Tuesday, September 29, 2009

City doctors find genetic link to premature ovarian failure in Indian women

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Sept 27: A group of city doctors and researchers has found
a "genetic link" to the problem of premature ovarian failure, a
reproductive health condition wherein young women attain menopause.

Women, suffering from premature ovarian failure or POF, stop
producing eggs even before they turn 40. They develop menopause 10
to 25 years before average healthy women stop menstruating. The
average age of women with POF in India has been found to be between
24 and 30 years.

The joint study, carried out by the Institute of Genetics and Hospital for
Genetic Diseases, Government Maternity Hospital, and Maternal
Health and Research Trust, Hyderabad, Department of Obstetrics and
Gynaecology, University of Auckland, New Zealand, gains
significance as more and more Indian women are affected by the
problem of premature ovarian failure. On an average one per cent of
women below 40 years of age suffer from POF. The research team
comprised Dr Golla Jaya Prakash, Dr Vishnubhotla Venkata Ravi
Kanth, Dr Andrew N Shelling, Dr Roya Rozati and Dr Madireddi

POF not only causes infertility, but also leads to severe health
complications including osteoporosis, increased risk of heart disease
and auto immune disorders.

"The causes of POF have long attracted great interest. We have no
established a genetic basis for the problem. Absence of 566C - T
mutation in exon 7 of the FSHR gene causes premature ovarian failure
in Indian women. The condition often arises in association with defects
in the X chromosome, although autosomal genes are also thought to be
involved," one of the researchers Dr Roya Rozati told this

According to her, premature ovarian failure can be inherited either
paternally or maternally as a mendelian disorder with autosomal or X-
linked dominant transmission. Intermittent ovarian function has been
reported in some women, and pregnancy can occur in about five to 10
per cent of patients subsequent to diagnosis. The prevalence of
autoimmune diseases is almost 10 to 20 per cent in individuals with

"Autosomal abnormalities have now been identified in POF patients,
such as mutation of the LH and FSH receptor genes," she said, adding
that primary amenorrhea is mostly prevalent in the early reproductive
age group in Indian women.

The study suggested that mutational analysis of the inhibin alpha can
be used as a definite genetic marker for early diagnosis of POF, and
patients can be offered genetic counselling to plan their conception at
an early age of reproduction.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Water on Moon: NASA probe atop Chandrayaan-1 discovers water molecules in the polar regions of the moon

The images below show a very young lunar crater on the side of the moon that faces away from Earth, as viewed by NASA's Moon Mineralogy Mapper on the Indian Space Research Organization's Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft. On the left is an image showing brightness at shorter infrared wavelengths. On the right, the distribution of water-rich minerals (light blue) is shown around a small crater. Both water- and hydroxyl-rich materials were found to be associated with material ejected from the crater

By Syed Akbar
NASA scientists have discovered water molecules in the polar regions of the moon. Instruments aboard three separate spacecraft revealed water molecules in amounts that are greater than predicted, but still relatively small. Hydroxyl, a molecule consisting of one oxygen atom and one hydrogen atom, also was found in the lunar soil. The findings were published in Thursday's edition of the journal Science.

NASA's Moon Mineralogy Mapper, or M3, instrument reported the observations. M3 was carried into space on Oct. 22, 2008, aboard the Indian Space Research Organization's Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft. Data from the Visual and Infrared Mapping Spectrometer, or VIMS, on NASA's Cassini spacecraft, and the High-Resolution Infrared Imaging Spectrometer on NASA's Epoxi spacecraft contributed to confirmation of the finding. The spacecraft imaging spectrometers made it possible to map lunar water more effectively than ever before.

The confirmation of elevated water molecules and hydroxyl at these concentrations in the moon's polar regions raises new questions about its origin and effect on the mineralogy of the moon. Answers to these questions will be studied and debated for years to come.

"Water ice on the moon has been something of a holy grail for lunar scientists for a very long time," said Jim Green, director of the Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "This surprising finding has come about through the ingenuity, perseverance and international cooperation between NASA and the India Space Research Organization."

From its perch in lunar orbit, M3's state-of-the-art spectrometer measured light reflecting off the moon's surface at infrared wavelengths, splitting the spectral colors of the lunar surface into small enough bits to reveal a new level of detail in surface composition. When the M3 science team analyzed data from the instrument, they found the wavelengths of light being absorbed were consistent with the absorption patterns for water molecules and hydroxyl.

"For silicate bodies, such features are typically attributed to water and hydroxyl-bearing materials," said Carle Pieters, M3's principal investigator from Brown University, Providence, R.I. "When we say 'water on the moon,' we are not talking about lakes, oceans or even puddles. Water on the moon means molecules of water and hydroxyl that interact with molecules of rock and dust specifically in the top millimeters of the moon's surface.

The M3 team found water molecules and hydroxyl at diverse areas of the sunlit region of the moon's surface, but the water signature appeared stronger at the moon's higher latitudes. Water molecules and hydroxyl previously were suspected in data from a Cassini flyby of the moon in 1999, but the findings were not published until now.

"The data from Cassini's VIMS instrument and M3 closely agree," said Roger Clark, a U.S. Geological Survey scientist in Denver and member of both the VIMS and M3 teams. "We see both water and hydroxyl. While the abundances are not precisely known, as much as 1,000 water molecule parts-per-million could be in the lunar soil. To put that into perspective, if you harvested one ton of the top layer of the moon's surface, you could get as much as 32 ounces of water."

