Friday, February 29, 2008

NRIs more prone to lifestyle ills

February 29, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Feb 28: Indians living in the USA are prone to more number of diseases linked to diet and environment than other people living there, says a research study.
Senior researchers Pragna I Patel, Niyati U Mehta and others, who conducted the study involving scores of Asian Indians living in the US, found that "Asian Indians display a high prevalence of diseases linked to changes in diet and environment that have arisen as their lifestyle has become more westernised".
The study associated Indians with a high prevalence rate of diseases like atherosclerosis (narrowing of blood vessels), hypertension, diabetes, prostate cancer, Hirschsprung disease (enlargement of colon) and age-related macular (cornea) degeneration. As Indians are becoming more westernised both in diet and lifestyle, the prevalence of diseases associated with these lifestyle changes is increasing.
The researchers used 1200 genome-wide polymorphism in more than 400 individuals from 15 Indian language groups and compared their data with those of other populations living in America. The non-Indian populations studied for comparison were from Africa, Asia (including Central, Southern, Eastern, and South-East Asian populations), Americas (native populations of South and Central America, and native
populations of North America), Europe (including non-native European American populations, and Russia), Oceania (Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific islands).
They also found that Indians constitute a distinct population-genetic cluster, and despite the geographic and linguistic diversity of the groups they exhibit a relatively low level of genetic heterogeneity.
The analysis of the data revealed that allele frequency differences between the different Indian language groups were small, and interestingly the variant alleles were present only in a subset of the Indian language groups.
"Our results also support the inclusion of the Indian population in disease-related genetic studies, as it exhibits unique genotype as well as phenotype characteristics that may yield new insights into the underlying causes of common diseases that are not available in other populations," they said.
Metabolic disorders have been found to have a disproportionately high prevalence in the Indian population, a phenomenon which is likely associated with the increasing westernisation of Indian. Prevalence of coronary artery disease in individuals of Indian origin is currently much higher than in other ethnic groups and is even increasing.
It is estimated that 18 per cent of the Indian population suffer from hypertension, one of the major risk factors associated with CAD, and that the prevalence of hypertension is also increasing within this population.
They said Type-2 diabetes is now reaching epidemic proportions among Indians, most prominently in urban Indians where there has been a very steep increase in prevalence over the last decade from 8.3 per cent in 1992 to around 17 per cent now. Other diseases are also found at varying frequencies in Indian population including
Hirschsprung disease, age-related macular degeneration, prostate cancer, and type-1 diabetes.
The frequencies of variants associated prostate cancer were similar to those of African populations. However, none showed a high similarity to the populations of Eastern Asia. This could reflect a greater degree of non-Asian compared to Asian gene flow into India during the course of its history.
One possible explanation for the differences between the trends in the Indian groups and other world populations could be the differential migration of non-Indian individuals into different parts of India during the course of its history.
"There could also be selective pressures that are unique to, more important in, or different in action in, India than the other world populations, and that also share a strong correlation with latitude," they observed.
The Asian Indian population represents a large population within which many complex-trait disorders are found at a high frequency. In some cases, such as coronary artery disease, Indians exhibit unique phenotypic characteristics that distinguish them from the other populations, suggesting that unique causative factors underlie this and possibly other related diseases.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Hyderabad: Travel down memory lane in the city of deodis

February 27, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad is a city where the past lives in the present. The old structures that once dotted the city have given way to modern buildings. But Hyderabadis have not forgotten the glorious past of their city. The charm and grandeur that's associated with the old and imposing structures of Hyderabad continues to linger in the memory of Hyderabadis, old and young alike.
Hyderabad, being the city of Nawabs and nobles, had sprawling palaces architecturally perfected to the last detail. The palaces were called deoris or deodis. The city once had hundreds of such palaces. Today only a handful of them remain, giving a peep into the past.
Author Rani Sarma brings to light little known facts about the glorious deodis of yore. The Irram Manzil Palace had altogether 900 odd servants, who lived in "wadas" behind the palace. Behind the deodis lived the hordes of servants, who worked in them. Clerks, office superintendents and the other staff lived in quarters, within easy reach of the deodi.
The cooks,drivers, farrashes, ayahs, maalis, polishers, security guards and numerous other retainers lived in huge villages either close to the deodi or sometimes in the grounds of the deodi itself. There was a marked difference between the mansions they served in and their own humble dwellings, says Rani Sarma, who recently authored, The Deodis of Hyderabad - a lost heritage.
She takes readers of her book on a journey of the Nawabdom, where art and architecture flourished and communal harmony was at its zenith. Some 1200 deodis once existed in the old city of Hyderabad. Almost all of these traditional homes have been demolished in recent years, leaving little trace of a now vanished lifestyle.
"The vibrant new phase of development is commercially driven. It has swept aside most traces of the old. Today the city of Hyderabad bristles with evidence of the latest wave of wealth. But a stranger to the city would be hard put to find traces of the city's past, its former premier residences of stateliness and splendour," says Prince Muffakham Jah. Rani Sarma's book is the latest addition to the treasure-trove of publications on old Hyderabad.
Muffakham Jah, who has been witness to the transformation of the city for over five decades, further observes, "it is these deoris that the Hyderabadi culture evolved Hyderabadi "Tehzeeb," its refined way of life."
Agreeing with Muffakham Jah, Rani Sarma writes, "be it the language, literature, music, dance, etiquette, courtesy, entertainment, cuisine or dress, they were all important and tradition dictated the norms. Transgressions were frowned upon and social standing and acceptability depended on the degree of refinement that the individuals acquired. Special care was taken to teach children the finer points of
etiquette right from their childhood."
The landscape of Hyderabad changed with the entry of the Britishers. The second half of the 19th century was a period of change in Hyderabad, writes Rani Sarma. Englishness came to influence the architecture, lifestyle, education, spoken language, and eating habits of the upper echelons of society.
The British Residency was a built by 1806 and it became fashion to build modern palaces modelled after it. Even the nomenclature of the buildings that they built changed from a "deodi" to a "palace". We have the old-style deodi of the Malwalas being called Malwala Palace.
The writer vividly brings out the communal harmony that co-existed along with deodis. "It is often said that in Hyderabad, the people enjoyed a composite culture. `Ganga-Jamuni' is one word Hyderabadis are fond of using, indicating that Hyderabadi culture was a blend of Hindu and Muslim cultures. One was a Hyderabadi, and that was all that mattered, whether one was a Hindu or a Muslim did not matter."
The three outstanding features of the deodis, as seen in Hyderabad, were their prominent main entrances, high enclosing walls and inner courtyards. Each deodi had its own rhythm of life and activity, its tone set by the master of the house.
The forecourt of the deodi was strictly meant for performing official functions of the lord. The large jagirdars like the Paigahs and the Diwans not only maintained troops but also took care of the civil and judicial administration in their jagirs. They employed a large staff that operated from the peshi of the deodi.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Icrisat germplasm at Svalbard Global Seed Vault

