Design Nature Artificially

Design Nature Artificially

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Lungee problem in U.A.E.

I happened to read of my friend’s post calling lungi as national dress of Kerala. I thought I should write how the lungi is seen in another part of world. Very few back in Kerala know that lungi has been banned in Sharjah, U.A.E. saying it is improper attire in public.

Here is the news came in Gulf News:

One sentence, the Asian man in the news said, caught my attention. "My lungi fully covered my legs. Why did the police have to arrest me while you see so many people wearing revealing dresses in public whom no one stops ?!". Almost all living in U.A.E. will know what exactly he meant by that. I would like to describe what he meant by that with some pictures

Men wearing lungis strolling in a Sharjah locality

Women with revealing dresses

Women with revealing dresses

Of course, I took these pictures from relevant news in U.A.E, but the message is clear. Now, I leave it to you to decide. During weekends 75% of the women visiting malls in U.A.E. would be wearing so-called-publicly-indecent clothes. The extreme case I saw was a European woman wearing net-like dress revealing her under garments and nudity. Comparatively, the thoub, which is worn in this part of the world, is the worst, especially when one walks against the wind wearing it. When some countries banned full face veil, it’s a violation to human rights, anti-democracy and all that. But the same, in fact… worst, is practiced here in the name of publicly indecent attire.

Sometimes these kind of news force me think of ongoing racism and dislike of Asians, which are common in this part of the world, though media always say otherwise.


Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Where Adventurer's and Romantics go....

Part I ..:) (Sorry if u find it too long ..simply couldn't resist writing about the place I found to be so amazingly beautiful :) )

Hope for the best… prepare for the worst…. persistence is the key… have alternate plans handy… the wisdom, I would say, was driven home from this entire trip to Wayanad…the picturesque hilly district set high in the western ghats to the north east of Kerala

A trip to Wayanad had been a long cherished dream… with planning and re-planning the dates for almost 2 years …people falling in and pulling out of the group till the last minute… a 2-3 days trip being resized to a single day... the whole trip being at the mercy of the monsoon… despite a couple of last minute disappointments and clashes, I am happy to have finally made to this paradisiacal hill town… and what’s more… been to Wayanad twice within a month….so much for the willpower of a hodophile…:)

The first trip which took me to Kuruva Dweep and Thirunelli (Tolpatti being exempted out of the plan in the last minute :( ) was with a close friend and friends of this friend… taking the route through Kuttiadi on an early June morning, we reached Mananthavady town in high spirits and great anticipation fuelled by the sights and smells during our ascend… the infrequent silvery white streaks of small waterfalls on the lush green face of hills, the mist that drifts through deep valleys, the stomach lurching feeling at the bends, the dropping temperature, the occasional brooks that flows down to road and the smell of woods…… the road to Wayanad itself gives a high sensation of what is next to come

Hiring a Jeep, Kuruva Dweep is a 10 km drive from Mananthavady. Nature has architected it as a uniquely beautiful delta system on the Kabini River. The forest covered island is in the in the form of 9 concentric rings ,with Kabini flowing through the rocky terrains in between. As you cross the rocky slippery streams and reach deeper into the woods the atmosphere becomes cooler and vegetation greener and thicker. Woody climbers overhanging the streams … green meadows, fallen rotting trees, occasional marks made by elephants. The surroundings are so serene that you will find yourself instinctively whispering in hushed tones lest you break the serene mediation of nature ….

The next destination that day was Thirunelli Temple, the ancient temple located on the foothills of Brahmagiri. According to mythology, Veda vyasa wrote the 18 existing Puranas. Epical tales goes the way that Lord Brahma was travelling round the Earth when he became attracted by the beauty of the area now known as Brahmagiri Hill. Descending on that spot, Brahma noticed an idol of Lord Vishnu set in a gooseberry (Nelli) tree. Legend has it that at Brahma’s request Vishnu promised that the waters of the area would wash away all sins (thus, the spring and river near the temple is called Papanasini – “washes away all sins”). Even today the head priest of the temple leaves a portion of the worship materials in the belief that Lord Brahma himself will come and perform Pooja rites deep in the holy hours of morning.

The famous incarnation of Lord Vishnu, Parasurama, is reputed to have visited Thirunelli and performed last rites at the death of his father sage Jamadagni. He also took immersion in the Papanasini to wipe away sins committed in killing Kshatriyas.

(coursety : wikepedia )
The unmatchable beauty of the forest that surrounds the temple, the cool fresh flavour of the mountain stream, Papanashini and the dark rocky nooks around the stream which seems to harbour the departed souls brings in a spine chilling sensation :). It was here where we were fortunate enough to spot a mountain squirrel amidst the tall standing trees….

The day that was coming to its end compelled us to return back… it was only a glimpse of the majestic beauty of this beautiful land and I was not yet full… longingly I pledged to return back and one of the group members supplied with the appropriate quote for the occasion . “If you really want to come again, you will definitely return.”

