Organophosphates Poisoning: A backgrounder
- According to WHO classification of Pesticides by Hazard, organophosphate pesticides belong to class 1, which means the pesticide is extremely/highly hazardous.
- The organophosphates are commonly found in various commercial pesticides, insecticides, and fungicides.
- The organophosphates present in the pesticides enters the human body through:
- Lungs when inhaled 10-15%
- Enters the blood stream when ingested
What do they do?
- The organophosphates pesticides cause harm by primarily inhibiting a critical enzyme in the nervous system called acetylcholinesterase (AChE).
- Inhibition of AChE leads neurological disorders, suffocation, paralysis, and even death.
- AChE inhibition also leads to cardiotoxicity, reduced immunity, infertility, and delayed sexual maturation.
- Further the pesticides are known to impede neurodevelopment in children and increase susceptibility to neuropsychiatric disorders.
Basics about neurotransmitters and Acetylcholinesterase
- The neurotransmitters present in the Central and Peripheral nervous system primarily help the nerves to communicate with one another and with muscle cells in the body.
- Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter that carries signals from nerve cells to muscle cells.
- Whenever there is a communication between a motor nerve cell and the nervous system acetylcholine is released into its synapses with muscle cells.
- This acetylcholine released thus triggers the process of muscle movement.
- Once the message is passed, the neurotransmitter must be destroyed failing which it gets accumulated.
- Accumulation of neurotransmitters inturn causes paralyzing of muscles.
- Acetylcholinesterase is the enzyme that is responsible for the essential function destroying this neurotransmitter.
- Acetylcholinesterase is found in the synapse between nerve cells and muscle cells.
- It does so by breaking down the acetylcholine into its two component parts, acetic acid and choline.
How does poly-Oxime gel work?
- The gel, named poly-Oxime, acts as a catalyst by deactivating the organophosphates by hydrolysing them in the skin itself.
- Hydrolysing basically involves converting ester into acid and thus breaking down the organophosphates.
- Thus it prevents organophosphates from entering the internal organs like brain, lung, liver, and heart.
- Thus the gel deactivates the pesticides thereby limiting the inhibition of the enzyme.
- While the gel prevents organophosphates from entering the body through skin, they can still enter the body through inhalation and ingestion.
- Thus the gel is not an effective barrier to pesticide vapour.