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Friday, 16 December 2011

Draft bill being finalised to set up National Commission for Human Resources for Health

The prolonged turf-war between the Union ministry for health and the Union human resources development ministry over the constitution of an overarching body regulatory body for medical education and allied health sciences seems to have been settled.
According to official sources, a draft cabinet note and a bill are being finalised to take ahead the proposal to set up the National Commission for Higher Education and Research (NCHER) after 'consultations with the stakeholders.'
As per the agreement between the two ministries, the NCHER will be under the HRD Ministry for higher education and the National Commission for Human Resources for Health (NCHRH) will be under the ministry of health as an overarching regulatory body for medical education and allied health sciences with a dual purpose of reforming the current regulatory framework and enhancing the supply of skilled manpower in the health sector. The proposed Commission would subsume the existing councils viz., Medical Council of India, Dental Council of India, Nursing Council of India and Pharmacy Council of India.
The proposed NCHRH would also constitute a National Board for Health Education (NBHE) and a National Evaluation and Assessment Committee (NEAC) with a mandate to prescribe minimum standards for health education and developing and maintaining system of accreditation of health educational institutes respectively. Apart from this, National Councils have also been proposed to be set up under NCHRH to inter-alia ensure ethical standards among medical professionals.
The HRD Ministry had sent the draft bill for setting up NCHER to various ministries after the idea was in the pipeline for nearly two years now. However, the Health Ministry opposed inclusion of medical education under the proposed overarching regulatory body on the ground that it was linked to health services while the NCHER had said that since all education was governed by the university system and there were multi-disciplinary areas of research, all education should come under one regulator.
Now the issue has been settled some way with the health ministry redrafting its National Commission for Human Resources for Health (NCHRH) Bill, sources said, adding that the jurisdiction of both the ministries in the education sector would be clearly specified in the bills with no room for overlapping and confusion.

NAC begins process of collecting database of institutional committees for stem cell research and therapy

Even as hectic activities are on in the Union health ministry for finalising the revised guidelines for stem cell research regulation in the country, the National Apex Committee for Stem Cell Research and Therapy (NAC-SCRT) has started the process of collecting the database of Institutional Committees for Stem Cell Research and Therapy (IC-SCRT) in different institutions in the country.
According to sources, the NAC has asked all the Indian institutions working in the area of stem cell research and therapy to send their information pertaining to their institutional committee (IC-SCRT) to the member secretary of the NAC. The NAC, headed by Dr. Alok Srivastava, haematologist, Christian Medical College (CMC), Vellore, was constituted by the union health ministry early this year for effectively reviewing and monitoring the stem cell research in the country.
Once the ministry finalises the revised guidelines for stem cell research regulation, all institutions involved in any type of stem cell research and therapy should be registered with the NAC. All the IC-SCRT have to submit annual reports to NAC. A regular monitoring will be done by the NAC by obtaining periodic report from all centres and site visits as and when required to ensure adherence to standards.
The NAC will have the responsibility to examine the scientific, technical, ethical, legal and social issues in the area of stem cell based research and therapy. It will approve, monitor and oversee research in the restricted areas.
Every scientific proposal using ES cells under restrictive category has to be cleared through IC-SCRT/IEC before referring to NAC-SCRT.
Use of chimeric tissue for research should be approved only by NAC after clearance for IC-SORT/lEe. NAC will revise and update guidelines periodically, considering scientific developments at the national or international level. Besides, it will set up standards for safety and quality, quality control, procedures for collection and its schedule, processing or preparation, expansion, differentiation, preservation for storage, removal from storage to assure quality and/or sterility of human tissue and prevention of infectious contamination or cross contamination during processing. carcinogenicity, xenotransplantation.The will also revise and update guidelines periodically, considering scientific developments at the national and international level.

Vaginal Progesterone Prevents Preterm Birth

Women with a short cervix should be treated with vaginal progesterone to prevent preterm birth, according to a landmark study by leading obstetricians around the world.
Vaginal progesterone decreased the rate of preterm birth by 42%, and significantly reduced the rate of respiratory distress syndrome and the need for mechanical ventilation, as well as a composite of several complications of premature newborns (e.g. infection, necrotizing enterocolitis, intracranial hemorrhage, etc.). An early online version of the study was published today in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology (AJOG), and is available on the AJOG website free of charge.
"Our analysis provides compelling evidence that vaginal progesterone prevents preterm birth and reduces neonatal morbidity/mortality in women with a short cervix," said lead investigator Dr. Roberto Romero, Chief of the Perinatology Research Branch and Head of the Program in Perinatal Research and Obstetrics of the Division of Intramural Research for the NICHD/NIH/DHHS, Bethesda, MD and Detroit, MI. "Importantly, progesterone reduced early preterm birth (those occurring before 33 or 28 weeks of gestation). These immature babies are at the greatest risk for complications, death, and long-term disability (e.g. cerebral palsy). Progesterone also decreased a fraction of 'late preterm births,' which are the most common preterm deliveries. The profile of adverse events was no different from placebo. Follow-up studies of babies exposed to progesterone in utero to the age of 18 or 24 months showed no evidence of any behavioral or physical problems. The authors of this study recommend that transvaginal sonographic measurement of the cervix be performed in all pregnant women between 19 to 24 weeks of gestation to assess the risk of preterm delivery. This strategy also allows the identification of women at risk for preterm delivery during their first pregnancy. Other strategies, which are based on treating women with a previous preterm birth, do not address the challenge of prevention in women with their first pregnancy."
Preterm birth is the leading cause of perinatal morbidity and mortality worldwide. Moreover, preterm birth is also the main cause of infant mortality (death to the age of one year).
Approximately 12.9 million births worldwide are preterm, of which 92.3% occur in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean. In the United States and Europe, there are 1,000,000 preterm births per year.
Progesterone is a natural hormone produced by the ovary during the menstrual cycle and in early pregnancy, and subsequently, in the placenta. A decline in progesterone action is considered to be important for the onset of labor. If such a decline occurs in the mid-trimester, cervical shortening may lead to the onset of preterm labor. The administration of progesterone is postulated to work by maintaining a high concentration of the hormone in the uterine cervix.
Several studies had evaluated the administration of vaginal progesterone versus placebo to prevent preterm birth when a short cervix was found by ultrasound in the mid-trimester of pregnancy. What is unique about the study published today is that investigators worldwide pooled the data from the different studies and performed a meta-analysis of individual patient data (IPD). This is the "gold standard" for summarizing evidence across clinical trials. It has the advantage of increasing the power to detect differences in efficacy and adverse events, and also allows subgroup analyses that may not have been possible in each individual study.
The IPD meta-analysis included five high-quality trials of vaginal progesterone versus placebo, was conducted at multiple centers in both developed and developing countries, and included a total of 775 women and 927 infants. The primary endpoints were: 1) preterm birth at <33 weeks; and 2) a composite index of perinatal morbidity and mortality. The authors also studied other secondary endpoints and explored the effect of cervical length, a history of previous preterm birth, maternal age, race/ethnicity, and body mass index on progesterone action.
The results were remarkably consistent and significant across trials performed in different parts of the world. Administering vaginal progesterone to asymptomatic women with a short cervix revealed by sonogram in the mid-trimester was associated with a 42% reduction in the rate of preterm birth before 33 weeks of gestation. There was also a significant reduction in the risk of preterm birth before 35, 34, and 28 weeks.
The study also found a 43% decrease in neonatal morbidity and mortality. Vaginal progesterone significantly reduced the risk of respiratory distress syndrome by 52%, and there was significantly lower admission to NICUs (placebo, 20.7% vs. progesterone, 29.1%).
Results of previous trials about the effects of vaginal progesterone or injectable progestins (synthetic compounds with progesterone action) in women with a twin gestation had been negative. However, a subset of patients in the study published today focused on women with a twin gestation and a short cervix. In this particular group, vaginal progesterone reduced the rate of preterm birth at <33 weeks by 30% and significantly reduced the composite neonatal morbidity/mortality of twins. Dr. Romero indicated that a study of vaginal progesterone in twin pregnancies with a short cervix is urgently needed to confirm these findings because the reduction in preterm birth did not reach significance (most likely due to the small number of twins available to study).
A major finding of this study is that progesterone benefits not only women who have a short cervix, but also those who have a prior preterm birth and a short cervix. This has practical implications, because vaginal progesterone is a less expensive and less invasive alternative than the placement of a cervical suture (cerclage) in patients who had a previous preterm birth and have a short cervix.
"The results of this analysis of five large randomized trials have the potential to result in a sea change in obstetrical practice in the U.S. and Europe and eventually in the rest of the world," commented AJOG Co-Editor-in-Chief, Thomas J. Garite, MD. "Prematurity is the leading cause of death and damage for newly born babies and despite enormous efforts, no impact has been made in the rate of preterm birth, which is actually rising in recent years."
As advocated in an accompanying editorial by C. Andrew Combs, MD, PhD, Obstetrix Medical Group, San Jose, CA, in the print version of the Journal, the potential for reducing prematurity lies in implementing routine vaginal ultrasound for all pregnant women in the middle months of pregnancy to measure the length of the cervix and if a short cervix is found, treat these patients with progesterone. The majority of premature births occur in women with no risk factors, so this approach has real potential to make an impact in the overall premature birth rate. Two recently published cost analysis studies, suggest that this approach can not only save lives and prevent the devastating damages often caused by prematurity, but can also result in a annual savings of nearly 1/2 billion dollars in health care costs in the U.S. alone.

