A Bengaluru-based Institute for stem cell biology and regenerative medicine (inStem), under the department of biotechnology, have formed and registered the poly-Oxime gel made of chemically modified chitosan — found in the shells of shrimps, lobsters and crabs.

Work started developing in 2015 and found significance given that India is among the major countries that use organophosphate-based pesticides in agriculture.

In 2017, 63 farmers died in Maharashtra alone due to pesticide poisoning, and more than 1,000 farmers were affected.

The skin gel, when applied on the animal models, the gel chemically deactivated/neutralised organophosphate-based pesticides on their skin and reduced the restraint of acetylcholinesterase (AChE), which is the most teeming enzyme in the central and peripheral nervous system.

Organophosphates can be severe to a reduction in motor coordination, neurological disorders, neurotoxicity, cognitive dysfunction, suffocation and death due to cardiovascular and respiratory failure.

The researchers also said the gears, which can offer some protection from the pesticides, are barely used by farmers as they are expensive and cause discomfort in tropical weather such as India’s.

“Farm workers spray pesticides in high concentration on open fields with scarce or no protection which can expose them to toxic chemicals through the dermal course,” said the head of the Laboratory of Self-Assembled Biomaterials and Translational Research Praveen Kumar Vemula.

The paper on the invention ‘Prevention of pesticide induced mortality with nucleophilic poly-Oxime topical gel and neuronal dysfunction’ will be published in Science Advances, an international peer-reviewed scientific journal, by the American Association for Advancement in Science, on Thursday (October 18).