Author Archives: Bala Murali Krishna Yelchuri

About Bala Murali Krishna Yelchuri

Science Journalist,Media Consultant and Journalism Educator, based in Hyderabad,capital city of Andhra Pradesh State, an emerging Silicon Valley of South India.Born on August 10,1952, completed Ph.D.,M.Phil and MA in JMC, MBA in HRD,Dip in Teaching Journalism(Berlin) and Dip in Advanced Journalism(Praha). Worked for over 35 years in the premier multi-lingual national news agency - United News of India(UNI) -in different capacities and places in India. Happily married to Krishna Kumari and have daughter Krishna Jyothi(Journalist-Hyderabad) and son Vamsi Krishna(Engineer-Noida). Life member-Indian Science Writers Association and Master Resource Person to the National Council for Science and Technology Communication (NCSTC-Ministry of S&T-Govt of India). Life member Museums Association of India and President, Andhra Pradesh Journalists Union (APJU).Core committee member Malkolak Knowledge Centre,Hyderabad.

Engineers Develop Alternative Solar-Heating Storage Material

Believe it or not. We could keep our homes warm during the cold nights without using electric heaters or burning wood or fossil fuels.

Thanks to the genius of a team of young mechanical engineers of Andhra Pradesh which has invented a technique that converts solar energy into heat energy.

They had found that the ordinary paraffin wax combined with a fat used in making soaps, known as stearic acid, could store solar heat energy collected from the Sun during the day.

Paraffin wax

The energy thus stored could be released slowly over night to warm up our homes without any costs involved.

The research finding is being reported in a forthcoming issue of the International Journal of Renewable Energy Technology (Source: Inderscience Publishers)

The research team was led by mechanical engineer Meenakshi Reddy of Sri Venkateswara College of Engineering and Technology, in Chittoor, Andhra Pradesh.

They had explained how certain materials, known as phase change materials (PCM) can store a large amount of heat in the form of latent heat in a small volume.

PCMs have a high heat of fusion and melt/freeze at a certain temperature. Heat is absorbed when the material melts and released when it freezes.

Heated in the sun, the mixture of paraffin wax (which melts at about 37 Celsius) and stearic acid becomes entirely liquid. However, as it solidifies, it slowly releases the stored heat, they said.

The process is akin to the phase changing heating that occurs in hand-warmers that contain a PCM but in this case the material does not need to be boiled in a pan or heated in a microwave oven to absorb latent heat.

The team has tested spherical capsules just 38 millimeters in diameter containing a blend of paraffin and stearic acid, which can be floated on the top of water in a tank.

Stearic acid is a lot cheaper on the Indian market than paraffin and more readily available. The team found that costs could be held down without reducing the overall heating efficiency of the capsules by lowering the proportion of paraffin wax.

Scientists Finds Possible Cure for Leukemia from Fish Oil

A compound derived from fish oil is found to provide an effective remedy for leukemia, known as the cancer of white blood cells.

Encouraged by successful experiments on  mice, the researchers applied for a patent of the compound and are now preparing to test it on human beings.

The scientists are examining its efficacy in treating the terminal stage of leukemia, known as the ‘Blast Crisis” for which there is no drug available.

The study was led by an Indian born scientist, Sandeep Prabhu, associate professor of immunology and molecular toxicology in the Department of Veterinary and Medical Sciences, Penn State (USA).

The compound, identified as delta-12-protaglandin J3, or D12-PGJ3 – is produced from EPA — Eicosapentaenoic Acid — an Omega-3 fatty acid found in fish and in fish oil, Dr.Prabhu said.

“Research in the past on fatty acids has shown the health benefits of fatty acids on cardiovascular system and brain development, particularly in infants. But we have shown that some metabolites of Omega-3 have the ability to selectively kill the leukemia-causing stem cells in mice,” said Prabhu.

“The important thing is that the mice were completely cured of leukemia with no relapse.”   The findings were released in the current issue of Blood.

The compound kills cancer-causing stem cells in the mice’s spleen and bone marrow. Specifically, it activates a gene — p53 — in the leukemia stem cell that programs the cell’s own death.

“p53 is a tumor suppressor gene that regulates the response to DNA damage and maintains genomic stability,” Prabhu said.

But p53 has more going to it: apparently, it also determines how big your organs will get and has potential to treat other cancers as well.

Killing the stem cells in leukemia, a cancer of the white blood cells, is important because stem cells can divide and produce more cancer cells, as well as create more stem cells, Prabhu said.

The current method of treatment prolongs the life of the victim with many relapses without providing permanent cure. If they stop the drugs, the drug-resistant disease relapses as the drug can not kill the diseased stem cells for good in the human body.

In the year 2000, approximately 256,000 children and adults around the world developed some form of leukemia, and 209,000 died of it. About 90% of all leukemias are diagnosed in adults.

schistosomiasis

Beware of infections in tropical waters – Flood hit areas more vulnerable

schistosomiasis

Beware of snails before you swim in shallow waters of tropical countries such as India. You can avoid parasitic worm infections caused by the snails, according to a new study. The risk is more in flood hit areas, such as Andhra Pradesh which requires a ground survey to prevent infections which could be detected through urine or stool test.

The scientists caution people in Africa, Asia and South America where access to clean water and good sanitation facilities are scarce.

“Snails that live in tropical freshwater in these locations are intermediaries between disease-causing parasitic worms and humans”, scientists claim.

The worms’ infectious larvae emerge from the snails, cruise in shallow water, easily penetrate human skin and mature in internal organs.

The result is schistosomiasis, the second most socio-economically devastating disease after malaria. As of 2009, 74 developing nations had identified significant rates of schistosomiasis in human populations. There has been much debate about how best to prevent the disease, says Charles King, a physician and researcher at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio.

“Beyond that,” he asks, “how long should treatment last once someone has schistosomiasis?”

“Current guidelines focus on suppressing the disease’s effects by limiting the infection during childhood,” says King. “But that may not be enough to cure it or to prevent re-infection, leaving children still at risk for stunted growth and anemia,” he adds.

King and colleagues recently published results of a study of long-term treatment of schistosomiasis in the journal PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases. The team’s work is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF)-National Institutes of Health (NIH) Evolution and Ecology of Infectious Diseases (EEID) program. At NSF, the EEID program is supported by the Directorate for Biological Sciences and Directorate for Geosciences. At NIH, it’s supported through the Fogarty International Center.

Schistosomiasis is usually treated with a single dose of the oral drug praziquantel.

Current prevention guidelines are ineffective

World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines set forth in 2006 recommend that when a village reports that more than 50 percent of its children have parasite eggs in their urine or stool– a clear sign of schistosomiasis– everyone in the village should receive treatment. When 10 to 50 percent of children are affected, say the guidelines, only school-age children should be treated–every two years. With less than 10 percent, mass treatment is not suggested.

But because of the long-term health effects of schistosomiasis, says King, “we now think it’s better to provide regular yearly treatment.”

He and scientists Xiaoxia Wang, David Gurarie and Peter Mungai of Case Western Reserve University; Eric Muchiri of the Ministry of Public Health and Sanitation in Nairobi, Kenya; and Uriel Kitron of Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, used data collected in 10 villages in southeastern Kenya to run advanced models of village-level schistosomiasis transmission.