Researcher Says Emotions are Not 'Biologically' Same for Everyone

The popular notion that certain emotions are biologically basic, has been dispelled by a researcher, who has said that expressions are not inborn emotional signals that are automatically expressed on the face.The commonly-held belief is that certain facial muscle movements (called expressions) evolved to express certain mental states and prepare the body to react in stereotyped ways to certain situations.
For example, widening the eyes when you're scared might help you take in more information about the scene, while also signalling to the people around you that something dangerous is happening.
"What I decided to do in this paper is remind readers of the evidence that runs contrary to the view that certain emotions are biologically basic, so that people scowl only when they're angry or pout only when they're sad," says Lisa Feldman Barrett of Northeastern University, the author of the new paper.
"When do you ever see somebody pout in sadness? When it's a symbol."
"Like in cartoons or very bad movies. 'People pout when they want to look sad, not necessarily when they actually feel sad.'"
Some scientists have proposed that emotions regulate your physical response to a situation, but Barrett asserts that there is no evidence, for example, that a certain emotion usually produces the same physical changes each time it is experienced.
"There's tremendous variety in what people do and what their bodies and faces do in anger or sadness or in fear."
People do a lot of things when they are angry. Sometimes they yell while sometimes they smile.
Instead of stating that all emotions fall into a few categories, and everyone expresses them the same way, Barrett insists that psychologists should work on understanding how people vary in expressing their emotions.
"There's a lot of evidence that there is no signature for fear or anger or sadness that you could detect in another person. If you want to improve your accuracy in reading emotion in another person, you have to also take the context into account."
Incidentally, the theory that emotional expressions evolved for specific functions is normally attributed to Charles Darwin, in his book The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals. But Darwin did not write that emotional expressions are functional.
"If you're going to cite Darwin as evidence that you're right, you'd better cite him correctly," Barrett added.
Darwin thought that emotional expressions like smiles, frowns, and so on -were akin to the vestigial tailbone and occurred even though they are of no use.
The study has been published in Current Directions in Psychological Science.

Vaccine to Shrink Tumours by 80 Percent: Coming Soon

Vaccine developed recently by scientists projects a promising new strategy for treating ovarian, colorectal and pancreatic cancer.
Researchers from the University of Georgia and the Mayo Clinic in Arizona have developed a vaccine that dramatically reduces tumours in a mouse model that mimics 90 percent of human breast and pancreatic cancer cases-including those that are resistant to common treatments.
"This vaccine elicits a very strong immune response," said study co-senior author Geert-Jan Boons.
"It activates all three components of the immune system to reduce tumor size by an average of 80 percent."
When cells become cancerous, the sugars on their surface proteins undergo distinct changes that set them apart from healthy cells. For decades, scientists have tried to enable the immune system to recognize those differences to destroy cancer cells rather than normal cells.
But since cancer cells originate within the body, the immune system generally does not recognize them as foreign and therefore does not mount an attack.
The researchers used unique mice developed by Sandra Gendler, Grohne Professor of Therapeutics for Cancer Research at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona and co-senior author on the study.
Like humans, the mice develop tumours that over express a protein known as MUC1 on the surface of their cells.
The tumour-associated MUC1 protein is adorned with a distinctive, shorter, set of carbohydrates that set it apart from healthy cells.
"This is the first time that a vaccine has been developed that trains the immune system to distinguish and kill cancer cells based on their different sugar structures on proteins such as MUC1," Gendler said.
"We are especially excited about the fact that MUC1 was recently recognized by the National Cancer Institute as one of the three most important tumor proteins for vaccine development."
Gendler pointed out that MUC1 is found on more than 70 percent of all cancers that kill. Many cancers, such as breast, pancreatic, ovarian and multiple myeloma, express MUC1 with the shorter carbohydrate in more than 90 percent of cases.
She explained that when cancer occurs, the architecture of the cell changes and MUC1 is produced at high levels, promoting tumour formation and also said that a vaccine directed against MUC1 has tremendous potential as a preventative for recurrence or as a prophylactic in patients at high risk for particular cancers.
A vaccine also can be used together with standard therapy such as chemotherapy in cancers that cannot be cured by surgery, such as pancreatic cancer.
Although promising results in mice often don't translate to humans, Boons claimed he is confident that vaccines that target the specific carbohydrate signatures of cancer cells will ultimately play an important role in the treatment of the disease.
"We are beginning to have therapies that can teach our immune system to fight what is uniquely found in cancer cells," Boons said.
"When combined with early diagnosis, the hope is that one day cancer will become a manageable disease," Boons added.
The study has been published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

