Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Busting the popular myth, researchers now argue that children, who are ill, should be given all types of healthy food and in more quantity for quick recovery from disease

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad:  Busting the popular myth, researchers now argue
that children, who are ill, should be given all types of healthy food
and in more quantity for quick recovery from disease.

“Disease consumes calories. Food restriction in illness leads to
calorie deprivation and malnutrition, with frequent illnesses.
Malnutrition causes mucosal damage and lowers immunity, leading to a
vicious cycle of infection and malnutrition,” clarifies senior
researcher Dr Asha D Benakappa, who led a research study on the myths
associated with diet during childhood illness.

The department of paediatrics, Bangalore Medical College and Research
Institute, collected data on the food myths among child caregivers
belonging to different religious communities and social strata. The
researchers from the Institute led by Dr Asha found that even educated
parents and doctors followed food myths and deprived the ill child of
the much-needed nutrition to recover from illness and boost the
immunity. The concept of “hot” and “cold’ food is a popular myth.

“Fifty per cent to 70 per cent of the burden of childhood diarrhea and
respiratory infections is attributable to undernutrition. It is
compounded by food restriction during illness due to false beliefs. In
the long run, it decreases the child's productivity, which is an
obstacle to sustainable socioeconomic development,” she told this

The research study suggested that when a child is recovering, an extra
meal for two weeks is needed. A child’s illness is a crucial moment
for counselling of child feeding. In case of diarrhoea, a child needs
more protein that is animal. It is a myth that non-vegetarian food
should not be given to ill children, particularly when they are
suffering from diarrhoea. The animal protein is relatively better than
protein from vegetable sources.

Any rise in body temperature (fever) means consumption of more
calories. On one hand, the disease consumes calories and on the other,
the child is deprived of the required calories thanks to food myths.
This in other words means double deprivation of energy, which leads to

“Caregivers believe that a child must be fed less during illness.
Educational status did not play a role in maintaining beliefs, but
elders and religion did. Doctors too were responsible for unwanted
dietary restrictions,” she said.

Some of the myths about food include only idlis, rice and bread are
good for respiratory illness; idlis and rice along with milk and
buttermilk in case of gastroenteritis, and idlis and biscuits in case
of fever and small skin infections (Pyoderma). It is also a myth that
eating sprouted seeds leads to cold; sugar causes cough in infants;
and milk causes vomiting, jamoon (black plum) decreases diarrhea, holy
water cures measles, milk and sugar produce worms in the gut, biscuits
increase sputum during illness, and undiluted milk forms clots and
blocks the gut.

Dr Asha warned that if food is limited during illness, the child could
suffer from severe malnutrition with repeated illnesses. Eighty
percent of the nutrition-related mortality is associated with a mild
form of malnutrition, according to the WHO reports.

Myocardial infarction or death of heart muscle is one of the major reasons for heart attacks. However, the damage to the heart tissue can now be repaired using stem cell technology: Prof Stephen Minger

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad:  Myocardial infarction or death of heart muscle is
one of the major reasons for heart attacks. However, the damage to the
heart tissue can now be repaired using stem cell technology.

According to eminent scientist Prof Stephen Minger, stem cell
technology has made it possible to repair heart tissue damaged by
myocardial infarction. There is no need to cut open the chest to gain
access to the heart muscle. Heart cells, cultured in laboratory using
stem cells, can be implanted in the heart through a catheter from one
of the arms. The patient can go home the same day.

Myocardial infarction takes place if blood supply to the heart is
stopped for a long time. The damaged tissue can be repaired using the
stem cell technology. India, with a billion-plus people, is all set to
play a key role in stem cells and regenerative medicine, he says
adding, “If India and China could bank even one per cent of their
annual births, they could supply stem cells to the whole world”.

Prof Stephen Minger, who heads the global research and development at
GE Healthcare, UK, told this correspondent “in about five year’s time
it would be possible to repair heart tissue damaged by myocardial
infarction and to replace neuronal cells lost in Parkinson’s and
Alzheimer’s diseases”.