They scored the number of years each of the 10 villages would be projected to remain below a 10 percent infection level during a simulated 10-to-20-year treatment program. All strategies that included an initial four annual treatments reduced community prevalence of the disease to less than 10 percent. Programs with gaps in treatment, however, didn’t reach this objective in half the villages.

At typical levels of treatment, the researchers found, current WHO recommendations could not achieve full suppression of schistosomiasis.

“With more aggressive annual intervention that lasts at least four years,” says King, “some communities might be able to continue without further treatment for 8 to 10 years.

“But in higher-risk villages, repeated annual treatment may be necessary for an indefinite period–until the eco-social factors that foster the disease [such as poor wastewater treatment] are removed.”

schistosomiasis world mapIn high-risk places, ongoing surveillance for the disease and annual drug treatment, the scientists say, need to become the mainstays of control. In short, these villages require what they call “re-worming after de-worming.”

But what happens if townspeople move to a more arid location, one with less freshwater and fewer snails? In drier landscapes, schistosomiasis is a rare event that happens only during floods. Response to treatment therefore may be much better. Unless or until another flood occurs. Although drier locales carry less risk for the disease, they’re by no means free and clear. Even in arid locations, people need to get treated more than once to get rid of the parasites.

“This research demonstrates the value of understanding where disease-causing organisms are in the environment,” says Sam Scheiner, NSF program officer for EEID.

“Such knowledge can reduce human diseases much more effectively and at a lower cost than simply focusing on treatment.”

The best goal, says King, is complete eradication of schistosomiasis.

To achieve that, scientists need to determine what makes a “wormy village,” how often therapy is needed to prevent disease in such locations–and what can be done to change the environment such that a high-risk village becomes a low-risk one.

New Experiment on to Revalidate Nobel Winning Universe Acceleration Finding

This year’s Nobel Prize winning finding that the ‘Universe is accelerating’ is being subjected to another validation test in the USA to confirm whether the expansion is “even or uneven”.

 

“We are testing the acceleration theory through another experiment to find whether the expansion is even or multi-directional. We are confident it would be ‘even’,” says eminent cosmologist Prof.Robert Kirshner who guided two of the three-member team of researchers that bagged the Nobel Prize in Physics – 2011 for the revolutionary finding recently.

With the experimental study now on, this time using the MMT telescope in Arizona and the Magellan Telescope in Northern Chile, he said, the researchers would, within two years, be in a position to collect enough data to determine whether the expansion of the Universe is even or in all directions, Kirshner said.

Kirshner of the Centre for Astrophysics, Harvard University (USA) was interacting with this Indian Science Writers Association(ISWA) representative in South Goa on the sidelines of the just concluded week-long VII International Conference on “Gravitation and Cosmology” organised by the International Centre for  Theoretical Sciences(ICTS) under the prestigious Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai.

As many as 300 astrophysicists from across the world had participated in the conference and shared their findings and experiences on black holes,gravitation wave experiments and need for international collaborations to promote research in astrophysics of the 21st century.

His researchers – Adam Riess and Brian Schmidt – along with Perl mutter, had recently received the Nobel Prize in Physics for their stellar discovery in 1998, used the Panstars Telescope with big array of detectors with a gigapixel resolution to capture the image of many galaxies at the same time for the study.

“I am also confident that such high resolution and higher sensitive telescopes enable us trace the history of their shifts by recognizing what is known as their “Red Shifts” as the galaxies move away from us,” he said.

The on-going studies may also throw light on the ‘fossils of light” emitted when stars exploded during what is known as the “Big Bang” 14 billion years ago that led to the creation of the Universe.

“We expect data we gather could unlock the secrets of the origin of the Universe including the history of the first galaxies, stars and the supernovae and their death,” he said.

Scientists believe that the Universe contain galaxies, each composed of about 100 billion stars observable enough and 100 billion unobservable galaxies.

Earlier in his plenary talk in the conference on “Exploding Stars and the Accelerating Universe,” Kirshner said observations of exploding stars halfway across the universe show that the expansion of the universe is speeding up.

“We attribute this to a pervasive ‘dark energy’ whose properties we would like to understand. This work was recently honoured by the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics to Perl Mutter, Schmidt and Riess.”

He had also presented the most recent evidence from supernovae, Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) fluctuations, and galaxy clustering. The present state of knowledge on dark energy is completely consistent with a modern version of the cosmological constant, but with a ridiculously low value.

He also discussed ways to use infrared observations to make the supernova measurements with better accuracy and higher precision.

Kirshner also explained how improved supernova measurements and the matrix of evidence from other observations can help us understand whether modifications to general relativity or a time-varying component of dark energy can be ruled out.//EOM//

 

New Therapies for Impotent Men Possible: Experiments on Mice Show

Researchers at the world famous US-based Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine have claimed to have unlocked the “biochemical chain of events” behind maintaining penile erection. They are confident that their discovery in mice with some herbs now underway may lead to new therapies for the suffering male population.

 

For two decades, scientists have known the biochemical factors that trigger penile erection, but not what’s needed to maintain one – in other words, this research won’t take erectile pills for erectile dysfunction off the market, but it provides valuable information about triggering erections. Now an article by Johns Hopkins researchers, published online recently by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, uncovers the biochemical chain of events involved in that process.

“We’ve closed a gap in our knowledge,” says Arthur Burnett, M.D., professor of urology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and senior author of the study. “We knew that the release of the chemical nitric oxide, a neurotransmitter that is produced in nerve tissue, triggers an erection by relaxing muscles that allow blood to fill the penis. We thought that was just the initial stimulus. In our research, we wanted to understand what happens next to enable that erection to be maintained.”

In a study of mice, Burnett and his colleagues found a complex positive feedback loop in the penile nerves that triggers waves of nitric oxide to keep the penis erect. He says they now understand that the nerve impulses that originate from the brain and from physical stimulation are sustained by a cascade of chemicals that are generated during the erection following the initial release of nitric oxide.

“The basic biology of erections at the rodent level is the same as in humans,” he says. The key finding is that after the initial release of nitric oxide, a biochemical process called phosphorylation takes place to continue its release and sustain the erection.

In a landmark study published in the journal Science in 1992, Burnett and his Johns Hopkins co-author, Solomon S. Snyder, M.D., professor of neuroscience (who is also an author on the current study), showed for the first time that nitric oxide is produced in penile tissue. Their study demonstrated the key role of nitric oxide as a neurotransmitter responsible for triggering erections.

“Now, 20 years later, we know that nitric oxide is not just a blip here or there, but instead it initiates a cyclic system that continues to produce waves of the neurotransmitter from the penile nerves,” says Burnett.

With this basic biological information, it may be possible, according to Burnett, to develop new medical approaches to help men with erection problems caused by such factors as diabetes, vascular disease or nerve damage from surgical procedures. Such new approaches could be used to intervene earlier in the arousal process than current medicines approved to treat erectile dysfunction. In particular, Burnett says, ”

The target for new therapies would be the protein kinase A (PKA) phosphorylation of neuronal nitric oxide synthase (nNOS). Now that we know the mechanism for causing the ‘activated’ form of nNOS in penile nerves, we can develop agents that exploit this mechanism to help with erection difficulties.”

One of the agents studied by the researchers was forskolin, an herbal compound that has been used to relax muscle and widen heart vessels. They found that forskolin also ramps up nerves and can help keep nitric oxide flowing to maintain an erection.