250-bed hospital-college delayed by red tape in Pune

The National Institute of Naturopathy’s (NIN) plans for a 250-bed naturopathy and yoga hospital seems to be stuck in the labyrinth of Mantralaya since the past three years. The state government has refused to transfer land to the institute for the project.
The institute has been following up the case with the state government for land acquisition since 2008.
NIN director, Dr Babu Joseph, told the media recently that although the ministry of land has given its no objection certificate (NOC) for transfer of land, the revenue department has stalled the project for the past three years.
The 25-acre identified for the project is located on the premises of
Dr Bandorawalla Leprosy Hospital in Kondhwa.
“The Centre in 2008 had asked the NIN to initiate process to build the hospital. We were also asked to set up a full-time degree college of bachelor of naturopathy and yogic sciences (BNYS) in Pune. Around Rs50 crore was earmarked for the project in the central budget also,” Joseph said.
Following the directions, NIN had identified the land. State minister for public health and family welfare, Suresh Shetty, had signed the NOC for the transfer of land.
“However, after the signing of NOC, when it came to the actual transfer of land, we were asked to liaison with the revenue department,” he said.
The revenue department refused to transfer the land to the NIN citing “technical difficulties”.
“The principal secretary told us that in Maharashtra, the state government can’t transfer land to any central government institute for free,”Joseph said.
He added that given the escalation of land prices in the city, the project cost would have escalated.
“Also, the act of land valuation is a complex process and would take a long time to complete,” he said.
The bureaucratic hassle in Maharashtra is in sharp contrast with the willingness of other state governments to transfer land to the NIN for setting up similar hospitals and colleges. Joseph said that there are 14 such colleges in various parts of the country, but Maharashtra does not have a single naturopathy hospital.
Source:DNA News

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

International Seminar - Ayurveda for Non Communicable Diseases

Non communicable diseases (NCDs) are the major killer diseases in the world today, causing more deaths than all the other diseases combined. The first WHO Global status report on NCDs 2010, confirms that 36.1 million people died from NCDs in 2008. Nearly 80% of NCD deaths occur in low-and middle-income countries and NCDs are the most frequent causes of death in most countries, except in Africa. World Health Organization predicts that non-communicable conditions will cause over three quarters of all deaths in 2030.
India is passing through an epidemiological and demographic transition leading to the emergence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) as a major public health problem, estimated to account for 53% of all deaths and 44% of disability-adjusted life-years lost in 2005. It is also estimated that about 800 000 new cases of cancer are reported to occur every year in India. It is noted that India has the largest number of people with diabetes in the world, with a projected 57•2 million in 2025.
Traditional Ayurveda approaches to health have become all the more relevant in the present century in the context of universal rise of chronic non communicable diseases (NCDs). For these and many other life style related conditions, Ayurveda has much to offer in terms of prevention, treatment, care and comfort. Ayurveda approach to these conditions is holistic, which is a combination of diet, exercise, awareness of environmental influences and the use of herbal remedies.
The international seminar on Ayurveda for Non-Communicable Disease will focus on the strengths of Ayurveda in the prevention and management of NCDs and will be held as part of the Global Ayurveda Festival – Kerala. This 3 day seminar will bring together some of the best theoreticians and clinicians from all over the country and abroad. The sessions will consist of Perspective Building lectures, Key Note lecture on various important aspects of Non-Communicable Diseases, Invited Lectures and Paper presentations.
Papers can be submitted for oral/postal presentation on areas mentioned under the major themes to be covered in the seminar.

Last date for submission of Abstracts : 10 -1-2012
Last date for submission of Full paper : 25-1-2012

Infants With Less Stress Hormone In Saliva Develop Fewer Allergies

Infants with lower concentration of cortisol, the stress-related hormone, in their saliva develop fewer allergies than others, new Swedish research shows. Hopefully this new knowledge will be useful in future allergy prevention.The study by Karolinska Institutet is published in the December paper issue of Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.
The incidence of allergies in children has increased over the past few decades, especially in the West. In Sweden, 30 to 40 percent of children have some kind of allergy. A combination of environmental and lifestyle factors during pregnancy and early infancy are thought to be responsible for the sharp rise in allergic diseases.
“Psychosocial factors and the stress hormone cortisol are associated with allergic diseases,” says Dr Fredrik Stenius of the Department of Clinical Research and Education at Stockholm South General Hospital. “Our study found that children with low salivary cortisol levels as infants have a lower prevalence of allergies during the first two years of life, compared to other children.”
The team has previously described a link between a lower prevalence of allergies in school children and an anthroposophic lifestyle. Austrian scientist and philosopher Rudolf Steiner developed the anthroposophic lifestyle in which health is a combination of mind, body and spiritual balance; his followers integrate both modern medicine with alternative, nature-based treatments. They tend to make restrictive use of antibiotics and fever antipyretics
“And now we’ve found the same link in infants from families that follow anthroposophic lifestyles, and that they have relatively low levels of cortisol,” adds Dr Stenius, who earned his PhD earlier in the year with a thesis on the subject.
The researchers believe that factors related to stress regulation also influence the development of infant allergies and will now monitor the infants from the neonate period and into childhood.

Cancer Patients Turning To Alternative Medicine in Australia

Cancer patients are increasingly turning to alternative medicine in Australia.
Nadja Klafke, a Psychology PhD student at the Adelaide University, says a survey of 400 men with various types of cancer shows that many of them modify their diet in conjunction with conventional treatment. They also turn to meditation, yoga and exercise.
The study, recently published in Annals of Oncology, provides evidence that the use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) is common and widespread in men with cancer.
"Many complementary therapies have the potential to help reduce common side-effects of cancer
treatment and disease symptoms," Ms Klafke says.
"For example, published data shows that acupuncture and acupressure may relieve chemotherapy- induced nausea and vomiting, hypnosis and massage are beneficial for cancer-related pain, and meditation and relaxation techniques can relieve fatigue," Ms Klafke says.
"The popularity of CAM use in cancer sufferers presumably reflects the benefits - real or perceived - by those who use them."
Dietary supplements are the most common natural therapy used by men suffering cancer. Prayer has been identified as the second most popular CAM therapy and herbs and botanicals rank third, despite warnings from cancer clinicians that herbs such as Echinacea, St John's wort, Ginseng and Gingko biloba can react badly with prescribed medications.
The study suggests that many men are turning to alternative options because they are either dissatisfied with the results from conventional medical treatments, or pressured by their spouse or family to try something different.
While this study focused on male cancer outpatients living in Adelaide, other studies around the world have demonstrated that culture plays a large part in determining which herbs and dietary supplements are favoured.
Ms Klafke says the findings show that oncologists are not aware that most male cancer patients use alternative treatments in conjunction with conventional medicine.
"It would definitely be worth clinicians having an open discussion with their patients about the efficacy and safety of complementary and alternative medicine. A better understanding of the role, reasons for use and benefits of CAM may lead to more holistic approaches to care," she says.
The study is the first in the world to specifically assess CAM use by men with a wide variety of cancers.

