Monday, January 28, 2008

Telugu Desam introduces mobile caller tunes

January 28, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Jan 27: With the State Assembly and the Lok Sabha elections just 16 months away, the Telugu Desam has introduced mobile ring tones and caller tunes to attract voters to the party.
To begin with the TD leadership has put up as many as six ring tones and caller tunes for free downloads. More number of tones and tunes will be added as the election fever catches up in the State.
Former chief minister and Telugu Desam president N Chandrababu Naidu has personally selected the ring tones and caller tunes from among several dozens specially prepared for the party.
To give a patriotic touch to the party's campaign, Chandrababu Naidu has included the famous "Maa Telugu Talliki Mallepoo Danda", the famous song written by Sankarambadi Sundarachari, and the revolutionary song Cheyyethi Jai Kottu Telugugoda by Vemulapalli Srikrishna.
Telugu Desam is the only political party in the country to have introduced ring tones and caller tunes for mobile cell phone users. An increasing number of party activists, particularly those belonging to the youth wing, are using these ring tones to popularise the party right from the grass roots level. Party sources said the number of hits had gone up after the introduction of the ring tones facility.
The other ring tones/caller tunes being promoted by the Telugu Desam leadership are: Kadali Randi Telugudesa Karyakarthalara, Cycle ke ra sye sye, Edi Telugugadda, Telugu Desam Jenda and Namo Namo Na Telugu Desama.
Most of these songs are sung by noted playback singers from the Tollywood and are quite appealing to the ear. The instrumental version of these songs will be available soon for download, according to NTR Bhavan sources.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Alcohol: Ginger cure for liver damage

January 27, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Jan 26: Kitchen ginger is capable of reversing the damage caused to the liver by consumption of alcoholic beverages.
Researchers at the department of zoology in Sri Venkateswara University, Tirupati, have found that regular intake of common ginger will be of immense help in treating hepatotoxicity or liver poisoning. Dietary or kitchen ginger should be consumed in small quantities for about a month for the results to show up.
Ginger has thus far been considered as one of the best anti-septic food items. The SV University study has shown that ginger can be used as anti-toxic substance, particularly to treat damage to liver induced by ethanol or ethyl alcohol. People, who consume alcohol, report damage to the liver quite often. The problem is more compounded in alcoholics or excessive drinkers.
In their joint study, K Mallikarjuna, P Sahitya Chetana, KS Reddy and W Rajendra, pointed out that ginger exhibited considerable influence on hepatic (liver) antioxidant enzyme system. The study was carried out in rats which were treated with ethanol and it stands good for human beings too.
"Consumption of ethanol significantly decreases the levels of certain enzymes (superoxide dismutase, catalase and glutathione) while it increases the levels of malondialdehyde in the liver tissue. On intake of common ginger, the process is reversed," they said.
As part of the study, the rats were fed with one per cent dietary ginger for about four weeks. The ginger consumption improved antioxidant status, suggesting that dietary ginger may have protective role against liver damage caused by consumption of alcohol.
The study gains significance since liver is an important organ whose damage cripples storage of nutrients required for the healthy maintenance of the body and affects the liver's function of breaking down harmful and poisonous substances.
Besides alcohol, as many as 900 drugs have shown hepatotoxicity properties affecting the normal function of the liver. Alcohol-induced liver damage accounts for almost five per cent of all hospital cases in the country and daily intake of ginger is expected to bring down this number.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