February 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Feb 25: The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics has joined the group of international organisations that will deposit seeds of germplasm of mandate crops at the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, to be inaugurated on Tuesday.
According to Dr William Dar, director-general of ICRISAT, the international initiative is to store the seeds of agricultural crops from across the world in a specially created seed vault. The Svalbard archipelago is half way between the northern coast of Norway and the North Pole.
Located in a remote, yet accessible location within a mountain under permafrost (permanently frozen layer) conditions, the Svalbard Seed Vault has a natural temperature of minus 6 degree centigrade. The vault is further cooled to minus 18°C and is designed to provide ultimate secure protection against catastrophes to plant genetic resources for food and agriculture.
Dr William Dar said ICRISAT's participation in the duplicate conservation of seeds in the vault would add a special significance to the project by giving increased protection to global agriculture from climate change.
The seeds of germplasm that will be transferred by ICRISAT are those of hardy dryland crops that can withstand climate change when it happens. These are the seeds of sorghum, pearl millet, chickpea, pigeon pea,groundnut and six small millets.
Though a global disaster may or may not happen, seeds stored in gene banks are routinely used to re-start agriculture in areas affected by natural disasters and civil strife. For instance, sorghum germplasm lost during civil wars in Ethiopia and Rwanda was replenished from the collection stored in the ICRISAT gene bank.
ICRISAT repatriated germplasm to several countries: Botswana (sorghum), Iran (chickpea), Nepal (chickpea), Kenya (pigeon pea), Sudan (sorghum), Zambia (sorghum, pearl millet, pigeon pea, groundnut and finger millet), and India (all crops).
ICRISAT will deposit seeds of 20,000 germplasm accessions in the first instalment this year, which will be the first year of the 5-year schedule during which the Institute will transfer about 110,000 germplasm accessions.
ICRISAT holds 1,18,882 accessions of various crops, along with their wild relatives, representing 144 countries.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Sentinel Surveillance Report: HIV spreads to children below 14 years in Andhra Pradesh

February 25, 2005
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Feb 24: Even as the State is battling to control HIV which is assuming monstrous proportions, the infection has spread to new population groups affecting children below 14 years of age.
According to the latest Sentinel Surveillance Report of the Andhra Pradesh State AIDS Control Society, about four per cent of all HIV positive cases are children below 14 years. Officials are surprised at the spread of HIV in small children as Andhra Pradesh is primarily a "heterosexual State" where 90 per cent of the HIV/AIDS cases are through heterosexual transmission and just 0.46 per cent cases are through gay relationships. They believe that the streetchildren factor might have contributed to the high incidence of HIV in small children along with mother-to-child transmission route.
What is horrifying is that the State has fast moved from the "high risk groups" phase to "bridge population and vulnerable groups" phase. The State no more has any identifiable high risk groups like truckers and prostitutes. The infection has become quite common and everyone irrespective of social background in the State is at risk.
"We have five lakh HIV cases in the State and of this four per cent are children below 14 years of age. It is affecting women and children, both vulnerable groups, adversely. We do not have data on the exact cause of spread of HIV to this group of population. We cannot say for sure that HIV in small children is through sexual contact. There is no provision in law for a random survey on HIV/AIDS and hence we depend on the cases visiting voluntary counselling centres, STD clinics or prenatal test units", says APSACS joint director Padmavathi.
Andhra Pradesh is one of the States where HIV has become generalised epidemic with a prevalence rate of above one per cent. The prevalence is above one per cent in 18 districts and above two per cent in the districts of Kadapa, Nellore, Prakasam, Gutur, East and West Godavari and Srikakulam.
Another factor troubling APSACS is the spread of HIV among teenagers. About 50 per cent of the new infections reported are in the age group of 15 to 24 years. Taking prevalence into consideration, 45 per cent of the infections are in the age group of 15-29 years. About 90 per cent of the infections are in the age group of 15-49 years.
According to official statistics for 2004-2005, 3.66 per cent of HIV patients are below 14 years, 44.89 per cent in the age group of 15-29 years, 35.23 per cent (30-39 years), 12.45 per cent (40-49 years) and 3.77 per cent (above 50 years).
Probable modes of transmission as per the information reported in voluntary counselling and testing centres are: heterosexual transmission - 89.23 per cent; homosexual transmission - 0.46 per cent; infected syringes and needles - 0.80 per cent, blood and blood products - 0.98 per cent and others 8.5 per cent.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

India too can hit objects in space: Kalam

February 23, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Feb 22: India has acquired the capability to hit foreign objects including space debris to protect its territory.
"We are capable of hitting foreign objects at a height of 200 km from the ground. When some object enters the Indian territory, it is our right to hit it and protect the country and its people. We have acquired the capability," missile man and former president APJ Abdul Kalam said.
Dr Kalam's statement gains significance in the backdrop of the United States of America shooting down its rogue spy satellite carrying dangerous toxic fuel. It has demonstrated the USA's effectiveness of missile defence system. India too is capable of protecting its territory from such foreign objects or rogue satellites.
India will, however, utilise the technology for peaceful purpose, though developed nations are vying with one another for militarisation of outer space.

Interacting with a select group of reporters after inaugurating the International Conference on Avionics System - 2008, at Research Centre Imarat here on Friday, Dr Kalam said the recent success of the DRDO in the launch of interceptor missile and Agni-III had taken India into the elite club of a few developed nations.
"The demonstration of air defence mission to intercept incoming ballistic missiles in both endo and exo atmospheric region propelled the country into a very select group of nations having such capability," he said adding that India's air defence programme has established several critical technologies including long range radar detection and tracking.
Earlier, Dr Kalam told defence scientists from various parts of the world that intercepting and destroying a flying and manoeuvring supersonic air target was a big challenge, especially if the attack was a surprise one and aided by jamming systems. "When the Akash surface to air missile system was being recently tested by the Air Force, they had demanded intercepting on air target by a ripple of two missiles.
This is to ensure hit probability of more than 99 per cent. The onboard avionics systems worked in unison for taking the missile close to the target within 35 metres. While the first missile exploded near the target, the second missile had to explode near debris of the first missile, which itself became the target for the second missile," he said.
Stating that the DRDO has developed an operationalised state of the art electronic warfare system such as Tempest, Samyukta and Sangraha, he emphasised the need to have built in facilities for active cyber warfare, so as to make the adversary systems ineffective by way of denial of service.
Dr Kalam said India was now moving towards micro and non sensor technology realise systems weighing a few grams. "We are for miniaturisation of missiles so that they could be mounted on aircraft," he said.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Simhachalam temple: Quite popular 1000 years ago too