Where Adventurer's and Romantics go..contd

Yes!!!! I really wanted to and I did return… and I returned much sooner than I expected. This time with a bunch of family friends whom, I am proud to have successfully tempted to undertake the trip and another good friend (cum guide… owing his experience of being to Wayanad 8 times.:))

This time we took the Calicut-Mysore road. It was second week of June and monsoon had set in.Every single person who came to know about the plan had unified opinion... "The climate was too bad for a visit"… but hail the spirit of adventure and romanticism !!! :)

The climb filled me with the same awe and tranquility I had experienced the previous trip… may be a little more. This time Kuruva Dweep was excluded as it was closed down for visit owning to the heavy rain. So we decided to explore the other end… Sultan Batteri – originally the gun emplacement built by Tipu Sulthan. Our plan was to pick the forester friend who had kindly consented and enter the forest at Muthanga by 10 am. We were to proceed with seeing the rest of the places by afternoon. Little did we know that all the glorious plans were to be shuffled :P, thanks to the poaching team from Karnataka which required the forest staff to be on perambulation. So after discussing what would be the best under given circumstances, we were directed to meet another guide at Muthanga around 3 pm. So armed with the new schedule and visit to Pulpalli waterfalls and Pookode lake pushed to the end, we embarked on exploring Edakkal caves so famous for its pre-historic carvings and paintings. During the 1 hr drive my friend cum our guide filled us with some interesting facts about the forest and ecosystem. The tribes,who collect the precious grains resembling rice from old bamboos which perish after flowering, the poachers who arrive during the rains for the meat of Sambha deers, the Government rule that prohibit the removal of fallen and rotting trees from forests that are believed to harbour at least 300 species of micro flora… the tough life the forest guards and rangers undergo...

The rocky climb to Edakkal caves is almost a steep 90 degree 2 km… and the reward is the breathtaking view…. phantom hillocks shrouded in mist at a distance, the wet, glistening slippery moss covered rocks around, the musical sound of flowing water inside the caves and the mystique inscriptions… make one wonder about both... the miracles of nature and human spirit of exploration that took him atop to the caves…

Destination next was Muthanga forest. Exempted from the usual entrance fee, thanks to the forester friend :), we arrived at the check post by 3.00. We were in a jubilant mood… for the climate was merciful… apart from the occasional drizzle that was more like a pleasure added to the trip, it looked like the heavens were taking a break for the day allowing us to explore… and drink in the beauty of this paradise on earth. Our guide was a cheerful guy in early thirties and as we took the narrow gravel paved road into the forest, he started filling us with tit bits of his life among the flora and fauna.

Muthanga is one among the few areas of Wayanad that still retains its natural forest, though the peripheral part consist of artificial eucalyptus and teak plantations. During the British reign, forests of Wayanad were heavily exploited as a source of timber and other natural resources and eventually the lush green natural forests were replaced by sparse plantations of teak and eucalyptus. But thanks to the new government rule that prevents the falling and removal of trees (even the ones that have fallen due to natural causes). This is in light of the fact that these trees are known to harbour a minimum of 300 different species of micro flora

The narrow gravel paved road eventually tapered into muddy slushed path. The density of the vegetation was slowly on the rise. As the jeep progressed through the wet muddy tracks each one of us were on keen lookout for animals… the one spotting herds of deer, wild pigs or bisons popping up with excitement at the discovery. We were fortunate enough to spot a few herds of deer. And as we would spot an animal, we all would urge the driver to stop as close as possible for capturing them with our cams.

It’s a marvel how animals compensate their lack of speech with their eyes. As we passed through, the deers would give us surprised and startled look and in a moment sprint away disappearing into the bushes… as we entered deeper into the forests we were fortunate enough to spot elephants and wild pigs. A herd of dangerous looking bisons looked up from their lazy grazing and stared at us with a threatening fix, visibly irritated at the encroachment. The guide narrated the tale of terrific jungle fight that happened a month before between a bison and leopard that killed both. A team returning back reported the sighting of a leopard near the Karadimunda junction. We rushed to the Karadiguda junction fully aware of the fact that chances of seeing the wildcat again was but the remotest. The most powerful tool animals have against human invasion is camouflage. Once they hide, they blend so well with the environment that an animal footsteps away can go unnoticed even to an expert’s eye.

Evening was setting in… the sound of crickets echoes constantly in periphery, but the interior of the forest echoes with an eerie silence. A strange calmness shrouds the atmosphere successfully hiding the struggles, turmoil and secrets of the life that inhabits, from the peering human eyes…

Dusk was approaching accompanied by light drizzle, the mood of the jungle was changing and trees had started throwing dark shadows around… it was time to leave.

Driving back our jeep got stuck in a particularly slushy spot. As the guys got down to help, the guide joked about the possibility of an ambush… a freaky prospect indeed...:P

We boarded the bus, partially intoxicated by the sights and smells of the day and partially disappointed at the lack of time to visit few places that we had planned to. Nonetheless we were happy. Electrical lights were coming to life in the sparse human abodes in the valley. As we climbed down the ghats a fear gnawed at my heart, what would we do without the forests? Haven’t we lost enough of our lands to concrete jungles with places like this being our last retreat from the maddening crowd? Isn’t it high time we stop lest the world become one vast desert?