New Thorium Reserves Found In India

January 26, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Jan 25: The Geological Survey of India has found Thorium reserves in the backward district of Nalgonda. The values of this radioactive element ranged between 104 and 165 parts per million.
This is the first time that Thorium reserves have been observed in Nalgonda. The district is already famous for its Uranium mines and with the detection of Thorium, Nalgonda is going to play a major role in meeting the future power needs of the country.
Andhra Pradesh is one of the few States in the country with vast resources of Thorium and Uranium, the two important radioactive elements required for generation of nuclear energy. The GSI carried out low altitude magnetic and radiometric
aerogeophysical surveys spread over 5000 sq km area in and around Nalgonda district.
During the surveys, the GSI found significant radioactive anomaly. The area where the Thorium resources was found forms part of Eastern Dharwar Craton.
Granite rich in biotite (black mica) near Jangammaiahguda showed Thorium values of the order of 165 ppm. In the same area, the GSI also found Uranium ranging between 66and 138 ppm.
The biotite granite in Mathmurigudem also showed Thorium. But the values varied from 35 ppm to 55 ppm. The Uranium values in the village ranged from 38 to 53 ppm. The GSI found a mineralised zone of Scheelite (tungsten ore) near Guddipalli village.
According to GSI officials, the State has the largest resources of
Monazite, a mineral of Thorium, in the country. The city-based Atomic Minerals Directorate for Exploration and Research has identified 3.73 million tonnes of Monazite at 21 places spread over Srikakulam, Vizianagaram, Vishakapatnam, East and West Godavari, Krishna, Guntur, Prakasam and Nellore districts. In addition to these places, the GSI has found Thorium resources in Nalgonda, which is a land-locked district, unlike the coastal belt.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Dementia drugs can damage brain DNA

January 19, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Jan 18: Medicines commonly used for treatment of memory-related problems will cause harm to the brain by damaging the DNA structure.
The ICMR's Centre for Research on Ageing and Brain, located at the University of Hyderabad, carried out a study on the genetic damage certain drugs routinely prescribed for dementia (loss of faculties including memory and judgement) would cause in patients.
The study revealed that the drugs act on the activity of DNA polymerases beta, an important enzyme that is needed for DNA repair in brain. Prof KS Rao, Dr VN Vyjayanti and Dr NS Chary selected three of the most commonly prescribed drugs for mental disorders like dementia. The drugs were Donepezil hydrochloride, Rivastigmine tartrate and Nootropyl. The scientists then tested the impact these drugs would have on the activity of DNA polymerases beta.
It was found that these drugs inhibited DNA polymerase beta activity to varying degrees although the affects of Donepezil being the least and inconsistent.
The drugs preferentially bind to and inhibit the activities of DNA polymerase beta. "The inhibitory action of most widely used dementia drugs on DNA repair potential signifies that pharma sector needs to consider this aspect especially while designing drugs targeted towards brain," they pointed out.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Eat a little, live longer

January 18, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Jan 16: People, who eat a little, live longer and lead a genetically healthy life.
A study conducted by the University of Hyderabad revealed that people with a low body mass index have the capacity to regenerate their damaged DNA more efficiently than those with normal or high body mass index. As a person grows older, his or her DNA gets damaged. The body repairs the damaged DNA automatically so that the DNA transmits its message effectively to RNA, which in turn issues orders for production of protein molecules for upkeep of an individual.
The system of automatic repair to DNA gets slowed down with ageing which finally leads to death. The experiments carried out on several individuals by the UoH scientists showed that the mechanism of DNA repair is better in people who eat less than those who eat more. Prof Kalluri Subba Rao of the department of biochemistry, UoH, told this correspondent that while scientists in the West had conducted similar
experiments on animal models, the UoH had tested the relation between diet and longevity in human beings.
For the purpose of the study, the scientists selected clinically healthy people. They divided the subjects into three age groups, young (8 to 14 years), adult (20-35 years) and old (above 55 years). They were further classified based on body mass index as normal BMI (more than 20) and low BMI (16 to 18).
"We studied the ability of the peripheral blood lymphocytes from these subjects to respond to PHA (phytohaemagglutinin) stimulation in vitro. We also studied DNA-repair parameters and the function of BMI and ageing," Prof Subba Rao said.
The low body mass index group, considered to be going through chronic but mild under nutrition, showed higher repair capacity and exhibited no appreciable age-depended decline in DNA-repair potential as was seen in normal subjects.
These results correlate well with those seen in unstimulated human lymphocytes and also confirm the observations made earlier in experimental animals, where dietary restriction was shown to have beneficial effects on DNA-repair capacity, he said.
The UoH scientists proved through lab tests one of the central theories that explains the mechanism of ageing process, the DNA-damage and repair theory, that increased DNA-damage and or decreased DNA-repair potential could lead to an accumulation of DNA-damage, ultimately resulting in cellular senescence and death.
Earlier, the beneficial effects of restricted calorie consumption in postponing the ageing characteristics and improving longevity has been demonstrated in a number of species. And now the UoH study had shown that dietary restriction, without malnutrition, retards onset of age-associated diseases in human beings too.
The basal DNA repair in normal body mass index subjects decreased by 18 per cent in old age as compared to adult. In the low body mass index group, however, the UDS (unscheduled DNA synthesis) capacity actually increased with age and the increase was significant in old age as compared to young.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Microchips to identify lost dogs, cats

