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Science and Technology Improvements in Iran

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Compiled By: Firouzeh Mirrazavi
Deputy Editor of Iran Review

Science and Technology in Iran
From Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia
International Rankings

Active ImageAccording to the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI), Iran increased its academic publishing output nearly tenfold from 1996 to 2004, and has been ranked first globally in terms of output growth rate (followed by China with a 3 fold increase). In comparison, the only G8 countries in top 20 ranking with fastest performance improvement are, Italy which stands at tenth and Canada at 13th globally. Iran, China, India and Brazil are the only developing countries among 31 nations with 97.5% of the world's total scientific productivity. The remaining 162 developing countries contribute less than 2.5% of the world's scientific output. Despite the massive improvement from 0.0003% of the global scientific output in 1970 to 0.29% in 2003, still Iran's total share in the world's total output remained small. According to Thomson Reuters, Iran has demonstrated a remarkable growth in science and technology over the past one decade, increasing its science and technology output fivefold from 2000 to 2008. Most of this growth has been in engineering and chemistry producing 1.4% of the world's total output in the period 2004-2008. By year 2008, Iranian science and technology output accounted for 1.02% of the world's total output (That is ~340,000% growth in 37 years of 1970-2008). 25% of scientific articles published in 2008 by Iran were international coauthorships. The top five countries coauthoring with Iranian scientists are US, UK, Canada, Germany and France.

Active ImageA 2010 report by Canadian research firm Science-Metrix has put Iran in the top rank globally in terms of growth in scientific productivity with a 14.4 growth index followed by South Korea with a 9.8 growth index. Iran's growth rate in science and technology is 11 times more than the average growth of the world's output in 2009 and in terms of total output per year, Iran has already surpassed the total scientific output of countries like Sweden, Switzerland, Israel, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Austria or that of Norway. The report further notes that Iran's scientific capability build-up has been the fastest in the past two decades and that this build-up is in part due to the Iraqi invasion of Iran, the subsequent bloody Iran Iraq war and Iran's high casualties due to the international sanctions in effect on Iran as compared to the international support Iraq enjoyed. The then technologically superior Iraq and its use of chemical weapons on Iranians, made Iran to embark on a very ambitious science developing program by mobilizing scientists in order to offset its international isolation, and this is most evident in the country's nuclear sciences advancement, which has in the past two decades grown by 8,400% as compared to the 34% for the rest of the world. This report further predicts that though Iran's scientific advancement as a response to its international isolation may remain a cause of concern for the world, all the while it may lead to a higher quality of life for the Iranian population but simultaneously and paradoxically will also isolate Iran even more because of the world's concern over Iran's technological advancements. Other findings of the report point out that the fastest growing sectors in Iran are Physics, Public health sciences, Engineering, Chemistry and Mathematics. Overall the growth has mostly occurred after 1980 and specially has been becoming faster since 1991 with a significant acceleration in 2002 and an explosive surge since 2005. It has been argued that scientific and technological advancement besides the nuclear program is the main reason for United States worry about Iran, which may become a superpower in the future. Some in Iranian scientific community see sanctions as a western conspiracy to stop Iran's rising rank in modern science and allege that some (western) countries want to monopolize modern technologies.

Active ImageIran ranked 49th for citations, 42nd for papers, and 135th for citations per paper in 2005. Their publication rate in international journals has quadrupled during the past decade. Although it is still low compared with the developed countries, this puts Iran in the first rank of Islamic countries. According to a British government study (2002), Iran ranked 30th in the world in terms of scientific impact.

According to a report by SJR (A Spanish sponsored scientific-data data) Iran ranked 25th in the world in scientific publications by volume in 2007 (a huge leap from the rank of 40 few years before).

In 2008 report by Institute for Scientific Information (ISI), Iran ranked 32, 46 and 56 in Chemistry, Physics and Biology respectively among all science producing countries. Iran ranked 15th in 2009 in the field of nanotechnology in terms of presenting articles.

New Sci-Tech Achievements

*Researchers Grow Bone Cells Using Environment-friendly Material

Active ImageA group of Iranian researchers from Isfahan University of Technology have produced environment-friendly, non-toxic nano-ceramic material which can be used as a suitable culture for bone cells.

Mahshid Kharraziha, the project manager, noted that forsterite is a new bio-ceramic, adding, “Due to mechanical and environmental properties, it can be used in orthopedics for tissue culture.”

