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Jan 23
Skating Marathon To Create Awareness About Female Feticide
President Pratibha Devi Singh Patil flagged-off a roller skating marathon while launching the 'Save Girl Child' campaign on Wednesday here.

The 'Save Girl Child Campaign' has been initiated by the Bharatiya Aggarwal Sammelan to create awreness among the people about the increasing percentage of female feticide in the country.

During the marathon, participants will stop in every city and village to propagate against the female feticide.

"The marathon will reach Gujarat from Delhi via Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan and Maharashtra. It will conclude on 16 May," president of the Aggarwal Sammelan Pradeep Mittal said.

Despite laws banning tests to determine the sex of an unborn child, theilling of female feotus is still prevalent in the country. Due to this illegal practice the inequality in the sex ratio can easily be seen which currently reads 933 female per thousand males, according to the 2001 census.

Jan 23
India PM to undergo heart surgery
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will undergo heart bypass surgery over the weekend, officials say, after blockages were found in his arteries.

The 76-year-old leader will enter hospital in Delhi on Friday for the surgery on Saturday, a spokesman said.

Mr Singh previously had bypass surgery in the UK in 1990.

The new surgery will raise questions about Mr Singh's participation in the upcoming general elections, which must be held by May.

Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee is likely to take charge of prime ministerial meetings while Mr Singh recovers from the operation, reports say.

Mr Singh underwent tests earlier this week after he complained of chest pains.

He will undergo "coronary artery bypass graft surgery" performed by a team of doctors from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, India's top state-run hospital, and the Asian Heart Institute in Mumbai, a government official said.

Gandhi dynasty

Doctors say there is "very little risk" associated with Mr Singh's surgery and that the prime minister should be fit to resume normal duties in "three to four weeks".

But his ill health may have an effect on the election campaign.

Though Congress party leaders have been saying that Mr Singh will be heading the party into the next elections, there have been reports that Rahul Gandhi, heir to India's powerful Gandhi family, is emerging as a successor.

It is not clear whether Mr Singh will be able to campaign intensively after his surgery, but the economist-politician has never been used by the party to woo voters in a big way.

"The Gandhi family and regional politicians continue to be more important," analyst Yashwant Deshmukh told Reuters news agency.

Apart from Mr Singh's heart bypass in 1990 he has also undergone wrist surgery, prostate gland surgery and a cataract removal procedure, officials said.

Mr Singh - the first prime minister from the Sikh community - has been heading the government since 2004.

He is widely regarded as the architect of the country's economic reform programme.

An academic-turned-civil servant who studied economics at Cambridge and Oxford, Mr Singh became India's finance minister in 1991 when the country was plunging into bankruptcy.

He is widely regarded as the cleanest politician in India, a subject dear to voters' hearts.

Jan 23
Link Between Vitamin D And Cognitive Impairment
Researchers from the Peninsula Medical School, the University of Cambridge and the University of Michigan, have for the first time identified a relationship between Vitamin D, the "sunshine vitamin", and cognitive impairment in a large-scale study of older people. The importance of these findings lies in the connection between cognitive function and dementia: people who have impaired cognitive function are more likely to develop dementia. The paper will appear in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of Geriatric Psychology and Neurology.

The study was based on data on almost 2000 adults aged 65 and over who participated in the Health Survey for England in 2000 and whose levels of cognitive function were assessed. The study found that as levels of Vitamin D went down, levels of cognitive impairment went up. Compared to those with optimum levels of Vitamin D, those with the lowest levels were more than twice as likely to be cognitively impaired.

Vitamin D is important in maintaining bone health, in the absorption of calcium and phosphorus, and in helping our immune system. In humans, Vitamin D comes from three main sources - exposure to sunlight, foods such as oily fish, and foods that are fortified with vitamin D (such as milk, cereals, and soya drinks). One problem faced by older people is that the capacity of the skin to absorb Vitamin D from sunlight decreases as the body ages, so they are more reliant on obtaining Vitamin D from other sources.

According to the Alzheimer's Society, dementia affects 700,000 people in the UK and it is predicted that this figure will rise to over 1 million by 2025. Two-thirds of sufferers are women, and 60,000 deaths a year are attributable to the condition. It is believed that the financial cost of dementia to the UK is over 17 billion a year.