January 17, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: Have you lost your pet? It's no cause for concern, if you have micro-chipped your dog or cat. An increasing number of Hyderabadis are going in for micro-chips to identify their lost pets. Already about 2000 pet lovers have implanted the device underneath the skin of their pets and are leading a virtually worry-free life.
Micro-chipping is fast catching up in the State, though GPS pet tracking for cats and dogs is yet to find its way in India. Micro chips help in identification of a lost pet only when it is traced by animal activists or municipal authorities. But GPS pet tracking system tells the pet owners where exactly on the Earth the lost animal is roaming.
A micro chip costs just Rs 500 while the cost of GPS pet tracking system is prohibitive by Indian standards. Moreover, the technology is yet to be introduced in the State.
"Injecting micro chips into the skin of a dog or a cat is a simple procedure and is painless. There's no need for sedation. Each micro chip has a unique identification number. The chip remains inside the skin of the animal for life.
It costs just Rs 500 and can be implanted (injected) by a veterinary surgeon," says Dr Muralidhar of Pet Friends Dog Clinic. The GPS pet tracking system is attached to the collar of the dog. It does not work in case of small animals like cats. For cats there's a special radio device which traces the location of the animal. But GPS is an
advanced technology and has been successfully used in dogs.
The GPS receivers are specially designed keeping in view the size of the animal. GPS receivers and mobile phone modems allow easy tracking of dogs by their owners. Certain brands of GPS receivers have the facility for remote charging of batteries attached to the collar of dogs.
Whenever the animal goes out of the "virtual fence", the unit transmits information via GPS satellite to a GSM modem informing the owner about the exact location of the pet.
"Such a device is yet to be introduced in the country. But as and when the technology is available, it will be a big hit with the pet lovers," says animal rights activist K Subba Rao.
On the other hand, micro chip helps to identify a dog that has been stolen. The micro chip is implanted or rather injected through a needle between a dog's shoulder blades. It remains permanently inside the skin (sub-cutaneous), without causing any side effects to the animal.
Whenever a lost or stolen pet is found, the veterinarian reads the micro chip through a hand-held scanner to identify the unique identification number of the animal concerned. All one has to do before injecting the micro chip is to get the animal registered with the nation-wide pet club concerned. In case of dogs, it is the kennel club and the feline club for cats. The micro chip is very small, smaller than a grain of rice.
Those who own rare and costly breeds prefer micro-chipping as a precautionary measure. This is a must if the owner wants to claim insurance.
In the USA and European countries micro-chipping is mandatory for all animals, particularly when an animal is being exported. Veterinary surgeons say that micro chips can be injected in many animals, besides cats and dogs. The system works well with birds, rabbits, camels and horses.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Can ageing be stopped?

January 12, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Jan 11: Human life can be prolonged to a reasonable extent by preventing damage to genes and death can be predicted based on a person's "frailty index".
According to Prof Suresh Rattan and Prof K Subba Rao, experts on ageing and brain, the process of ageing and damage to neurons in the brain could be slowed down using genetic techniques. Once the damage to DNA is controlled, the process of ageing slows down, prolonging the life of an individual.
Participating in a meeting at University of Hyderabad here on Friday, Prof Rattan of the University of Aarhus, Denmark, and Prof Subba Rao of the UoH, said the genetic built up of an individual organism makes it to live for a certain period of time. The period varies between a few hours to a few hundred years. In case of human beings the average life span can be expected to be 100 years.
"The present average life span in India is 67 years. It was just 27 years before Independence. The average life span has gone up by 40 years. We can further increase the life span within the magical figure of 100 years or so," they said.
They said based on the "frailty index" of an individual, one could predict how near he or she is to death. Frailty index is developed based on certain health parameters like health status of a person and the diseases he or she has suffered from in the past.
The scientists said the process of ageing had been successfully slowed down in small animals like Drosophila and Ames dwarf mice and it could also be employed on human beings. At present the only method known to scientists to slow down the process of ageing is through calorie restriction.
Tissue rejuvenation with stem cells and organ replacement with artificial organs, coupled with molecular repair will improve the quality of life and bring down the process of ageing. It will also give a youthful glow to the individual.
Presently, the Advanced Centre for Ageing and Brain attached to the School of Life Sciences of University of Hyderabad is conducting research on brain ageing and how to reverse the process by reducing damage to DNA.
Studies by Suresh Rattan have shown that repeated mild heat stress has anti-ageing effect on growth and various other cellular and biochemical characteristics of normal human skin fibroblasts (a special type of cell) undergoing ageing in vitro. The process was also tested in combination with certain molecules like curcumin (turmeric) on ageing and longevity of human cells in laboratory.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Telugu Desam launches web TV