Detox Diets’ Baseless ‘health Boost’ Claims, Avers Expert

‘Detox’ diets alleging to boost health and cleanse the body of chemicals has been rubbished by a leading scientist.
According to the Daily Mail, David Bender - an emeritus professor of nutritional biochemistry- said the diets were based on an "unlikely" premise.He insisted there was no "magic shortcut" to weight loss - which can be achieved simply by eating less and exercising more.
"Detox" regimes may recommend consuming large amounts of fruit, vegetables and juices, and drinking large amounts of water, while avoiding caffeine, sugar and alcohol.
They claim to boost health in various ways including raising energy levels to allowing the body to focus on self-healing.
But Professor Bender of University College London has torpedoed such suggestions in an article entitled The Detox Delusion, published in the Society of Biology magazine, The Biologist.
In it, he says the term "detox" has gone from describing a chemical reaction involved in the production of urine to a "meaningless marketing term" and takes apart the claims made on behalf of detox diets.
He stated that they are at best unfounded, more likey demonstrably false, and at worst dangerous.
"I am not sure what 'self-healing' is and the idea of 'raised energy levels' is nonsense," the Telegraph quoted Professor Bender as writing.
"The whole philosophy of detox is based on the unlikely premise that accumulated toxins cause a sluggish metabolism, weight gain, general malaise and so on.
"Weight gain is due to an imbalance between food consumption and energy expenditure. There is no magic shortcut for weight loss - you have to eat less and exercise more. It's that simple," he added.

FDA Approves Hangover Pill 'Blowfish'

A new hangover pill called 'Blowfish' that claims to cure hangover within 15 minutes has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It contains 500mg aspirin, 60mg caffeine and an antacid to soothe stomach upset.
To relieve the symptoms, those suffering from a hangover have to take two of these water soluble tablets. This helps restore mental alertness or wakefulness when experiencing fatigue or drowsiness associated with a hangover.
This magic combination has been discovered by Brenna Haysom. Currently the pill is available online. It costs $2.99 a dose (or $11.99 for a six-pack). If this pill proves to be successful in US, it will be launched in UK in 2012.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Bacteria Could Turn Some Drugs Into Toxins

Bacteria could turn some drugs into toxins, it has been found. This could have serious environmental implications.
Some drugs can occur in two forms, known as enantiomers. While they are chemically very similar, pairs of enantiomers can have drastically different effects on the human body, ranging from medically beneficial to highly toxic.
In cases where both parts are known to be safe, drugs are manufactured and dispensed as mixtures of the two forms. However some drugs are dispensed as single enantiomers since the other form is known to be toxic.
Now the University of New South Wales researchers found the safe version of anti-inflammatory drug naproxen converted to the unsafe form in wastewater treatment.
“We found that some of the S-naproxen had turned into R-naproxen, so even though we’re measuring a major reduction in the concentration of naproxen, the overall toxicity could be increasing,” says study supervisor Dr Stuart Khan, an environmental engineer at the UNSW Water Research Centre.
The process mimics a similar transformation that can be seen in the human gut, where drugs believed to be safe can be inverted during metabolism into their toxic forms.

Many international studies have reported on the effectiveness of wastewater treatment processes for removing various pharmaceuticals, however, the vast majority of these studies use analytical methods that don’t differentiate between the two enantiomers.
Khan says current eco-toxicological assessments will not be looking for the toxic version of naproxen because it’s not a registered pharmaceutical, so it may not turn up on lists of chemicals requiring assessment.
As a result, assessment will need to be refined and optimised. “We can’t just look at what’s disappearing during the wastewater treatment process, but we need to consider what it’s turning into,” he says. “And is this breakdown product an even greater concern than the original compound?
It’s not well understood how this transformation is occurring in wastewater, but is believed to be enzyme-driven, says Khan, and is being caused by microorganisms in the treatment plant converting the non-toxic form into the toxic form.
Khan and his colleagues are now working to better understand the mechanism of the inversion.
The study has been published this month in the journal Water Research.

New 'Nanoparticle' Way to Treat Eye Problems

Researchers have found a new drug delivery system to treat age-related macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa by hitching a ride into the retina on nanoparticles called dendrimers.
A collaborative research study among investigators at Wayne State University, the Mayo Clinic and Johns Hopkins Medicine shows that steroids attached to the dendrimers targeted the damage-causing cells associated with neuroinflammation, leaving the rest of the eye unaffected and preserving vision.
The principal authors of the study, Raymond Iezzi, M.D. (Mayo Clinic ophthalmologist) and Rangaramanujam Kannan, Ph.D. (faculty of ophthalmology at The Wilmer Eye Institute of Johns Hopkins) have developed a clinically relevant, targeted, sustained-release drug delivery system using a simple nanodevice construct. The experimental work in rat models was initiated and substantially conducted at Wayne State University, and showed that one intravitreal administration of the nanodevice in microgram quantities could offer neuroprotection at least for a month, and appears in the journal, Biomaterials (33(3), 979-988).
Both dry age-related macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa are caused by neuroinflammation, which progressively damages the retina and can lead to blindness. Macular degeneration is the primary cause of vision loss in older Americans, affecting more than 7 million people, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Retinitis pigmentosa encompasses many genetic conditions affecting the retina and impacts 1 in 4,000 Americans, the NIH estimates.
"There is no cure for these diseases, said Iezzi. "An effective treatment could offer hope to hundreds of millions of patients worldwide. We tested the dendrimer delivery system in rats that develop neuroinflammation leading to retinal degeneration. The target was activated microglial cells, the immune cells in charge of cleaning up dead and dying material in the eye. When activated, these cells cause damage via neuroinflammation — a hallmark of each disease."
"Dendrimers are tree-like, non-cytotoxic polymeric drug delivery vehicles (~ 4 nm). Surprisingly, the activated microglia in the degenerating retina appeared to eat the dendrimer selectively and retain them for at least a month. The drug is released from the dendrimer in a sustained fashion inside these cells, offering targeted neuroprotection to the retina," said Kannan.
The treatment reduced neuroinflammation in the rat model and protected vision by preventing injury to photoreceptors in the retina. Although the steroid offers only temporary protection, the treatment as a whole provides sustained relief from neuroinflammation, the study found. The researchers believe that this patent-pending technology with significant translational potential will be advanced further, through this multi-university collaboration among Johns Hopkins, Mayo Clinic and Wayne State. The study was funded by grants from the Ligon Research Center of Vision at Wayne State University, the Ralph C. Wilson Medical Research Foundation, Office of the Vice President for Research at Wayne State University, and Research to Prevent Blindness.

Dietary Recommendations Overhauled in Australia

Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council has updated the dietary guidelines in the country for the first time in eight years and warned that Australians should bring about radical changes in what they eat in order to curb the rising rates of diabetes and obesity.
The guidelines also recommended what pregnant women and children under the age of four should be eating. Review committee chairwoman Dr Amanda Lee said that more than 20 percent of children are already classified as obese by the time they start going to pre-school in Australia.
According to the guidelines, Australians will have to cut their intake of starchy vegetables, such as potatoes, by 40 percent, refined cereals by 30 percent and red meat by 20 percent. On the other hand, adults should increase their intake of wholegrain cereals by 160 percent, red and orange vegetables by 140 percent and poultry and seafood intake by 40 percent.
“For some foods the evidence has strengthened, for example, there's increasing evidence that consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks is associated with increased risk of weight gain. There's really good evidence now about the association of whole grain products and decreased risk of heart disease, excessive weight gain and also decreased risk of type-2 diabetes”, Dr Lee said.