She added that nanometry forsterite unlike micron forsterite enjoys active biological properties. She noted that excessive release of magnesium and silica ions under biological conditions can negatively affect its functions.

“Therefore, nanometry forsterite has been used in this bio-compatibility study to review its toxicity on bone cells as well as the cells’ ability to grow on nano-ceramic environment,” she said.

Kharraziha added that nano-powder has been first prepared using sol-gel method before producing a dense piece of nanometry forsterite. Then, bone cells have been cultured on forsterite nano-ceramic in order to study affinity, growth and multiplication of such bones on this form of nano-ceramic.

The researcher stated that the results indicated improved mechanical properties with this nano-ceramic compared to forsterite ceramic. Cell culture tests have also shown that nanometry forsterite can stimulate growth of bone making cells.

She added that bone making cells show good affinity to this ceramic which proves that nanometry forsterite is both environment-friendly and non-toxic.

*Iranians Make Superior Hydrogel

Active ImageResearchers at Iran Polymer and Petrochemical Institute have made super absorbent hydrogel that can absorb and retain extremely large amounts of a liquid relative to their own mass.

Announcing this, Seyyed Ali Hashemi, lead researcher of the project, said that super absorbent polymers (SAP), which are classified as hydrogels, absorb aqueous solutions through hydrogen bonding with water molecules.

He also said a SAP’s ability to absorb water is a factor of the ionic concentration of the aqueous solution.

In deionized and distilled water, a SAP may absorb 500 times its weight (from 30–60 times its own volume), but when put into a 0.9 percent saline solution, the absorbency drops to 50 times its weight. The presence of valent cations in the solution will impede the polymer’s ability to bond with the water molecule. Think of these hydrogels as long chains of molecules (called polymers) that absorb incredible amounts of water, only to release the water to plant roots at a later time.
 
Today, super absorbent polymers are widely used in forestry, gardening and landscaping as a means of conserving water. Hydrogel can either improve the growth of the plant or decrease the watering frequency. It usually lasts 4-5 years in the soil. The technology has a great impact on parts of the world plagued by drought.
 
Water Jelly Crystals are an example of a hydrogel. This chemical is biodegradable and is not considered a health hazard. In other words, Water Jelly Crystals are safe to touch, squeeze through your fingers and to use in your garden.

*New Advances in Diagnosing Human Genetic Disorders

Active ImageResearchers at Bovine Embryo Technology Research Center of Shahr-e Kord University have come up with a new method to diagnose genetic disorders in bovine embryo as early as eight-cell phase of its differentiation. The researchers hope that the new method will help diagnose genetic disorders in human embryo.

Dr. Ali Mohammad Ahadi, the project manager, noted that the research team has been able to detect bovine embryo up to eight- and sixteen-cell stages of differentiation, adding, “By separating a single cell from sixteen-cell embryo, we have been able to diagnose genetic disorders with a high level of accuracy.”

Stressing on the high accuracy of the new method, he stated that “female” embryos with special characteristics can be identified in early stages and supplied to livestock breeders for the production of high-quality, thoroughbred species.

Ahadi, who is also deputy director of Bovine Embryo Technology Research Center, stated that the new research has taken advantage of single cell multiplex - PCR method.

He added, “PCR method for single cells is nothing new and we have used it to reduce costs and increase output. We have taken advantage of a combination of single cell multiplex and PCR to increase accuracy by 200 times and sensitivity by 1,000 times.”

The researcher emphasized that the method is easily used in all environments, saying, “We hope by implementing this project on single- and double-cell embryos to be able to take effective steps for the diagnosis of genetic disorders.  Since this method is also applicable to humans, we hope to improve it and help other researchers with diagnosis of genetic disorders before birth.”

*Iranian Researchers Use Nano-Fiber for Rapid Cure of Gum Infections

Active ImageResearchers at Isfahan University of Technology have produced electrospun nanofibers as a crucial step toward rapid treatment of gum infections.

Maedeh Zamani, the project manager, explained that electrospinning has been used to produce a web of nanofibers which will be then used to release medicines aimed at rapid cure of gingival infections.

She said a major flaw with most films carrying medicines was their affinity to retain drugs or hardening upon contact with body fluids.