“It has been a 20-year journey to complete our understanding of this process,” says Snyder. “Now it may be possible to develop therapies to enhance or facilitate the process.” The new study, “Cyclic AMP Dependent Phosphorylation of Neuronal Nitric Oxide Synthase Mediates Penile Erection,” was funded by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

In addition to Burnett and Snyder, the study article’s authors are K. Joseph Hurt from the University of Colorado, Sena F. Sezen, Gwen F. Lagoda and Biljana Musicki from Johns Hopkins, and Gerald A. Rameau from Morgan State University.//EOM//

A new cave-dwelling reef coral discovered in the Indo-Pacific

A new coral species that lives on the ceilings of caves in Indo-Pacific coral reefs has been discovered, shedding new light on the relation of reef corals with symbiotic algae.

The species is named Leptoseris troglodyta. The word troglodyta is derived from ancient Greek meaning “one who dwells in holes”, a cave dweller. What makes it particularly interesting is that the new species has adapted to a life without the algae.

Consequently, it may not grow fast, which would be convenient because space is limited on cave ceilings. The species description is published in the open access journal ZooKeys, according to the Coral specialist Dr. Bert W. Hoeksema of Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden, The Netherlands. ZooKeys is a peer-reviewed, open-access journal launched to support free exchange of ideas and information in biodiversity science, issued by Pensoft Publishers.

He had published this in his original article, “ Forever in the dark: the cave-dwelling azooxanthellate reef coral Leptoseris lroglodyta sp. n.”

It differs from its closest relatives by its small polyp size and by the absence of symbiotic algae, so-called zooxanthellae. Its distribution range overlaps with the Coral Triangle, an area that is famous for its high marine species richness. Marine zoologists of Naturalis visit this area frequently to explore its marine biodiversity.

Reef corals in shallow tropical seas normally need the symbiotic algae for their survival and growth. Without these algae, many coral reefs would not exist. During periods of elevated seawater temperature, most reef corals lose their algae, which is visible as a dramatic whitening of the reefs, a coral disease known as bleaching.
Most reef corals generally do not occur over 40 m depth, a twilight zone where sunlight is not bright anymore, but some species of the genus Leptoseris are exceptional and may even occur much deeper.

At greater depths, seawater is generally colder and corals here may be less susceptible to bleaching than those at shallower depths.

Despite the lack of zooxanthellae and its small size, the skeleton structures of the new species indicate that it is closely related to these Leptoseris corals, although it has not been found deeper than 35 m so far.

Consuming Fish During Pregnancy Improves Child’s IQ: Study

Infants born to mothers who consumed more fish during pregnancy have recorded improved verbal intelligence, fine motor skills and pro-social behavior, says a latest study. The study, reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition was  coordinated by the University of Granada(Spain) professor Cristina Campoy Folgoso. The researchers collected blood samples from 2,000 women at 20 gestational weeks and from the umbilical cord of the infant at birth for the study.

This study was conducted within the framework of the NUTRIMENTHE project (“Effect of diet on offspring’s cognitive development”), which received funding of 5.9 million Euros from the European 7th Framework Programme.

It is believed that the chemical docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) contained in the fish oil contributes to the normal development of the brain and eye of the fetus and breastfed infants.

The European Commission also supports this view  with the fish oil being the primary source of long-chain Omega-3 fatty acids as docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), the main component of brain cell membranes.

The researchers collected blood samples from 2 000 women at 20 gestational weeks and from the umbilical cord of the infant at birth, and analyzed concentrations of long-chain fatty acids of the series omega-3 and omega-6.Then, they determined the genotype of 18 polymorphisms in the FADS gene cluster.

The aim of this study was to assess the effects of maternal fish intake -as a source of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids- on fetal development, and to determine how the different genotypes affect long-chain fatty acid concentrations in the fetus.

Dr. Pauline Emmett (University of Bristol), Dr. Eva Lattka (Helmholtz Zentrum München, the German Research Center for Environmental Health) and their research teams have determined how FADS gene cluster polymorphisms affect long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid concentrations in women during pregnancy.

According to the researchers, fatty acid concentrations in umbilical cord blood depend on maternal and offspring genotypes. Accordingly, maternal genotypes are mainly related with omega-6 fatty acid precursors, and offspring genotypes are related with the more highly elongated fatty acids of the omega-6 series.

The study also revealed that concentrations of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) of the Omega-3 series -main component of brain cell membranes- depend on maternal and offspring genotypes.

Dr Lattka states that “the fetal contribution of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids of the omega-6 series is more relevant than expected; fetal DHA concentrations depend on maternal and fetal metabolism”, and concludes that “the amount of DHA transmitted to the fetus through the placenta might be crucial for fetal development”.

In a previous study, this research team proved that fish intake during pregnancy is correlated with the IQ in 8-year old children. The study revealed that fish intake is correlated with maternal blood DHA concentrations.

However, it has not been clarified whether maternal DHA concentrations are directly correlated with the offspring’s IQ. The NUTRIMENTHE project –which is expected to conclude in 2013 – is aimed at elucidating this question.

Last October, the researchers involved in the NUTRIMENTHE project –coordinated by the University of Granada- organized an International Symposium on “Nutrition and Cognitive Function” during the European Nutrition Conference held in Madrid.

Researchers from Belgium, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, UK, USA and Spain (Rovira i Virgili and Granada) –involved in the NUTRIMENTHE consortium- participated in this event. //EOM//

India-Tanzania-Thailand Scientists to Study ‘Bitter Gourd’ for anti-diabetes

HYDERABAD(South India),Jan 22: A group of scientists belonging to three developing countries – India, Thailand and Tanzania – is trying to find out the ideal variety of the ‘bitter gourd’ (Karela) that is believed to check diabetes from ancient times.

They are studying 10 hybrids of the Indian bitter gourd by analyzing the  germplasm and chemical constituents, particularly momordicin, in Hyderabad(Andhra Pradesh-India), Arusha(Tanzania) and Bangkok(Thailand).

The Asian Vegetable Research and Development Centre has sponsord the research which, apart from the Indian hybrids, would study 10 hybrids from Thailand, according to a report from Tanzania’s The Citizen.

“We are screening germplasm and will be selecting the best varieties high in anti-diabetic compounds as well as those with good horticulture traits,” a senior scientist associated with the project said.

The scientists are keen to find out whether Karela really fights the diabetes as it has been widely used in India for generations and mentioned in ancient Ayurvedic texts.

With India recording the highest rate of diabetes in the world, the researchers had chosen Hyderabad as for the ‘project bitter gourd’ as it has reportedly emerged the diabetes capital of the country.

People believe that the vegetable grown in the backyard these days has lost its anti-diabetic properties with the cultivation of a series of hybrid varieties for commercial purpose. This could be felt as the commercial variety is short of the original bitterness and pungency as against the original fruit.

They try to identify which of the 10 hybrids has the higher content of the anti-diabetic chemical – momordicin available in these countries, besides finding ways to increase the bioactive compounds to make it more effective.  The fruit also contains charantin, lectin and gurmarin.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) says that the number of people with diabetes is expected to rise from 177 million today to 370 million in 2030, and 76 per cent of them will be living in the developing countries.

The UN agency warns that diabetes will become one of the world’s main disablers and killers in the next 25 years.

According to an Indian heart expert, Dr Pujar Suresh, many people in Tanzania are at risk of getting diabetes and high blood pressure due to their poor diets.