The fog and darkness was slowing down the bus… more time meant more of mountain breeze to us :)as all of us pledged in our hearts... to return again... and again and again :)



Tuesday, June 22, 2010

gulfnews : US indirectly funding Afghan warlords: report

gulfnews : US indirectly funding Afghan warlords: report

US indirectly funding Afghan warlords: report

Outsourcing has fueled protection racket, and payments have been made in exchange for safe passage, latest report reveals

  • Reuters
  • Published: 12:29 June 22, 2010

US military police patrol in  Kandahar
  • US military police of the 293rd Battalion gesture to locals as they patrol in Kandahar.
  • Image Credit: AFP

Washington: The United States is indirectly paying tens of millions of dollars in protection money to Afghan warlords, and potentially to the Taliban, to secure convoys carrying supplies to US troops in Afghanistan, congressional investigators said in a report.

The Pentagon's system of outsourcing to private companies the task of moving supplies in Afghanistan, and leaving it up to them to provide their own security, frees US troops to focus on counterinsurgency.

But its unintended consequences undermine U.S. efforts to curtail corruption and build an effective Afghan government, according to the report to be reviewed at a congressional hearing on Tuesday.

"This arrangement has fueled a vast protection racket run by a shadowy network of warlords, strongmen, commanders, corrupt Afghan officials, and perhaps others," Representative John Tierney, chairman of a House of Representatives national security subcommittee, said in a statement.

Tierney, a Democrat, said the system "runs afoul" of the Defense Department's own rules and may be undermining the US strategic effort in Afghanistan.

The report by the subcommittee's Democratic staff called protection payments "a significant potential source of funding for the Taliban," citing numerous documents, incidents reports and emails that refer to attempts at Taliban extortion along the road.

Congressional investigators began looking into the Defense Department's $2.16 billion Host Nation Trucking (HNT) contract in November 2009.

The contract covers 70 per cent of the food, fuel, ammunition and other supply distributions to US troops in Afghanistan.

"HNT contractors and trucking subcontractors in Afghanistan pay tens of millions of dollars annually to local warlords across Afghanistan in exchange for 'protection' for HNT supply convoys to support US troops," the report said.

"The HNT contractors frequently referred to such payments as 'extortion,' 'bribes,' 'special security,' and/or 'protection payments,'" the document said.

Many contractors have told US military officials that warlords were demanding protection payments in exchange for safe passage and that these payments were funding the insurgency, the report said. But the contractors concerns were never appropriately addressed, it said.

It faults the Pentagon for a lack of effective oversight of its supply chain and private security contractors.

"The Department of Defense has little to no visibility into what happens to the trucks carrying US supplies between the time they leave the gate to the time they arrive at their destination," the report said.

The congressional investigators said the Defense Department must take direct responsibility for the contractors to ensure robust oversight.

They also recommended a top-to-bottom evaluation of the secondary effects of the HNT contract, including an analysis of corruption and the impact on Afghan politics.


Rejuvenation, Regeneration and Regrowth

by Dan Eden for

Rejuvenation, Regeneration and Regrowth

A lot of what I write about is concerned about the ancient past or the very near future. This time, however, I'm writing about the here and now. I'll be telling you about an amazing discovery that allows humans to grow new parts for their body -- arms, legs, spinal nerves -- everything. I'll be telling you about how this discovery has revealed what has been described as "the fountain of youth" that can not only stop the aging process, but restore an old person to their youth. You will be surprised to learn that it has been known for quite a while and is the basis for the lore of Vampires and a woman called "The Bloody Lady of Cachtice." All of this is no fantasy. It's science and it's here and now.

I'll also be telling you something you may not want to hear. It is my hope that, after you read it, you will change your life. In fact, it's so important that I know you will.

An Arm and a Leg

A milestone was reached as scientists from the Wistar Institute announced a breakthrough in tissue regeneration in a mammal through the understanding and successful blocking of a single gene, p21[5]. This breakthrough clears the way for humans to re-grow a missing finger, arm, leg, or virtually any cellular tissue much the same way as Newts, sponges, flatworms and some fish already do.

First some background:

The newt is a small salamander that has been show to regenerate a limb or tail when it is accidentally lost. In laboratory experiments, when a leg is amputated, the wound immediately forms a seal to prevent blood loss. But unlike mammals which form a scar, the newt forms a blastema.

The blastema is a mass of undifferentiated cells -- much like the cells of an embryo -- which have the ability to change into skin, bone and vascular cells, as needed. These cells quickly undergo differentiation and reproduce to form the missing tissue and underlying structures to make the salamander whole again. The newt can not only regenerate an arm, leg or tail but can also do the same for its retina and intestines.