Dr. Iain Lang from the Peninsula Medical School, who worked on the study, commented: "This is the first large-scale study to identify a relationship between Vitamin D and cognitive impairment in later life. Dementia is a growing problem for health services everywhere, and people who have cognitive impairment are at higher risk of going on to develop dementia. That means identifying ways in which we can reduce levels of dementia is a key challenge for health services."

Dr Lang added: "For those of us who live in countries where there are dark winters without much sunlight, like the UK, getting enough Vitamin D can be a real problem - particularly for older people, who absorb less Vitamin D from sunlight. One way to address this might be to provide older adults with Vitamin D supplements. This has been proposed in the past as a way of improving bone health in older people, but our results suggest it might also have other benefits. We need to investigate whether vitamin D supplementation is a cost-effective and low-risk way of reducing older people's risks of developing cognitive impairment and dementia."

Jan 23
US Approves First Trial Of Embryonic Stem Cells
The US regulators have given the go ahead for a biotech company to carry out the world's first trial of a treatment using embryonic stem cells, in this case to treat victims of spinal cord injury that leaves them unable to walk.

Although heralded as an early sign of new US president Obama's support for embryonic stem cell research, Dr Thomas Okarma, president and CEO of Geron Corp. of Menlo Park, California, the company that will be carrying out the trial, told Associated Press that strictly speaking it was not so in this case, since the next phase of the project would have been eligible for federal funds under Bush. It was the earlier development phases that had to be done with private funds because of funding restrictions on embryonic stem cell research brought in by Bush in 2001, said a report in Times Online.

Today's ruling by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allows Geron to give 8 to 10 patients with spinal cord injury a single injection of cells made from embryonic stem cells. The testing will be done at several medical centres throughout the US and the patients will receive their injections within 2 weeks of their injury; unfortunately patients whose injuries are older than this are unlikely to benefit from such therapy.

According to a Geron statement, the Phase I trial is designed to establish the safety of the treatment, called GRNOPC1, in patients with "complete" American Spinal Injury Association (ASIA) grade A subacute thoracic spinal cord injuries.

Okarma told AP that they will also be looking for the possible return of feeling or movement in the legs. Animal studies have shown that injected embryonic stem cells can turn into specialist cells that replace damaged sheaths around nerves that have suffered "demyelination" and thereby restore their ability to send signals that control muscle and sense feelings.

Embryonic stem cells are like master cells, they can become virtually any cell of the body, which comprises about 200 types of tissue. There are other kinds of stem cells too, like adult stem cells, but they are more limited in what types of cell they can become and harder to "coax", so embryonic stem cells are considered the "gold standard" in stem cell research. They are however more controversial because harvesting them involves destroying embryos, whereas adult stem cells can be recovered without harming the donor.

If successful, the trial will lead to therapies with the potential to transform the lives of thousands of people who every year become paralysed from the chest down, and for whom few treatments exist. Experts predict that if successful, the therapy could be in general use within three to five years.

Okarma said in a press statement that:

"This marks the beginning of what is potentially a new chapter in medical therapeutics -- one that reaches beyond pills to a new level of healing: the restoration of organ and tissue function by the injection of healthy replacement cells."

He said that: "the ultimate goal is to achieve restoration of spinal cord function".

Although the FDA decision is independent of the White House, it is being received as a symbol of a new attitude to embryonic stem cell research and Obama is expected to start lifting funding restrictions next week, said a Times Online report.

Dr Richard Fessler, professor of neurological surgery at the Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University, said that:

"The neurosurgical community is very excited by this new approach to treating devastating spinal cord injury."

"Demyelination is central to the pathology of the injury, and its reversal by means of injecting oligodendrocyte progenitor cells would be revolutionary for the field. If safe and effective, the therapy would provide a viable treatment option for thousands of patients who suffer severe spinal cord injuries each year," he added.

Polling figures suggest most Americans are in favour of stem cell research, but it was strong opposition lobbying that persuaded Bush to impose restrictions on federal funding.

Okarma said that the delay caused by the funding restriction meant there "are people out there who might have benefited, but who now cannot," he told the press.