In 2009, he examined 200 people at the Regency Medical Centre in Dar es Salaam and noted that many patients were overweight with a risk of diabetes.

The Tanzania Diabetic Association (TDA) has it in a recent report said that the rate of prevalence of the disease doubled two years ago as compared to the situation 10 year ago. The increase is more than six per cent on adult population living in towns. In 2005, it was estimated that there were about 500,000 people, who were diabetic.

Karela, more commonly known as bitter melon, is known worldwide for its miraculous medicinal properties. It is a natural wonder that has proven to be very beneficial for people with a number of diseases, particularly diabetes.
Despite its medicinal value, the Denmark-based World Diabetes Foundation (WDF) does not support or promote the use of bitter gourd for health purposes or funds research projects, its communications manager Jamal Butt told ‘Insight’.

 

“The World Diabetes Foundation is dedicated to the prevention and awareness of diabetes in the developing countries. We are a funding agency that supports projects through implementing partners in improving access to care and advocacy work,” he said.

“We do not engage in alternative medicines and operational research as such and linking to traditional medicines etc,” he added.

Karela supposedly stimulates insulin secretion metabolizing glucose in our body as it activates pancreas and bile to absorb and secrete juices properly.

It also helps in the digestion of carbohydrate, which is retained in the body as sugar. Karela is supposedly good in lowering the body’s blood sugar level.

As the herbal treatment for diabetes and its  side effects still have to be scientifically proven, bitter gourd has been used as a supplement and not the ultimate cure on a use it alone basis.  //EOM//

Smallest Storage Device in the World to Revolutionize Computing Developed

Miniaturization seems to be the buzzword of the 21st century in this global village.

Thanks to the genius of German and American scientists who have pioneered a revolutionary technique that could be used to develop a new class of hard disk drives with nanomaterials which could store larger amounts of information in a tiny space and at the same time consume lesser energy in computing.

“It could take a few more years before the technique leads to new consumer goods. But once perfected, this method could lead to new types of nanomaterials able to store large amounts of information in tiny spaces, and to consume less energy while doing it,” the researchers claimed.

The researchers in Hamburg and California have built the smallest magnetic storage device in the world, signaling a potential breakthrough for computing.

In a paper published Thursday in the journal ‘Science’, researchers from the Institute of Applied Physics at the University of Hamburg in Germany and an IBM research lab in California demonstrated how they could store a bit, the smallest possible piece of digital information, in a set of 12 atoms.

Normally a bit, either a one or zero, in computer terminology, would require about one million atoms in one of today’s smallest silicon-based storage devices. However, In the new technique, only two rows of six iron atoms on a surface of copper nitride are needed.

“We have built up atom-by-atom data storage,” said Andreas Heinrich, manager of the IBM laboratories in Almaden, California, in an interview with Germany’s Deutsche Welle.

Deutsche Welle is Germany’s international broadcaster that produces television, radio and online content in 30 languages. It provides a European perspective to its global audience and promotes intercultural dialogue.

Instead of using normal Ferromagnets made of iron, nickel or cobalt, the new method relies on anti-ferromagnets, which repel those same elements, granting them various magnetic orientations.

Traditionally, the ferromagnetic approach creates a magnetic field which limits how small a device can be shrunk.

But without the presence of this field, the sets of atoms can be configured in any way without such interference, explained Sebastian Loth, a physicist at the Max Planck Department for Structural Dynamics in Hamburg and a researcher at the IBM research lab in California.

“This new memory principle has the potential to revolutionize the computer technology,” he said.

The new result has already impressed other physicists.

“Current magnetic memory architectures are fundamentally limited in how small they can go,” said Will Branford, a physicist at Imperial College London, in an interview with the BBC.

“This work shows that, in principle, data can be stored much more densely using antiferromagnetic bits.”

However, the researchers note that this is just a very early step in creating smaller memory chips.

For the moment, this 12-atom array is only stable at a temperate of -268 degrees Celsius, near absolute zero. Loth said that at the moment the method would need a setup of about 150-200 atoms per bit of information to make it work at room temperature.

“It’s as if we’ve opened a new door into the next room,” Heinrich added. //EOM//

 

A Stunning New Species of Black-and-Yellow Horned Viper discovered in Tanzania

Hyderabad, Jan 12,2012: A strikingly black-and-yellow snake with horn-like scales above its eyes has been discovered to stun the wildlife enthusiasts world over.

The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has just announced the discovery of the spectacularly colored snake from a remote area of Tanzania in East Africa. The animal, identified as Matilda’s horned viper, measures 2.1 feet (60 centimeters) and looks very majestic with its has horn-like scales above its eyes.

The discovery is described in the December issue of Zootaxa. Authors of the study include: Michele Menegon of Museo delle Scienze of Trento, Italy; Tim Davenport of the Wildlife Conservation Society; and Kim Howell of the University of Dar es Salaam.

Fearing poaching, the authors have kept the exact location of the new species a secret. Its habitat, estimated at only a few square miles is already severely degraded from logging and charcoal manufacture.

The species may soon be classified as ‘critically endangered’ and as such the authors have already established a small captive breeding colony.

The conservationists desire to keep the wildlife trade, both legal and illegal, with its whooping annual turnover of $160 Billion, away from the site so that the scientists could discover more such stunning species in the region.

“Wildlife trade is now the second largest illegal trade in the world after drugs.  Reptiles play a large part in this and unfortunately the illegal trade – especially in wild-caught reptiles – is having a devastating effect on wild populations, the conservations aver.

They maintain that in many parts of Africa, it is the single biggest threat to the existence of many species in the wild. The colourful, fascinating African bush vipers of the genus Atheris are popular pet snakes in many countries. Their natural habitat is seriously threatened and the numbers of wild caught animals destined for the pet trade continues to be unsustainable, they deplore. The snake is named after the daughter of co-author Tim Davenport, Director of WCS’s Tanzania Program.

Wildlife Conservation Society saves wildlife and wild places worldwide, through science, global conservation, education and the management of the world’s largest system of urban wildlife parks, led by the flagship Bronx Zoo.

Together these activities change attitudes toward nature and help people imagine wildlife and humans living in harmony. WCS is committed to this mission because it is essential to the integrity of life on Earth. //EOM//

 

Top Astrophysicists Throng Goa (India) to Share Experiences on “Gravity and Cosmology” in VII International Conclave

Panaji (Goa-India), Dec 12, 2011: Hunt for finding the hypothetical massive elementary particle, the Higgs boson, popularly known as ‘The God Particle’. Exploring the pulls and pressures among the planets and the dark matter above. Building capacities to explore hitherto lesser known Universe to benefit humanity using science and technology tools through global collaborative efforts.

This is what eminent astrophysicists from across the world discuss and share their experiences in the VII International Conference on “Gravity and Cosmology” (ICGC -2011) beginning on December 14 for a week in this Western India’s most sought after international tourist destination.

The two most significant threads running through this conference are to understand the Universe at large – its past and future – and its constitution and the experimental hunt for gravitational waves.

International Centre for Theoretical Sciences (ICTS) under the prestigious Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Mumbai, is organising the event, Prof. Tejinder Singh (TIFR), Chairperson, Local Organizing Committee, ICGC-2011, told this Indian Science Writers Association(ISWA) representative.