Individualised Treatment for Crohn’s Disease Right Closer to Gene Mapping

Scientists have discovered three new locations for Crohn's Disease genes by means of novel gene mapping approach.The complex genetic and environmental causes of Crohn's Disease (CD) have long been difficult to untangle. CD, a type of Inflammatory Bowel Disease that affects about 100 to 150 people per 100,000 in Europe, is characterised by inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract. Even though twin and family studies suggest a high heritability for CD of 50-60%, so far the locations of much of the genetic information implicated in this chronic disease have remained elusive.
Now, three newly identified gene regions on chromosome 16 have filled in some of the missing gaps, as well as showing that different patients carry different sets of faulty genes. Published today in the American Journal of Human Genetics, the findings could pave the way for personalised treatment and also lead to improved understanding of how complex diseases are inherited.
Dr Nikolas Maniatis, senior author from the UCL Research Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment, said: "This paper shows how personalised medicine could work and also help to separate out patients. For example, just as there are many different types of cancer with different underlying genes, it seems that there are also mutations in different genes for different types of Crohn's Disease."
The research team used UK data provided by the Wellcome Trust Case Control Consortium (WTCCC), which includes genetic information of 1698 CD patients. The team's results were also replicated using independent US data provided by the American National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), which contains genetic information of 813 patients with CD.
Instead of comparing lots of genomic sites, one at a time, across the entire genome, the team instead looked at segments of DNA, each of which contains many variable sites. They used a mapping technique based on refined genetic maps that have the ability to show how stretches of DNA have been passed down together through the generations. By taking this into account when analysing genetic information from patients with CD the team were able to localise the faulty genes.
Dr Maniatis said: "This project essentially maps the most likely location of faulty sites for Crohn's Disease in the genome. By combining several pieces of information together, our technique lets us increase the power of our analysis."
Applying their technique on chromosome 16, which has long been known to harbour NOD2, an important gene for CD, the team indentified three novel genes, called CYLD, IRF8 and CDH1/CDH3, associated with CD and involved with inflammation and immune dysregulation in the body. Although these genes have different functions, all three are implicated in pathways involved in CD.
Dr Maniatis said: "These are very exciting times, as we can use these genetic maps to pinpoint where the causal sites of Crohn's Disease are located. Although it has been shown in the past that a proportion of patients suffering from Crohn's Disease do not carry the NOD2 mutations, up until now no other genes on chromosome 16 have been published in genome-wide analyses."
Professor Dallas Swallow, collaborator and co-author, also from the UCL Research Department of Genetics, Evolution & Environment, said: "This research will complement the work of those examining cellular and molecular changes, and ultimately lead to more personalised strategies for treatment. The next step is to search the rest of the genome.
"Importantly the work also shows that this method will allow more information to be derived from the valuable datasets collected by organisations such as the Wellcome Trust. This method can also be used to analyse other complex disorders, allowing us to make similar progress on other diseases, such as diabetes and Parkinson's disease."

Monday, 12 December 2011

Green Chem to invest Rs.3 cr to set up production centres for herbal ingredients, formulations

Green Chem, a 100 per cent percent Export Oriented Unit, plans to invest Rs.3 crore to set up dedicated centres of production of herbal ingredients and formulations in Bangalore. The company has been allotted land by Karnataka Area Industrial Development Board (KIADB) for expansion. It is now gearing up to commence the construction of its Schedule T compliant production unit.
The investment has been raised partly through internal accruals and terms loans, R Rajendran, founder and CEO, Green Chem told Pharmabiz.
“There has been a significant demand from the global markets for herbal ingredients and formulations and this led us to look to expand the manufacture,” he added. The company is currently developing weight management herbal extract apart from working on newer herbal products for cholesterol control, libido booster, anti ischemia, anti arthritis, diabetes management,etc.
For the cholesterol control, the company is in the process of developing ‘Green DeFat’ which is a polyherbal formula. The product would be patented prior to its launch, he said.
In the weight management space, it already has the ‘Slimaluma’, which has found a presence in many countries. Now it is working for its registration in Canada and the company is hopeful that it could be marketed in 2012.
In the area of osteoporosis and women’s health development of herbal ingredients in collaboration with companies abroad are underway. For many of these, clinical studies have been completed and once the manufacturing facility at Bangalore is commissioned these would be rolled out.
“We are looking at the herbal segment and increase our presence only to help people improve the life style management,” said Rajendran. Another major thrust by the company is in the cosmetics area. The company has been able to achieve extensive backward integration because its organic farm cultivation of Aloevera, Bixa orellana, Wrightia tinctoria, Albizia amara, Holy basil, Curcuma longa, Murraya koenigii, Bamboo, Lanata camara, Amla among other herbs. “In fact, these are the basic herbs used in cosmetics by Green Chem for skin polishing, UV protection, black head removal, skin whitening, acne control, shampoo preparations. We would launch Aloe Beauty, Aloe Shield, Aloe Soft early next year,” he added.
The company has been a recipient of the Pharmaexcil award for the last three years and has 18 patents granted and 15 pending.
With an increasing demand for herbal products in the country, Green Chem floated a separate company ‘Natsyn Catalysts’ which has a dedicated R&D and production plant. It would invest in an additional facility on a seven acre land allotted by SIPCOT in Tamil Nadu to set-up the manufacturing unit for herbal ingredients and formulations. It would also produce reference markers at this facility.
The company has also planned to set up an organic farm in Tamil Nadu for the raw material supplies for R&D and production. Natsyn Catalysts’ R&D is looking at formulation developments like milk shakes for aiding sleep, weight management, memory boosting, improving immunity and skin care. Pharma companies like Glenmark and Zydus are working with Natsyn Catalysts to market the products. For instance, Zydus Nutriva’s Slimtone softgel capsules and tablets have Natsyn’s Caralluma extract which is for weight management. This is a major breakthrough in the anti-obesity market, stated Rajendran.