January 11, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Jan 10: The Telugu Desam has introduced web TV on its official website to disseminate information on the latest political developments in the State among Telugu NRIs living in 100 countries.
The TD leadership has already set up a TDP radio and seeing its growing popularity, it has now introduced web TV. Telugu Desam is perhaps the only political party in the country to have both web-based radio and television. The TDP TV is updated at frequent intervals for the benefit of Telugu-speaking people living outside the country. The TD claims that it has a large fan following among Telugu NRIs and the
web TV will bring the party closer to them.
Former chief minister and Telugu Desam president N Chandrababu Naidu, who has a penchant for electronic gizmos and hitech equipment, has ensured that the new web TV is not a costly affair. He has personally planned the concept of the web TV and is regularly monitoring its functioning.
Telugu Desam State party office staff record news bulletins from local TV channels and uplink them to the TD's web TV through YouTube. This is quite an easy task and does not involve any expenditure. To watch the web TV of the Telugu Desam, all one has to do is to visit the party website and click on the newslink. It takes the visitor to the YouTube for the latest political happenings in the State, including the policy decisions and programmes of the Telugu Desam.
All important events at TD State headquarters NTR Bhavan are also put on the web TV. Even Chandrababu Naidu's regular "Eruvaka" (farm visits) programmes in districts are also put on the web TV.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Study on farmers: Pesticides can damage DNA

January 9, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Jan 8: Pesticides will cause severe genetic damage in persons who regularly handle them. The genetic defects are also passed on to their offspring triggering a chain of DNA related health problem from one generation to the next.
A study carried out by the department of genetics of Bhagawan Mahavir Medical Research Centre here, revealed that pesticides can cause cytogenetic (damage to cells and DNA) effects, besides lowering the acetyl cholinesterase (an important enzyme in blood) levels in farmers exposed to pesticides. Andhra Pradesh has the dubious distinction of being the largest consumer of chemical pesticides and fertilisers and many farmers in the State do not use safety measures to avoid pesticide poisoning.
Naravaneni Rambabu and Kaiser Jamil of Mahavir Medical Research Centre enrolled 210 farmers exposed to pesticides and 160 non-exposed individuals to determine the genotoxicity (genetic poisoning) and acetyl cholinesterase (AChE) levels. They determined the AChE levels from blood samples collected from farmers and control subjects.
Later, the scientists conducted AChE (true and pseudo) estimation by colorimetric method. It revealed that there was a progressive fall in both the RBC and plasma AChE levels in exposed individuals compared to unexposed individuals.
They said there was an increase in DNA damage and higher chromosomal aberrations in exposed farmers compared to the control subjects. When they compared the AChE levels with DNA damage and structural chromosomal aberration frequencies, there was a negative linear correlation.
The study gains significance in the backdrop of increase in pesticide and fertiliser consumption in the State by almost 100 times in the last three decades. Even introduction of genetically engineered crops like Bt cotton has not brought down the percentage of pesticide or fertiliser consumption in the State.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Planet of the Apes in the offing?