About 250 scientists, a half of them from abroad, will attend the conference. Those from abroad include promising young Indian scientists and researchers, many of whom are eventually expected to return and take up research positions in India, according to Prof. Tejinder Singh.

Most interesting presentation in the conclave would be of Prof. John Ellis (UK), considered one of the world’s most respected particle physicists with more than a 1000 research papers to his credit and closely involved with the theoretical aspects of the Geneva-based Large Hadron Collider (LHC) project and the search for the Higgs particle.

Prof. John Ellis (UK) is likely to spell out the latest news on the LHC project  hunting the elusive primary particle responsible for the weight (Higgs boson) in the universe and what the experiment unfolds about the Cosmos. A three hour long session will be especially devoted to presentations and discussions on the hitherto mysterious Dark Energy.

Prof. James E. Peebles (USA), widely respected as the founding father of Modern Cosmology, will deliver a keynote address reviewing our present understanding of the Cosmos.

Eminent Cosmologist Robert Kirshner (USA), a member of the team associated with this year’s Nobel Prize for Physics for discovery of the acceleration of the Universe will give a first hand description of the discovery and what that implies for theoretical physics.

Prof. Francois Bouchet (Paris), one of the leaders of the PLANCK satellite project which is currently observing the CBR, will present the state of the art and latest findings in this vital subject. The project is looking for fossil records of the early history of the universe by studying the cosmic microwave background

Legendary physicist Prof. Kip Thorne (USA) will present new insights into the understanding of geometry of black holes, and how these insights would be confirmed by the detection of gravitational waves.

Incidentally, Thorne is the co-founder of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Observatory (LIGO) project which is keen to install a gravitational wave detector in India for which efforts are underway, making India the third country in the world to have such a prestigious astronomical projects, after the USA and Italy.

Prof. Bernard Schutz (Germany) an expert in the study of gravitational waves and India’s eminent cosmologist Prof. Jayant Narlikar are among the other top scientists attending the conclave.

Other astrophysicists Eric Adelberger will review experimental tests of the law of gravitation, whereas Bernard Schutz and Stan Whitcomb will make state of the art presentations on the gravitational wave detection. A three-hour session will be dedicated to gravitational wave astronomy with a global network of detectors.

Priyamvada Natarajan [Yale] will report her new findings on how the first black holes might have formed in the early history of the Universe.

J. Richard Bond [CITA, Canada] and David Wands [Portsmouth] will highlight theoretical studies of the early history of the Universe, and the consequent signatures in observations we can make today.

The physics and astrophysics of black holes will also be discussed in the plenary lectures of Mihalis Dafermos [Cambridge], Luis Lehner [Perimeter Institute, Canada], Dipankar Bhattacharya [IUCAA Pune] and Masaru Shibata [YITP, Kyoto].

Over the last few years, remarkable new connections have been discovered between gravity, fluid dynamics and thermodynamics. These will be reported by Gary Horowitz [Santa Barbara], Shiraz Minwalla [TIFR] and T. Padmanabhan [IUCAA].

Abhay Ashtekar [Penn State] and Rafael Sorkin [Perimeter] will review the progress towards obtaining the laws which might relate quantum mechanics to gravity, and help understand the very act of creation. //EOM//

 

 

Stinky Frogs to Give Their Human Predators Clues to Survive Diseases

Hyderabad, Dec 10, 2011: Believe it or not. Foul smelling frogs not only offer clues to prepare a new range of antibiotics but boost human immune system against bacterial attacks.

This is despite the fact that human beings continue to haunt the frogs and butcher them for a variety of cuisine like ‘jumping legs’ in restaurants world over though the amphibians protect our environment.

Scientists are now working on clues to developing a new generation of antibiotics from the skin of the stinking frog species, according to the American Chemical Society’s latest Journal of Proteome Research.

The simple fact is that the rotten fish smelling frogs, could survive the worst bacterial attacks in their life span as their skin emits some chemical substances that have the anti-bacterial properties.

Scientists from China, which is one of the countries where frog delicacies are sold in the open, had identified more than 700 of the chemical substances from nine species of odorous frogs.

China’s National Basic Research Program and the National Natural Science Foundation are funding the research.

“We are trying to identify the specific Anti-Microbial Peptides (AMPs)  that account for almost one-third of all peptides found in the world, the greatest known diversity of these germ-killing chemicals,” the scientists said.

“Scientists long have recognized frogs’ skin as a rich potential source of new antibiotics. Frogs live in warm, wet places where bacteria thrive and have adapted skin that secretes chemicals, known as peptides, to protect themselves from infections,” scientists Yun Zhang, Wen-Hui Lee and Xinwang Yang explained.

It might be recalled that a polychrest drug from the poison of  “Bufo Rana” was prepared in Homoeopathy to treat various disorders including nervous troubles, paralysis, rheumatism and impotence.

Homoeopathic Bufo is made from the poison of the toad. The toad releases poison when it is teased or irritated. It can paralyze a dog. The Chinese were the first to apply dried toad poison for a variety of complaints. //EOM//

Bioreabsorbable Stents to Revolutionize Heart Surgeries

Hyderabad, Dec 6, 2011: Here is good news for heart patients who require stents to open their clogged arteries for free flow of blood.

One need not have the feeling of a foreign device embedded in your coronary artery as is the experience of patients after having metallic stents, ordinary or drug-eluting, implanted in a surgical procedure.

Thanks to the invention of a new generation device that could be permanently absorbed in our body after it does its intended job.

The device, world’s first drug-eluting “bioresorbable vascular scaffold” has been successfully tried on more than 500 patients with Coronary Artery Disease(CAD)  in the world, so far.

Developed by the global healthcare company Abbott, the device “ABSORB EXTEND” will further be tried on 1,000 patients in about 100 centers in Europe, Asia Pacific, Canada and Latin America. It was tested clinically in four centres in Canada itself.

The device is made of polylactide (PLA), a proven biocompatible material that is commonly used in medical implants such as dissolvable sutures. PLA is a biodegradable thermoplastic substance derived from lactic acid. It is used for making compost bags, plant pots, diapers and packaging.

The latest success story is reported from Canada’s  Montreal Heart Institute (MHI) which had treated a woman in her sixties with CAD under the leadership of  Dr. Jean-François Tanguay, interventional cardiologist and coordinator of the Coronary Unit, as part of the ABSORB EXTEND clinical trial.

“This successful intervention was a first in North America. This breakthrough could change the lives of patients. The woman, diagnosed with a severe lesion to the heart main artery, responded favorably to the procedure. She was discharged after 24 hours and now, one month after, had regained a normal way of life with no more chest pain,” the doctor said.

“Once the vessel can remain open without the extra support, the bioresorbable scaffold is designed to be slowly metabolized until the device dissolves after approximately two years, leaving patients with a treated vessel free of a permanent metallic implant.

With no metal left behind, the vessel has the potential to return to a more natural state. After the device has been metabolized, the patient’s vessel is free to move, flex, pulsate and dilate similar to an untreated vessel,” the doctors claim.

“Treatments for coronary artery disease have progressed tremendously from the days of balloon angioplasties and metal stents leading to improved clinical outcome in our patients,” says Dr. Tanguay.

Also an associate professor of Medicine at the Université de Montréal, he adds,”By effectively opening up a blocked artery without leaving a permanent implant behind in the blood vessel, this bioresorbable vascular scaffold has the potential to revolutionize how we treat our patients.”