A festival of India set to charm Argentina

Argentine dancers performing Bharatanatyam and Odissi, recital of Rabindranath Tagore's poems by an Argentine scholar, Indian food, films and a yoga show that will see the participation of 15,000 people will be some of the highlights of the fourth Festival of India to be held here.
The Indian embassy will hold the Festival of India in Buenos Aires from Dec 3 to 13 following the success of the three previous festivals in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
Bharatanatyam, Odissi and Kuchipudi dances will be performed by professional Argentine dancers, who teach these dances in Argentina. Also, Bollywood dance will be performed by professional Argentine groups, said an embassy press statement.
Forty Indian companies will participate in an exhibition being organized by the Export Promotion Council for Handicrafts at the Borges Cultural Centre, a prestigious venue in the heart of the Buenos Aires city.
Six artisans from India will do live demonstration of handicrafts making.
To mark Tagore's 150th birth anniversary celebration, an event will be held Dec 10 at Villa Ocampo, the residence of Argentine literary personality Victoria Ocampo.
Tagore had visited Buenos Aires in 1924 and stayed for two months as the guest of Victoria Ocampo. Tagore wrote a series of poems called `Purabi' based on his experience of stay in Argentina. Victoria had inspired and encouraged Tagore to start painting and organised his first painting exhibition in Paris.
There will be recital of Tagore's poems by Gustavo Canzobre, an Argentine scholar, a talk by Axel Maimone, an Argentine expert, and a Rabindra Sangeet concert. A four-member Rabindra Sangeet Group led by Sreyashi Mitra will give concerts at the Borges Centre as well as in other venues.
The festival will also see the Manipuri dance group of Priti Patel performing.
On Dec 4, a mega Yoga show will be organized with a large group of 15,000 people at the Planetorium Park. This is being done in collaboration with the various Argentine Yoga Schools and the city government.
There will be seminars on Indian culture, literature, Ayurveda and spiritualism.
Also, Indian films with Spanish sub-titles will be shown every day during the festival period in one of the auditoriums of the Borges Centre. A Bollywood film production company, UTV Pictures of Mumbai, has shown interest in introducing Indian films in Argentina. The UTV representative will give a talk on the Indian film industry to Argentine film distributors and film industry people.
A food festival will be held at the Hotel Sheraton, Buenos Aires.

Victims of Major Head Injuries can be Helped by Treating Brain Tsunamis

A study published in Lancet Neurology has found that treating 'brain tsunamis' or 'killer waves' could stop many victims of major head injury from suffering additional brain damage
Scientists have been investigating this phenomenon for decades, with the topic of spreading depolarizations now of keen interest to the U.S. military because head injuries have emerged as the signature wound of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Researchers at King's College London and King's College Hospital in collaboration with colleagues at the University of Cincinnati (UC) found that of 103 patients undergoing neurosurgery following major head trauma, 58 experienced a phenomenon called cortical spreading depolarizations, or 'brain tsunamis.'
The Lancet study supports the original clinical evidence that brain tsunamis are common in patients with major brain injuries, and now shows – for the first time – that they contribute to worse outcomes in these patients. Longer-term, it is hoped the results of this study will be used to help guide how brain injuries are treated and managed, leading to better outcomes for patients.
The majority of patients were treated at King's College Hospital in London. Nine were treated at UC Health/University Hospital. Patients were enrolled at seven centres internationally, including the University of Miami, University of Pittsburgh, Virginia Commonwealth University, and the German centres Charité University Medicine (Berlin) and University Hospital Heidelberg. The collaborating scientists and clinicians are members of COSBID (Co-Operative Studies of Brain Injury Depolarizations:
Professor Anthony Strong, King's College London, who led the study in the UK, said the results were promising:
'This is an exciting area of research, which is attracting a lot of interest and collaboration internationally. This study provides real, concrete evidence that brain tsunamis can cause further damage to the brain in the few days after a major injury. This is significant, because they have a direct link to poor recovery in patients. Of course, the end goal is to take the results of this study and, longer term, develop new treatments for this type of injury. This potentially may mean finding a way of blocking these killer waves as they are happening.'
Principal investigator Jed Hartings, PhD, research assistant professor in the department of neurosurgery at the UC College of Medicine and director of clinical monitoring for the Mayfield Clinic, emphasized the historical nature of the findings: 'Spreading depolarizations were first discovered in animals almost 60 years ago and for a long time were thought to not occur in the human brain. We didn't begin studying them in patients until recently, partly because we didn't know how,' he said. 'Now we know that depolarizations occur abundantly and are important to patient outcomes. This is the question we set out to answer when we started COSBID.'
He added: 'Our ability to monitor and understand what happens in the brain after a severe injury hasn't advanced significantly in decades. The brain is like a black box, but the process of spreading depolarizations now gives us a window into that box. Being able to treat patients based on specific cellular brain events we can measure and monitor would be a great advance.'
Dr. Hartings's Cincinnati co-investigator was Lori Shutter, MD, director of neurocritical care at the UC Neuroscience Institute.
When a brain injury occurs, nerve cells in the brain, which act like batteries by storing electrical and chemical energy , malfunction and effectively short-circuit. Because all nerve cells in the brain are connected, this depolarization causes all the neighboring cells to short-circuit as well; this subsequent leakage of precious electrical charge moves like a tsunami through the brain, with the potential to cause additional permanent tissue damage.
To measure the depolarizations, researchers placed a linear strip of electrodes on the surface of the brain, near the injured area, during neurosurgery. Only patients who required brain surgery to treat their injuries were enrolled in the study. King's College Hospital is a Major Trauma Centre for London, and regularly treats patients who are suitable candidates for the trial.

Australian Doctors slam natural therapy 'quackery' in call to universities

AUSTRALIA'S top doctors want university courses in acupuncture, chiropractic and naturopathy scrapped, claiming they are a misuse of public money and encourage quackery.
Thirty-four of Australia's top doctors, medical researchers and scientists have signed a petition challenging universities that "give undeserved credibility to 'alternative' therapies".
Signatories include Australian Medical Association president Dr Steve Hambleton and University of NSW Medicine Professor John Dwyer, who is also the founder of the Australian Health Care Reform Alliance.
Doctors penned an open letter after Central Queensland University announced it would offer a new chiropractic course next year.
They argue it is necessary to protect consumers from the dangers of scientifically unproven practices.
"We have shared with each other our concern about the increasing numbers of universities that are allowing non-evidence based 'pseudo' disciplines to be offered to their students," they wrote."It is difficult to counter the massive amount of misleading, often fraudulent, information provided to consumers ... the task becomes harder when tertiary institutes give to unacceptable practices an undeserved imprimatur by including them among the courses they offer for study."
Professor Alastair MacLennan from the University of Adelaide said the group made its concerns public to rally support.
"We condemn the 'teaching' of unproven beliefs such as homeopathy, naturopathy and iridology in public institutions," Professor MacLennan said, describing the practices as shonky.
Professor Marcello Costa of Flinders University said it was a misuse of public dollars.
"It is disturbing to see a centre of learning, of supposed excellence, teaching and perpetuating health practices based on beliefs in principles that are totally unscientific," he said.
"It encourages the spread of quackery within the health system, misuses the public's health dollars, encourages unnecessary 'treatments' and may delay effective treatment when true disease is present."
The letter comes as Sydney University published a report showing acupuncture failed to assist disability or improve quality of life in patients suffering whiplash.
The study, published this week in Spine, found acupuncture slightly improved pain scores but had no clinical importance.