Heart cells derived from stem cells of bone marrow have been implanted
successfully in a patient. Animal studies are on with regard to heart
cells generated from umbilical cord. The stem cell technology is also
helpful to transplant new insulin producing cells for diabetics and
myelinating cells for individuals afflicted with multiple sclerosis,
and to replace bone and cartilage lost through aging and inflammatory

“The generation of specific populations of defined subtypes of human
cells has tremendous potential to revolutionise the fields of drug
discovery and investigation into the cellular bases of human disease,”
Prof Stephen Minger pointed out. He is currently in Hyderabad to
create awareness for public banking of cord blood.

Prof Stephen Minger is known worldwide for his research in growing
cells, not in a petri dish, but at an industrial scale that could one
day supply zillions of stem cells to millions of people to repair
diseased organs.

“The newly emerging field of regenerative medicine will fundamentally
alter clinical medicine and significantly influence our perceptions of
aging, health and disease, with a myriad of consequences for society,”
he added.

Three new embryonic stem cell lines, including one that encodes the
most common genetic mutation resulting in cystic fibrosis, have been
generated. He said the Stem Cell Biology Laboratory of GE is focused
on the generation of a number of therapeutically relevant human
somatic stem cell populations from embryonic stem cells. These include
cardiac, vascular, retinal, and neural stem/progenitor cell
populations and pancreatic Beta cells.

Stem cells the only alternative in end stage heart failure

By Syed Akbar
Hyderabad:  Patients with end stage heart failure need not
despair any longer. A team of cardiologists led by eminent heart
specialist Dr KM Cherian has successfully improved the heart condition
of dozens of patients, who otherwise did not respond to any kind of

In the last three years as many as 56 patients with end stage heart
failure received stem cell therapy. The functioning of their heart
showed considerable improvement and many of them are leading a normal
life, doing their daily chores.

The medical breakthrough achieved by Dr Cherian and his team was
presented at the ongoing international conference on stem cells and
regenerative medicine at the Indian School of Business here. Dr
Cherian, who could not attend the conference, is the founding chairman
of Frontier Lifeline Hospital and Dr KM Cherian Heart Foundation in
Chennai. He is credited with performing India’s first coronary artery
bypass surgery 37 years ago.

The patients, who underwent stem cell therapy, were not fit for
maximal medical therapy, angioplasty, ventricular remodeling, coronary
artery bypass or cardiac resynchronization Therapy (CRT) devices. The
only alternative left for them was to undergo heart transplant. As the
need for transplantable heart far outweighs the availability supply,
the patients opted for stem cell therapy, which had improved their

According to the presentation, post stem cell therapy follow-ups were
performed with echocardiography (ECG) and revaluations of B-type
Natriuretic Peptide (BNP) levels and signs and symptoms after three
months, six months and one year. There was no procedural mortality or

Three patients, who were suffering from severely deranged cardiac
function and single or double graftable coronary arteries, underwent
mesenchymal stem cell injection into the myocardium. Seven patients
had endothelial progenitor cell injection into the coronary or into
the myocardium directly, by catheter or by surgery respectively. A
large group of 42 patients received autologous bone marrow mononuclear
cells (MNC) in their heart by catheter or surgical interventions.

“All patients tolerated the procedure well. Viability of MNCs was
about 99 per cent. Ejection fraction increased in 97 per cent of
patients. Symptomatically all the patients did fairly well. In seven
patients post therapy first follow up showed regression in Mitral
regurgitation, and the mitral annular size. All these improvement
showed a slow rise till the sixth month after which improvement in13
patients declined,” the presentation said.

The team noted that cardiac stem cell therapy is a safe therapeutic
tool for the no-option cardiac failure patients. It can be a tool for
bridge to transplant. Monitoring of all the patients’ data shows that
repeated therapy at an interval of six months may be a practiced
modality of treatment.

