Category Archives: Public Health

Stem Cells found in the Eyes can restore Vision


Stem cells retrieved from the area between the white and black part of an eyeball can restore the sight in those who have lost their vision due to corneal blindness. It was tested and verified in a research carried out by doctors at the LV Prasad Eye Hospital in collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, USA.

According to Dr Sayan Basu, Consultant Corneal Surgeon, at LV Prasad Eye Institute, the stromal cells were found in the area between the black and white portions of the eyeball known as the limbus. When these cells are applied to injured corneas, the corneas healed in a span of four weeks of treatment.


There are 1,40,000 cases of corneal blindness in India. This happens because of scarring or whitening of the cornea. This happens due to infection, poke in the eye, injury, accident or any other trauma to the eye. When this scarring happens, patients lose vision.

Currently, the treatment is corneal transplant where a donor cornea is required and 25 stitches in the eye are needed. The risk of infection and rejection by the body is very high. The cornea lasts for six to eight years as the body’s immune system later attacks it.


Due to these issues, scientists have been looking at stem cells. The first phase of trials is being carried out at present on 10 patients at the LV Prasad Eye Hospital and the results have been very encouraging. With phase 1 to be complete by March 2015, and the results being encouraging, the hospital will involve 50 people in phase II of human trials. The system, once standardised after these processes, will be available for the public in three years time.

WHO : Improve Indoor Air Quality

Indoor air pollution

Targeting 700 million people who use solid fuel for cooking in India, the World Health Organization conducted a meeting of 11 nations in New Delhi to target the implementation of the new guidelines for indoor air quality.

According to WHO, over 60% of homes in Southeast Asia still use solid fuels for cooking. Women and children pay the heaviest price, as they spend more time at home breathing in smoke and soot from cooking stoves. Half the deaths due to pneumonia in children aged less than five years can be attributed to household air pollution making it a leading risk factor for childhood deaths.

Exposure to air pollutants, especially fine particulate matter, is a major risk factor for non-communicable diseases in adults, causing ailments including ischaemic heart disease, stroke, chronic pulmonary disease and lung cancer, making air pollution the main avoidable environmental cause of disease and premature death globally.

In 2012, around 7 million people died as a result of air pollution exposure, accounting for one in eight of total global deaths. An estimated 40% of the deaths from indoor air pollution and 25% of those attributed to outdoor air pollution occur in the 11 countries in southeast Asia.


A set of new guidelines was launched Nov 12 this year for indoor air quality, setting targets for reducing emissions of health-damaging pollutants from domestic cooking stoves, space heaters, and fuel-based lamps. The 11 member-nations that had a major role in forming the guidelines include India, Indonesia, Bangladesh and Maldives.

Member states of southeast have shown their commitment to reduce household air pollution as part of the regional action plan for the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases 2013-20, which promotes a move to cleaner stove technologies and fuels, such as liquefied petroleum gas, solar coolers, electricity and low-fume fuels such as methanol and ethanol.

At the meeting, it was stressed that a multisectoral approach is needed at all levels to bring about improvements. The health ministry would need to work with the ministries of environment, urban development, transport, energy and natural resources to combat the situation.

Jan-Aushadhi – To promote Generic Drugs


With a view to promoting affordable and effective generic drugs, the Centre has asked the States to provide space in government hospitals for their sale so that more Jan Aushadhi Stores could be opened.

In a direct market intervention strategy, the Department of Pharmaceuticals launched the Jan Aushadhi Scheme in 2008 to make available and improve access to medicines at affordable prices. However, the scheme did not do well as expected and the government now proposes to launch a major publicity campaign to make people aware of the benefits of generic medicines. There is a huge price difference between branded and generic drugs. This despite generic medicines being as good as branded products.

The Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers proposes to open 3,000 outlets during the 12th Five Year Plan period. More than 150 Jan Aushadhi Stores have already been opened. The Department of Pharmaceuticals has now written to the State governments, asking them to provide space in government hospitals and identify operating agencies to run Jan Aushadhi Stores. To ensure uninterrupted availability of all medicines at the stores, the Centre has already directed that doctors in public facilities prescribe generic drugs.