 

Climate Change: Major Threat to Hind Kush Himalayan Region: Study

Hyderabad, Dec 5, 2011: Imagine melting of glaciers, ice and snow from the magnificent Mount Everest and other world’s highest mountains in the Hindu Kush-Himalayan (HKH) region as a result of global warming and climate change.

Consequent floods in the mountain ranges and downstream Asia’s major river basins will not only affect the rich biodiversity, but hit livelihood of 210 million people. They include 1.3 billion people who depend on goods and services for food and energy resources there.

Droughts, changes in land use and agriculture patterns and migration trends following the climate change in the mountain ranges.

“Two major land use systems in the region are changing. In mountain forests, tree lines and species are shifting to higher elevations, and species already living at the highest elevations may have nowhere to go. Meanwhile, the vast grasslands of the Tibetan Plateau are being steadily degraded,” a study said.

Considered as the “Third Pole” the HKH region is rich in biodiversity as it is home to 30 per cent of the world’s glaciers, 25,000 plant and animal species, and a diversity of forest types larger than the Amazon. All these get affected if we continue to check galloping temperature rise and climate changes.

This is the alarming signal flashed by the Katmandu-based International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD in its 3-special  study reports presented at the “ Mountain Day” convened by experts, policy makers, and climate change negotiators on the sidelines of the ongoing UN climate talks at Durban, South Africa.

It was considered the most up-to-date compilation of information on the current status of climate change in the HKH region and the first authoritative data on the number and extent of glaciers and the patterns of snowfall in the world’s most mountainous region.

“The HKH region is like a gentle giant. While physically imposing, it is one of the most ecologically sensitive areas in the world,” said David Molden, director general of ICIMOD. “We must meet the intensity of climate change in these mountains with an equal intensity of will to mitigate and to adapt to the impacts.”

Yet despite an abundance of natural resources in the region, poverty is rife. HKH countries account for 15 percent of the world’s total migration, the reports said.

The ICIMOD-led, 3-year Sweden-funded study titled, “The Status of Glaciers in the Hindu Kush-Himalayan Region,” found   more than 54,000 glaciers in the region spread over 60,000 sq.km using remote sensing studies.

The researchers however could study only 10 glaciers on a regular basis to determine the ‘net loss or gain of ice and snow (called the mass balance).

It was found that the rate of mass balance loss was roughly doubling between 1980 and 2000 and 1996 and 2005. In the Everest area, the data show a marked acceleration in the loss of glacial mass between 2002 and 2005. Glaciers appear to be shrinking in both the central and eastern Himalayas.

Country-specific studies have found that depletion of glacial area over the past 30 years was 22 percent in Bhutan and 21 percent in Nepal. The clean glaciers of the Tibetan plateau are retreating at a faster rate than the glaciers of the rugged central Himalayas, which have higher debris cover which creates an insulating effect, slowing melting.

“This research give us a baseline from which to measure the potential impact of climate change in the region and to develop options for mitigating the impact of dynamic changes the region is expecting in the coming years,” says Basanta Shrestha from ICIMOD.

The second report, which mapped the impact of the glaciers and snow cover, claim that glaciers and snow breathe life into the regional monsoon system and feed the headwaters of 10 major river systems that stretch across eight Asian countries — Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal and Pakistan.

The report, “Climate Change in the Hindu Kush-Himalayas: The State of Current Knowledge” provides a snapshot of changes occurring in the region on the basis of secondary data available from various earlier studies made.

The researchers noted that the HKH region is one of the world’s hotspots for global warming. The rise in temperature has been greater at higher altitudes and more pronounced during the cooler months than in the warmer months.

This imbalance narrows the seasonal variation in temperature, potentially favoring some plant species over others and already having impacts on agriculture.

Warming across the region is greater than the global average of 0.74°C over the past 100 years. However, this change is not evenly distributed. It is most pronounced in higher altitude areas like the central Himalayas and the Tibetan Plateau. In Lhasa, for example, temperatures increased by 1.35°C between 1950 and 1980.

“From here, greater focus needs to be put on providing people and governments with options for climate-resilient development,” said Molden commented on the basis of the study.

“These include adaptation and mitigation measures such as reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, water storage measures, and regional cooperation around policies for managing water for energy, agriculture and development ,”he added.

We strengthen networking among regional and global centers of excellence. Overall, we are working to develop an economically and environmentally sound mountain ecosystem to improve the living standards of mountain populations and to sustain vital ecosystem services for the billions of people living downstream — now, and for the future, the organization claimed.

Source: http://www.icimod.org

 

Stop Pollution or Face Severe Storms in South Asia

Hyderabad (South India): Man is the maker of his own destiny, say elders. The latest scientific studies on oceans endorse this adage.

Be it  severe cyclonic storms, significant rainfall reductions, crop damages, mass mortalities and melting of Himalayan glaciers – all these could be prevented, if not minimized to a large extent, if we adopt changes in our urban life styles, researchers claim.

Unchecked use of diesel and burning of biomass has led to spewing out billions of dust particles, forming what is known as “atmospheric brown clouds (ABCs), in the air, affecting the atmospheric and oceanic circulation over the Arabian Sea.

In the multi-institutional study, published recently in the journal “Nature”, scientists of the world famous Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO), UC San Diego, who formed part of the study, cautioned against man-made pollution making the Arabian Sea more cyclone intense.

In the last 30 years, increased amounts of airborne particles (aerosols) in South Asia have altered the pattern of the Sun’s heating of the ocean, changing the regional wind patterns and weakening the wind shear, making conditions more favorable for intense tropical cyclone development.

“We’re showing that pollution from human activity, as simple as burning wood or driving a vehicle with a diesel engine, can actually change these massive atmospheric phenomena in a significant way,” said study lead author Amato Evan, an assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences at the University of Virginia. “It underscores the importance of getting a handle on emissions in the region.”

The scientists had also noted a trend of increasingly strong cyclones in the months immediately preceding monsoon season.

They had attributed formation of stronger cyclones in recent years – including storms in 2007 and 2010 that were the first recorded ever to enter the Gulf of Oman – to the ABC phenomenon.

The build-up of the 3-km thick brown cloud over the Arabian Sea has “dimmed” the prospect of ocean warming in the region affecting the seasonal rains in South Asia, study of 30-year data showed.

A 1998 cyclone in India’s west coast of Gujarat claimed lives of 2,900 people.

Category-5 cyclone Gonu with more than 240 KMPH wind speed, made an extremely rare landfall in Iran in 2007, causing more than $4 billion in damage.

Category-4 cyclone Phet in 2010 struck the coastlines of Pakistan and Oman causing nearly $2 billion in damage.

“This study is a striking example of how human actions, on a large enough scale, in this case massive regional air pollution caused by inefficient fuel combustion, can result in unintended consequences,” said Anjuli Bamzai, program director in the National Science Foundation (NSF)’s Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences, which partially funded the research.

“These consequences include highly destructive summer cyclones that were rare or non-existent in this region for 30 or so years ago.”

“The research shows that pollution can threaten humans in unexpected ways. In this case, by reducing wind shear in the Arabian Sea and making conditions more favorable for tropical cyclones to intensify,” added report co-author James Kossin, a climatologist at the NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center.

“The one silver lining is that the atmospheric concentrations of these pollutants can be reduced drastically and quickly using available technologies,” says SIO’s climate and atmospheric scientist DR.Veerabhadran Ramanathan of India who also co-authored the study.

