Monday, March 30, 2009

Change daily routine to stop cancer

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, March 29: People, who change their daily routine frequently, are
less susceptible to the killer cancer.

In an interesting study on mouse model, a US team, which included a
Hyderabadi scientist Shobhan Gaddameedhi, has found that disruption of the
biological clock is in fact helpful at least in prevention of cancers, though the
risk of obesity and sleep disorders still persist.

The study has also revealed that the time of the day that chemotherapy drugs
are administered to cancer patients will actually determine their efficacy and
effectiveness as also the extent of side effects.

Every living creature including human beings have a hidden mechanism
called the body's circadian or biological clock that takes care of various vital
functions, both physiological and biological. So far scientists believed that
any disruption of this mechanism will have bad impact on one's health. But
the present study negates the existing belief and establishes that a change in
the circadian clock will help at least in preventing the growth of cancer cells.

"The results have important implications for cancer treatment. Our body's
daily rhythms are synchronised with the sun and coordinated by the body's
circadian clock. While a region of the brain operates as the master biological
clock, the system is complex and operates in virtually every cell of the body.
It regulates our sleep, body temperature, eating habits and activity level,"
says Dr Shobhan.

The team found that the extracts obtained from mouse brains in the morning
repaired damaged DNA samples six to seven times faster than those taken at
night. To find out the exact mechanism behind it, the scientists analysed the
levels of six core excision repair proteins over a 24-hour period.

Levels of one DNA damage repair protein called xeroderma pigmentosa A
(XPA) proved to be much higher in the mouse brains during the day than at
night. To confirm that reduced excision repair at night was affected by low
levels of XPA, the scientists added known amounts of XPA to the extracts.

"Adding extra XPA to the samples taken at night increased their ability to
repair damaged DNA samples. In contrast, for samples collected in the
morning, the extra XPA had little effect on the ability to repair damaged
DNA. These results support the idea that DNA repair depends at least in part
on fluctuating levels of XPA," Dr Shobhan said adding that by hitting cancer
cells with chemotherapy at a time when their ability to repair themselves is
minimal, one can maximise effectiveness and minimise side effects of

The new study found that genetically altering one of four essential biological
clock genes actually suppressed cancer growth in a mouse model. Further
research will help doctors to reset the internal clock of each cancer cell to
render it more vulnerable to attack with chemotherapeutic drugs.

"Adjusting the clock in this way could certainly be a new target for cancer
treatment. Our study indicates that interfering with the function of these
clock genes in cancer tissue may be an effective way to kill cancer cells and
could be a way to improve upon traditional chemotherapy," said team head
Dr Aziz Sancar.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Earth Hour: Hyderabad lags behinds in nature campaign

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad, March 26: Hyderabad is lagging behind other metros in the
country in observing Earth Hour on March 28.

Earth Hour is a global initiative by the World Wildlife Fund to express
support for action on climate change. Those participating in the Earth Hour
will switch off lights for 60 minutes on March 28 between 8.30 pm and 9.30

"We are not doing any major event in Hyderabad, though some organisations
like Sunsoft, Wipro and Microsoft have pledged support. ICICI too is
participating, but its ATMs will function," WWF India spokesperson Aarti
Khosla told this correspondent.

Though PVR Cinema is part of the campaign, its Hyderabad unit will not
switch off the lights. It will continue with its usual screenings. Prasad's Imax
too is not participating in the WWF event. Imax spokesperson Chris Kishan
said "last year we participated in the event. But this time we are not too

ITC Kakatiya will celebrate the Earth Hour by organising a candle light
dinner from 7:30 pm to 11 pm. It also plans a candle light campaign by its

Even NGOs associated with environment campaigns are staying away. The
WWF has, however drawn up mega awareness plans in Bengaluru, Mumbai
and Delhi where its activists will spring out telling people about the need to
extend support to the fight against climate change.

"We are laying emphasis on the awareness part rather than on the quantum of
energy saved because of the switching off of lights for one hour. However,
emergency lighting, televisions and computers can stay on for the hour. The
main point of Earth Hour is to unite people, companies and governments
around the world through the symbolic flip of a switch," said Aarti.

The WWF's emphasis only on awareness is said to be one of the reasons for
NGOs and environmental groups for keeping away from the campaign. "Just
switching off power supply for one hour will not make any difference. There
should be equity distribution of energy. The rich consume more power while
the poor do not. Same is the case with rich and poor countries. Equity
distribution of energy means reduction in energy consumption. Unless we
achieve it, the mission will not turn out to be successful," said senior
environmental engineer and author Sagar Dhara.

