Sunday, November 10, 2013

No quota for faculty posts in super speciality medical courses: SC

10 11 2013
No quota for faculty posts in super speciality med courses: SC
The Supreme Court ruled that there can be no reservation in appointment for faculty posts in speciality and super speciality courses in medical colleges including the prestigious All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS). 
A five-judge constitutional bench headed by Chief Justice Altamas Kabir said it cannot take a contrary view expressed in 1992 by a nine-judge bench in the Indra Sawhney case, also known as the Mandal case, that there could be no compromise with merit at the super speciality stage. “We cannot take a different view, even though it has been suggested that such an observation (of Mandal verdict) was not binding, being obiter in nature. “We cannot ascribe to such a view since the very concept of reservation implies mediocrity and we will have to take note of the caution indicated in Indra Sawhney’s case,” the bench also comprising justices S S Nijjar, Ranjan Gogoi, M Y Eqbal and Vikramajit Sen said in a unanimous judgement.
Referring to various judgements including that of the Mandal case, it said, “We impress upon the Central and State Governments to take appropriate steps in accordance with the views expressed in Indra Sawhney’s case and in this case, as also the other decisions referred to above, keeping in mind the provisions of Article 335 (claims of SC/ST to service and posts) of the Constitution.”
The court pronounced its verdict on the plea of the Faculty Association of AIIMS against a Delhi High Court judgement. The Faculty Association had contended that there cannot be any reservation for faculty posts to speciality and super speciality faculty courses in AIIMS.
AIIMS and the Centre had however taken a contrary stand and had pleaded that the reservation be given to SC/STs and Backward classes candidates in appointment to assistant professors and other senior posts in speciality and super speciality courses.

MR Gene halts cancer growth discovered

10 11 2013
Gene that halts cancer growth discovered
Scientists have identified a “master regulator” gene that, when repressed in cancer cells, puts a halt to tumours and stops them from enlarging and spreading to distant sites.
Researchers hope the gene may be the key to developing a new treatment for tumours resistant to current drugs. This master regulator is normally turned off in adult cells, but it is very active during embryonic development and in all highly aggressive tumours studied to date,” said Linda Resar, from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “Our work shows for the first time that switching this gene off in aggressive cancer cells dramatically changes their appearance and behaviour,” said Resar. Resar has been investigating genes in the master regulator’s family, known as high mobility group or HMG genes, for two decades. In addition to their role in cancer, these genes are essential for giving stem cells their special powers, and that’s no coincidence, she said. “Many investigators consider cancer cells to be the evil twin of stem cells, because like stem cells, cancer cells must acquire special properties to enable the tumour to grow and metastasise or spread to different sites,” she said. In the newly reported study, the Resar’s team applied the same techniques to several strains of human breast cancer cells in the laboratory, including the so-called triple negative cells – those that lack hormone receptors or HER2 gene amplification. The Resar team blocked HMGA1 expression in aggressive breast cancer cells and followed their appearance and growth patterns. “The aggressive breast cancer cells grow rapidly and normally appear spindle-shaped or thin and elongated. Remarkably, within a few days of blocking HMGA1 expression, they appeared rounder and much more like normal breast cells growing in culture,” said Resar. The team also found that the cells with suppressed HMGA1 grow very slowly and fail to migrate or invade new territory like their HMGA1-expressing cousins. Researchers next implanted tumour cells into mice to see how the cells would behave. The tumours with HMGA1 grew and spread to other areas, such as the lungs, while those with blocked HMGA1 did not grow well in the breast tissue or spread to distant sites.