The scientists used findings from direct observations and model studies of ABCs made by Dr.Ramanathan.

The other co-author of the study is Chul “Eddy” Chung of the Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology in South Korea.

Source: SCRIPPS  & NOAA

Indo-UK Joint Research Projects for Bioenergy and Water Dynamics

Hyderabad (South India): Developing alternative but sustainable energy resources to save scarce fossil resources and understanding the dynamics of changing water cycles to improve ecosystems in South Asia.

These are the broad areas agreement for green-field collaborative research entered into by India and the UK shaving an investment of 14.7 million British Pounds.

The latest initiatives, just announced recently in New Delhi, are expected to further boost the bilateral ties between the two nations.

The bioenergy project envisages inventing energy products from plants and algae alternative to fossil fuels, with a funding of 10 million BP. The research is expected to help both the countries.

The UK Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the Indian Government’s Department of Biotechnology (DBT) have agreed to jointly fund the research for sustainable bioenergy.

“ It will support collaborative science which aims to solve shared problems in the production and processing of plants and algae for bioenergy, research that could help both nations develop sustainable alternatives to fossil fuels,” according to UK Universities and Science Minister David Willetts who was here recently in India.

On the other hand, the UK’s Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and India’s Ministry of Earth Sciences (MOES) will jointly fund £4.7 million for research into the pattern of changing water cycles in South Asia.

In this connection, Prof. Paul Boyle, Chief Executive of the Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC) and Rob Lynes, British Council’s Director in India, on behalf of UKIERI, signed a statement of intent to work together towards a new PhD partnering initiative between the UK and India.

The five UK-India projects funded under this programme range from understanding the dynamics of groundwater systems, improved irrigation water management, rainfall patterns and how they affect ecosystems.

The Indian arm of the Research Council UK (RCUK) which is the umbrella organization of seven prestigious science research organization of Britain, since inception in the year 2008, had facilitated joint research collaboration between the UK, India and third parties to the tune of  over £80 million compared with £1 million in 2008.

RCUK India is now actively involved in significant co-funded activities with seven different Indian research funders, working together on a wide array of research themes helping to address global challenges such as energy and climate change to social sciences, healthcare and life sciences.

The UK Research Councils (RCUK) is the strategic partnership of the UK’s seven Research Councils. Each year the Research Councils invest around £3 billion in research covering the full spectrum of academic disciplines from the medical and biological sciences to astronomy, physics, chemistry and engineering, social sciences, economics, environmental sciences and the arts and humanities.

The seven councils are: Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC), Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC), Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), Medical Research Council (MRC), Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and Science & Technology Facilities Council (STFC).//EOM//

Indian Ocean Region: A Haven for Crab Species!

Hyderabad(South India): Indian Ocean continues to enthrall the scientists who take pleasure to unravel the hitherto unknown animal species lurking in the region which incidentally triggers monsoon spells across the globe every year.

Many biologists, including Indian scientists, had undertaken several voyages on the Indian Ocean and succeeded in their mission to detect many new species including crabs over the years.

For Peter Ng of the National University of Singapore and Peter Davie of the Queensland Museum, it was a wonderful discovery of what they called “a new species of a bright purple, tree-climbing crab” in the Indian Oceans.

The species, identified as Laburnum vitatum was noticed in the Christmas Island, Nicobar Island, Nias and Java.

“It appears to be active only in wet weather and at night and to spawn during full moon cycles between November and April. When active, these and related arboreal crabs are encountered near the bases of trees growing along the seashore. The carapace of mature crabs can reach 40mm in width. Its ecological low profile, however, is only part of the story,” they said.

“Secretive habits had contributed to this conspicuously colored species remaining unrecognized,” according to Quentin Wheeler, director, International Institute for Species Exploration, Arizona State University, The Guardian reported recently.

Meanwhile, Sally Hall, a doctoral student at the University of Southampton and the discoverer of the four new species of King Crabs opines that the oceans off eastern Africa, the Indian Ocean and the Southern Ocean are all particularly poorly sampled.

“We need to know which king crab species live where before we can fully understand their ecology and evolutionary success. We are only now beginning to understand the incredible diversity of animals living in the deep sea.

King crabs include some of the largest crustaceans currently inhabiting Earth. The new species, he discovered were Paralomis nivosa from the Philippines, P. makarovi from the Bering Sea, P. alcockiana from South Carolina, and Lithodes galapagensis from the Galapagos archipelago.

It is now clear that species of deep-sea king crab live in most areas of the world’s oceans, but many more species remain to be discovered. Much needs to be done to identify the species in the region, scientists admit.

According to an estimate, there are 6793 crab species of marine, fresh water and terrestrial sources had so far been discovered so far. Pea crab is said to be the smallest of the crabs in size as against the Japanese Spider Crab with 4 metres leg span. //eom//

Global Fund Crunch Threatens Millions of AIDS, TB, Malaria Patients

HYDERABAD(South India): The precious lives of millions of people suffering from  AIDs, Tuberculosis and Malaria, that take a heavy toll of life every year across the world, are at stake with the Geneva-based “Global Fund(GF)” financing several countries to fight these diseases, announcing stoppage of funds till 2014.

Bogged down by allegations of  swindling and mismanagement of funds,  and the  crunch, triggered by the worst debt crisis in donor countries of Europe and the USA forced the GF to take this extreme step, ringing alarm bells in the beneficiary nations including India.

The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria is an international financing institution that invests the world’s money to save lives. To date, it has committed US$ 22.4 billion in 150 countries to support large-scale prevention, treatment and care programs against the three diseases.

It was only a few days ago in Ghana that the Board of the Global Fund had adopted a 5-year plan to contribute substantially to international goals by saving 10 million lives and preventing 140-180 million new infections from AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria from during 2012-16.

Since its creation in 2002, the Global Fund has become the main financier of programs to fight AIDS, TB and malaria, with approved funding of US$ 22.4 billion for more than 600 programs in 150 countries. The Global Fund works in close collaboration with other bilateral and multilateral organizations to supplement existing efforts in dealing with the three diseases.

Lamenting the development, Mr.Manoj Pardeshi, National Coordinator, International Treatment Preparedness Coalition-India (ITPC-India) said the development had left a ‘ tremendous setback to the agenda of expanding AIDS treatment access for all those in need’.

”The Global Fund is one of the most significant institutions in a fight against an epidemic that claims three million lives a year, and in its ten years has played a critical role in strengthening health programmes in many countries. It has supported 3.2 million out of the 6.6 million people currently on antiretroviral (ARV) treatment for HIV,” he said.

These 3.2 million lives are now in jeopardy as funds dry up and existing treatment programs may have to shut their doors. People who would have been spared from death will now instead fall ill and die.

Ironically, such decisions are being made at a time when scientific evidence demonstrates that ARV treatment can both saves lives and prevent new infections. Rather than implementing ambitious plans to scale up the provision of treatment as outlined by U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton in her address earlier this month, countries and communities will now need to discuss how best to manage a treatment scale-down, Mr.Manoj said.

The shortfall in funding for the Global Fund is $10 billion, an insignificant amount in comparison to the bank bailouts made by the US and European governments or even the bonuses set aside for Goldman Sachs executives this year.

Instead the Global Fund has put in place an emergency “transition mechanism” to safeguard only those countries that have current Global Fund grants and who will face program disruption between 1 January 2012 and 31 March 2014.