Another remarkable example of tissue regneration is found in the zebra fish. Only two inches long, it's found in many home aquariums. The zebra fish has been famous for growing lost fins, often the favorite "snack" for larger aquarium fish. Hobbyists have noted that these are completely re-grown with no signs of damage within a few weeks. But scientists are most interested in how this small fish can re-grow its damaged heart.[3]

In laboratory experiments the zebra fish's heart is clipped, severing the lower ventricle. Within seconds the wound clots and is sealed as cells covering the tiny heart rapidly grow to encase the chamber. The cells lining the heart then quickly divide to form new muscle cells, completely repairing the heart with no residual scar.

In mammals, like humans, damage to the heart muscle results in an inflexible scar which not only replaces the muscle with useless tissue but impedes the movement of the heart, causing it to overwork and eventually fail. Understanding how to re-grow and rejuvenate cardiac muscle -- like the zebra fish does -- would prevent the number one cause of death for humans.

Until now, this kind of regeneration was impossible for mammals. When humans suffer a traumatic injury, our bodies quickly mobilize a clotting factor to stop the bleeding. The clotted blood then forms a membrane that inhibits regeneration and later forms a scar. While the discovery of the function of gene p21, as you will see, will allow us to regrow lost parts, scientists are also quickly learning how to rejuvenate and re-grow damaged muscle fibers.

Mouse ears reveal the secret

Investigations of human diseases are often conducted on mice. Over the past decades mice have been bred to have certain genetic problems that mimic human diseases. In this way appropriate treatments can be evaluated in without the risk to humans. A certain mouse species called the Murphy Roths Large (MRL for short) varierty has been popular in studying auto-immune diseases like multiple sclerosis and diabetes. The MRL mice lack a gene called p21.

Experimenting with many different varieties of mice can get confusing. Some laboratories punch small holes in the animals' ears to readily identify their specific breed. This procedure was used at the Wistar Institute to identify the MRL mice in an experiment. But when the mice were left in their cages with other mice for several days these holes had completely healed! The tissue had vascularized and even re-grew hairs. Of course this totally ruined their experiment but it made the researchers curious about how and why this happened.

The answer was simple. The MRL mice lacked one gene -- p21 -- which, it turns out, stopped the membrane and scarring that prevents tissue rejuvenation. The absence of this single gene resulted in complete healing and re-growth of their cells. It was determined that this gene was responsible for preventing mammals from re-growing tissue like the salamander and zebra fish.

According to Dr. Ellen Heber-Katz of Wistar's Molecular and Cellular Oncogenesis program,

"Much like a newt that has lost a limb, these mice will replace missing or damaged tissue with healthy tissue that lacks any sign of scarring. While we are just beginning to understand the repercussions of these findings, perhaps, one day we'll be able to accelerate healing in humans by temporarily inactivating the p21 gene.

In normal cells, p21 acts like a brake to block cell cycle progression in the event of DNA damage, preventing the cells from dividing and potentially becoming cancerous. In these mice without p21, we do see the expected increase in DNA damage, but surprisingly no increase in cancer has been reported."

Experiments have since succeeded in regenerating a mouse limb on the MRL mice and the application of this gene manipulation should allow the same techniques to be used on humans who have suffered traumatic amputations. Scientists are now working on methods to temporarily shut off p21 in human tissue. The most efficient and safe way should be ready for trials very soon.

One promising method for shutting off a gene is called RNA Interference. RNA interference (RNAi), which naturally occurs in cells, is a process in which brief RNA sequences, called small interfering RNA (siRNA) block signals from a particular gene. This process, called gene silencing, inhibits the gene from carrying out its function of creating a protein or another gene product. The body often uses RNAi as a defense against the action of hostile viruses.

Over the past few years, biomedical researchers have been investigating how they might eventually harness RNAi in new medicines. Another line of research uses RNAi as a research tool, investigating the functions of specific genes by studying what happens when RNAi temporarily silences them -- a process calling "knocking down" the gene.

Teeth Also!

Robey is chief of the Craniofacial and Skeletal Diseases Branch at the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, part of the NIH. Says Robey,

For thousands of years, losing teeth has been a routine part of human aging. That's over. We're there, right now. A lot of people will go and never lose a tooth. With good health care and proper habits, there's no reason to lose a tooth, short of a knuckle sandwich.

Recently, a Japanese team from the Tokyo University of Science, led by associate professor Takashi Tsuji, reported in Nature Methods that it had successfully regrown a tooth from cells extracted from mouse embryos. The researchers were able to transplant the tooth into an adult mouse, and the tooth bud continued to grow to full size.

Teeth in mice, much like those in humans, form during embryonic development from two major cell types: epithelial and mesenchymal. Epithelial cells give rise to the outer enamel, while mesenchymal cells form a tooth's inner connective tissue and blood vessels. Takashi's team isolated both kinds of cells from multiple mouse embryos, then transferred them to a collagen gel culture, in which the cells interacted to form a tooth bud. Researchers then transplanted the bud into the liver of an adult mouse, where the increased blood supply aided further tooth formation. Finally, Takashi inserted the tooth into an empty cavity within the mouse's mouth, in which it grew to full size.