Jan 23
Light Alcohol May Reduce Disability In Healthy Seniors
A new US study found that light to moderate alcohol consumption may reduce the risk of physical disabilities that cause so may seniors to lose their independence, but this was only the case for healthy older adults, the researchers found no benefit for those in poor health.

The study was the work of lead author, Dr Arun S. Karlamangla, an associate professor of medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles, and colleagues, and is published in the 1 January 2009 print issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology.

Some studies have already shown that light to moderate alcohol consumption is linked to lower risk of heart disease, diabetes and death. Karlamangla and colleagues wanted to investigate if this might be the same for physical disability, such as that which impedes the older person from doing essential everyday things like getting dressed, preparing and eating meals, going shopping, walking, and so on.

For the study they looked at the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) Epidemiologic Follow-up Study surveys from 1982 to 1992 and used data for two 5-year periods relating to 4,276 non-institutionalized US adults who were aged 50 or more.

They found that compared to heavy drinking, or not drinking at all, light to moderate drinking (ie fewer than 15 drinks a week with no more than 5 in a day for men and 4 for women) was linked with a nearly 25 per cent reduced risk of incident disability or death over 5 years.

When they investigated further, by looking at self-reported health status, they found that disability risk went down the more the participants drank, up to the light to moderate limit, but this was only the case for those who reported being in good or better health, it was not the case for those who reported being in fair or worse health.

Karlamangla and colleagues concluded that:

"Alcohol consumption in moderation might reduce the risk of developing physical disability in older adults in good health but not in those in poor health."

Karlamanga told HealthDay of ScoutNews, LLC, that what this finding says to those seniors who only drink a light to moderate amount of alcohol is:

"Don't worry, you're probably in good company, and you're probably going to get good benefits from this."

But he added that "if your health is not good, you probably should not be drinking".

Speculating on the reasons why the not so healthy participants showed no benefit, co-author Dr Alison A Moore, from the David Geffen School of Medicine, where she is a professor specializing in geriatric medicine, said it could be that alcohol has a bad effect on medications, or that their poor health was irreversible.

She said the usual recommendation for the older adult was one drink a day, but these findings show there are healthy seniors who can drink more than this.

"Light to Moderate Alcohol Consumption and Disability: Variable Benefits by Health Status."

Jan 21
Court to hear Anil Nanda's plea on Escorts' status
The Delhi High Court Friday agreed to hear the plea of industrialist Anil Nanda against turning the Delhi-based Escorts Heart Institute and amp; Research Centre Limited (EHIRCL) into a limited company from a charitable institution.

A single bench of the court had in July last year allowed the plea of Rajan Nanda, Anil's elder brother and the former chairman of Escorts Hospital, to convert the hospital into a company, which was challenged by his brother.

Anil Nanda has sought restoration of the institute to its original status of a charitable trust, but his plea could not be entertained as he had not sought permission of the court before filing the suit as provided in the Civil Procedure Code.

A division bench comprising Justice Mukul Mudgal and Manmohan allowed the plea of Anil Nanda and asked the single bench to hear the matter.

Anil Nanda in his petition had submitted that EHIRCL was a charitable trust established by his father H.P. Nanda in 1981 and the DDA had provided it two acres of land at Rs.10,000 per acre.

He alleged that after the death of his father in 1999, Rajan Nanda and others of the institute hatched a conspiracy to grab its huge reserves and substantial assets by setting up another society with an identical name in Chandigarh.

Jan 21
India will account for 60 percent of world's heart diseases by 2010
Muscle protein mutation in heart disease, carried by one in a 100 people, is the world's leading killer. By 2010 India alone will account for 60 percent of the world's share of such cases.

A team of 25 scientists from four countries explained that one percent of the world's population carries this mutation almost guaranteed to cause heart problems. And most of them come from India.

The mutation, a deletion of 25 letters of genetic code from the heart protein gene MYBPC3, is virtually restricted to people from the Indian subcontinent, afflicting people across all caste, faiths or religious calling.

Heart disease has many causes, some carried in our genes and others linked to our lifestyle, but all seemingly complex, hard to pin down and incompletely understood.

The mutation was discovered five years ago in two Indian families with cardiomyopathy, but its significance only became apparent after almost 1,500 people from many parts of India, some with heart disease and some without, were studied.

Scientists express this genetic risk as an odds ratio, where 1.2 would be a small effect and 2.0 a large one.