February 22, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Feb 21: Sri Narasimha Swamy temple atop the Simhachalam hill in Visakhapatnam was a major pilgrim centre as early as the 11th century CE, attracting thousands of pilgrims from far and wide, says senior temple science expert TP Sri Ramachandra Charyulu.
Sri Ramachandra Charyulu, who has decoded about 500 ancient inscriptions from the Simhachalam shrine, the second richest temple in Andhra Pradesh, says the writings recovered from the temple premises are unique and throw light on the cultural, social, economic and political situation of the Andhra desa of those times.
"Many temples have inscriptions. But those recovered from the Simhachalam temple are quite a large in number. The inscriptions deal with things as small as removing weeds from the Vimana (gopuram) of the temple to major religious rituals including offering of naivedhyam with condensed milk," Charyulu told this correspondent.
He said the Simhachalam temple used to receive generous donations from kings and ordinary pilgrims from all over south India even during 1100 CE. "We found gold coins offered during 1264 and 1266 by a ruler from Cuttack in Orissa. The coins and related inscriptions showed that the king had made permanent financial arrangement to meet the salaries of 100 temple danseuses and musicians. A temple having such
a large contingent of musicians is indeed rare. Even rich temples these days do not have so many paid artistes," he said. Stating that one of the inscriptions deals with condensation of milk from 30 litres to 10 litres before it was offered as daily Naivedhyam to the presiding deity, Charyulu said the people of those days had
perfected it an art.
"We are yet to study the complete set of inscriptions. A detailed research will give an insight into the mind of people living in the final moments of the first millennium and early second millennium. But unfortunately, blasting in and around the hills is damaging the treasure-trove, including the temple structure. We will lose these inscriptions for ever," Charyulu said.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Will better medicare bring down infant mortality rate? Naandi Foundation experts to find out

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Sept 21: City health researchers have now embarked on an interesting mission to find out whether provision of better medicare will bring down the high infant mortality rate in Andhra Pradesh.
Andhra Pradesh has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the country with 57 children out of every 1000 live births dying in infancy.
The group has taken up trials in the backward Mahbubnagar district for evaluation of the neonatal deaths prevention programme. The idea is to find out whether neonatal mortality could be brought down through systemic changes to the provision and promotion of healthcare.
The study is being conducted by Hyderabad-based Global Partnerships of Naandi Foundation in association with Effective Intervention Centre for Economic Performances, London School of Economics and Medical Statistics Unit, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
There is evidence that relatively inexpensive interventions may be able to prevent up to 75 per cent of these deaths. Among districts in the State, Mahbubnagar has very high neonatal mortality rates. It is estimated that
the mortality rate in this backward district is as high as nine per cent or 90 deaths for every 1000 live child births. One out of 22 infants in India does not reach the second month of life.
"However, there's very little reliable information quantifying neonatal survival rates in rural areas and tribal regions, although these rates are known anecdotally to be even higher," the study points out. The district suffers from a vicious cycle of both poor supply of and small demand for health care services. The trial will assess whether a package of interventions to facilitate systemic changes to the provision and promotion of healthcare may be able to substantially reduce neonatal mortality in this district and be cost-effective. If successful, the trial is designed so that it should be possible to substantially scale up the project in regions with similarly high neonatal mortality throughout Andhra Pradesh and elsewhere in the country.
The trial study will be a cluster-randomised controlled trial involving 464 villages in Mahbubnagar. The package of interventions will first be introduced in half of the villages with the others serving as controls.
The trial will run for a period of three years. The intervention in the trial has two key elements: a community health promotion campaign and a system to contract out healthcare to non-public institutions.
The health promotion campaign will include a health education campaign, participatory discussion groups, training of village health workers and midwives, and improved coordination of antenatal services. The
intervention group will also have subsidised access to pregnancy-related healthcare services at non-public health centres. The primary outcome of the trial will be neonatal mortality. Secondary outcomes will include age at and cause of neonatal death, neonatal morbidity, maternal mortality and morbidity, health service usage, costs and several process and knowledge outcomes.
The study  will be run by independent research and service delivery arms and supervised by a trial steering committee. A data monitoring committee will be put in place to monitor the trial and recommend
stopping/continuation according to well-established medical rules.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Infertility treatment: Aloe vera can increase semen count

February 20, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Feb 19: Aloe vera, the thorny succulent herb quite popular among beauticians, contains natural medicinal properties that enhance the fertility status of an individual and protect men from radiation-induced reproductive problems.
Health experts attending the 18th annual scientific meet on recent trends in reproductive health research, here point out that Aloe vera acts as a good radio protector and inhibits the testicular damage against gamma radiation.
According to Prashasnika Gehlot and PK Goyal of Radiation and Centre Biology Laboratory of Department of Zoology, University of Rajasthan, Aloe vera extract initiated, in laboratory animals, an early recovery from radiation-induced damage to restore normal architecture of testes.
The finding gains significance as radiation has become part of every day life and applications of ionising radiation in difficult areas are constantly increasing including the use for medicinal and industrial purposes.
"Testis is one of the radio-sensitive organs because of cell renewal system. Ionising radiation was found to produce marked effects on testes in terms of lethality and impaired spermatogenesis," they said adding that extract from the leaves of Aloe vera will improve the sperm count and rectify the damage caused to the tissue.
Aloe vera plant has traditionally been used around the world, particularly in India, as a folk remedy for treating inflammation, wounds, hepatitis and gastric ulcers. This is for the first time that Aloe vera's properties have been found to extend beyond beauty parlours and folk medicine.
The Jaipur scientists selected three groups of Swiss albino mice for their study. One group was treated with Aloe vera extract for 15 days. The second group was exposed to radiation and the third group was exposed to radiation and treated with Aloe vera extract.
The treatment of Aloe vera leaf inhibited lipid peroxidation elevation and significantly increased hormonal level as compared to control group. Besides, spermatogenic counts in Aloe vera treated group were found to be significantly higher than the irradiated control animals.
Moreover, Aloe vera extract initiated early recovery from radiation-induced damage to restore normal architecture of testes.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Maternal lineage of north Indians traces to East Asia