Designer rice variety in the offing: Society for Advancement of Rice Research and Indian Council of Agricultural Research take the lead

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: Imagine a new variety of rice that can grow in
harsh environments, get nutrients on its own and is capable of
fighting pests without any intervention by farmers. Scientists have
now harped on the idea of developing “sow-and-forget” designer rice
that could meet the future food needs of people in an over-populous

Visionary rice researchers from different parts of the country will
soon converge in Hyderabad to come out with “wild and weird” ideas on
developing a designer variety of rice that can withstand the
challenges of climate change. The question before the rice scientists
is “Can we make rice plant meet its nutrient needs on its own, grow
well under water limited conditions and defend itself against biotic
(pests) and abiotic (environment) stresses, but still produce more
with nutritionally enhanced grain?”

The Society for Advancement of Rice Research, the Indian Council of
Agricultural Research, the Department of Biotechnology and Acharya NG
Ranga Agricultural University will sponsor a dialogue on “designer
rice for future” at the Directorate of Rice Research in the city. The
idea is to pool the national scientific talent to develop a rice
variety for the future using recent advances in biosciences.

The need for the designer rice gains significance as rice is the
staple food for more than one-half of the people on the earth. Current
trends of rice production are in pace with the demands of the growing
population across Asia, Africa and South America. However, changes in
the economy and lifestyles of the region are going to be more
demanding in quantity and quality of the commodity.

According to ICAR scientists involved in the project, shrinking
natural resources like land, water, plant genetic resources and the
inevitable adverse effects of the changing climate, are bound to
decelerate growth rates in rice production and productivity. This
throws up the challenge: whether existing rice genotypes be able to
meet the future requirement of food and nutrition. The answer lies in
the new designer rice, they argue.

H1N1: Novel human influenza virus resurfaces in India, doctors suspect minor drift

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: The novel human influenza virus has resurfaced in
the country, this time quite early, with dozens of sporadic cases
reported from different States including Andhra Pradesh and
Maharashtra, even as authorities plan to screen passengers at airports
if there was no let up in the spread of the disease.

With the novel human influenza or H1N1 virus choosing summer to create
panic, virologists are busy decoding the genome of the circulating
strain to ascertain whether it has mutated since the 2009 pandemic to
adapt itself to dry climate conditions.

Though influenza viruses strike round the year, they normally become
active during monsoon and winter as they are better adapted to wet
climatic conditions and low temperatures. Summer has caught up in many
parts of the country with mercury soaring past 35 degrees C. That the
novel human influenza virus has chosen summer to strike with large
number of sporadic cases has forced scientists to think if the virus
has mutated, and if so, to what extent. If the mutation in the virus
is a major one, a new vaccine has to be developed.

The National Institute of Virology in Pune has taken up the task of
sequencing the genome of the latest strain. The results are expected
later this week. Andhra Pradesh recorded about 50 cases of novel human
influenza so far this year with three patients succumbing to the
virus. Maharashtra and Rajasthan have been worst hit so far, and
authorities in Andhra Pradesh, given the havoc the virus had caused in
the past, have increased surveillance in border areas and major cities
like Hyderabad, Vijayawada and Visakhapatnam.

“We will think of screening passengers at airports for swine flu if
the number of cases increase rapidly. The vaccine administered earlier
has lost its potency since influenza vaccine protects for one year
only. People will have to take vaccine again if they need fresh
protection,” said Dr Uma Maheshwari, Hyderabad district medical and
health officer. She said depending on the need special camps would be
set up to prevent spread of the disease.

Allaying fears Hyderabad district immunization officer Dr C
Srinivasulu said there was no cause for panic as only sporadic cases
have been reported. There is no outbreak as of now. He said it was not
clear whether the virus had mutated. Dr Srinivasulu, however, said the
virus had been responding to drugs like Tami flu.

The virus has undergone mutation in the West and Indian health experts
believe that the mutation in the virus circulating in the country is a
minor one. In Mumbai, doctors have observed a change in the clinical
manifestation of H1N1 with not many patients reporting fever.
Scientists at NIV agree that there is a change in the antigenicity of
the virus, but since the mutation is a small one scientifically called
“drift”, the virus responds to the present drugs.