January 5, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Visakhapatnam, Dec 3: Super intelligent monkeys and tamed lions will become a reality soon, if scientists working on genetic engineering have they say.
Experts in stem cell technology and genetic engineering believe that the day is not far off when the Earth will be populated by monkeys with human brains and lions that simply “meow” without harming others.
“Looking beyond genes and genetic engineering” dominated the discussions among scientists attending the 95th Indian Science Congress, which opened in this port city on Thursday. Though the debate centered on genetic therapy to treat “incurable” diseases including cancer, there was also a talk on the “misuse” of this cutting-edge research programme by unscrupulous scientists to develop monkeys with human brains or humanlike monkeys.
Nobel laureate Dr Roger Kornberg says monkeys with human intelligence has almost become a reality but such creations will lead to debate on human ethics. “There are two sides of genetic engineering and stem cell technology. Good and bad. Use of the technology for therapeutic uses will result in saving the lives of millions. But a small misuse of the facility will lead to ethical issues,” he pointed out.
What’s all about this conceptualized human-monkey? It’s nothing but a reversal of the Darwin’s theory which believes that human beings have evolved from monkeys. If the researchers have their say, there will monkeys evolving virtually from the modern man. This can be achieved by injecting human brain cells into monkey brains or through transplantation of embryonic stem cells of a human embryo into the womb of a monkey. As the stem cells grow in the womb of a monkey, the resultant offspring will be a monkey with human intelligence, the scientists hope.
The concept of super monkeys gains significance in the backdrop of creation of genetically-engineered cats, by Korean scientists, which glows in the dark. The scientists have also created rats that have no “fear genes” in them and can roam freely in front of a cat. Work on “tamed lions” is going on clandestinely and if it succeeds, the big cats will be simply herbivorous or small carnivores.
While it is quite “easier” to create super monkeys with human qualities, the major ethical problem that crops up before society is should such creatures be considered “human subjects” or simply “intelligent animals”, he argues. If such creatures are considered human subjects then they will have to be protected by ethical guidelines that govern research on human beings.
And more importantly, when a monkey turns “human” will it be subjected to all legal rules. If yes, can it sue the “rogue” scientists who created it through “unethical” genetic engineering? These and other issues formed part of interesting debate on the sidelines of the Science Congress.

Vedic Experts: Lightning to prevent cyclones

January 4, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Visakhapatnam, Jan 3: Is it possible to stop cyclones? Modern science and technological advances may not have the answer. But ancient Indian Vedic sciences have the solution to virtually all natural calamities including devastating cyclones, hurricanes or typhoons.
Vedic experts attending the 95th Indian Science Congress in this port city have forcibly put forth their argument that Indian scriptures of yore are a mine of scientific information with solutions hidden in religious “narrations”. They point out that cyclones, whether super or ordinary, can be stopped by pitting the force of lightning against the force of wind.
“Just create artificial or natural lightning and lo! The cyclone is gone. It is for the scientists to work out how to create lightning. We have solutions to all natural problems. But they are buried deep in stories and narrations in ancient scriptures. All we have to do is to decode it,” says Vedic expert Dr CV Subrahmanyam.
For instance, he says, the weapon used by Lord Indra in episodes mentioned in Ramayana and other books is Vajraayudha. Indra kills the demon king Vrutraasura (who had the force of wind) in one episode and Dithi, the mother of demon kings Hiranyaksha and Hiranyakashipu, in another narration mentioned in Ramayana. Dithi had controlled the force of wind. “A scientific decoding of these episodes tells us that Vayu (wind) could be controlled through Vajra (lightning),” he explains.
Many scientists may not accept the link between Vedas and modern science, but the organisers of the Indian Science Congress have, for the first time, provided a platform for Vedic experts and Vedic scientists to express their views at the Congress.
Experts in Vedic sciences Dr VR Panchamukhi, Dr S Sudarshana Sharma, Dr PV Arunachalam, Dr VLS Bhimasankaram, Dr Pappu Venugopal and Dr Remilla LN Murthy are presenting their papers at the Vedic Sciences and Vedanta and Physics on January 6. They will share the dais with Nobel laureates and senior scientists from around the world.
Explaining the reason for including Vedic Sciences in the scientific agenda, Prof R Ramamurthi, general president of the Indian Science Congress Association, says “Vedas and Shastras are great repositories of wisdom and knowledge, a heritage which our great nation proudly posses.
The content of science and technology in Vedas is abundant and the knowledge is priceless, ageless and relevant to any society, ancient or modern. The writings of sages on various aspects of universe, its origin, ambience and evolution remain a source of information and inspiration to modern world”.
He called upon scientists to take cognizance of Vedic knowledge and create a bridge between ancient systems of learning and modern methods of evaluation and application.
“Time has come to bridge the essentials of Vedic knowledge with cutting edge modern scientific knowledge”, says Dr Panchamukhi.