For the MYBPC3 mutation, the odds ratio is almost off-scale, a staggering 7.0. Carriers usually show few symptoms until middle age, but after that age most are symptomatic and suffer from a range of effects, at worst sudden cardiac death.

'The mutation leads to the formation of an abnormal protein,' explained the study leader, Kumarasamy Thangaraj from the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad.

'Young people can degrade the abnormal protein and remain healthy, but as they get older it builds up and eventually results in the symptoms we see.'

The combination of such a large risk with such a high frequency is, fortunately, unique. 'How can such a harmful mutation be so common?' asks Chris Tyler-Smith from The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, Hinxton, in Britain. 'We might expect such a deleterious change to have 'died out'.

'We think that the mutation arose around 30,000 years ago in India, and has been able to spread because its effects usually develop only after people have had their children. A case of chance genetic drift: simply terribly bad luck for the carriers,' he added.

'The bad news is that many of these mutation carriers have no warning that they are in danger,' said Perundurai S. Dhandapany from Madurai Kamaraj University, Madurai, Tamil Nadu, 'but the good news is that we now know the impact of this mutation'.

The lifetime risk of developing heart failure is roughly one in five for a person aged 40 years. Now that this mutation has been identified, there is a new glimmer of hope for some of them, said a Wellcome Trust release.

The mutation's effects vary a lot from person to person. Carriers could be identified at a young age by genetic screening and adopt a healthier lifestyle.

And perhaps eventually new drugs could be developed to enhance the degradation of the abnormal protein and postpone the onset of symptoms. There is a market of 60 million people waiting.

These findings were published in Nature Genetics.

Jan 21
Scientists crack defective gene responsible for cardiac arrest
In a major breakthrough of medical science, a team of scientists led by Indians has identified a defective gene responsible for the sudden cardiac arrest and deaths among the population in the Indian sub-continent.

The study piloted by the Hyderabad-based Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) and involving scientists from India, Pakistan, the US and Britain has given hope to 60 million people carrying the defective gene by way of stem cell therapy or a possible drug.

Announcing the results of the five-year long study, CCMB director Lalji Singh told reporters here Monday that it was the defect in one gene Myosin binding protein-C (MYBPC3), which regulates pumping of blood, accounting for 45 percent sudden cardiac arrests or sudden death due to heart problems.

'We found this particular gene in certain individuals with 25 base pairs missing and it makes defective protein,' he said.

'This, however, does not represent all the problems of heart. Two to five percent of heart problems are due to sudden heart attack and this represents 45 percent of that two to five percent,' said Singh, who was one of the eminent scientists who participated in the study.

The study was conducted by an international team of 25 researchers led by the CCMB scientists. The results of the research were published in the prestigious scientific journal 'Nature Genetics' in the US.

Significantly the researchers found that general defect was found only in the people of Indian sub-continent, including countries like India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Malaysia but not in other countries.

'Bangladesh was not covered by the study but since it has the same origin, we believe that the defective gene is also found in that country,' said the CCMB director.

The scientists analysed the DNA of 800 cardiac patients from Hyderabad, Madurai, Thirunalveli, Thiruvananthapuram, Kozhikode, Mumbai, and Bhubaneswar, Delhi and Chandigarh and 699 normal individuals from the ethnically matching groups.

The scientists also screened 6,273 randomly selected individuals to find out how widespread the mutation was in the Indian population. These cases were from 107 ethnic populations including primitive tribes, tribes, castes, subcastes and people belonging to all the religious groups including Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims and Christians from across the country.

'If there is only one defective gene in an individual, he may live up to the age of 40 to 45 and then suddenly die because of heart attack without showing any symptoms before. We can identify such individuals in familiar cases (where there are families where people die because of sudden heart attacks).'

'Any gene occurs in pairs, one coming from father and one coming from mother. If both genes are defective, you call it homozygous.'

He said such people could be identified much before they are born through pre-natal diagnosis.

'Taking the sample of mother's blood, we can tell if the one gene of the baby is defective or both. If both genes are defective we can advise parents to have abortion. If one gene is defective, the doctors can advise the patient to live stress-free life to live longer.'

He said the study had thrown an opportunity for pharmacological companies to develop a drug which can degrade one of the defective proteins.