For humans, a better approach may be to use adult stem cells, which can be obtained from a patient's hair, skin, or other tissue; manipulated with the right molecular cues to form any kind of tissue; then transplanted back into the same person with less rejection problems. However, obtaining such cells from human bone marrow is a painful process. In the next three years, scientists hope to identify more-accessible stem cells that may be able to form not only teeth, but also -- and more important -- roots.

A group of researchers from the University of Southern California (USC) recently regrew tooth roots in pigs using adult stem cells from wisdom teeth. The team, led by Songtao Shi, assistant professor of USC's School of Dentistry, isolated stem cells from the extracted wisdom teeth of 18-to-20-year-old humans. From these cells, the researchers successfully recreated a tooth's root and periodontal ligament, which, when transplanted into the oral cavity of a pig, could support a synthetic crown. Shi says it is a promising start, and his team hopes to begin human trials within the next few years. Eventually, he envisions being able to isolate stem cells from sources such as wisdom teeth, then store them for future use should the patient require dental attention down the line.

In the next few years, Shi and others anticipate great strides in the area of tooth regeneration.

The Fountain of Youth

Regenerating certain cells has always been possible for the human body. But this natural ability has so far been limited to certain tissues that are subjected to extreme wear and tear. Our skin sheds and replaces billions of cells on a regular basis as does out liver and the cells that line our intestines. Our muscles also tear and are replaced, and it was when scientists examined this process that they discovered something amazing.

Muscle cells are shaped in long fibers that form bundles. Inside these bundles of muscle cells are special satellite cells. Satellite cells are stem cells. When stimulated, they are able to differentiate and to form new muscle fibres. These cells represent the oldest known stem cells and are involved in the normal growth of muscle, as well as regeneration following injury or disease.

Young and old muscle tissue have these satellite cells, but the cells in older muscle do not work as efficiently and so regeneration is slower or incomplete. This is why old age often manifests in muscle wasting and weakness.

Microscopic examination of satellite cells[1] reveals that they contain protruding organs called a notch delta. Half of this organ is outside the cell membrane (delta) and senses changes in the intercellular environment while the other half (notch) is surrounded by the cell's cytoplasm. The delta notch can sense the damage of neighboring muscle cells and triggers the nucleus to activate its RNA transcription and effect repairs. It is this ability to trigger regeneration that slows or stops in aged tissue. Although scientists could clearly observe these sluggish notch delta in aged satellite cells they didn't know why it was happening.

The breakthrough came when Thomas A. Rando of Stanford University[2] surgically joined pairs of mice like reconnected Siamese twins. He linked the animals' circulatory systems so that blood from each member of a pair flowed through both mice. One mouse in each pair was old; the other was young.

Rando wanted to find out whether the declines of satellite cells should be attributed to changes in the satellite cells themselves (faulty delta notch organs) or to changes in the cells' environment as the animals aged. Amazingly, the blood of the young mice completely restored the tissue-healing powers of the satellite cells in the older mice! The delta notch organs functioned with no problems. Rando showed that the decline is a response to changes in the blood, not the result of an inherent wearing out of the stem cells themselves.

"There clearly is an effect of aging on satellite cells. But I think the other question is ... are those changes reversible or irreversible?" --Rando

When satellite cells from old mice were isolated in a culture and the young serum (liquid part of blood) was applied, the same improvement in rejuvenation was observed. It seems that the serum of young blood is capable of not only stopping the age related deficiencies -- but of reversing it. The stem cells were not the problem; rather, it was their intracellular environment.

The leap from making mice more youthful to doing the same for humans is not that far. In fact, we have some rather gruesome evidence that this method has already been implemented.

In the 15th century there was the famous case of Elizabeth Bathory, the so-called "Bloody Lady of Cachtice," who bathed and consumed the blood of young virgins with the certainty that it kept her body young and healthy.

The Blood Lady of Cachtice

Countess Erzsebet Bathory aka the "Blood Countess" and the "Bloody Lady of Cachtice" was a Hungarian noblewoman who enjoyed torturing her servants and took up an interest in the black arts. Legend has it she was beating a servant girl for some minor infraction when the girl's blood spilled on her arm. Bathory immediately determined that her skin had improved where the blood landed, so she had the girl bled to death and bathed in her blood.

Although it seems unlikely, Bathory was convinced that this technique was making her young again, and she decided to keep it up. For about ten years she bathed in and drank the blood of kidnapped peasant girls on a regular basis. Eventually, her nobility was her downfall. She decided she needed a better quality of blood (possibly when her continued aging became too difficult to ignore), and started to prey on girls of higher birth. This obviously did not sit well with the nobility. They ordered her arrest.

More than six hundred and fifty girls (according to one witness) had fallen victim to Bathory's obsession with eternal youth. Her primary servants, the ones in charge of the bleeding, were sentenced to death, but it was considered gauche to try and execute nobles, so Erzsebet Bathory herself was never formally put on trial. In 1610, she was imprisoned in Cachtice Castle where she remained bricked in a set of rooms until her death four years later.