The Earth Hour was launched on March 31, 2007 at a climate change
initiative held in Sydney, Australia. According to WWF, this March 28 one
billion people spread over 1000 cities will participate in the Earth Hour.
According to WWF, it aims at securing a new global climate treaty that will
sharply reduce emissions and ensure global average temperatures are kept
from rising beyond the dangerous threshold of 2 degrees Celsius.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Golden Gecko species found in Papikonda Hills

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: A team from the World Wide Fund for Nature, Hyderabad, has found Golden Gecko, a rare and endangered species, from the magnificent but severely threatened Papikonda hills abutting the river Godavari in the northern Eastern Ghats in the State.
The animal, known to scientists as Calodactylodes aureus, was previously recorded in Andhra Pradesh only from the Seshachalam hills of the southern Eastern Ghats.
According to WWF Hyderabad head Farida Tampal, this severely endangered lizard, recognised in and protected by the Schedule I Part II of the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, belongs to Gekkonidae, a family consisting of some of the most primitive living lizards.
The genus Calodactylodes consists of large, distinctive geckos inhabiting rocky habitat in peninsular India and Sri Lanka. The Golden Gecko holds special interest to herpetologists as it represents one of only two known species in the genus Calodactylodes, considered relics of the Gondwana period in the earth’s geological history.
According to her, a short but intensive survey was conducted to investigate the population size and extent in the locality. Sub adult golden geckos were also encountered and were often brownish grey coloured, becoming increasingly golden coloured, with adult males prominently golden in colour, giving rise to its distinguishing name. Adults often display territorial behaviour and are very vocal and aggressive, fighting off invaders with great ferocity.
According to existing literature, the Golden Gecko was first discovered in Arcot and Vellore in 1870, with a second population being reported from Seshachalam and Velikonda hill ranges in Andhra Pradesh in 1985 and very recently from Niyamgiri hills in Orissa. The locality where the gecko was sighted is part of the Perantalapalle Reserve Forest of Khammam district, and is situated next to the Papikonda Wildlife Sanctuary. The discovery of the Golden Gecko from this region confirms its contiguous existence in the southern and northern Eastern Ghats.
"However, this rare and endangered species is facing an imminent threat from the construction of the Indira Sagar Project (Polavaram project) which threatens to inundate this entire stretch of the Eastern Ghats with the flood waters. A forest area of 88.1 hectares of the Perantalapalle RF will be submerged when the project is completed, threatening the fragile environment of the Eastern Ghats and placing the existence of the Golden Gecko in grave jeopardy," she pointed out.
The governments’ policy of pursuing such development project without due consideration for the environment could render several such endemic and range restricted species inhabiting the Eastern Ghats permanently extinct before being recognised by science.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Early human migration: India, cradle of humanity

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: India has long been known as the sojourn of early human migration from Africa and latest research studies by city scientists based on male sex chromosome shows that the country also served as the cradle of languages.
The forefathers of Austro-Asiatic linguistic family originated in India and later dispersed themselves to different places, according to a joint study by the Hyderabad-based Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology and Molecular anthropology group of Biological Anthropology Unit of Indian Statistical Institute and the Shillong-based North Eastern Hill University's Department of Anthropology.
The Austro-Asiatic linguistic family is considered to be the oldest
in the country and people who speak these languages are scattered all over Southeast Asia. The scientists' team analysed the male Y-chromosome
to trace the origin and historic expansion of Austro-Asiatic groups of India.
The report was published online in the latest issue of science journal of international repute BMC Genetics. The city team studied genetic data of 1222 individuals from 25 Indian populations, covering all the three branches of Austro-Asiatic tribes, Mundari, Khasi-Khmuic and Mon-Khmer. The team, comprising among others Dr Lalji Singh, K Thangaraj and BM Reddy, compared the data with the already available scientific information on 214 relevant populations from Asia and Oceania.
The results suggested a strong paternal genetic link, not only among the
subgroups of Indian Austro-Asiatic populations but also with those of
Southeast Asia. However, maternal link based on mitochondrial DNA is not evident.
The haplogroup in the Austro-Asiatic populations had originated around 65,000 years ago and the ancestors of this linguistic family carried it further to Southeast Asia via the Northeast Indian corridor. "Subsequently, in the process of expansion, the Mon-Khmer populations from Southeast Asia seem to have migrated and colonised Andaman and Nicobar Islands at a much later point of time," the study pointed out.
The present findings are consistent with the linguistic evidence, which suggests that the linguistic ancestors of the Austro-Asiatic populations have
originated in India and then migrated to Southeast Asia. Four major linguistic groups, Austro-Asiatic, Dravidian, Indo-European and Tibeto-Burman, are present in the Indian sub-continent and the ancestors of speakers of these languages might have entered at different points of time.
The Austro-Asiatic languages include Mundari, spoken by a number of tribes living in Chota-Nagpur plateau in Central and Eastern India, Mon-Khmer (Nicobarese and Shompen tribes from Andaman and Nicobar islands) and Khasi-Khmuic (Khasi subtribes from Northeast India).
The team sampled almost all the Austro-Asiatic populations of India covering the entire geographic and micro-linguistic heterogeneity inherent among them, including the molecular genetic data on the Austro-Asiatic Khasi from
Northeast India, considered as an important corridor for human
migrations to Southeast Asia.
"Austro-Asiatic populations of India are not only linguistically linked to
Southeast Asian populations but also genetically associated. It is most likely that these populations have come from Central Asia through the Western Indian corridor and subsequently colonised Southeast Asia, although more data on Y-chromosome and mtDNA are needed from other relevant populations to draw firmer conclusions," the study pointed out.