India has moved a step forward in critical nuclear technology with the Nuclear Fuel Complex indigenously developing and manufacturing steam generator tubes, an important component in nuclear power reactors

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: India has moved a step forward in critical nuclear technology with

the city-based Nuclear Fuel Complex indigenously developing andmanufacturing steam generator tubes, an important component in nuclear power reactors.

Only three companies in the world manufacture steam generator tubesand the Nuclear Fuel Complex has now joined the elite club. Thanks tothe NFC, India has indigenized the critical nuclear technology forwhich the country had hitherto depended on imports. The first batch ofsteam generator tubes were formally handed over here on Monday to theLarsen and Toubro, which has bagged the contract for two nuclear powerplants.

“The steam generator tubes form critical technology and foreigncompanies had either delayed the process of delivery at the eleventhhour or jacked up the price without prior notice. Now that NFC hasindigenized the technology, no one can hold India to ransom,” saidMadhukar Vinayak Kotwal, president (heavy engineering), L&T Limited.

According to NFC chief executive Dr RN Jayaraj, the steam generator(UNS NO8800 U) tubes are among the most critical components in steamgenerators for nuclear power plants. “Successful indigenizationreflects a deepening of India’s manufacturing capability in thisstrategic sector. NFC has now joined the very few companies globally,approved to supply these tubes,” he pointed out.

The tubes will be integrated into the eight steam generators beingmanufactured by L&T for Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited forthe Kakrapara and Rajasthan nuclear power plants.

Kotwal said in line with L&T’s strategy of promoting self-reliance,the company had opted to source the tubes from NFC rather than importfrom international suppliers. The U tubes have very stringenttechnical requirements covering chemical and mechanical properties,surface finish and ultrasonic testing. The process of “glass peening”– the final and most critical of operations carried out on the U-bendtubes was developed for the first time in India.

Tummalapalle uranium mine becomes operational: To contribute 25 per cent of India's uranium requirements

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: Andhra Pradesh will soon contribute about 25 per cent of the uranium consumed by nuclear power plants in the country with the Tummalapalleuranium mines becoming operational.

Tummalapalle village in Kadapa district contains the world’s largesturanium reserves and the uranium mill set up by the UraniumCorporation of India Limited (UCIL) started operations. TheTummalapalle mine to begin with will meet a quarter of the energyneeds of nuclear power plants in the country.

Dr SK Jain, chairman and managing director of Nuclear PowerCorporation of India (NPCIL), told reporters here on Monday thatmining of uranium had started at Tummalapalle. Though he refused togive details about the quantum of uranium mined at Tummalapalle, DrJain said the mine would provide 25 per cent of the uranium needs ofthe country.

He said the nuclear energy generation in the country had touched arecord 32,000 million units this financial year, which is drawing toclose later this week. This is 40 per cent more over last year’snuclear energy production in the country. The turnover last year wasRs 5,000 crore and it has increased to Rs 8000 crore this year.

Referring to the proposed nuclear power plant at Kovvada in Srikakulamdistrict, Dr Jain said land acquisition would start soon as allmisgivings have been cleared. “Ours is a public sector company andeverything is transparent,” he said. Dr Jain agreed that the nuclearmishap at Fukushima in Japan had pushed behind the nuclear plant atKovvada by 15 to 18 months.

During the 12th five-year plan, eight nuclear power plants would beset up. They include four each of 700 MWe and 1000 MWe.

MV Kotwal, president (heavy engineering), L&T Limited, said hiscompany had invested about Rs 1,700 crore in the nuclear power sectorin partnership with NPCIL. “We do not have to be held ransom bysuppliers located in the US and Europe. We can make them in Indiaitself,” he added referring to indigenizing of nuclear technology.