The Dwarfs of Equador

What is it in the young blood serum that can change an old body to a youthful one?

We know from experiments that once the youthful serum is removed from the old tissue, it reverts back to its former (older and slower) rejuvenation abilities. This is perhaps because the older serum lacks some special ingredient that's only produced in sufficient amounts in our youth.

Blood serum contains glucose, proteins, clotting factor, minerals and hormones. Since we are looking for a substance that changes with age, a good candidate might be a hormone called Insulin-like Growth Factor (called IGF-1) produced in the liver. This serum ingredient peaks around puberty but drops significantly in old age. Its production is stimulated by Growth Hormone (GH) that is produced in the pituitary (brain).

When mice were specifically bred to have naturally occurring high levels of IGF, induced damage to the heart (a heart attack) resulted in almost complete rejuvenation of the heart muscle with no scarring or fibrous tissue. This seems to suggest that IGF could be a good candidate for our "fountain of youth."

But wait. There's a problem.

In the southern Equador there is a group of people who suffer from a rare condition called Laron Dwarfism. Over 300 people have this disorder and they have been well studied. The Laron syndrome is characterized by small stature (not more than 4 feet in height), enlarged foreheads and DNA mutations that inhibit the production of IGF.

The blood of the Laron dwarfs may have the requisite amount of Growth Hormone (GH) circulating in their blood but the receptors for this important hormone don't function. This results in exceptionally low levels of IGF. You might think this is very bad and unhealthy -- right? Wrong.

Scientists are amazed that the Laron dwarfs have virtually no cancer or diabetes among their group! What's even more remarkable is that they live as much as 40 years beyond the normal population.

The Paradox

We have a paradox where high levels of IGF appear to have rejuvenating abilities for old tissue but, at the same time, the absence of IGF results in resistance to common diseases such as cancer and diabetes and a significant increase in lifespan. How can we resolve this?

While the role of genes and stem cells is rapidly being revealed by advances in science and technology, the goals of rejuvenation and regeneration continually face the great nemesis: cancer.

As our cells get older their DNA become shorter at each end (telomeres) because of slight misalignments, and genetic data is lost. Each time this wondrous molecule unwinds and reforms, the chance that a critical error will occur becomes greater. Mistakes actually happen all the time and mutations in our body are routinely cleared by our immune system or by the eventual death of these anomalous cells. (see Why do we age? on viewzone)

Naturally, as we get older, the replication errors become more common. By slowing down the growth and renewal of our tissue, the body is actually delaying the statistical probability that some cells will mutate and become cancerous. This is why Growth Hormones and IGF-1 decline with age. The ramping up of cell division among mutant cells would certainly mean a much earlier death.

The human lifespan can be thought of as having two phases. Youth is designed for reproduction and the continuation of the species. Accelerated cellular regeneration and rejuvenation is at a relatively low risk of cancer. The demands of survival require rapid repair of tissue and optimal strength. When the reproduction phase turns to old age the body seeks self-preservation and growth slows.

The experiments with co-joined mice, had they continued, might have shown that the older mice had greater rejuvenation abilities; however their risk of developing tumors could be expected to increase. But the temporary effects of youthful blood serum should be beneficial if it is applied to humans being treated for surgery or traumas. Perhaps we should be more careful about the age of blood donors. The aged homeless man selling his blood for ten dollars a pint might not be the best candidate for procuring emergency serum.


Stem Cells Repairing Hearts in Surgical Trials

The University of Utah is one of only six medical facilities conducting clinical trials on repairing damages heart muscled by infusing stem cells directly into failing hearts.

The stem cells are harvested from the patient's bone marrow and then are placed in bioreactor where they are incubated for twelve days. During this time, the weak stem cells, damaged by either age or illness, wither away. Then millions of the strong, rejuvenative stem cells are then gathered for the infusion.

Once injected into the patient's heart muscle, the new colony of cells act like homing beacons, sending out messages to different parts of the body.

So they actually send out little chemicals that go to all the local heart muscle and throughout the body that recruits other cells to the heart and so they work together to actually rebuild and remodel. --Dr. Amir Patel

Instead of a heart transplant -- which for many of these patients wasn't even an option -- nature's own mechanism is being called into play to make the repairs.

"We are not isolated to just an anecdotal one or two patients," Patel said. "We're seeing this in a majority of our patients. So, it's a very diverse population of men, women; different ages and different causes of heart failure."

At present the trials are limited and patients must volunteer for the treatment. The University of Utah team hopes soon to use a less invasive technique: snaking a catheter from the leg up into the heart, then infusing stem cells through that catheter into the heart from the inside out.

If you would like more information about the clinical trials, call 801-581-5311.

Now, that life changing thing I promised...

We've learned much about the benefits and hazards of IGF. Basically, unless you are very young and actively growing, you don't want excess levels of IGF in your body.