Neuroscientists Use Genetics and New Memory-Enhancing Drug to Boost Memory

Mice learn and remember better when the activity of a molecule, usually elevated during viral infections is inhibited in the brain, report researchers at Baylor College of Medicine in a recent article in the journal Cell.
"The molecule PKR (the double-stranded RNA-activated protein kinase) was originally described as a sensor of viral infections, but its function in the brain was totally unknown," said Dr. Mauro Costa-Mattioli, assistant professor of neuroscience at BCM and senior author of the paper. Since the activity of PKR is altered in a variety of cognitive disorders, Costa-Mattioli and colleagues decided to take a closer look at its role in the mammalian brain.The authors discovered that mice lacking PKR in the brain have a kind of "super" memory. "We found that when we genetically inhibit PKR, we increased the excitability of brain cells and enhanced learning and memory, in a variety of behavioral tests," he said. For instance, when the authors assessed spatial memory (the memory for people, places and events) through a test in which mice use visual cues for finding a hidden platform in a circular pool, they found that normal mice had to repeat the task multiple times over many days in order to remember the platform's location. By contrast, mice lacking PKR learned the task after only one training session.
Costa-Mattioli and colleagues wanted to know how this molecular process actually works. They found that when PKR is inhibited, the increased synaptic activity (that is, the enhanced communication between neurons) is caused by gamma interferon, another molecule involved in immunity.
"These data are totally unexpected, and show that two molecules classically known to play a role in viral infection and the immune response regulate the kind of brain activity that leads to the formation of long-term memory in the adult brain," said Costa-Mattioli.
Another key finding made by Costa-Mattioli and his team of researchers was the fact that this process could be mimicked by a PKR inhibitor - a small molecule that blocks PKR activity and thus acts as a "memory-enhancing drug."
"It is indeed quite amazing that we can also enhance both memory and brain activity with a drug that specifically targets PKR". Definitely then, the next step is to use what we have learned in mice and to try to improve brain function in people suffering from memory loss, said Costa-Mattioli.
Although Costa-Mattioli's memory pill may be years away from approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, its impact on society and medicine could be very profound. There are roughly 6 million Americans and 35 million people world-wide with Alzheimer's disease and more than 70 million Americans over the age of 60 who may suffer from aged-associated impairment of memory.
Costa-Mattioli said, "More investigation is undoubtedly necessary to translate these findings to effective therapies but we would be delighted if our scientific studies were to contribute in some way to this ultimate goal."
"Our identity and uniqueness is made up of our memories," Costa-Mattioli said. "This molecule could hold the key to how we can keep our memories longer, but also how we create new ones."

From yoga to ‘Technobaba’, protest took many forms

Witty slogans and snappy attire symbolized the prevailing mood at Jantar Mantar. Many used art, culture and even fire to express their support for Anna Hazare. Yamuna Chand (42) held a burning wick in cupped hands. Making light of the pain she felt, she went on to explain what her action represented.
"The pain I feel is the pain people feel every day when they become victims to corruption. However, the fire that burns in my hands is the zeal of the people to dispel the darkness of corruption," she said. And Chand was not the only one doing so. She was accompanied by four other supporters.
While one student of yoga made his point by standing on his head, another Anna supporter drew attention through his attire. Clad in a saffron turban and tee, was the 'new age guru' who called himself Technobaba. The 33-year-old resident of Meerut held three flags in his hand - the Tricolour, a blue Facebook one and one that read Google. His 'mission' was not just to support Anna Hazare, but also promote awareness about technical education so that the rural youth could be employed. "There are many gurus and old people preaching and teaching us a lot of things.
I want to be a new age guru and teach the youth about technology so that they can be employed," said Technobaba.
Technobaba said he was carrying Facebook and Google flags to laud the companies for refusing to give in to the government's demand of pre-censoring matter to be posted online. "Censorship would have led to striking down discussions that are not in favour of the government. These social networking sites are great places for discussion and dissemination of news," said Technobaba.
An artist from Bihar, Tabrez Alam, who had come to support Anna at Ramlila Maidan in August, was back in the capital on Sunday. Alam was busy finishing a painting that showed how ineffective the government's Lokpal draft was compared to the proprosed Jan Lokpal Bill.
"The tiny hook on this weak thread in my painting represents the government's watered-down version of the Lokpal, while Anna's strong anti-corruption bill is depicted by the hangman's noose made of a thick metal chain which can weed out corruption," said Alam.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Andie MacDowell:Her love for Yoga

American Model and Actress Andie MacDowell gushes about her love for Yoga, insisting: 'I don't know what I'd do without it. It's my sanctuary.'
The Four Weddings star told Yoga magazine that she started practising 25-years ago to help her with pregnancy, and tries to do some every day.
MacDowell, looking amazing at 53 on the magazine cover, gushed about how it has totally transformed her life.Yoga's helped everything,' she said.
'It's helped my outlook, how I interact with people, it's made me more conscious, it's helped me be able to focus, make better decisions, think on my feet. I don't know what I'd do without it. It's my sanctuary.'
She also said that she has taken yoga beyond the physical and is 'moving into a more spiritual path She said she has undertaken the cleansing system of Panchakarma 'several times', calling it 'something that's really important for grounding myself especially if I've been stressed out at the end of a movie'.
She added: 'I've also been practising Ayurvedic medicine and I've read the Bhagavad Gita and Rumi and these are very important.
'I will do simple cleanses and have a day where I'm quiet and don't talk.
'I need to have this experience, especially after work has been really intense.'

CCMB scientists discover different set of gene mutations in Indian population

In a recent finding at Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) in Hyderabad, scientists have discovered that Indian population carry a different set of mutations in the genes responsible for irregular lipid metabolism and type-2 diabetes.
“This is a major finding that could help trace the human origin and genetic basis of diseases in the Indian population. It will also be useful in designing strategies to intervene or cure diseases,” says CCMB director Dr Ch Mohan Rao.
The CCMB has also found that India has two sets of ancestral populations. One related to south and west Asia, Middle East, and the Caucasus, while the other is not related to any group and confined to south Asia. The late group is responsible or more than 50 per cent of ancestry in Indian populations.
The scientists have also found novel genetic mutations associated with certain neuro-generative disorders, cardio-myopathies and male infertility in Indian population. The mutations have been found in mitochondrial DNA which is inherited from the mother, unlike the chromosomal DNA, inherited from both the parents. Mitochondrion plays an important role in cellular energy metabolism. In the past decade, genetic variations in mitochondrial DNA have been linked with various disorders, particularly neurological.
Dr K Thangaraj who led the team of scientists at CCMB conducted the study in collaboration with the University of Tart, Estonia, the Chetindad Academy of Research and Education, Chennai, and the Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi.
Earlier in 2007, Dr K Thangaraj had received the first Major UK-India Education and Research Initiative (UKIERI) Award. The UKIERI award is aimed to promote the innovative research and academic excellence between the two countries India and UK.
The team reported the new genome-wide data for 142 samples from 30 ethnic groups of India. The researchers found that genes like MSTN, DOK5 and CLOCK have potential implications in lipid metabolism and type-2 diabetes. “The elements of population structures and genes are likely to bear relevance for medial genetic studies on population of South Asia, which harbours one-sixth of the human population,” revealed the researchers.
Over the past few years, CCMB has been undertaking studies on population genetics to trace human origin and genetic basis of diseases in Indian populations.

Atropa Belladonna proves effective remedy in homoeopathic potencies to treat brain fever

Atropa Belladonna, a poisonous plant, has been proved as an effective remedy in homoeopathic potencies to treat the dreaded disease, Japanese Encephalitis (brain fever).
Inspired by the success story of Andhra Pradesh where homoeopaths distributed Belladona free, followed by Calcarea Carb and Tuberculinum for preventing brain fever during a epidemic breakout, trials on rats were conducted in Kolkatta to re-prove the efficacy of Belladonna in different potencies.
The herbaceous plant, which is also known by different names as Beautiful lady, Devil’s Berries, Death Cherries or Deadly nightshade, is a highly toxic and poisonous. But it has high medicinal value and is used in other systems of medicine as a cosmetic, and hallucinogen in crude form.
Funded by the Central Council of Research in Homoeopathy (CCRH), the scientific experiments were conducted in the School of Tropical Medicine, Kolkota, with no effective medicine found in other systems of medicine, particularly Allopathy. The disease spreads faster with the virus propagated through pigs, resulting in high fever, swelling of the brain membranes and sudden death, particularly children.
The virus causing Japanese encephalitis is transmitted by mosquitoes belonging to the Culex tritaeniorhynchus and Culex vishnui groups, which breed particularly in flooded rice fields. The virus circulates in ardeid birds (herons and egrets). It also reproduces in pigs and infects mosquitoes that take blood meals, but does not cause disease. The virus tends to spill over into human populations when infected mosquito populations build up explosively and the human biting rate increases (these culicines are normally zoophilic, i.e. they prefer to take blood meals from animals).
Dr Jayesh R Bellare who presented his case study on how the homoeopathic drug Rhus Tox, (Toxicodendron pubesconis) has proved to be a model in “immuno modulatory activity” called for intensive inter-disciplinary studies involving pharmacy to biomedical groups for revalidation of homoeopathic drugs to face the oft-repeated criticism of the system.

'Homeopathy fast becoming preferred mode of treatment in India

Homeopathy is not a placebo but is effective in treating many serious diseases, including certain kinds of cancer, and costs just one-fifth of allopathic medication, say experts in the field of homeopathy that is fast becoming a preferred mode of treatment for many in India.
Homeopathic medicines, sourced from plants, "can cure cancer in the initial stages and can cure certain kinds of cancer completely, like breast cancer," said Sushil Vats, senior homeopathic consultant and one of the main organisers at an international homeopathy event in the capital.
In fact, at the 66th World Homeopathic Congress of Limhi (Liga Medicorum Homeopathica Internationalis) here, a case study of a double side breast cancer patient who was treated successfully with homeopathy was presented. According to Vats, the patient was a "Stage five" case.
"Homeopathy can effectively support ongoing allopathic treatment in all types of cancers, improve the quality of life of the patient and also the life span," Vats told IANS on the sidelines of the Dec 1-4 conference.
He said that homeopathy can effectively treat diabetes, thyroid, hypertension, AIDS, asthama, but the results vary from case to case. Sometimes a patient may take longer to show results, he said. "In cases treated for many years with allopathy, it becomes difficult to treat with homeopathy as the patients develop homeopathy drug dependency," he said.
Homeopathy is in fact the number two preferred mode of treatment, after allopathy, in India, as per the government of India survey, and it costs just a fraction, he said. Besides, homeopathy has no side effects or adverse effects, he added.
According to R.K. Manchanda, deputy director (homeopathy) in the Directorate of Indian System of Medicine and Homeopathy, government of NCT and Delhi, the Delhi government "is regularly opening homeopathic dispensaries". At present there are 92 homeopathic dispensaries in the capital, mostly in poor areas, which together see around 1.8 million patients a year.
"Mostly, the patients come to these dispensaries with difficult problems like arthritis, skin allergies and chronic gastric problem and with renal stone complaints," Manchanda told IANS.
Manchanda recounted a survey he and a colleague had done in 2005, which showed that homeopathy costs "just one fifth of allopathic treatment to provide day-to-day care".
The conference, attended by 2,500 delegates from 35 countries, was aimed to project India as a "hub of homeopathy in the world", he said.
If homeopathy is so effective in treating so many difficult diseases, then why was it described as a placebo in a study by Lancet?
According to Vats, the study by Lancet was "biased". He said in the UK, the National Health Service runs many homeopathy clinics and they get a "huge budget". During the recession, the allopathic companies were hit and they floated the theory of homeopathy being a placebo in order to get the government withdraw the budget, he said.
Eswar Das, consultant advisor to the government on homeopathy, said the Lancet study was "not based on homeopathy concepts and philosophy". Explaining, he said, homeopathy does not give one standard dose of a medicine to all patients suffering from a disease. Homeopathy studies the patient in terms of the symptoms, body type, nature, likes, dislikes, etc., and then prescribes the dose of medicine accordingly.
"In India, homeopathy has proper recognition. There is a believability and it is an effective form of treatment," said Manchanda.
Stressing on purity of homeopathic medicine, the government has made manufacturers, who initially numbered around 200, comply with Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) for quality assurance. With this coming into force, there are now only around 30 firms that manufacture homeopathic medicines in India, said Vats. The market in India is worth around Rs.1,000 crore. The homeopathic medicine market has grown manifold in last 4-5 years, he informed.
Eswar Das said though homeopathy was "born in Germany it has flourished in India". The system of healing was founded by German doctor Samuel Christian Hahnemann (1755).

Anti-Stress Peptide In Brain Could Reverse Alcohol Dependence

Scientists have underlined the potential of an endogenous anti-stress peptide in the brain can help prevent and even reverse some of the cellular effects of acute alcohol and alcohol dependence in animal models.The work by scientists at the Scripps Research Institute could lead to the development of novel drugs to treat alcoholism.
Specifically, the study led by Scripps Research Associate Professor Marisa Roberto examined the interaction between two competing agents-one a stress peptide that promotes excessive alcohol drinking, the other an anti-stress peptide that opposes it.
The results confirm that drugs derived from the anti-stress peptide nociceptin could play an important role in treating a complex and multi-faceted disease.
Roberto and her team focus on the central nucleus of the amygdala, a region of the brain that has long been implicated in the elevated anxiety and excessive drinking associated with alcohol dependence and withdrawal.
In previous animal studies, Roberto and her colleagues demonstrated that a particular stress peptide produced in the amygdala, corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF), plays a key role in the transition from alcohol use to alcohol dependence.
They also demonstrated that nociceptin, a peptide that structurally resembles endogenous opioids, can both prevent and reverse some effects of alcohol.
At the behavioural level, nociceptin regulates anxiety and alcohol drinking in rats.
To find out if nociceptin blocked the effect of CRF on a cellular level, the scientists examined amygdala neurons from both alcohol-dependent and control rats.
They added CRF and nociceptin and electrically stimulated the neurons to see how they would behave under the influence of both peptides. The result: nociceptin completely blocked the effects of CRF on GABA release.
"No matter when CRF is added, nociceptin wins. That's a really consistent effect," said Roberto.
The study has been published online by the journal Biological Psychiatry.

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