The restricted funding can only be used for essential prevention, treatment, and/or care services. However, such decisions will be devastating for organizations working in communities around the world.

Trends indicate that funding for HIV had already begun to fall flat by the end of the last decade. Last year the Global Fund failed to raise the minimum $13 billion that was needed to maintain its current programmes.

And of the overall $20 billion target, it raised roughly one-half, with $11.5 billion secured in pledges. To make matters worse, this year the Global Fund has been struggling with addressing the misuse of funds by recipients in a number of countries.

The lack of political and financial commitment to the AIDS response is deeply worrisome, and the millions of people living with and fighting against these deadly diseases will pay an enormous price.

Rather than building on the new evidence that AIDS treatment saves lives and prevents new infections and scaling up treatment programs to try to end this epidemic, donor governments are now implicitly supporting a policy of triage, determining who lives and who dies.

”Failure to invest in the fight against AIDS now simply means a return to the days of daily funerals and overflowing hospital wards. The virus doesn’t wait on the whims of donors,” he regretted.

The decision by donors will entrench the epidemic once again around the world, drastically increasing the costs of containing it when the world’s leaders once again wake up to the crisis around them.

The AIDS epidemic is far from over, but with a sustained commitment to comprehensive treatment, prevention and care services, it is still possible in our lifetime to create an AIDS-Free Generation.//EOM//

Pigeon Pea Genome Cracked: Benefits Farming Millions in Asia & Africa

Hyderabad (South India): A team of scientists has claimed to have achieved a major breakthrough by successfully sequencing the genome of Pigeon pea, considered an “orphan crop” and “poor peoples’ meat “ for its protein-rich content, mainly grown by small and marginal farmers across the world.

Years of genome analysis by a global research partnership led by the Hyderabad-based International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) has resulted in the identification of 48,680 pigeon pea genes.

In the fight against poverty and hunger amid the threat of climate change, highly nutritious, drought-tolerant crops are the best bets for small farmers in marginal environments to survive and improve their livelihoods and now the pigeon pea gives the hope with its genome fully sequenced.

Pigeon pea, grown on about 5 million hectares in Asia, sub-Saharan Africa and South-Central America, is a very important food legume for millions of the poor in the semi-arid regions of the world.

Unfortunately, its productivity is less than one ton though it is considered as the “poor people’s meat” because of its high protein content.

Pigeon pea is the first “orphan crop”, the first “non-industrial crop” and the second food legume (after soybean) with a completed genome sequence.

The scientific partners include the International Initiative for Pigeon pea Genomics (IIPG), led by ICRISAT, BGI – Shenzhen (China),USresearch laboratories likeUniversityofGeorgia,UniversityofCalifornia-Davis, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, and National Centre for Genome Resources, and support from the CGIAR Generation Challenge Programme based in Mexico.

The journal Nature Biotechnology had recently featured this development besides giving clues on how the genomics sequence could help improve the crop for sustainable food production, particularly in the marginal environment ofAsia and Sub-Saharan Africa.
“ A couple of hundreds of these genes were found unique to the crop in terms  of drought tolerance, an important trait that can be transferred to other  similar crops like soybean, cowpea or common bean that belong to the same  family, “ the journal said.

“The mapping of the pigeon pea genome is a breakthrough that could not have
come at a better time. Now that the world is faced with hunger and famine
particularly in the Horn of Africa brought about by the worst drought of the
decades, science-based, sustainable agricultural development solutions are
vital in extricating vulnerable dry land communities out of poverty and
hunger for good,” says ICRISAT Director General William D. Dar.

“The sequence will significantly speed up and reduce the cost of screening the ‘good genes’ within the stored pigeon pea seed collections in gene banks like that of ICRISAT, dramatically reducing the cost of developing new improved varieties for farmers. Now we can breed a new variety in just 3 years as against 6-10 years before, “claims Rajeev Varshney, lead scientist and project coordinator.

Prof. Huanming Yang, Chairman, BGI-Shenzhen, the world’s largest genomics institute and a key partner of this project said he was confident of forging more dynamic and fruitful partnerships between Indian and Chinese genomic scientists.

Significantly, it is for the first time that the Consultative Group on International
Agricultural Research (CGIAR) had supported the India-based center like ICRISAT for leading the genome sequencing of a food crop.

 

Disposed Paper cups “Death traps” for honey bees in urban ecosystem: Indian study

HYDERABAD (South India): Believe it or not. Paper cups disposed off by coffee and fruit juice bars have become ‘death traps’ for honey bees which account for 80 per cent of pollination of crops in India.

The bees, in their pursuit for honey in flowers, get attracted to the sugar residue in the cups and collapse as they could not go back to their colonies.

This is latest finding reported in the “Current Science”, a fortnightly journal published by The Current Science Association in collaboration with the Indian Science Academy.

“There are about 1.3 billion and 800 million cups of coffee and tea respectively consumed daily around the world by using millions of disposable cups. This may lead to bee collapse in future and reduction in agricultural productivity throughout the world,” the journal reported.

Even though bee collapse has been reported in many countries in the past, there is no scientific data and even awareness on this issue in developing counties like India.

What we observed could be one way of bee collapse in India, claims lead author of the study Dr S Chandrasekaran from the School of Biological Sciences in Madurai Kamaraj University (Tamilnadu State-South India).

His team had undertaken the research for a year from May 2010 outside five commercial coffee bars in rural and urban areas of Tamilnadu which use disposable cups of about 1225 cups per day.

The bees while competing for collecting sugar fell into the cups   containing the residual beverage (coffee/tea/milk) and were unable to fly. This lead to the death of 168 bees a day per shop.

 

“We recorded 25,211 dead bees in the coffee bars studied in 30 days. The mean death rate varies with the depth of the waste bin with cups, quantity of residual beverages, location of the sampled bars and visiting time,” the researchers claimed.

 

Maximum mortality (23%) was recorded between 10 : 00 and 14 : 00 hrs in the cups with 3–6 ml beverage remains found at a depth of 20– 40 cm in waste bins. The bees trapped at the bottom (60 cm) of the bin almost successfully escaped to the middle zone only.

 

Latter the cups are sent to the recycling yard, where about 680 bees a day are killed manually in order to escape stinging. Our observation also revealed that bees need large quantities (~ 300 cups) of sugar-coated cups and longer duration.

 

The increasing trend in urbanization and subsequent increase in beverage bars may aggravate the mortality of bees that inhabit in and around urban and semi urban ecosystems.

 

A United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report recently said,“ without bees, there will be no more food. Bees are one of nature’s primary pollinators, and over 70 percent of the world’s food supply relies on them to grow.

“Human beings have fabricated the illusion that in the 21st century they have the technological prowess to be independent of nature,” said Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director. “Bees underline the reality that we are more, not less, dependent on nature’s services in a world of close to seven billion people.”
Apart from contributing to production of food crops through pollination, the bees and its products such as the saliva and wax it generates provide wonderful medicines (aphrodisiac, anti-bacterial and rejuvenator) to humanity. Nothing of the bee is a waste including its poison and body mass.

 

A wonderful polychrest remedy in Homoeopathy, Apis Mellifica, is prepared out of the crushed body mass of the bee. It is a remarkable drug in its potentised form used for many ailments related to kidney, heart, throat and joints besides allergies, insect stings and nettle rash.