1.3 million people died of TB worldwide in 2012

10 11 2013
TB killed 1.3 million people worldwide in 2012, while India alone accounted for 26 percent of total TB cases globally, the WHO said as it expressed concern over drug-resistant forms of the disease. 
The “Global tuberculosis report 2013″ released here found that global TB deaths decreased to 1.3 million in 2012, which is 100,000 less than the previous year.
Approximately 75 per cent of total TB deaths occurred in the African and South-East Asia Regions in 2012. India and South Africa accounted for about one-third of global TB deaths, the report said.
The report also found that the number of people ill with TB fell to 8.6 million in 2012. The largest number of incident cases in 2012 were India (2.0 million-2.4 million), China (0.9 million1.1 million) and South Africa (0.4 million0.6 million), the report said.
The majority of TB cases worldwide in 2012 were in the South-East Asia (29 per cent), African (27 per cent) and Western Pacific (19 per cent) regions. India also accounted for 31 per cent of the estimated 2.9 million missed TB cases people who were either not diagnosed or diagnosed but not reported to National Tuberculosis Programmes (NTPs), the report said.
WHO also expressed concern over multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) which claimed 170,000 lives in 2012. The agency estimates that 450,000 people fell ill with (MDR-TB) last year, with the highest burden in China, India and the Russian Federation.
The report also revealed that between 1995 and 2012, 56 million people were successfully treated for TB in countries that had adopted WHO’s global TB strategy, saving 22 million lives.
The new data confirm that the world is on track to meet the 2015 UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) target of reversing TB incidence, along with the target of a 50 per cent reduction in the mortality rate by 2015 (compared to 1990), the report said.
“Quality TB care for millions worldwide has driven down TB deaths,” said Dr Mario Raviglione, WHO Director of the Global TB Programme.
“But far too many people are still missing out on such care and are suffering as a result. They are not diagnosed, or not treated, or information on the quality of care they receive is unknown,” Raviglione said in a statement. 

A blood test to detect gastrointestinal disorders

10 11 2013
New blood test to detect gastrointestinal disorders
Scientists have for the first time developed a blood test to determine if a person is suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), or another serious condition such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). 
Researchers have conclusively identified a test for antibodies that form against a particular protein, vinculin, found in the guts of patients, many of whom suffered acute gastroenteritis at some point.  “This is a major breakthrough. It is the first test with a high specificity for IBS, likely based on a pathological mechanism of the disease,” said Cedars-Sinai physician researcher Mark Pimentel, co-author of the study.
In the study, 221 patients were evaluated; some had a diagnosis of IBS, some were diagnosed with IBD and some were healthy, with no symptoms. Anti-vinculin antibodies were significantly elevated in IBS patients as compared to those with IBD or those who were healthy.
“Until this study, there had been no accurate biomarkers identified specifically for IBS. The new blood test has the potential to distinguish IBS from IBD and reduce the need for unnecessary testing, expense and years of suffering,” said Pimentel.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome is a gastrointestinal disorder characterised by diarrhea, bloating and abdominal pain. However, millions of patients are never diagnosed correctly.
A simple blood test at the first sign of symptoms means patients who have IBS could get effective treatment sooner.
The research was presented at the American College of Gastroenterology’s 78th Annual Scientific Meeting in San Diego.

New bio patch uses DNA to regrow bone

10 11 2013
New bio patch uses DNA to regrow bone
Indian-origin scientists have developed a revolutionary new bio patch which can regrow missing or damaged bones from within the body.
Researchers at the University of Iowa created the bio patch to regenerate bones by putting DNA into a nano-sized particle that delivers bone-producing instructions directly into cells.
The bone-regeneration kit relies on a collagen platform seeded with particles containing the genes needed for producing bone.
n experiments, the gene-encoding bio patch successfully regrew bone fully enough to cover skull wounds in test animals. It also stimulated new growth in human bone marrow stromal cells in lab experiments.
The study is novel in that the researchers directly delivered bone-producing instructions – using piece of DNA that encodes for a platelet-derived growth factor called PDGF-B – to existing bone cells in vivo, allowing those cells to produce the proteins that led to more bone production.
“We delivered the DNA to the cells, so that the cells produce the protein and that’s how the protein is generated to enhance bone regeneration,” said Aliasger Salem, co-corresponding author on the paper.
The researchers believe the patch could be used to rebuild bone in the gum area that serves as the concrete-like foundation for dental implants.
That prospect would be a “life-changing experience” for patients who need implants and don’t have enough bone in the surrounding area, said Satheesh Elangovan, joint first author, as well as co-corresponding author, on the paper.
It also can be used to repair birth defects where there’s missing bone around the head or face.
“We can make a scaffold in the actual shape and size of the defect site, and you’d get complete regeneration to match the shape of what should have been there,” Elangovan said.
The team loaded the bio patch with synthetically created plasmids, each of which is outfitted with the genetic instructions for producing bone.
They then inserted the scaffold on to a 5 by 2mm missing area of skull in test animals. Four weeks later, the team compared the bio patch’s effectiveness to inserting a scaffold with no plasmids or taking no action at all.
The plasmid-seeded bio patch grew 44-times more bone and soft tissue in the affected area than with the scaffold alone,and was 14-fold higher than the affected area.