'There is a machinery in the cell which degrades abnormal protein. As you become older beyond the age of 40, the machinery becomes weaker and the cell starts accumulating both defective protein as well as normal protein.'

Lalji Singh said such individuals might get some treatment through stem cell therapy in future.

K. Thangaraj, a CCMB scientist, said it was estimated that about 60 million people in the region were carrying this mutant gene. About 30 million people in India suffer from heart disease, and by 2010 India will carry 60 percent of the burden of world's heart diseases.

Jan 21
Novel device that filters out HIV undergoing trials in India
A new device could open up a new way to treat HIV, hepatitis and cancers by filtering out infectious viruses in real time.

The device, called Hemopurifier, is being tried out for the first time in a 30-day case study on HIV, at the Jattinder Gambhir Hospital in Ludhiana, Punjab.

The goal of the study is to demonstrate that Hemopurifier can safely and effectively reduce viral load and trigger replenishment of CD4 immune cells in the absence of drug therapy.

The fieldwork, which calls for the administration of up to 12 Hemopurifier treatments, is scheduled for completion by Friday.

Hemopurifier targets all circulating strains of infectious HIV, including those varieties that cause patients to fail antiviral drug regimens.

Additionally, the device preserves the immune response through the removal of gp120 and other toxic proteins shed by HIV to kill-off immune cells, the hallmark of AIDS.

'The antiviral and immunotherapeutic attributes of our Hemopurifier offer a realistic strategy for managing a broad spectrum of infectious disease conditions,' stated Jim Joyce, chairman and CEO of Aethlon Medical. The firm is behind the device.

'In caring for those infected with HIV, we plan to enhance the benefit of drug regimens by curbing the proliferation of viral strains that cause drug resistance, and we seek to extend and improve the lives of individuals once they no longer respond to drug therapy,' added Joyce, according to an Aethlon statement.

In previous studies, treatment with the Hemopurifier resulted in robust viral load reductions in Hepatitis-C (HCV) infected patients. The researchers completed a treatment protocol of three, four-hour Hemopurifier treatments every other day over one week

Jan 21
Shah Rukh pays for treatment of two Kashmiri orphans
Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan has committed to bear all the expenses for the treatment of two Kashmiri orphan children who suffered severe burns during a terrorist grenade attack in Srinagar, doctors said Tuesday.

'He has made it clear - 'no limits' - to the expenses for treating Mudassar and Amina,' Ali Irani, the head of department, physiotheraphy and amp; sports medicine at Nanavati Hospital, Vile Parle, told IANS.

A little over two months ago, the home of the two kids in Jammu and Kashmir's summer capital Srinagar was attacked by terrorists. Mudassar and Amina's parents were killed in the grenade attack, while the children suffered burn injuries.

The children suffered some grenade shrapnel injuries and severe - more than 30 percent - burn injuries and they were shifted to a local hospital in Srinagar, Irani, a physiotherapist, said.

When Irani visited the hospital under the auspices of the Indian Association of Physiotherapists, his attention was drawn to their plight.

In turn, Irani suggested that they could be shifted to Mumbai for getting the best treatment, at the Nanavati Hospital - where the children were brought to in December.

Although it would have been easy to get completely free treatment from any doctors, there would be many other expenses of the children to be handled, and Irani requested Shah Rukh Khan for help.

Not only did Shah Rukh readily agree to the suggestion but he also visited the two orphans at the hospital and has promised to take them to his home in Bandra to play with his children, Aryan and Suhana.

'Mudassar suffered severe burns on his face, while Amina's arms and hand have been burnt - but there will not be permanent damage,' Irani said.

The two children have already undergone four surgeries which were performed by Atul Shah and L. Dhami - 'We don't know how many more surgeries they will required or when they can be discharged,' Irani said.

This is not the first time that 44-year-old actor has contributed to a noble cause - according to Irani, he has been doing it for nearly the past nine years.

'He has requested that this must be kept completely confidential, but the information somehow leaked out. There is no count of the number of children that he has helped so far,' Irani said.

A few years ago, Shah Rukh had donated Rs.5 million (Rs.50 lakhs) to the children's ward of the hospital in memory of his mother, Lateef Fatima Khan, who died 18 years ago.

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