The L&T integrated facility can handle 300 tonnes of ingots atpresent. It can be expanded to 600 tonnes of ingots. He said L&T hadstarted production of several sub-assemblies and taken up exports to acompany in the US. Kotwal claimed that many international companiesare interested in Indian products for nuclear plants.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, his sons Amaan Ali Khan and Ayaan Ali Khan: Erod, the electronic form of Sarod

Syed Akbar
Hyderabad: India gets a new musical instrument in the form of Erod from the family of 
Ustad Amjad Ali Khan. Erod is an extension of the Sarod. Ustad Amjad Ali Khan’s eldest 
son Amaan Ali Khan has developed this news instrument. He has been working towards an 
Electronic Sarod to achieve a new sound for his concerts where there was a “struggle with 
other forms of sound textures”.

“The acoustic Sarod cannot break certain sound barriers at certain experimental concerts 
especially with drums and guitars so this is indeed a dream!” says Amaan Ali Khan. The 
Erod has been designed by Sanjay Sharma, an instrument-maker. Cutting edge design and 
master-luthier craftsmanship are uniquely combined to create a Sarod that offers 
outstanding playability matched with incredible practicality.

Ustad Amjad Ali Khan points out that the electronic Sarod helps sound output at concerts. 
“I am happy that Amaan and Ayaan see Erod only as a musical flirtation”. Amaan and Ayaan 
Ali Khan say in spite of their experimental journey, “we are proud to be Indian classical 

The Ustad and his two disciple-sons are all set to enthrall the Hyderabad audience this 
Sunday where music lovers can listen to a sort of “fusion” music. Ustad Amjad Ali Khan 
along with Amaan Ali Khan and Ayaan Ali Khan are performing in the city after a gap of 
six years. “You feel the bliss of God,” the Ustad says, adding “even if we three play 
music together, it is fusion music”.

“In Hyderabad, three of us play together. Our concert is in three parts. First Amaan and 
Ayaan will play dual. Secondly, I play solo. In the third part, the three of us play. It 
is a variety and the music lovers will get a joyous feeling,
and the ecstasy of enjoyment, love and unification,” the Sarod maestro explains.

Ustad Amjad Ali Khan says Hyderabad has always bestowed immense love and warmth upon them 
at every concert. The city has a beautiful culture and history. It is a confluence of two 
cultures. Hyderabad is full of love, grace and humility and it has a beautiful history of 
music and poetry. His sons add “We really look forward to our performance. It’s always an 
honour to play on stage with our father and guru. It’s a euphoric feeling and a priceless 
privilege. We will be playing traditional ragas and some interesting time cycles”.

Referring to his two sons as the “greatest gift of life”, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan says “they 
are not carbon copies of Amjad Ali Khan. I am thankful to God for bestowing me with Amaan 
and Ayaan. The world has accepted them. Their approach of music is different. Their new 
album “Rang” has given them the identity of their own. I am fortunate to have wife 

“We have been very fortunate to have had a certain kind of a grooming where music for us 
wasn’t a profession but a way of life. Today there is talent in abundance but there is a 
lack of consistency. It’s a very long journey and one has to have patience, tolerance and 
perseverance,” adds Amaan and Ayaan.

Asked if he approve the so-called fusion music, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan says, “fusion is a 
confusing word. Collaboration is the better word.” His sons add: “Having been reared on a 
diet of tradition and continuity, it’s difficult to be living in a modern world with 
classic values. Yet, we chose to belong to a system, where oral knowledge is passed on 
from guru to student along with actual music lessons. We are standing at a crossroad.”

Amaan and Ayaan express concern over the “deluge” of pop and so-called fusion, remix 
ragas and experimental music out there. They describe “Rang” as a “special album”. 

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This Day In History

Mother's Care

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Minnu The Cat & Her Kittens Brownie, Goldie & Blackie

Someone with Nature

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Syed Akbar in an island in river Godavari with Papikonda hills in the background

Recognition by World Vegetable Centre

Recognition by World Vegetable Centre

Under the shade of Baobab tree

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At Agha Khan Akademi in Kenya

Gateway to the Southern Hemisphere

Gateway to the Southern Hemisphere

Convention on Biodiversity

Convention on Biodiversity
Syed Akbar at the 11th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity