Vol. 6 No. 2 April 1998

ISSN: 0971-4413

 
TECHNOLOGY FOCUSDRDO LOGO
Bulletin of Defence Research & Development Organisation

DRDO TECHNOLOGIES-LIFE SCIENCES

DRDO has achieved significant success in the area of life sciences technology. Several life support systems devices and processes have been developed which have facilitated the soldier to perform better. These are also useful for the civil sector. All these achievements have become possible as a result of R&D in areas like human physiology, environmental medicine, occupational health, bio-engineering, and biomedical technology. These developments in life sciences are not an end product in themselves, but they permit man to fulfil his functions in the safest and performance optimised fashion.

In the context of DRDO, life  sciences  technologies  have  four  important dimensions,  namely, man- environment   interface, specialised agriculture, special food and ration, and bio-engineering and bio-medical technology.

 

 

Man-Environment Interface Technologies

Bio-technology & Bio-techniques for Safety & Protection of Soldier

Diagnostic Kits & Techniques Developed & in Use

Specialised Agriculture

Selected Rations for Soldiers

Food Processing & Preservation Technology

Bio-engineering & Bio-medical Technology

Bio-medical Equipment & Devices

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Man-Environment Interface Technologies

High Altitude Research

Acclimatisation

Research  on  problems  at  high  altitude  has a  special significance  in  the Indian  context.   Extensive  research has been carried  out  by  DRDO  to  assess  the  various  physiological, biochemical and psychological responses during acclimatisation to high altitude  stress.   Based  on  these  studies,  an  acclimatisation schedule, known  as  Staging of Acclimatisation, has been  formulated.  If a soldier has to be posted at an altitude of 4500 m and above, he has to undergo three stages of acclimatisation. This  staging of  acclimatisation has minimised most of  the ill-effects of high altitude and thereby reduced the casualties to a large extent.

Optimal levels of work capacity,  load carriage and marching speeds have also been formulated for different altitudes. For recovery from cold injuries, rewarming of affected parts with a decoction of tea leaves  along with  supplementary  dosage of vitamin  C  has  been  found helpful.

Adaptogens for Altitude Acclimatisation

The extreme cold and low oxygen pressure conditions at high altitude are detrimental to the physical and mental performance of human beings. The problem becomes acute for the natives of plains/lower altitudes. Several studies have been conducted to assess the magnitude of loss of performance and on ways and means to arrest it or even reverse it. Some special traditional Indian medicinal preparations used as health food have been found to arrest the deterioration in performance and facilitate acclimatisation.

Facilities for Human Experiments

  • High   Altitude   Decompression   Chamber,   providing   low barometric pressures and cold temperatures on a continuous range (760 to 80 mm Hg and  45 oC to sub-zero).
  • Climatic   Chamber,   providing   controlled temperature (10 to 60 oC), wind velocity (15 to 250 m/min), humidity (l to 90 per cent),  raDIATive and convective heat transfer, and fresh air supply.
  • Energy expenditure and physical work efficiency assessment facility with  telemetric monitoring  of respiratory function.
  • Electromyographic  recording  set-up  for manual material handling.

Protection against Hostile Enviroment

HAPO Bag

System engineering by making use of oxygen  therapy  concepts,  specially  developed  polyurethane material  and  air-tight  zip  helped  in  the  development  of  a portable one-man hyperbaric chamber which simulates low altitude conditions in high altitude areas. This 2 m long chamber is made up of neoprene nylon and weighs approximately 3.5 kg. Designed and developed for the treatment of high altitude pulmonary  oedema  (HAPO)  among  Defence personnel  serving  at  high altitudes, the chamber is also used by trekkers and mountaineers. It  is an excellent  first-aid treatment used for shifting HAPO patients to lower areas.

Micro-Environmental Cooling Systems

The  micro-environmental  cooling  system vortex  tube has been developed. It converts ordinary compressed air into two outlet streams, one hotter and the other cooler than the inlet air.  The cold air is then circulated over the body of the person using it.

NBC Protective Devices

An NBC system comprising a respirator mask, a resuscitator and an integrated hood mask, has been developed and introduced.

 

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Bio-technology & Bio-techniques for Safety & Protection of Soldier

Bio-safety Evaluation Technology

Man  interacts with a plethora of chemicals  in everyday life.  In view of the large number of chemicals being synthesised and used, his safety is at stake. The safety considerations require identification of moderately toxic chemicals and laying down of safe levels for  their  routine  usage. This in turn requires determination of threshold level for toxicity and finding antidote for accidental overdose. Toxicity  testing  of  all chemicals and formulations  is also a prime requirement before marketing any new product to the consumers.