In January 2010, Amy Wager (Harvard) announced results that show increased levels of IGF in bone marrow significantly change the population of blood cells, producing less b-lymphocytes and more myeloid cells than normal. This is an unhealthy trend leading to an impediment of the immune system and an increase in the inflammatory reaction.

" We found that the aged osteoblasts show an increase or altered responsiveness to a particular growth factor called Insulin-like Growth Factor-1 (IGF1), which is a conserved regulator of longevity in many organisms. And when we neutralize IGF-1, specifically in the bone marrow where the osteoblast and blood stem cells live, we can restore more youthful interactions between these two cell types. That was pretty interesting because IGF has also been implicated in regulating stem cells in other tissues, particularly in the skeletal muscles -- although in the muscle it has an opposite effect."[4]

In doing this research I learned that most of the IGF in our diets comes from dairy products. Since milk is naturally produced to feed very young animals, it produces proteins that stimulate Growth Hormones and IGF. If that were not bad enough, farmers and milk producers often inject the cows with additional Bovine Growth Hormones (BGH) to stimulate their milk output. Although it is desirable in our growing years to grow strong bones and muscle, it has minimal value in older years of life. Unfortunately, by then milk consumption has become habitual.

Today's fast foods are rich in cheese. From cheeseburgers to pizzas to sub sandwiches, concentrated milk protein is being consumed in record amounts. Add a national addiction to ice cream and butter and the annual consumption is staggering. The result has been that people are getting bigger and living shorter lives because of cancer and heart diseases.

In the animal world, size and longevity go hand in hand. A small dog may live for 10 to 15 years while a large breed will be lucky to live half that age. Height in humans correlates with increased breast and colon cancer. Mice who were bred to have lower levels of IGF lived 40% longer than normal mice. In 1998, Science published a study that positively correlated high levels of IGF with human prostate cancer. The medical literature is now full of studies implicating IGF in arthritis, Alzheimers and a plethora of inflammatory diseases.

A recent study conducted in England showed that vegans had a 13% decrease in IGF compared to both meat eaters and so-called "lacto-vegans" (who consume dairy products). In America these studies are seldom conducted because of a powerful Dairy Lobby that promotes milk as a healthy part of the "essential food group." In short, aside from the arterial fat from dairy products, the stimulation of IGF is enough reason to never touch dairy products again.

But wait. There's more...

Sadly, there is one food that is even more dangerous to your IGF level -- soy. Soy products have been sown, gram for gram, to be twice as potent as milk in stimulating your body's production of IGF. So if you try to get away from dairy and beef by consuming soy milk or tofu you are moving in the wrong direction.

A little milk or soy now and then should not be harmful. But a diet of fresh vegetables, fruit and nuts will keep IGF levels low, your body free of replicating diseases and you should live a longer life.

"Go and sin no more".

[2] Rando TA, (2006), Stem cells, ageing and the quest for immortality. Nature, 441: 1080-1086
[5] Khamilia Bedelbaeva, Andrew Snyder, Dmitri Gourevitch, Lise Clark, Xiang-Ming Zhang, John Leferovich, James M. Cheverud, Paul Lieberman, and Ellen Heber-Katz. Lack of p21 expression links cell cycle control and appendage regeneration in mice. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2010; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1000830107


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Akshaya Tritiya and facts

I have been wondering quite a bit of time about Akshaya Tritiya and the importance of buying gold, as the gold jewellers say in their ads. Whether it is another superstitious belief as we Indians tend to fall in to such beliefs very easily or it is a time when jewellers try to give different kind of offers on gold.

I gave a quick search on google about this special occasion to know the truth. The first result itself gave me wealth of info on it. Here is the link; It is saying 'It is believed that bestowing upon religious gifts on Akshaya Tritiya becomes inexhaustible', which I still fail to understand on what ground!!! Since the word 'Akshaya' means 'never diminishing', I believe people buy gifts especially gold on this special day to have a feeling that it will never get damaged, lost or diminished.

The religious significance associated with this special day is one thing, which I respect. But the superstitious belief developed out of this special day is something hard to digest. Also some traders take advantage of this superstitious belief to sell off their goods and push the people more into the deepness of superstitious world.


Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Fooled... :P

April Fool Banaaya ... :)
To Unako Gussa Aaya ....
To Mera Kya Qasoor..
Zamaane Ka Qasoor....
Jisne Dastoor Banaaya … ;)

Remember Biswajeet and Saira Bano …J The slacker Ashok , Whose favorite day is fool's day, April 1st, who falls in love with gorgeous Madhu, and then become target of an international gang, when a practical joke hits the truth….:)

:D One of the innumerable obligations the generation today has been entrusted upon seems to be ritualistic observation of the numerous days dedicated to one cause or the other…mom, dad ,valentine, environment……., ……,……today ….the fools day ..:D

So here goes, my wishes to everyone planning pranks, and to the gullible ones destined to be the victims of the pranks “Happy April fools day” someone rightly said … “All of us are invariably fools ,only the degree to which our foolishness is expressed varies…..:D he he or was that mad and madness….whatever