February 19, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Feb 18: The maternal lineage of north Indians traces to East Asia, says a research study by city-based Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, implying that women from the region had settled down in India in the past.
The tiny Himalayan state of Nepal served as a link between East Asia and India when early human beings moved from one region to another. The CCMB scientists based their observations after their study on Tharu people living in the Terai plains between India and Nepal pointed to past human movements from East Asia to India.
"We have analysed 7,137 samples from 125 different caste, tribal and religious groups of India and 99 samples from three populations of Nepal. Analysis of data suggests minor maternal contribution from Southeast Asia to Northern India.
Nepal might have served as a bridge for the flow of eastern lineage to India. Moreover the gene flow between India and Nepal has been reciprocal," Dr K Thangaraj of CCMB told this correspondent.
India, being culturally and geographically a highly heterogeneous country, the caste and tribal groups here are considered socially and culturally the most stratified of all known societies in human history. Indian populations are structured further by their linguistic and religious affiliations. More than 60 per cent of the present day Indian maternal lineage is affiliated with mitochondrial DNA haplogroup M, he said. "Of the 7,137 individuals studied 139 individuals had the haplotype (9-bp deletion) whereas 42 individuals had the insertion. The highest frequency of deletion was observed in Yanadis from Andhra Pradesh. Nine populations showed the presence of the 9-bp insertion and the highest frequency was also observed in a Dravidian-speaking population, from the State," he said.
The CCMB team for the first time identified the rare West Eurasia-specific haplogroup H14 in Indian population. The complete sequencing of the Indian branch suggests a deep split between the Indian and European lineage.
The migration of Southeast Asian maternal lineage to North India has occurred not only through the corridor of Nepal but also has involved gene flow along the southern slopes of the Himalayas within the Indian sub-continent.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Transplant of uterus in goats, sheep: Good news for infertile women

February 18, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Feb 17: American gynecologist with a special interest in fertility
preservation have successfully transplanted wombs in goats and sheep, paving the way
for similar transplants in human beings.
Since the year 2000, they have been investigating the feasibility of uterine
transplants in different sub-primates models perfecting an effective surgical
technique. While facing the different challenges in transplant surgery, the
pioneering physicians opt to choose an animal model (sheep and goat) that resembles
the female human reproductive anatomy. Their rare achievement means that infertile
women can bear their own children, without going in for adoption or surrogacy.
The goat/sheep project was presented at the three-day 18th annual scientific meeting
on Recent Trends in Reproductive Health Research that was organized by Dr. Roya
Rozati affiliated with the Owaisi Hospital in Hyderabad, India. During their
presentation, it was announced that this was the first time that the experts have
successfully transplanted wombs in the goat and sheep models.
The uterine transplant project is led by Dr. Edwin R. Ramirez from Lancaster,
California, along with his father, Dr. Hugo A. Ramirez, sister and brother-in-law
Drs. Doris and Matthew Nessetti. Most of their experiments have been conducted at
the Universidad de La Salla in Bogota, Colombia, however the launch of their project
was initiated at Texas Tech University Health Science Center with the collaboration
of Dr. Vincent Pillari from New York Methodist Hospital. The clinical researchers
took up the pioneering project to assess tissue rejection and endometrial changes in
subjects undergoing uterus transplantation, besides determining a success rate of
pregnancy after the transplant.
The objective of their study was to prove that four goats and 10 sheep could
successfully undergo the uterine transplant procedure with the achievement of
pregnancy. "Our goal is to provide an effective and safe procedure that may be
suitable for human application," Dr Ramirez told this correspondent.
Dr. Edwin Ramirez announced last year at the American Society of Reproductive
Medicine (ASRM) annual meeting that a successful pregnancy has been achieved in the
goat model after undergoing the uterine transplant procedure. He also mentioned that
the next phase of their sheep project will be to synchronize the animals with
progesterone implants for the preparation of an embryo transfer, with the
collaboration of Professor Mats Brannstrom from Sahlgrenska University Hospital in
Goteborg, Sweden. "600,000 hysterectomies in the United States are being performed
annually and the incidence of an absent uterus (Rokitansky syndrome) is
approximately 4-5 per cent of the general populations (1:4000), so there is a definite need for the procedure!" Dr Ramirez said.
"The decisions made in reproductive medicine have strongly been influenced by social
demographics and religious beliefs. The medical society has offered gestational
surrogacy and adoption as a therapeutic remedy for uterine factor infertility
however it is prudent that we understand a patients culture and religious beliefs
before introducing a third party into the demand of procreation," they said.
The team has demonstrated that the ewe and goat are excellent models for uterine
transplant research. However, the next step before attempting a human uterine
transplant will be to justify an effective procedure in the non-human primate. Dr.
Ramirez in conjunction with Dr. Masood Khatammee, an eminent expert in the field of
fertility, will be hosting the 1st International meeting on Fertility Preservation
and Prevention of Infertility which will be held at New York University in
Manhattan, NY during of the month of October 2008.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Out of Africa: Andaman tribes just 10,000 year old

February 14, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Feb 13: Man settled on the picturesque Andaman islands 10,000 to 24,000 years ago and not 45,000 to 50,000 years ago as earlier believed.
Research studies based on population genetics by the Anthropological Survey of India showed that human settlement on Andaman islands was a relatively recent phenomenon, 24,000 years old at the most. This negates the popular belief that early humans migrated from Africa between 45,000 and 50,000 years ago and settled in Andamans before fanning out to other places including Myanmar and India.
Anthropological Survey of India director-in-charge Dr VR Rao told this correspondent that "the migration of people to Andaman islands took place tentatively around 24,000 years ago." The ASI scientists came out with the observation following an investigation of deep structure of mitochondria DNA sub groups M31, which is Andaman specific and M32 which is India specific. They used whole-genome sequencing methods as part of the study.
The mtDNA contains ancient signature of genes that are passed from mother to child. A study of mtDNA reveals when and how early humans migrated from Africa and settled across the Earth.
India, because of its strategic location on the proposed corridor of human movement from Africa to Australia, holds the key to the understanding of early human prehistory. Genetic studies conducted earlier, based on mitrochondrial DNA, showed that the relative isolation of the late Pleistocene
colonisers, and the physically isolated Andaman Island populations was because of an early split between populations settled along the coast of Indian Ocean.
"The identification of a so far unnoticed rare polymorphism shared between these two lineage suggests that they are actually sister groups within a single haplogroup, M31'32. The enhanced resolution of M31 allows for the inference of a more recent colonisation of the Andaman Islands than previously suggested, but cannot reject the very early peopling scenario," Dr Rao said.
The ASI study further demonstrated a widespread overlap of mtDNA and cultural markers between the two major language groups of the Andaman archipelago. "Given the "completeness" of the genealogy based on whole genome sequences, and the multiple scenarios for the peopling of the Andaman Islands sustained by this inferred genealogy, our study hints that further mtDNA based phylogeographic studies are unlikely to unequivocally support any one of these possibilities," he said.
According to Dr Rao, the significance of the new finding is in terms of understanding the earliest genomic foot prints in the subcontinent. The implications are relevant in evolutionary biology. Adaptive traits which have implications in health and disease and their variation across human populations, can now be in a perspective.
He said the earlier Andamanese were known sea farers. "The story of human migrations is very complex. Even you go to Homo erectus stage, we have very complex scenario of migrations... Nevertheless, imagine all life forms sequencing of whole genomes is available," he said.