Fertility is lost because of exposure to coal mining

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: People occupationally exposed to coal mining and construction work are at a higher risk of losing their fertility levels including giving birth to children with congenital malformations.
Two different research studies conducted by the Human Genetics Laboratory in the Department of Zoology, Osmania University, and the Department of Environmental Toxicology, Institute of Genetics and Hospital for Genetic Diseases, Hyderabad, revealed that workers of coal mines and those exposed to cement concrete are more prone to abortions and low sperm quality. The incidence of stillbirth and neonatal deaths are also higher in these two groups of workers.
V Vijendar Reddy and C Jyothsna of Human Genetics Laboratory carried out a study on about 1000 workers employed in the coal industry. The research was conducted in the coal belt area in Godavarikhani of Singareni Collieries.
Since coal contains hydrocarbons which may give rise to polycyclic hydrocarbons during technological processes associated with open fire or temperature, constant exposure to such substances had led to genotoxicity among coal mine workers.
The researchers recorded data on the fertility and other reproductive end points in 1000 couples where males were occupationally exposed to coal. Data from 400 unexposed people belonging to same age group and not having any history of exposure to coal was collected and compared for analysis. The results on the reproductive epidemiology in coal mine workers indicated that there was decreased fertility and live birth in coal-exposed population as compared with those of the control group.
In another research study conducted by P Vidyullatha, B Sivaprasad and others of the Department of Environmental Toxicology, on 53 cement workers, exposed to concrete for longer periods, showed symptoms of skin irrigation, contact dermatitis, respiratory and other health problems.
What is surprising is that their fertility levels had gone down. Like coal workers, construction labour too showed higher frequency of stillbirths, neonatal deaths and premature births. A significant decrease in the frequency of live births was also observed in construction workers.

Friday, March 13, 2009

People sell blood to fight recession

Feb 13, 2009
By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: Want to make Rs 50,000 in one go to beat the economic crisis thrown up by global recession? Simply `donate’ your egg. Or do you need just Rs 7,000 to augment your pocket? Then settle for sperm `donation’. Will Rs 1000 suffice? Blood sale is the best option.
The rate card at illegal sperm, egg and blood banks is loud and clear.
Walk in, donate and walk out with your purse loaded with money. Donation of vital body fluids and eggs is not a new phenomenon, but the present economic slowdown has only added new players to this silently thriving medical business. Hyderabad is one of the few cities in the world where a number of illegal sperm and blood banks thrive clandestinely, without the official licence.
The global economic recession may have resulted in a steep fall in business and industrial incomes the world over, but it has given a new
impetus to illegal organ and body fluids trade. The sale of sperm,blood, ova, plasma and hair has recorded at least 50 per cent increase in the last six months in the United States and other industrialised countries.
India, where the full tremors of economic slowdown are yet to be felt,
is slowly catching up with the US on this front. But unlike in the US,
for obvious reasons, there are no official statistics in India on the
sale of sperm, eggs, blood and plasma.
Medical insiders and sexologists admit in private that more and more Indian youth, men and women, are going in for donation of their vital body fluids, besides eggs and hair, to beat the economic recession. A one time sperm `donation’ (sale) fetches anything upward of Rs 2,000 depending on the complexion, height and social background of the donor, nay seller. Blood donation brings in between Rs 400 and Rs 1,000 depending on the urgency.
The latest fad is blood plasma donation. And those with long, curly and beautiful hair are also in demand. But it is the egg donation that is wrought with pain and suffering. The egg donor undergoes severe pain while the egg is removed from the body.
”It is a multi crore business, mostly done under wraps. We have pecialized sperm banks in Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and other major cities. They keep the identity of donors secret. Recession or no recession the activity has been thriving illegally. The number of people selling body fluids and eggs has definitely gone up now, may be due to economic slowdown. yderabad is already notorious for organ sales,” points out senior sexologist Dr Swayam Prakash.
In the USA, the Northeast Assisted Fertility Group has found that the
number of applications from women looking to donate their eggs has ecently doubled. The number of men selling their sperm has also increased by at least 15 per cent. The rate card in the USA is far higher than that of in India. A young woman donating her eggs makes a cool 10,000 US dollars or Rs 5 lakh. The sperm donor will get $50 to $200.
“Wigs and hair extensions are always in demand, and the companies that make them constantly have to source high quality human hair. This is where you come in. How much you'll get for your hair will depend on its colour, length, type and quality. A particularly popular head of hair may sell for £1,000 or even more,” says the NAFG report.
Dr Swayam Prakash warns that donating eggs may often lead to hospitalisation and future infertility. “This is because the drugs used by fertility clinics to stimulate egg formation will have long term side effects,” he said.
The youngsters, who want money, are just cashing in on the infertility
situation. Though India is the second most populous nation in the world, it also has one of the top infertility rates. The number of childless couples has been growing steadily in India, partly due to genetic and partly due to environmental reasons including lifestyles.
According to the World Health Organisation, 8-10 per cent of couples
experience some form of infertility problems. In India nearly 1.5 crore couples are infertile.