Toxicity  testing  is  generally done  by  administering  the chemical or the formulation to laboratory animals through oral, dermal  or  inhalation routes, and studying the response  by physiological,   biochemical, haematological and histological techniques. Neurotoxicity, muta- genecity, teratogenecity and carcino- genecity tests are also carried out. Enormous infrastructural facilities  and  expertise have been developed over the years in this area. This facility is available to outside DRDO agencies as well.

Water Purification Technology

Testing and Desalination

Field kit for water testing, field kit for detection of poisons in water (for drinking purposes), pocket water purifier, and electrodialysis desalination plant for desert region are some important products developed in this area.

 


Purification Plant for NBC Environment

A mobile 2000 l per hour water purification system has been successfully developed for   conversion   of   NBC-contaminated water into potable water.  The system is based on reverse osmosis principle and fitted on a Shaktiman  vehicle. It  is  rugged  and  can  remove  all  the contaminating agents to well below prescribed safe limits.

Technology  for  Bio- degradation  of  Organic Wastes  at   Low Temperature

Psychrotropic bacteria have been isolated from soil samples of Leh and Antarctica and screened for production of hydrolytic enzymes at 10 oC.  Aeromonas hydrophila was found to have  a  potential  to  carry  out  biodegradation    at  5 oC.  Maintenance of such optimum temperature is difficult  in  aerobic  systems  when  ambient  temperature  is extremely low. DRDO has developed an anaerobic system to obviate this problem by gradual adoption of cow dung digester slurry to night  soil  and  low  temperature.     This  adopted  microbial consortium worked well at 10 oC using HTR of 25 days with l:l diluted night soil.  The breakthrough has been tested using fixed dome type digester system.

Technology  for  Vector  Containment

Various technologies have been developed for containment of vectors  like  mosquitoes,  rat  fleas,  ticks,  bed  bugs,  blood sucking flies  and snails. These include:

  • A multi-insect repellent N-N diethylphenylacetamide  (DEPA)  process  (patented).  
  • Slow release insecticidal paint, toxicant attractant tabletised bait (ROACHTOX)  and insecticide- impregnated chalk stick  (ROACHLINE) for the control of cockroaches.  
  • A potent mollusicide, safe for fish and other non-target organisms.
  • Rapid detection method of  insecticide  resistance  in mosquito vector population using a single insect.

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Diagnostic Kits & Techniques Developed & in Use

  • Water quality testing in field conditions
  • Typhoid detection
  • Brucellosis detection
  • Bacterial meningitis detection
  • Detection of Adeno virus
  • Detection of Adeno virus in equine
  • Detection of plague bacilli
  • DNA probe technique for the detection of Y. Pestis toxigenic Escherichia Coli and Pseudomonas Strains
  • Electrophoretic   techniques   for  simultaneous detection of antigen and antibody in certain bacterial diseases     
  • Facility for immunotoxicity studies
  • Facility   for   cell   culture   for   isolation   and propagation  of  certain  types  of  viruses  and  for  cytotoxicity studies
  • Detection of  enteroviruses  technique based on Dot Elisa and immunofluorescence
  • Radiopharmaceuticals  for detec- tion and localisation of cancer, infection and inflammation.

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Specialised Agriculture

The  inhospitable  conditions  in  hills  and high  altitude regions  especially  in  the Himalayan region  pose  a  serious  problem  in the production of vegetables due to extreme cold weather for long durations   resulting   in   very   short   agricultural   seasons. Concerted attention has been paid by DRDO  to meet this challenge.

Green House Farming

DRDO has made it possible for the farmers to grow green vegetables,  namely, coriander, mint,  lettuce,  celery,  parsley, and fenugreek and palak at  sub-zero temperature conditions in cold desert by developing polyhouse and trench cultivation techniques. These techniques use polythene and local material affordable by farmers.

In  the  areas  where  captive  power  is  not  available, underground polyhouse popularly known as soil trenches have been designed to harness soil and sun temperature. Farmers now produce leafy  vegetables  during  long  winters experiencing  ultra  low temperatures up to -20 OC.



Tissue Culture Technology

The plant  tissue culture medium and methodology has been standardised to get healthy seedlings of hybrid tomato, carnation and strawberry.   The protocol developed was found successful in the  reduction  of  cropping  period,  which  is  important  for the cultivation of tomatoes in hills, where conducive climate period is very short.

True Potato Seed Technology

The conventional method of raising the potato crop requires huge quantity of potato tubers and also considerable land and storage facility—all problem areas particularly in the Himalayan belt.  The technology of raising true potato seed in these areas has been standardised by DRDO for cold desert regions of Ladakh, Lahaul and Spiti and some locations in central Himalayas.