Hyderabad to emerge as cargo hub of southeast Asia

February 13, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Feb 12: Hyderabad will emerge as the cargo hub of southeast Asia with the new international airport at Shamshabad, 30 km from here, handling express cargo and courier services from the region.
The greenfield airport, which will become operational on March 16, will have world class cargo handling facility. The cargo handling and courier services at Shamshabad have been planned and executed after studying similar facility at leading international airports around the world including Japan, the UK, the USA and Malaysia.
"We have asked DHL Express to come to Hyderabad. They were planning to go to Sri Lanka. We offered them land and they accepted Hyderabad for a southeast Asian regional hub," said Mr GM Rao, chairman of GMR Group, which executed the Shamshabad airport.
An elated Mr Rao told this newspaper, after successful mock tests at the new airport, that the cargo terminal was in advanced stage of completion and it would be ready in time for the commercial operations at the airport next month.
The GMR Group has found a novel solution to the problem of frequent violation of airport "funnel" area by high rise buildings. The funnel area is the flight path and in view of passenger safety and security the civil aviation ministry has placed restriction on the height of buildings that come in its way.
"We have set up an automated system that works on the principle of radio detection and ranging (radar). A laser beam moves continuously around the airport covering the funnel area. Any high rise construction activity is detected within seconds and alerts the airport authorities, who will jump into action. There's no human interference involved. Everything is computerised," Mr Rao said.
When his attention was drawn to the reported plans of Uttar Pradesh State government to construct an international airport at Noida, Mr Rao said if the "Centre gives its nod to UP, we will have to close down the Delhi airport. Our agreement with the Centre is that there will be no international airport within 150 km radius of another international airport. In case the Centre says yes, it has to compensate us for the loss," he pointed out.
Mr Rao said the airport would have a novel concept of aerotropolis with hotels, commercial centres, hospitals, and residential quarters. Such a concept is present at Incheon airport in Seoul, Munich and Hong Kong. "It is a complete airport city. In the next phase we will have a convention centre. There will be four star hotels in addition to the Novotel hotel in the first phase.

GMR Group to bid for Railway Stations

February 13, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Feb 12: The GMR group is now exploring new avenues in railways and hydel power after successfully creating several firsts in airports.
GMR Group chairman Mr GM Rao told this newspaper, in an exclusive interview marking the successful trial run of the new international airport at Shamshabad near here, that the Group would bid for the modernisation of New Delhi railway station next month when the Indian Railways opens the bids for the Rs 5,000 crore work. The railway project involves 86 hectares of prime land abutting the New Delhi station and once complete it will serve seven lakh passengers and handle around 300 trains.
"This is a prestigious project. It is for the first time that the Central
government has invited private parties for modernisation of railway stations. We will participate in the bids, since we have always taken up first of their kind
projects in the country," Mr Rao said.
Referring to the Group's activity in the energy sector, Mr Rao said they were planning to go in for an initial public offer. "But we have not yet worked out the details. It is yet to materialise," he added.
The Group is now foraying into the hydel energy department by signing up with governments for 1000 mw hydel power projects. One of the hydel project GMR has taken up is in neighbouring Nepal.
"We have entered into a joint venture with Himtal Hydro Power Co Limited of Nepal. We will purchase 80 per cent stake in Himtal Hydro for the 250 mw Upper Marsyangdi-2 hydro power project," Mr Rao said.
GMR Energy has already taken up work on a coal based thermal plant at Kamalanga in Orissa and it is expected to be ready by 2010. It has signed an MoU with the government of Arunachal Pradesh for implementation, operation and maintenance of the 160 mw Talong hydro power project on river Kemeng.
Mr Rao said he had always ventured into projects that are financially viable and promising. "We do not have emotional attachment to any business. We go for projects which are profitable."
Asked whether power IPO would be viable, he said GMR Infra went in for IPO
when the sensex was 7000. "It was a difficult period but we have proved ourselves by our performance," he said indicating that the GMR's power IPO would perform well at the market.
He said the Group would utilise the one billion US dollars, it had raised recently through Qualified Institutional Placement, for various ongoing and future projects. "We raised the money in just 24 hours. We have several projects
on hands and the money will be pumped into them," he said.
Referring to Istanbul airport in Turkey the Group had recently bid, Mr Rao said they would be signing the agreement on March 31 and take over the project on April 1.
He made it clear that there was no question of issuing NoC for high rise buildings in the airport four km inner horizontal zone where the flight path falls. The State government has given licences for special economic zones for Indu Projects, Brahmani Infotech and Raheja. "We have told the APIIC that the funnel area rules should be strictly adhered to," he said.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Hyderabad Airport sets trend: Others will learn from us: GMR

February 12, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Feb 11: The Rajiv Gandhi international airport at Shamshabad is the best in its class with the world’s best brains in airport design and passenger services joining together to execute the first-ever greenfield airport under public-private partnership in the country.
“The new Hyderabad airport has several firsts to its credit. We have put together the best international companies to work with us to complete the project eight months ahead of the schedule and give passengers the best of world class services,” said GM Rao, chairman of GMR Group, which executed the mega airport project in the otherwise sleepy village of Shamshabad in the backward Ranga Reddy district 30 km from here.
In an exclusive interview to this newspaper on Monday on the eve of the calibration tests at the new airport, Mr Rao elaborated that Rajiv Gandhi international airport at Shamshabad is the first airport in India to go for LEED Certificate for incorporating green design elements. It is a non-polluting airport and passengers will have fresh air to breathe.
“It is also the first airport to have integrated terminal Authorities believe that those who want to build Greenfield airports in the PPP mode would surely study Shamshabad, which has incorporated global best practices, as the most successful model.
“Passengers can enter the airport from the national highway No. 7 and from Srisailam highway,” said Mr Rao, who was happy that the rain god blessed his mega venture immediately after the puja ahead of the calibration tests. The airport has the best brains working in all its sectors.
“The cargo operation will be handled by Menzies, the business hotel by Accor with Novotel brand and flight catering by LSG Sky Chef and Sky Gourmet,” said Mr Rao. The fuel farm operation and maintenance would be undertaken by Reliance Industries, duty free and retail by Nuance and Shoppers Stop, parking by Tenaga and airport lounges by Plaza Premium of Hong Kong.
“Our business philosophy is to work with the best international companies,” he said. “We have chosen them through a transparent selection process.” The airport medical centre will be manned by Apollo Hospitals and pilots will be trained by the Sabena Flight Academy while the maintenance contract has been given to Faber Malaysia.
Even the house-keeping has been handed over to Sinar Jernih of Malaysia and ISS Integrated Services of Singapore. The bookstores will be run by Landmark and Odyssey.
Mr Rao said GHIAL had got the help of renowned aviation and construction experts including Prof. Rigas Doganis, fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society, Prof. Amadeu Odoni of MIT and Prof. John Kasarda from North Carolina University. “We got the help of experts who designed Oslo and Hong Kong airport,” said Mr Rao. “The works of the passenger terminal building was taken up by China State Engineering Construction (Hong Kong) Limited.”
Mr Rao said a team had visited Bangkok to study how the existing airport there was converted to a greenfield one. “Since we know the problems which Bangkok faced, we have made our strategies accordingly,” he said.
“The shifting from Begumpet to Shamshabad on March 16 will be a smooth affair. We will be running 120 special buses to several points in the city. The fare will be just Rs 95.”
By all counts, the Begumpet airport would close down after March 16, though there are demands from some quarters that it be kept open.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Organ donation Rules to aid poor

February 11, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Feb 10: Under flak for its failure to control trade in human organs, the
Central government has come out with a draft amendment to the Transplantation of
Human Organs Rules, 1995 with stringent guidelines to protect the poor from unscrupulous doctors and touts.
A copy of the draft amendment is now available on the website of the Union Ministry
of Health and Family Welfare, for people to post their comments and suggestions.
This time the Centre has taken care to invite the opinion of the common man before
adopting the draft Rules, since a majority of the victims of kidney racket are either
farmers or poor labourers.
The Centre has plugged all the loopholes in the Transplantation of Human Organs Act, 1994 and Rules, 1995 as it could not control illegal sale of human organs particularly kidneys during the last 12 years. The Act and Rules have in fact, helped
unscrupulous doctors to play with the lives of the poor living in far flung villages.
The new Rules provide for donation of one's body organs after death. An authorisation from the donor has been made compulsory. The doctor performing the
surgery should satisfy himself about the authorisation, before removing an organ
from the donor.
Moreover, it is now the responsibility of the surgeon to ensure that the donor is in a proper state of health and is fit to donate the organ. The donor should be a relative of the recipient and the donation should be approved by the authorisation
committee set up by the Centre. The doctor should perform necessary medical tests to
find out whether the donor and the recipient are relatives. Old photographs of
donor and recipient together should also be produced before seeking approval for
The amended Rules have made it mandatory for a study of the financial status of the
donor and the recipient. Any gross disparity between the financial status of the two will have to be evaluated in the backdrop of the objective of preventing commercial dealing.
The hospital dealing with the transplantation surgery should involves experts in
internal medicine, diabetology, gastroenterology, nephrology, neurology, paediatrics,
gyaenecology immunology and cardiology.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Hindu seers to define the term Swami

February 10, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Feb 9: Hindu religious heads from across the country will meet in March to decide on a self-regulatory code for Swamijis in a move to weed out fake seers.
The Andhra Pradesh Peethadipathis' Forum has taken the lead to hold the conclave of Hindu religious seers, following a spurt in the number of fake swamis and the recent seizure of counterfeit currency and pornographic material from the residence of self-styled godman Sri Tripurananda Nada Swami alias Nityananda Swami in the city.
"We are writing letters to heads of all mutts and peeths in the country on the need to expose fake swamis. A conclave will be held in March either in Hyderabad or New Delhi, which will come out with clear-cut guidelines to define the term swamiji. Nowadays everyone who takes Sri Vidya Upasaka is claiming that he has the vision of the Mother Goddess and declaring himself as a godman. We want to expose them,"
Forum convener and Visaka Sri Sarada Peeth chief Sri Swaroopanandendra Saraswathi told this correspondent.
According to the tradition set by Sri Adi Sankaracharya, only those who posses "Yoga Patta" are to be declared as saints and seers. They have to maintain celibacy at any cost and leave behind the worldly desires. "We have now in the country around 50 swamijis, who have adopted Yoga Patta and Dasanama Sanyasam. They are the true
followers of the sankaracharya tradition," he said, adding that there are thousands of self-styled godmen and fake swamijis, who are bringing bad repute to the Sanatana Dharma.
The proposed conclave of seers will make it clear that those who undergo Sri Vidya Upasaka are not godmen or seers, but are doing so to lead a devotional life. "Such people are doing it for their mukti after leading a family life for quite some time. It is an individual's effort to make oneself religious. Sri Vidya Upasaka does not bestow sainthood on a person. We want to clarify this to one and all," he said.
Tripurananda Nada Swami, who is currently on the run after a police raid on his residence, had taken Sri Vidya Upasaka and not Yoga Patta. "Time has come for the followers of Hinduism to know the difference between a seer and a fake godman. If we do not educate them and evolve a self-regulatory code for ourselves, we will be failing in our duty as religious heads," Sri Swaroopanandendra Saraswathi said.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Centre to allow use of stem cells in treatment

February 7, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Feb. 6: The Central government will soon come out with legislation permitting the use of stem cells to treat a number of diseases including liver failure and heart ailments. The law will allow hospitals to use embryonic and adult stem cells for medical treatment, but human cloning will not be permitted. Lakhs of patients suffering from problems related to the liver, pancreas, brain, heart, blood and kidney will benefit once Parliament passes the Bill.
At present, only a few research centres in the country have obtained special permission from the Indian Council of Medical Research, the department of science and technology and the department of biotechnology to conduct laboratory research on stem cells. The proposed legislation will give a general licence to hospitals and research centres to put the technology to therapeutic use.
Hepatologist Dr C.M. Habibullah, who is a member of the committee which drafted the guidelines on stem cell research and therapy, said the proposed legislation would permit embryonic stem cell research with donor consent. There is also a provision for cord blood banks, which will have to be registered with the Drugs Controller General of India.
The Act will provide for stringent punishment including penalty and jail term for hospitals and research institutions that misuse the technology. The Stem Cell Committee has made it clear that termination of pregnancy to obtain foetal tissue should not be allowed.
The Vice-President, Mr Mohammad Hamid Ansari, will lay the foundation stone for the Centre for Stem Cells Sciences, India’s first state-of-the-art stem cell research and therapy centre, at Upparapalli in the city on Thursday. The Centre will be set up in three stages at an investment of Rs 150 crore. The first phase will be ready by 2009, Dr Habibullah said on Wednesday. “The CSCS is a unique initiative as it involves a blending of efforts by researchers in cutting-edge science and socially responsible entrepreneurs,” he said. “It will become the premier stem cell institution in Asia by 2012.”

Female sperm: It could be an all-woman planet

February 7, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: Imagine an all-woman planet where there are no men. And this is going to
happen, if scientists have their say.
British scientists have already produced what they term, "female sperm", to do away with the role of man in reproduction. If the female sperm works well, women will be able to reproduce children without the help of man. But, all the offspring they produce will be girls. The female sperm will not be able to produce boys since it lack the "Y" or the male sex chromosome.
It will also help lesbian couples to have their children, again all girls. The Earth will then become a planet of women and the male species will become extinct. In case gay men too decide to benefit from the research, they can have their own "eggs" produced from their stem cells and fertilised artificially. They will then be able to produce children without the help of women. But unlike in the case of women, gay men will be able to produce both boys and girls.
City scientists, however, take the research of British scientists with a pinch of
salt. "The British scientists have taken stem cells from a woman's bone marrow and then cultivated them in chemical soup to make them female sperm cells. Stem cells have the capacity to turn into any part of the body. If they use the bone marrow of a woman for sperm production, then the offspring will be girls. If the bone marrow of a man is used, the children can both be boys and girls," says senior geneticist and stem cell researcher Dr MN Khaja.
"It is wrong to say that men may not be required to create babies," points out
Dr Khaja. Stem cell technology can do wonders. "Using the technology, we can argue that women may not be required to produce babies. If female sperm could be produced artificially, male eggs could also be made in laboratory.
The stem cell research should be utilised to improve the health of people and
not to procreate clones with unknown genetic complications." Geneticists express serious concern over artificial production of "female sperm" from the bone marrow of woman. They say it will not only lead to an all-woman Earth upsetting the natural balance, but will also cause a plethora of genetic diseases, which are mostly incurable. There will also be no genetic lineage, since it is the male sperm or the Y chromosome that is responsible for family lineage.
As the British scientists apply for permission to carry out their work to the next stage, Indian infertility experts say it's better to take the male stem cells
to generate sperm for in vitro fertilisation. "We have done pioneering research on production of sperm tissue from stem cells in test tube. The stems cells of an infertile person can be taken and processed to become sperm. The sperm can then be used for artificial fertilisation of the egg of his wife. The child can either be male or female. This way we can maintain the genetic lineage without tampering with the natural laws," argues senior in vitro expert Dr Roya Rozati.
She is also working on developing methods to inject artificially produced sperm into the testes of infertile men, so that they could conceive naturally.
This will eliminate the need for in vitro or test tube fertilisation for couples
with male infertility problems.
The British research on stem cells led by Prof Karim Nayernia centred around mice. According to him, "mature sperm capable of fertilising eggs may take three more years."
The research paves the way for a woman to produce her own sperm through artificial means. She then can use the artificially produced sperm to fertilise the naturally formed eggs in her womb. But city scientists warn that such children will have massive genetic complications. The children born may be abnormal and lead a miserable life.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

H. pylori: Germ in belly proves Aryan theory

February 6, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Feb 5: India got its genes through Indo-Aryans and the Neolithic practices and languages from the Fertile Crescent that makes up the ancient Egypt and the Mediterranean region.
A joint study by S Manjulatha Devi, Irshad Ahmad and others of the city-based Centre for Liver Research and Diagnostics, Deccan College of Medical Sciences and Allied Hospitals, and the Centre for DNA Fingerprinting and Diagnostics, supported the hypotheses related to the gene flow in India through Indo-Aryans.
The scientists conducted the study on Helicobacter pylori, a pathogen that lives in human stomach. The species of H. pylori that is found in present day Indian population is similar to that of the European strain inhabiting the stomachs
of people who live in the West.
"This perhaps conveys the message that H. pylori was most probably introduced to the Indian subcontinent by ancient Indo-European nomadic people and our findings, therefore, are consistent with the idea of a possible gene flow into India with the arrival of Indo-Aryans," the scientists pointed out.
According to the study, H. pylori might have arrived in India probably at the same time when Indo-European language speaking people crossed into India between 4000 and 10,000 years ago. The city scientists arrived at the conclusion as H. pylori co-evolves with its host and thus origins and expansion of multiple populations and sub
populations of the pathogen speak about ancient human migrations.
Since it was not clear how different waves of human migrations in South Asia shaped the population structure of H. pylori, the city scientists went for mapping genetic origins of present day H. pylori in India and its genomic comparison with hundreds of isolates from different geographic regions.
"All the isolates analysed revealed European ancestry and belonged to H. pylori sub-population named hpEurope," they said.
This simple looking organism has now emerged as a reliable biological marker of host-pathogen co-evolution and ancient human migration. It could even provide a window into human origins and migration and the impact of religions and social systems on stratification of human ethnic groups.
The study is consistent with the hypothesis of co-evolution of H. pylori with human beings (Homo sapiens) and thus could form a reliable foundation to test and reconstruct gene flow into India with the arrival of Indo-Aryans or otherwise, they added.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Kidney racket: Change of heart will end illegal bazaar