Feminisation of Indian Agriculture

January 4, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Visakhapatnam, Jan 3: With the Indian agriculture getting increasingly feminised, the Central government has decided to launch a national virtual congress of Mahila Kisans.
The first national virtual congress of Mahila Kisans farmers will be opened officially on January 5 enabling women farmers, to begin with, in five States to share agricultural knowledge and exchange on-field ideas with their counterparts and scientists.
Women ryots from Moosapet in Addakal mandal (AP), Thiruvaiyaru (Tamil Nadu), Koraput (Orissa), Waifad and Yavatmal (Maharashtra), and Pokran (Rajasthan) will join the deliberations of the 95th Indian Science Congress being held in this port city through a satellite link developed by the Indian Space Research organization.
Together with Andhra University and ISRO, MS Swaminathan Research Foundation has designed the virtual congress of mahila kisans to highlight to the scientific community the urgent need for attending to the technological requirements of women farmers. The women farmers hail from arid, semi-arid, coastal, hill and irrigated areas and will discuss both the opportunities and constraints facing women in agriculture.
Agriculture provides 57 per cent of India’s total employment and 73 per cent of India’s total rural employment. Women constitute 73 per cent of the agricultural workforce. “Agriculture is getting increasingly feminised, in view of the growing migrations of men belonging to small and marginal farmer families to urban areas, seeking alternative livelihoods, because of the uneconomic nature of small scale farming particularly in rain-fed areas lacking assured irrigation,” says Dr MS Swaminathan.
The future of Indian agriculture as well as food security will depend largely on the skills, technological, financial and managerial empowerment of rural and tribal women.

GM rice, wheat to damage liver, kidneys

January 5, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Visakhapatnam, Jan 4: Regular consumption of genetically engineered rice or wheat will lead to severe liver and kidney complications, warn senior scientists.
Though genetically modified or engineered crops improve yields and offer resistance to plants against a variety of pests, the damage they cause to human beings outweighs the over all benefits. GM crops particularly rice, wheat and maize formed the hot topic of discussion among scientists attending the 95th Indian Science Congress being held in this port city.
According to Prof GE Seralini, an expert on genetic engineering technology, a study conducted clandestinely by a multinational seed company showed that rats, fed on maize developed from GM technology, showed signs of severe damage to kidney and liver. "The same can happen to human beings if they consume such GM crops," he points out.
Another biotechnologist Dr D Krishna Rao, who was adviser to Clinton administration in the US, attributes regular stomach upsets among Americans to the use of GM maize and other GM crops. "Since we do not have supporting evidence, we attribute such gastric problems to things other than consumption of GM crops. But recent studies point out that GM crops are capable of making liver and kidney toxic which may ultimately lead to death, if untreated," Dr Rao points out.
Prof Seralini regrets that many countries have approved GM food crop despite the dangers associated with such food products. The testing procedures should be stringent and scientifically advanced enough to give accurate results.
In India, GM technology is increasingly utilised in cotton, though there are reports of GM bhendi (lady's finger) being developed in some parts of the country. However, the major concern will be the much touted Golden Rice which is rich in vitamin A. The Golden Rice is also a GM crop whose ill effects on human health is yet to be studied. The Hyderabad-based Directorate of Rich Research is conducting trials on Golden Rice in an effort to reduce incidents of preventable blindness due to vitamin A deficiency.
"In the wake of research on rats, the Central government should not allow any sort of GM food items in India before they are tested thoroughly for genetic toxicity. Only those crops that are proved to be good should be permitted. Otherwise the number of liver and kidney failure cases will go up and the nation will lose its precious healthy generation," Dr Rao warns.

Vaccine to prevent malaria

January 5, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Visakhapatnam, Jan 4: Vaccine to prevent malaria, one of the most dreaded diseases afflicting human beings, will be available in the market for commercial use in the next couple of years.
Eminent biotechnologist Dr Dronamraju Krishna Rao, who has done considerable research on malaria and its causative agent Plasmodium, told this correspondent on the sidelines of the ongoing 95th Indian Science Congress here that the malaria vaccine had been found to be affective in laboratory tests and it would take some more time for the vaccine to be available for general administration.
To begin with malaria vaccine will be available to tackle the health menace caused by two of the four Plasmodium species that cause malaria. "Work is going on briskly for vaccination against Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax. Together they are responsible for 90 per cent of malarial cases around the world. Vaccine will also differ from region to region to suit the malarial strains," he said.
Vaccine to prevent the spread of malaria has been on cards for quite long and now it is becoming a reality. Malaria is responsible for the death of almost a quarter of humanity since the advent of man and it still leads to death in Africa and several poor countries. It kills more people than any other communicable disease except tuberculosis. Malaria continues to be a public health problem in more than 90 countries including India and at risk are almost half of the humanity. Almost 50 crore people develop malaria every year.
Dr Krishna Rao says an ideal malaria vaccine will prevent all infection by priming the immune system to destroy all malarial parasites. But the problem is this degree of protection is very difficult to achieve and may not be technically feasible with present human knowledge of vaccinology and expertise. The ongoing work on malaria vaccine will be a solace as it will be able to prevent malarial deaths to a large extent, if not wipe out the problem altogether.
Scientists in the US, the UK and Germany have thus far identified 40 promising antigens. There are many more antigens to be isolated for effective development of malarial vaccine. "Moreover the parasite changes through several life stages even while in the human host, presenting a different subset of molecules for the immune system to combat at each stage," he said, adding that scientists are working on solutions to over come these challenges.

Camera Mouse for visually impaired

January 6, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Visakhapatnam, Jan 5: A city professor has developed a Camera Mouse that will aid people with low or impaired vision to read even fine prints and verify the genuineness of currency notes and bank drafts.
Prof MS Raju, an alumnus of IIT Kharagpur, has displayed his Camera Mouse at the 95th Indian Science Congress being held here. This simple equipment that costs less than Rs 2000 has been specially designed for the vision impaired persons. Prof Raju has patented the invention and won financial support from the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research under Technopreneurs Promotion Programme.
Using the Camera Mouse, people with low vision and senior citizens can read newspapers and magazines and view photographs. It is equally good for partially blind persons.
“It is also a valuable magnification and illumination tool that can help normal persons scrutinize documents/objects with magnification up to 20 times in true colour and proportions. Unlike scanners and web cams, this device will not distort the image or quality,” says Prof Raju.
The Camera Mouse can be easily attached to a television set and scroll over the object to be read. It catches the picture and displays it on the TV set. There’s no need for a computer.
Low vision persons may not be able to see objects even from close because the visual information that goes into their brain get restricted due to defective cornea, retina or optic nerve. “There are three methods to enhance visual information going into the brain. The Camera Mouse utilises illumination, magnification and contract to provide a good quality and large print on the TV screen,” he says.
If the user has a large screen TV, the image is further enhanced. With a suitable contract created in the TV set, helpful contrasted images can be obtained.
The Camera Mouse uses a high quality continuous rated miniature movie camera that gives a video feed to any ordinary TV. The wired-in advanced technology power unit has circuit that adjusts itself automatically to the supply power and maintains sharpness and brightness. Since it works on a low voltage DC it is safe for handheld use.

Students find herb with anti-venom properties

January 6, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Visakhapatnam, Jan 5: Two students of class VIII of a private school in Warangal have documented over 150 rare plant species of high medicinal value deep in the woods, including an herb that treats snake bites.
Tanmay and Abhilash Bandari of Vidya Niketan High School went on a six week expedition in the thick forests of Eturunagaram, Kaleswaram, Pakal, Polwoncha and Lakkavaram searching for medicinal plants that are not normally found in the plains. The search yielded more than 150 species of plants, some of which have anti-venom properties.
The students displayed their herbarium at the ongoing 95th Indian Science Congress in this port city. “We have hundreds of species of plants that have anti-toxic properties. These plants cleanse the body system. But the students have found a species which has chemicals that will fight snake poison effectively. It will, however, not work against the poison of scorpion,” said marine engineer T Sreenivasa Rao, who is coordinating the herbarium show with the students.
Most of these plants are not found in plains, says Abhilash. “They grow only in the wild. Our idea is to popularise such species so that the forests department takes up large scale cultivation in the woods. With some basic research these plants can be made to grow even in our backyards,” he adds.
Visha Mushti (poison nut) found in Eturunagaram forests is highly poisonous and it has to be administered under medical supervision. The derivatives from this plant species are used as anti-venom. Generally anti-venom is prepared from snake venom but the authorities at Warangal Science Club, of which these students are members, point out that Visha Mushti is a plant equivalent of serpent poison.
Other herbal species found by the students include Chilaka Duddi (Polyalthia ceracides) for diarrhea control, Barre Duddi (Annonacea family) for removal of kidney stones, Tada (Gravia orbiculata) an antiseptic agent, Thuja, an anti-coagulant, and Reddyvari Nanabali, anti-asthmatic.
The department of botany of Kakatiya University coordinated with the students in the preparation of the herbarium. A number of scientists from different parts of the country visited the stall where the herbarium is displayed.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Herbicide resistant crops popular