“Meanwhile, due to their special qualities, nanofibers have greatly solved this problem,” she added.

The researcher noted that the web of nanofibers which has been studied in this research remained totally flexible throughout drug release and this was attributed to lower temperature of polycaprolactone compared to body temperature which causes nanofiber web to remain pliant at the body temperature of 37 degrees. As a result, such webs can be used to treat periodontal infections.

Zamani stated that such a system will help patients to just refer once to a periodontist to introduce medicines into periodontal pocket with no need to take medical equipment out of the patient’s mouth. This will reduce cost and time of treatment.

The researchers said that it took 19-23 days to release medicines from electrospun nanofiber web, but the longest time reported in various systems used for local release of medicine to treat periodontal diseases has been 14 days.

*Iranian Car Ranks 3rd in Turin

Active ImageA hybrid car made by Khajeh Nassir University students ranked third in Formula Electric and Hybrid Italy (EHI) held in Turin, Italy, during October 7-10.

The four-wheel car has a composite body, weights 600 kilograms and can travel up to 90 kilometers an hour.

Formula Electric and Hybrid Italy (EHI), an international competitive and sports event, was initiated by Assiciazione Tecnica Dell’Automobile as Formula TECH in 2005, with the objective of promoting innovation developed in academic institutions across the world and applied to sustainable ecological mobility.

Students from universities and technical institutions can participate with complete vehicles, designed and fabricated by themselves and compete in tests such as endurance, acceleration, energy consumption, autocross and climbing ability, as per rules set up by a technical committee.

Formula Electric and Hybrid aims to encourage students and graduate engineers to participate with new ideas and innovative solutions to reduce the environmental impact and improve the energy efficiency of various vehicles supplied by different energy sources.

The student teams were evaluated and awarded by the Technical Committee, formed by experts from industries and institutions, on the basis of the characteristics and performance of vehicles, their level of innovation and industrial aspects.

The outcome of the event is expected to help forge interaction among academic institutions and industries in terms of technology innovations and for the diffusion of the culture of ecological vehicles.

Formula Electric and Hybrid Italy offers an overview of advanced technologies in the field of electrically propelled road vehicles, encompassing various types of power train and energy supply systems by using a variety of vehicles.

The battery of electric vehicles are especially suitable for urban operation, as they do not pollute, are almost noiseless and allow an highly effective use of energy due to energy recovery during braking.

*Iran Mass-Produces Ocular Bio-Implants

Active ImageIran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad inaugurated the country's tenth bio-implant factory which specializes in the production of Sutureless Amnion Membrane Transplant (SAMT) as well as skin bio-implants dubbed "Lifepatch."

SAMT is set to revolutionize ophthalmology by treating people suffering from potentially blinding eye diseases. SAMT is expected to bring hope for 320 thousand Iranians annually and 15 million people worldwide.

"This is actually a 2010 production, 'ocular' bio-implants are only ten months old and the first steps were taken by American scientists but we managed to go through the engineering stage quicker than the Americans," said project manager Gholam-Reza Abbasi.

"Using AHAM and biotechnological applications of biocompatible biopolymers we reached the final stages successfully and are now ready for mass production. One advantage we had is that our religion strongly supports the principle of saving human lives,” he added.

Iran began investing in biotechnological projects 19 years ago and this is the tenth facility the country has opened over the past two years.

'Lifepathch' is the fourth bio-implant mass-produced by Iran after bone, heart valve, and tendon bio-implants. The facility will be producing 25 to 30 thousand grafts a year and the capacity is expected to increase to 200 thousand.

This technology has so far been monopolized by the US and other Western countries, therefore 'Lifepatch' is also considered a leap toward breaking this monopoly.

*Iranian Awarded 2010 TWAS Medal

Active ImageProfessor Seyyed Habib Firouzabadi from the acclaimed Shiraz University in Iran was awarded “2010 TWAS Medal” for his scientific endeavors.

The medal was presented to him by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the 21st General Meeting of the Third World Academy of Sciences (TWAS) which opened in Hyderabad, capital of India’s Andhra Pradesh state.

Besides Firouzabadi, awards and medals were given away to 12 scientists in various fields, in recognition of their outstanding work.

Dr. Singh presented the prestigious Ernesto Illy Trieste Science prize for this year to Brazilian scientist Goldenburg and the India Science Prize to eminent statistician Dr. C R Rao.

This year’s TWAS session is being sponsored by India’s Ministry of Science and Technology and hosted by the Indian National Science Academy (INSA) and the TWAS Regional Office for Central and South Asia (TWAS-ROCASA).

Founded in 1983, TWAS is an autonomous international organization, based in Trieste, Italy. It promotes scientific excellence for sustainable development in the South.

*Iran Produces Oral Diabetes Medication

Active ImageIranian scientists have succeeded in producingan oral medication from stinging nettles (Urtica dioica) to fight diabetes and high blood sugar levels.

“I started the project 15 years ago in Tehran University of Medical Sciences for my diabetic nephew who was forced to inject insulin on a daily basis,” Masoud Shabani Domola, the lead researcher said.

He went on to say that a peptide cycle found in Urtica dioica improves the entrance of blood sugar into the cells, a process which is believed to be impaired in diabetic patients.

Shabani Domala added that the drug has successfully finished its trials and is expected to enter the market by next year. He stressed that the new oral drug is preferred to the injectable insulin as its use is pain free.

Urtica dioica, a herbaceous perennial flowering plant also known as stinging nettles, had long been known for its numerous medical properties. The herb is reported to be effective in treating prostate disorders, respiratory problems, stomach Catarrh and anemia.

The high content of secretin in the plant has turned Urtica dioica into an effective herb for treating various gastrointestinal-related conditions.

*Delivering Combination Chemotherapy to Cancer Cells

Active ImageIn recent years, studies have shown that for many types of cancer, combination drug therapy is more effective than single drugs. However, it is usually difficult to get the right amount of each drug to the tumor. Now, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Brigham and Women’s Hospital have developed a nanoparticle that can deliver precise doses of two or more drugs to prostate cancer cells.

Such particles say the researchers, could improve the effectiveness of chemotherapy while minimizing the side effects normally seen with these drugs, Azonano reported.
In a study appearing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a team of investigators led by Omid Farokhzad and Robert Langer, both members of the MIT-Harvard Center for Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence, demonstrated the utility of their new particle by using it to deliver cisplatin and docetaxel, two drugs commonly used to treat many different types of cancer.
 
To build their nanoparticles, the researchers developed a new strategy that allowed them to incorporate drugs with very different physical properties, which had been impossible with previous drug-delivering nanoparticles.

In earlier generations of nanoparticles, drug molecules were encapsulated in a polymer coating. Using those particles, hydrophobic (water-repelling) drugs, such as docetaxel, and hydrophilic (water-attracting) drugs, such as cisplatin, can’t be carried together, nor can drugs with different charges. “With the old way, you can only do it if the two drugs are physically and chemically similar,” said Dr. Farokhzad. “With this way, you can put in drugs that are relatively different from each other.”
 
With the researchers’ new technique, called “drug-polymer blending,” drug molecules are hung like pendants from individual units of the polymer before the units are assembled into a polymer nanoparticle. This approach allows the researchers to precisely control the ratio of drugs loaded into the particle and to control the rate at which each drug will be released once it enters a tumor cell.
 
For this study, once the investigators loaded the drugs into the nanoparticle, the researchers added a tag that binds to a molecule called PSMA that is located on the surfaces of most prostate tumor cells. This tag allows the nanoparticles to go directly to their target, bypassing healthy tissues and potentially reducing the side effects caused by most chemotherapy drugs.
 
The researchers have filed for a patent on the polymer-blending fabrication technique and are now testing the drug-delivering particles in animals. Once they gather enough animal data, which could take a few years, they hope to begin clinical trials.
 
This work, which is detailed in a paper titled, “Engineering of self-assembled nanoparticle platform for precisely controlled combination drug therapy,” was supported in part by the NCI Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer, a comprehensive initiative designed to accelerate the application of nanotechnology to the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer.

*Moving Holograms Make Their Debut

Active ImageHolograms have always been a staple of science fiction, most famously in the movie Star Wars where Princess Leia relays a call for help projected by the droid R2D2. The moving hologram is a step closer now, though watching a movie projected on a tabletop is still in the future.

The breakthrough came from the University of Arizona, where a team led by optical sciences professor Nasser Peyghambarian developed a screen made of a novel photoreactive polymer material that allows the picture to refresh faster than before.