For additional confirmation, scientists turned to the Epoxi mission while it was flying past the moon in June 2009 on its way to a November 2010 encounter with comet Hartley 2. The spacecraft not only confirmed the VIMS and M3 findings, but also expanded on them.

"With our extended spectral range and views over the north pole, we were able to explore the distribution of both water and hydroxyl as a function of temperature, latitude, composition, and time of day," said Jessica Sunshine of the University of Maryland. Sunshine is Epoxi's deputy principal investigator and a scientist on the M3 team. "Our analysis unequivocally confirms the presence of these molecules on the moon's surface and reveals that the entire surface appears to be hydrated during at least some portion of the lunar day."

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., manages the M3 instrument, Cassini mission and Epoxi spacecraft for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Indian Space Research Organization built, launched and operated the Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft.

History of prehistoric India: We are not Aryan or Dravidian race. Indians are a genetic mixture of two ancient groups of people, say scientists

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, Sept 24: A group of city scientists in collaboration with
international researchers on Thursday debunked the age-old Aryan theory
that states that Aryans are the progenitors of north Indian population. It also
sets aside the Dravidian theory that north Indian and south Indian people are
genetically different.

The present-day north Indian and south Indian populations are a genetic
mixture of what could be called the ancestral south Indian population and the
ancestral north Indian population. The north Indian ancestral group is closely
related to European populations unlike the south Indian ancestral group,
which is distinctly unique.

Ancestral south Indian population and ancestral north Indian population had
married among each other to give raise to the present Indian population,
which is neither Dravidian nor Aryan. "It is a genetic mixture of ASI and
ANI and is quite distinct from the original ancestral groups," points out K
Thangaraj, senior scientists at the city-based Centre for Cellular and
Molecular Biology.

The pioneering research study, conducted jointly by the CCMB, Harvard
Medical School, Harvard School of Public Health and the Broad Institute of
Harvard and MIT, USA, is being claimed as the one "which will rewrite the
Indian anthropological and genetics history".

According to the study, nearly all Indians carry genomic contributions from
two distinct ancestral populations. Following this ancient mixture, many
groups experienced periods of genetic isolation from each other for
thousands of years. It has medical implications for people of Indian descent.

Although the genome sequences of any two unrelated people differ by just
0.1 per cent that tiny slice of genetic material is a rich source of information.
It provides clues that can help reconstruct the historical origins of modern
populations. The research team analysed more than 5,00,000 genetic markers
across the genomes of 132 individuals from 25 diverse groups, representing
13 States, all six language families, traditionally "upper" and "lower" castes,
and tribal groups.

Dr Lalji Singh, co-author of the study, said India is not a nation of one
population. It is a nation of 4635 populations, 532 tribes and 72 primitive
tribes. The original tribal population gave birth to the caste system as it
diverted from forest life to agricultural activity. Caste system in India dates
back to thousands of years and it is not a creation of the British, as is
commonly believed.

The researchers also found that Indian populations were much more highly
subdivided than European populations. But whereas European ancestry is
mostly carved up by geography, Indian segregation was driven largely by
caste. "There are populations that have lived in the same town and same
village for thousands of years without exchanging genes," says co-author
David Reich of Harvard Medical School.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Kitchen smoke major killer of infants in Andhra Pradesh

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: Smoke from kitchen is contributing to high child and infant mortality rate in Andhra Pradesh.
According to a World Bank-sponsored study on the impact of solid biomass fuels like wood, dung and crop residues on the health of people, particularly in rural areas, smoke from conventional kitchen is found to be a contributory factor in high child and infant mortality rate in the State. Andhra Pradesh has a child mortality rate of 62 per 1000 and infant mortality rate of 70 per 1000 live births. As many as 44 infants die in the State within a month of being born. Though the mortality rate in Andhra Pradesh is below the national average, it certainly is the poor performer in South India.
The study was conducted among other institutions by the city-based Institute of Health Systems. It was found during the course of the study that over 80 per cent of people in villages still depend on biomass fuels as against non-polluting fossil fuels. Strangely enough, 24 per cent of households in urban areas too depend on wood, dung and waste from crops. Poor ventilation in many houses has added to the problem of indoor air pollution from kitchen.
"This situation leads to some of the highest-ever recorded levels of air pollution to which young children and women are exposed daily for many hours," the report points out. The study has strengthened evidence that children under five years suffer from high levels of exposures to indoor air pollution on a daily basis and this explains for one of the high rates of child and infant mortality.
Indoor air pollution is the third most risk factor threatening human health in the country and the problem is found to be relatively higher in the State. Indoor air pollution contributing to about 20 lakh premature deaths every year in the country and a majority of victims being below the age of five years. "There is also strong evidence of impact on women, up to 34,000 deaths resulting from chronic obstructive disorders," the report pointed out.
As part of the study as many as 412 households were surveyed and of them 270 families used wood and 97 families buffalo and cow dung as fuel. Only a few families in rural areas used fossil fuels like LPG and kerosene.
The average 24-hour exposures to RSPM were the highest amongst women in families which used biomass fuels for cooking. Even older women, above 60 years who generally do not cook food, and children, who mostly play outside the houses, are also exposed to the high levels of RSPM.
However, children are three to four times less exposed to high levels of RSPM in households where fossil fuels are used.
"Indoor air pollution punishes young children twice. First by making them ill and secondly by making their mothers ill, thus reducing the mother’s ability to take care of the children", the report pointed out.