January 1, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Dec. 31: Crops that withstand herbicides and give higher yields are the in-thing now in Andhra Pradesh. Several farmers are now going in for crops which are genetically designed to withstand herbicides or pesticides that kill weeds. Whenever specially made pesticides to kill weeds are sprayed, the normal plants also wither away. But herbicide tolerant plants are not affected by pesticides.
According to official records, loss in crop yield due to weed infestation in the country in case of rice is 41.6 per cent, 16 per cent in case of wheat, 39.8 per cent for maize and 29.5 per cent in case of soyabean. As much as 47.5 per cent of cotton is lost due to weed.
Herbicide tolerant crops will save crop loss due to weeds up to 50 per cent while improving the yields. Even if 25 per cent of weeds in rice crop is controlled, the overall production will go up from 91.79 million tonnes to 101.4 million tonnes.
If 50 per cent weeds are controlled, production will touch 110.9 million tonnes. In case of cotton, if 50 per cent of the weed is controlled, the overall production will increase from 24.4 million tonnes to 30.2 million tonnes, Central government’s agricultural statistics point out. In the century, farmers exploited the selectivity of herbicides to control weeds within crop plants and ensure a better harvest.

Turmeric prevents cataract in diabetics

January 1, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Dec 31: Turmeric, a common kitchen ingredient, has been known for its anti-septic properties, and city nutritionists now find out that it also has the natural chemicals that are capable of preventing cataract in people suffering from diabetes.
"It is for the first time we report that turmeric, at the levels that are close to
average daily intake, can be effective in preventing diabetic cataract. One of
the important observations of this study is that both turmeric and its chemical
constituent, curcumin, delay the progression and maturation of cataract, despite elevated levels of glucose. These results thus provide a clue, for the first time, that turmeric or curcumin may act downstream to glucose-mediated changes," says a study by nutrition scientists of the National Institute of Nutrition.
Diabetes and cataract are inter-linked and cataract is more pronounced in people suffering from the disease. At present, the only treatment for cataract is surgery. It has been estimated that a delay in cataract onset by 10 years could reduce the need for cataract surgery by as much as half. The pronounced effect of turmeric may be due to other ingredients besides curcumin. The NIN study gains significance as any strategy that prevents or slows the progression of cataract has a significant health impact.
The joint study by P Suryanarayana, M Saraswat, T Mrudula and others involved feeding Wistar rats a diet including curcumin and turmeric. The turmeric and curcumin rich diet delayed the progression of diabetic cataract in rats. "Although, multiple mechanisms may contribute to these effects, the antioxidant effect of curcumin and turmeric appears to be the predominant mechanism of action," they said.
The NIN scientists selected Wistar rats and diabetes was induced by streptozotocin (a substances that damages insulin producing cells). They monitored the cataract progression due to hyperglycemia (high levels of sugar in blood). At the end of eight weeks, the animals were killed and the crystalline profile in the lens was investigated.
"Although, both curcumin and turmeric did not prevent streptozotocin-induced hyperglycemia, as assessed by blood glucose and insulin levels, slit lamp microscope observations indicated that these supplements delayed the progression and maturation of cataract," they added.
The results indicated that turmeric and curcumin are effective against the development of diabetic cataract in rats. Further, these results imply that ingredients in the study’s dietary sources, such as turmeric, may be explored
for anticataractogenic (that works against cataract formation) agents that prevent or delay the development of cataract.