10K feared dead in typhoon-ravaged Philippines

10 11 2013
More than 10,000 feared dead in typhoon-ravaged Philippines
A super typhoon that destroyed entire towns across the Philippines is believed to have killed more than 10,000 people, authorities said on Sunday, which would make it the country’s deadliest recorded natural disaster.
The horrifying new feared death toll from Super Typhoon Haiyan came as the United States pledged military help in the relief effort and as countless survivors across a huge swathe of the country remained without aid for a third day.Ten thousand people were believed to have been killed in the worst-hit province on Leyte, regional police Chief Elmer Soria told reporters in Tacloban, the devastated provincial capital.
“We had a meeting last night with the governor and, based on the government’s estimates, initially there are 10,000 casualties (dead). About 70 to 80 per cent of the houses and structures along the typhoon’s path were destroyed,” Soria said.
The scenes in Tacloban, a city of 220,000 people, and other coastal towns were reminiscent of a tsunami aftermath, with concrete slabs the only part of many homes remaining, vehicles flipped over and power lines destroyed.
“This is destruction on a massive scale. There are cars thrown like tumbleweed and the streets are strewn with debris,” said Sebastian Rhodes Stampa, the head of a UN disaster assessment coordination team, in Tacloban.
“The last time I saw something of this scale was in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami,” he said, referring to the 2004 disaster that claimed about 220,000 lives.
Haiyan hit Leyte and the neighbouring island with maximum sustained winds of around 315 kilometres on Friday, and generated waves up to three metres high that surged deep inland.
However, while Leyte was believed to have been the worst hit, the carnage extended across a 600-kilometre stretch of islands through the central Philippines.
A few dozen other deaths had been confirmed in some of these areas, but authorities admitted they were completely overwhelmed and many communities were still yet to be contacted.
“We’re still establishing command and control through logistics and communications,” military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Ramon Zagala told.

Address Impacts of Small Hydel Projects

10 11 2013

Over 47 experts and organisations from across the country have written to the Ministry of Environment and Forests, including the Minister Ms. Jayathi Natarajan to include hydel projects between 1-25 MW under the purview of EIA Notification 2006. A similar letter has been sent to the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy and Minister Dr. Farooq Abdulla, to address the impacts of these projects which are governed by the MNRE

Those who have written include eminent personalities like Former Water Resources Secretary: Dr. Ramaswamy Iyer, Former Ambassador of India: Ms. Madhu Bhaduri, Former Secretary of Power and Principle Advisor to Planning Commission: Dr. EAS Sarma, Former member of MoEF’s Forest Advisory Committee: Dr. Ullas Karanth, Head of IISC’s Centre for Ecological Sciences: Dr. TV Ramachandran, Head of People’s Science Institute: Dr. Ravi Chopra, experts from energy field, as well as activists, fisheries experts, scientists and importantly, representatives from affected communities

The letter states that “Small Hydel Projects (SHPs) are exempt from environmental impact assessment, public hearing, and environmental management plan as EIA Notification 2006 restricts itself to projects above 25 MW. The local communities are specifically affected due to this omission as they do not have a platform to voice their concerns. SHPs can have and are having severe impacts on communities and ecosystems” 

The letter states examples of projects with severe impact, which include projects like Greenko’s 24.75 MW Kukke I  from Karnataka, which will submerge 388 hectares of Western Ghats forests, 4.5 MW Hul Project which is being opposed severely by remote villages in Himachal as it will affect drinking water and irrgation water sources, Greenko’s Perla and Shemburi projects also in Karnataka which are shown to be different projects on paper , but are in reality a single big project across Netravathi, etc.

The letter demands that MoEF should urgently amend EIA Notification 2006 to include these projects in the ambit of Environmental Clerance while the MNRE needs to address the impacts of these projects, while providing incentives. MNRE’s recent report on social and environmental impacts of Renewable energy projects did not mention hydel projects at all.

We hope that the agencies will take the necessary steps urgently.

Letters to both ministries are attached herewith.
Parineeta Deshpande-Dandekar
South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers and People (SANDRP)
+91 9860030742

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