Mushroom Cultivation Technology

The  spawn  production  technology  for  mushroom  species Agaricus  and Pleurotus  has  been  standardised  for  large  scale production.   Besides,  the package  of  practices has  also been standardised for the preparation of best quality compost (growing medium)  for  raising  the  mushroom  crop  in  colder  areas  of Himalaya and north-east region of the country.

Improved Vegetables Variety

Suitable varieties of vegetables have been developed for hills and high altitude regions. The varieties developed and their yield in quintal/hectare (given in brackets) are:  Brinjal:ARU-l (360) and ARU-2C (327); Tomato: HT-6 and HT-8 (550 each); Capsicum:  HC-201  (300)  and  HC-202  (320);  Cabbage:  ARU  Glory (250);  Green chilli: HC-1 (250); and Bittergourd: BWM-1 (360).

Greening of Leh

The greening of Leh has been achieved by alfalfa production and cold desert afforestation.   Alfalfa is a major fodder crop of Ladakh.  High yielding strains of alfalfa have been identified and a package of production practices has been evolved to grow alfalfa with little input and very high return. After   three  decades  of  experimentation, a  package  for afforestation  in  cold  desert  has  been  standardised,  covering propa- gation, plantation, post-plantation care, protection against stray animals, mulching, manuring and development of fast growing fodder, fuel and timber species.

Alpine Herbs & Rare Plant Cultivation

Ladakh  is  rich  in  herbal,  aromatic,  edible,  fodder  and aesthetic plants. Through an extensive survey of Ladakh,  over 600 wild plants have been collected from different altitudes.  An alpine herb gARDEn has been established at 3700 m to standardise the  method  of  cultivation  of  certain  potential  commercially exploitable rare plants.                                                  

Associated Technologies

High altitude and cold climate dairy farming, animal husbandary and poultry technology have been developed, standardised and practiced.

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Selected Rations for Soldiers

Extensive studies on nutritional requirements of armed forces personnel operating   under   different environmental conditions have been carried out and accordingly proper ration scales have been laid down.   A number of specialised compo pack and emergency rations and ready-to-eat,  convenience food items have been designed, produced and introduced into the Services. These  food  items  include:  short-term preserved chapatis  (7-10 days) and  long-term preserved chapatis  (6 months);   instant halwa mix,  upma  mix, rava idli mix, nutro cereal mix, vegetable pulav mix and khichidi mix;  mixed vegetables like avial mix; dairy foods such as  kheer mix; fruit flavoured milk shake, and fruit yogurt; egg products  like scrambled  egg mix and omelette mix; fruit drinks such as  orange drink mix; several type of meat products like keema,  and soup;  dhals and pulses, like instant tur dhal, green gram  dhal, urd  dhal, kabli channa, rajma, and cholle,  soft bar, fruit  bar and slices, and pre-cut vegetables.

  

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Food Processing & Preservation Technology

DRDO  has  constantly  endeavoured  to  develop  and  adopt various food processing and preservation technologies to meet the requirements  of  the  Services.  Retort  processing technology,  intermeDIATe moisture food technology, hurdle technology, modified hot  air  dehydration  technology,  dehydration  plus  additive treatment technology,  high  temperature  short-time  pneumatic  dehydration technology, and freeze dehydration technology have been standardised and are being used.

Biopreserved Tender Coconut Water

The process of preservation of tender coconut water using a bio- preservative has been standardised in two convenient packaging systems, namely,  200 ml capacity polypropy- lene  pouches  and  aluminium beverages  cans achieving  shelf  life  of  three  and  six months, respect- ively.   The above process enables retention of original flavour of coconut water over after six months storage, without any loss of nutrients.

‘Keep Fresh’ Salt

‘Keep fresh’ salt has been developed to ward off rancidity and off-flavour in  fried products  like potato and banana chips,  fried moong dal, etc.  Rancidity and off-flavour develop due to atmospheric oxidation.  

This salt is antioxygenic in nature and increases the shelf life of normal fried products from an average of about one month to four months.  The salt remains free flavouring and does not loose antioxygenic activity even after six months of storage.

Microencapsulated Flavours

Two encapsulation techniques have been developed to protect the  ingredients  from the risk  of  development  of ‘taints’  and to preserve  aroma  and  flavour  for  extended  shelf  life.    The encapsula- tion  techniques  control the  release  of  flavours, artificial  sweetners,  gases,  minerals,  vitamins,  acids, and lipids during processing or eating.  

Microencapsulated  essential oils  and  price  oleoresins  have  been  developed  using  these techniques.  The former has been developed based on spray drying process in which micronised oils globules are coated with hydrocolloids and dried. In another process, the flavours are retained in hydrocolloids by forming  complexes. Microencap- sulated flavours enhance the keeping qualties and acceptability of instant foods.

Testing

Field kits  for microbial and chemical quality testing of food items and meat have been developed and are in regular use.

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Bio-engineering & Bio-medical Technology

Application  of  recent  developments  in electronics  and engineering, computer science, ergonomics, anthropometry to biomedical research and occupational health care has resulted in the development of many useful life support systems, biomedical equipment and devices.

Life Support Systems for Pilots

DRDO  has  successfully developed several protective equipment/life saving devices for pilots. The   technology   involves   fabrication, design and development  of   suitable   special materials. The various items being:  

  • Anti G suits for fighter pilots flying the latest high performance aircraft  like Mig-29, Mirage 2000 and LCA to provide protection against  gravity-induced  loss  of  consciousness  (G-loc)  during combat manoeuvres.
  • Onboard oxygen supply systems.
  • Masks  which  hold  positive  pressure  in  case  of decompression.
  • Light-weight  integrated helmets which do not impair vision or communication.
  • Flame retardant overalls which provide  good wear  comform under  tropical  conditions.
  • Self-contained equipment to escape from water if the aircraft crash landed in the sea.

These equipment can be suitably deployed under  the  required conditions and conform to the anthropometric values of the Indian soldiers. These have  been  tested  and  accepted by  the Services.  The technology has spin-off  potential for other areas like adventure sports and civilian aircraft.

Neem Oil as Contraceptive

Neem oil was found to possess spermicidal activity in vitro. When applied intravaginally, it was found hundred per cent effective in preventing pregnancy.   Neem oil has been further subjected to fractionation and useful fraction (named NIM-76) isolated.  Precoital intravaginal appli- cation of NIM-76 in gelatin jelly at a dose of 10 mg for rabbit and 100 mg for monkey was able to prevent pregnancy. Detailed studies on the compounds using  gas  chromato- graphy  and  mass  spectroscopy techniques undertaken   in   collabo- ration  with   the   Indian Council of Agricultural  Research and clinical trials are being initiated.    

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Bio-medical Equipment & Devices

Floor Reaction Orthosis (FRO)

 

 

A light-weight walking aid for polio patients  developed as a medical spin-off of the advanced composite technology used in making missile nose cones. Fitted in over 600 children, it has been widely acclaimed by medical and social organisations in the country

 

 

 

 

 
 Coronary Stent

Stents have been designed and produced making use of special materials developed by DRDO for its Light Combat Aircraft and missile programmes.   Special quality 316L grade  austenitic stainless  steel  wire  is  used. It meets the stringent metallurgical requirements of homogenous microstructure and the absence of delta ferrite.   The stent developed by DRDO costs Rs. 15,000 as against the market price of up to  Rs 60,000 for other comparable stent.

Stress Test System

This is a PC-based treadmill system which monitors and records the subjects’ ECG (electrocardio- graph) while exercising  on a treadmill. It  is  extremely  useful  in detecting coronary    artery disease where a mismatch/imbalance  between  oxygen  supply  and demand  leads  to Ischemia.  

 

Artificial Larynx

A speech aid for a laryngectomee—Permendur (49 Fe-49Co-2V) diaphragm has been developed. It is a critical  transducer component  in the unit aiding conversion of electrical oscillations into mechanical vibrations. The system is available at one-third of the cost of the imported systems.

Cytoscan

It  is  a  computerised  cell  recognition and cancer detection and diagnostic system based on the latest image processing and pattern recognition technologies.   It   helps in better prognosis/diagnosis and statistical analysis.

Bone Plants & Dental Implants

In association with NFTDC a technology  has been developed to  design  and  fabricate  titanium  endosteal osseo-integrated bone implants and titanium bone plates for fractures of facial skeleton.  These implants and bone plates are made from commercially pure titanium which has been extensively tested and found suitable as per ASTM specifications.

Drishti

DRDO, in collaboration with the LV Prasad Eye Institute, Hyderabad, has designed a pulsed Nd-YAG laser with a delivery system for ophthalmolo- gical applications.  The system is used as a photodisruptor for the treatment of glaucoma. It is configured as a Q-switched laser operating at  its  fundamental wavelength of 1064 nm.

Initial clinical  trials of the laboratory model on about 100 patients have been successful and the system is ready for transfer of technology.

Body Plethysmograph for Assessing Lung Function

A non-invasive  lung  function  test  for  laboratory animals  has  been developed  to  monitor the  effects  of  natural industrial  or experimentally- induced hazardous   environment on lungs and to carry  out  long-term drug  trials  to  prevent them.    A  body plethysmograph has been designed and fabricated for guinea pigs to measure  their specific  airway  conductance. The  conscious animal sits inside the box and the measurements are done during normal breathing.