Previous holograms were quite slow, with the picture refreshing only every two minutes. Peyghambarian's team has that down to two seconds - not quite real-time, but fast enough to see the movement.

The other big difference is that this three-dimensional picture doesn't require specialized glasses.

The prototype device uses a 10-inch screen, but Peyghambarian's group is already successfully testing a much larger version with a 17-inch screen.

To make the image, an array of regular cameras is used. Each views the object from a different perspective. That information is then encoded onto a pulsed laser beam, which interferes with another beam that serves as a reference. The interference pattern is written into the photorefractive polymer, creating and storing the image. Each laser pulse records an individual three-dimensional pixel in the polymer. The short duration of the laser pulses means that vibrations won't affect the image, making the system easier to use as it can be in a wide array of environments.

This system is also somewhat different from computer-generated holograms, which tend to need a lot of computing power to generate an image - one reason they were so slow, as the number of calculations was large.

Peyghambarian says there are a lot of practical uses - telepresence, for example - because as long as someone has the image-generating equipment, the data from the cameras can be transmitted in any fashion, even over the Internet.

*Kamangar to Take Over Harley’s Chief Executive Position

Active ImageSalar Kamangar, Youtube vice president of product management, will take over Chad Hurley as the chief executive of the company.

After Hurley stepped out of his position as the chief executive of Youtube, the company released a statement that Kamangar is the one who will take over his position.

The news slips during a technology conference at Trinity College in Dublin, when Hurley was asked about what he was up to, and he honestly said that he was giving up of his CEO title.

Chard Hurdley, 33, is one of the co-founder of Youtube, the world’s leading video site, together with Steve Chen and Jewed Karim. The company was acquired by Google in October 2006, and take responsibility for the business in the past two years.

According to Google, Kamangar’s role in the company is to find ways for Youtube to generate more money from billions of user-generated online videos the company serves up every day.

Google added that the site is on the edge of profitability, and due to Kamangar’s effort to promote and develop the type of premium content the company is now enjoying the benefits of the higher advertising rates.

In addition, the revelation of the news regarding the resignation of Hurley did not surprised most of the company’s employees because Mr. Salar Kamangar was been appointed by Google to take control of the company’s business operations, and took on greater responsibilities in controlling the operation of the business for the last two years.

Based on news report, despite of Hurley’s resignation as Youtube CEO, he will continue his service as an advisor of the company.

Youtube was created by Hurley’s team after the three left PayPal, an online payments company, and started to create their own company. With Hurley’s extreme talent and interest in computer science, he was the one who is greatly involved in designing and developing of the website.

Iran's Surena Placed among Top Robots

Active ImageIran's humanoid robot, Surena 2, has been placed among the world's top robots by an international technology institute, says an Iranian official.

“The largest professional institute of the world named IEEE put the name of Surena among the five prominent robots of the world after analyzing (the performances of) the world's advanced robots,” Hamid Taahbaz Tavakkoli, the secretary of development and technology institute of Iran's Industries and Mines Ministry, said.

Tavakkoli said that IEEE, the world's leading professional association for the advancement of technology, in a recent report examined the performances of the robots Asimo (Japan), Reem-B (Spain), Justin (German), Charli (US) and Surena (Iran).

The official pointed out that IEEE called Surena as an “unexpected development.”

IEEE is an international non-profit, professional organization for the advancement of technology related to electricity. It has the most members of any technical professional organization in the world, with more than 395,000 members in around 150 countries.

Surena 2, developed by over 20 of Iran's top robotics experts, was unveiled by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in July.

Over 10,000 man-hours have been put into the new high-tech robot.

Surena 2, which weighs 45 kg and has a height of 1.45 meters, can walk like a human being, but at a slower pace.

The Surena 1 robot was developed in Iran in 2008 through a joint project between Center for Advanced Vehicles (CAV), University of Tehran and the R&D Society of Iranian Industries and Mines.

The robot was an 8 degree-of-freedom (8 DOF) humanoid robot, which was able to move on a pre-defined trajectory with a tracking and remote control system.

Surena 2 which was later built has 22 DOFs, including 12, 8, and 2 at its legs, hands and head respectively.

The robot is equipped with various sensors such as a gyroscope and accelerometers which provide stable motion.

The Surena project is enhancing the ability to design robots that walk on two legs, under a feedback control system that provides dynamic balance, yielding a much more human-like motion.

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