Well, its long since I have grown out of the tendency to derive pleasure from making others fools.. :P (Not accusing anyone…)…. well most probably because, back at college and hostel I have found myself to be one of the most preferred targets of hoaxes and practical jokes of my friends…the aversion causing wooden snakes under pillow, midnight SOS ..Jokes that can leave you Rolling on the floor laughing or can spoil an entire day causing irritation…

The origins of April fool day or All fool days are uncertain. ..While Some see it as a celebration related to the turn of the seasons, while others believe it stems from the adoption of a new calendar. Ancient, including those of the Romans and Hindus ,celebrated New Year's Day on or around April 1. It closely follows the vernal equinox (March 20th or March 21st.) In medieval times, much of Europe celebrated March 25, the Feast of Annunciation, as the beginning of the new year.

In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII ordered a new calendar (The Gregorian calendar) to replace the old Julian Calendar. The new calendar called for New Year's Day to be celebrated Jan. 1. That year, France adopted the reformed calendar and shifted New Year's day to Jan. 1. According to a popular explanation, many people either refused to accept the new date, or did not learn about it, and continued to celebrate New Year's Day on April 1. Other people began to make fun of these traditionalists, sending them on "fool's errands" or trying to trick them into believing something false. Eventually, the practice spread throughout Europe.

But this doesn’t fully account for the spread of April Fools' Day to other European countries. The Gregorian calendar was not adopted by England until 1752 while the idea of April fools day was popular before that.

Another explanation of the origins of April Fools' Day was provided by Joseph Boskin, a professor of history at Boston University. He explained that the practice began during the reign of Constantine, when a group of court jesters and fools told the Roman emperor that they could do a better job of running the empire. Constantine, amused, allowed a jester named Kugel to be king for one day. Kugel passed an edict calling for absurdity on that day, and the custom became an annual event. "In a way," explained Prof. Boskin, "it was a very serious day. In those times fools were really wise men. It was the role of jesters to put things in perspective with humor."

(Courtesy :

Whatever , triggered the tradition ..the idea sure seem to have caught on…J …but then Did u know that not just the all fools day, April is also the US National poetry month , National Parkinson's Disease Awareness Month. The Japanese school calendar also starts from April 1,and other dates like World health day (April 7),Buddha's Birthday (April 8) ,Thai,Lao and Khmer New year (April 13),Earth day (April 22),falls this month enjoy….with harmless pranks of course


Monday, March 29, 2010

IPL, Indian Premier League, is not a game, but a gambling

I found this article in one of the popular newspaper of Kerala and rather interesting. I thought of translating most of it here. Courtesy to Prof. P.J. James

IPL, The Indian Premier League, has become one of the largest money making business or rather let's call it gambling. It's being nourished by liquor lobbies, cinema and corporate worlds mainly as the return is beyond their imagination. According to global sports salaries review IPL is the second highest-paid league, based on first-team salaries on a pro-rata basis, only second to NBA league. Cricket fans of Kerala were very concerned for quite some time for not being involved in the party.

As cricket has turned to be a money making gambling and as a part of involving Cochin, which is considered to be the financial capital of the state, in the game, a group led by one of the popular film actor has made an attempt to buy a franchisee for Kerala, but got a blow when heard of new changes made to own one. What do we make of it ?! That our beloved starts are not able to play in a level where international and national money rackets are playing ?! If IPL has made 2840 crores (633 million US$) in 2008, now bidding of 2 teams alone (Cochin and Pune) has made 3235 crores (721 million US$). This shows how big the money mafia or gambling world has grown in these 3 years. The disappointing return of mollywood bullies, who went with a math of 2008, with empty hand suggests that suggests their failure to see the scope of money laundering happening behind the screen.

This is where the importance of involvement of corporate world becomes apparent. Corporate giants and ruling party front lines played major roles in making Cochin an IPL center. The external affairs minister Shashi Tharoor has appeared as the brain behind franchisee, Rendezvous Sports World Ltd., to bid Rs 1,533 crore (333 million US$) to get Kochi one of the two new IPL teams from the next season. This shows how well are corporate and political giants together are involved in this gambling world. those so-called cricket fans, who think the new formation of IPL team in Cochin will give opportunities and widen the scope of cricket game, are living in a world of fantasy.

Those including liquor mafia, share holders, sponsers, ad agencies, media channels, etc., who throw large money from their pockets have got only one intention. Return their investment multiplied many times in a short period of time. Encouraging the cricket as a sport has long gone in the air. I was laughing when I thought of bidding players could be compared to bidding bulls for bullfights in Tamilnadu or Gladiators in old Roman empire. Even the best players, if went without support of those with bulk pockets, will not be entertained or the doors will be closed for them. It is almost sure that not a single player from Kerala apart from Tinu Yohannan and Sreishanth, who came into cricket world even before IPL started, will not see themselves in IPL. Rumours are that team will have national and international players only. Well, let's put our share also :) by finding a catchy name for the team like Rajastan Royals, Kolkata Knight Riders, Chennai Super Kings, etc.


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