February 3, 2008
Hyderabad: A change of heart among the general populace on organ donation is what is needed if the illegal sales of kidneys are to be curbed, medical experts feel. The racket thrives on the taboos which people entertain on transplanting organs of their dear and near ones who die.
"Every day we come across several brain-dead cases and if the relatives agree to donate the organs we can save several precious lives," says the eminent nephrologist, Dr T. Ravi Raju, superintendent of King George Hospital in Visakhapatnam. "We will also be delivering a major blow to the illegal organ market."
As such, it is mostly the poor who sell their kidneys for a pittance and it is mostly the rich who get them. Once in a while, some persons involved in the racket and caught and there is a big hullabaloo. After a while the noise subsides and things go on as before. A massive illegal kidney sale racket was busted in Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh during 1997-99. After nearly a decade, the Union health ministry has once more expressed "concern" over the issue after the exposure of a similar racket in Gurgaon.
However, in the interregnum, more than 1,500 people are estimated to have sold off their kidneys after being lured by touts and unscrupulous doctors. The occasional arrest of an agent or a doctor does not change the scenario at all.
For one, the victims rarely lodge a complaint with the police since they had voluntarily sold their organs. The poor people sometimes use this money to clear their debts or marry off their daughters. It is in this context that many health experts have suggested the need for an "attitude change". This may be the panacea to this particular menace.
"A well-run cadaver donation programme will bring down the illegal sale of kidneys," says eminent surgeon Dr J. Harsh. "There won't be any shortage of organs then."
Though Union health minister A. Ramadoss has suggested amendments to the Transplantation of Human Organs Act, 1994, medical experts and health planners say there is no need for any drastic change.
What is needed is creation of awareness among people about the nobleness involved in donating the organs of relatives who are declared brain dead.
They also want the bureaucracy to clear applications for organ transplants in the shortest possible time. At present, the government takes at least a year to clear the application, giving a fillip to the illegal organ market.
"We do not understand why officials take 12 to 18 months to clear applications on organ transplantation," observes senior endocrinologist, Dr C. Padmavathi. "Those patients who cannot wait too long often approach agents to purchase kidneys from poor and illiterate villagers."
Since there's no fixed price for kidneys, agents pay a paltry sum to the poor villager and pocket the rest of the money.
The government says it is difficult to trace illegal kidney rackets, but medical experts say that all sleuths have to do is keep track of specific medicines used for such transplants.
"Only a couple of companies manufacture such drugs and if you keep a watch on medical stores and drug dealers, you can find out where and when a kidney transplant has been done," points out senior nephrologist Dr M. Ammanna of Vijayawada.
Dr N. Kishore, president of Indian Medical Association in Guntur, says that the government should increase the jail term for those who promote illegal kidney sales.
He adds that after the Andhra Pradesh government tightened rules touts were taking poor people of Guntur to places such as Delhi for transplantation.
"Poverty is also a major cause," he points out. "Unless that is addressed, poor farmers in drought-hit areas will continue to sell their kidneys and livers."
Way back in 2004, the National Human Rights Commission dashed off letters to the Prime Minister and chief ministers pointing out that the "compassionate donor" provision in the Human Organ Transplantation Act was being abused. "In many cases, the donor is an unrelated and unacquainted person who is lured into donating an organ…by financial offers made by or on behalf of the prospective recipient," said the NHRC. "The practice of organ purchase has acquired the dubious dimensions of organ trade with touts operating as middlemen."
Ironically, what the country needs urgently is the use of the "compassionate donor" clause, in its genuine sense.
NHRC Guidelines that were never followed
1. State Medical Councils should screen the records of hospitals performing organ transplants and estimate the proportion of transplants which have been made through a "compassionate donor" mechanism.
In case of kidney transplants, wherever the proportion has exceeded five per cent of the cases performed in any of the past five years, the State Medical Council should initiate a full fledged enquiry into the background of the donors and the recipients, as well as a careful documentation of the follow-up health status of the donor and the nature of after-care provided by the hospital concerned.
2. Wherever police enquiries are needed for such background checks, the help of the State Human Rights Commission may be sought for providing appropriate directions to the State agencies.
3. Cadaver transplant programmes should be promoted to reduce the demand for live donors.
4. Facilities for chronic renal dialysis should be increased and improved in hospitals, to provide alternatives to kidney transplantation.
5. Better facilities should be provided for transparent and effective counselling of prospective donors.
6. Wherever possible, a mechanism should be established for independent verification of the veracity of "compassionate donation" by a group of experts which is external to the hospital wherein the transplant procedure is proposed to be performed.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Indian Genetic Data Not Valid: CCMB chief

February 2, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Feb 1: The data on genetic diseases and problems in India is invalid as it is based more on information collected from corporate hospitals in big cities.
According to Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology director Dr Lalji Singh, the government's data on genetics in India need to be revised after taking into consideration the genetic diseases and problems encountered exclusively in rural India.
"The problem of genetic disorders in India is enormous . Millions of people are suffering from inherited diseases like thalassemia, muscular dystrophy, diabetes mellitus, coronary heart diseases. Several diseases prevalent in India are yet to be identified and reported. There are, for instance, families whose female members over four generations do not have fingers and toes. There are families where generation after generation only disabled children are born. These cannot be explained on the basis of our current knowledge and hence their genetic basis needs to be established," Dr Lalji Singh said.
Addressing a press conference after receiving a DNA sequencer donated by Applied Biosystems and Labindia Instruments to the Genome Foundation, Hyderabad, Dr Singh said there's a huge gap between the pace at which new discoveries and technologies are being developed, and the pace with which they get utilised by clinicians for
the benefit of the common man.
He said the DNA sequencer will be utilised in rural India to conduct research on genetic disorders and diseases. "We need not send tests outside the country for sophisticated tests henceforth. Once we establish the genome foundation's research centre in Hyderabad, all genetic tests including biochemical, cytogenetic and DNA-based diagnostic services for common disorders can be done here," he said.
Mr Stevenson, president of Applied Biosystems said, "our partnership with Labindia and the Genome Foundation, creates an infrastructure whereby researchers can build their understanding of many diseases."

Lab tests: India to have a new reference range

February 2, 2008
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Feb 1: Do not get panicky if your medical report shows the result "out of reference" range.
The reference or normal range being followed in laboratories in India for diagnosis of diseases and disorders is in a way "out of context", as it is based on Western
population. Since the genetic make-up, dietary habits and lifestyle of Indians differ vastly from those living in Europe or the Americas, the laboratory reference range arrived at for Western population are not valid for people living in sub-continent.
The Central government has now taken up a massive task to come out with a new reference range for Indian population. The project cost is Rs 500 crore and involves testing of half a million people from across the
country to arrive at the exclusive reference range for the local people. According to senior scientist Dr PM Bhargava, many Indians have been declared "sick" by doctors based on the Western reference range, though they are actually healthy. "We have finally taken up the major task of fixing new reference values for Indian populations based on the local conditions. Once this happens, the laboratory test results will be accurate. But the task involves testing samples of lakhs of people," he said.
The reference range is arrived at after conducting tests on a large number of healthy people from various locations in a country. The results are than averaged and a reference or normal range is arrived at. Only countries in the West have conducted such an exercise and the Indian laboratories have blindly adopted the
Western reference range.
This in other words means that an healthy Indian is made to gulp medicines for the simple reason that he does not fit into the Western range.
Creatinine is measured as a parameter to know how well the kidneys are functioning. It is a natural by-product of muscle activity. Those who have greater muscle mass have more Creatinine levels in the urine than those who are physically weak. Compared with their Western counterparts, Indians are physically weaker as far as muscle mass is concerned. Scientists say thus the Western reference range for Creatinine is not valid for Indians.
The Indian government's initiative on new reference range for Indians will conform to the International Federation of Clinical Chemistry.