The prices of almost all generic drugs are much lower than branded medicines, more so of life-saving drugs, antibiotics and anti-diabetic drugs. A branded pack of 10 tablets of paracetamol, sold at Rs. 9, costs only Rs. 3 at a Jan Aushadhi Store.

[Credit – The Hindu]

Nano-particle & Laser based new Meningitis test


A new silver-nano-particle and laser-based test has been developed by scientists at University of Strathclyde (Glasgow, UK) for the rapid diagnosis of bacterial meningitis. The test uses nanoparticles and lasers to fingerprint more than one bacterium at a time as quickly as possible, making it easier to treat.

The new process is called Surface Enhanced Raman Scattering (SERS). It scatters laser light from a sample that has been combined with silver nanoparticles.

The great advantage of the SERS technique is that it gives sharp, recognisable signals and with other diagnostic methods it can measure the amount of bacteria in a sample whilst simultaneously identifying the bacteria.


Meningitis is an acute inflammation of the protective membranes covering the brain and spinal cord, known as the meninges. The inflammation may be caused by infection with viruses, bacteria, or other microorganisms. Meningitis can be life-threatening because of the inflammation’s proximity to the brain and spinal cord.

The most common symptoms of meningitis are headache and neck stiffness associated with fever, confusion or altered consciousness, vomiting, etc. Children often exhibit only nonspecific symptoms, such as irritability and drowsiness. Meningitis caused by meningococcal bacteria may be accompanied by a characteristic rash.

Drug for Cancer by Hyderabad University


Research collaboration between University of Hyderabad (UoH), National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) and IKP Knowledge Park over the last two years has culminated in the successful completion of a pre-clinical study on anticancer drug Temozolomide in animal models.

Temozolomide is the only drug approved for brain tumor, known as glioblastom multiforme in scientific term. The stability of this potent chemotherapy drug is compromised due to degradation in storage and shelf handling, causing dark brown discoloration of the drug powder. This problem is more acute in the hot and humid tropical countries of the world, including Asia, Far East and Latin America.

The research group of UoH developed stable form of Temozolomide which also overcomes the discoloration problems.  Then in collaboration with NIN, they tested the stable Temozolomide with the reference drug in animal models to establish bioequivalence and bioavailability and drug transport.

This collaborative project is a success story of the ‘Knowledge-to-Equity Program’ of the Ministry of Science and Technology as part of which academic discoveries get a platform for drug translation to the market in PPP model.

[Credit – TOI]

IIT develops Food-in-tube for Malnourished kids


A team of researchers at IIT-Kharagpur (agricultural and food engineering department) has developed a paste to fight malnutrition. It is food in a tube, rich in micronutrients, minerals, vitamins, proteins and all dietary needs which, will be an effective tool to fight severe acute malnutrition between kids of six months to six years.

In rural India, 55% children in that age bracket are severely malnourished, while it is 45% in the urban population. According to a joint UN report, 15% of these afflicted children require medical attention. The remaining 85% can be treated with diet therapy. This product can provide nutrition to these children to fight the disease.

The paste needs to be put in the child’s mouth and needs no dilution. There’s no need to remove the product from the flexi pouch either. There have been five formulations on three foodstuff – peanuts, potato and Bengal gram. 100gm of this paste can provide 500-550 kcalorie. The dosage will vary from child-to-child. Regular children can also have it but not as a replacement of proper meal.

The children with severe acute malnutrition are outpatients, and this product can maintain their nutrition level. It will also aide AIDS patients whose immunity has been compromised. Since the product is low income groups, the pricing is low, Rs 50-60 per kg, with a shelf-life of two years. It’s entirely organic with no additives or artificial preservatives.

India launches Third-line HIV Therapy


India on Wednesday 12th-Feb-2013 launched third-line drug therapy for people living with HIV/AIDS and extended free anti-retroviral therapy (ART) to more of them by revising the eligibility norm.

The third-line therapy, sometimes called salvage or rescue therapy, is prescribed for people who have limited drug options left — after the failure of at least two drug regimens and with evidence of HIV resistance to at least one drug in each line or the latter cause alone. The highly expensive therapy will be provided free.

Announcing these measures at the launch of the National AIDS Control Programme Phase IV (2012-2017) here, Union Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said the third-line therapy would enhance longevity and improve the quality of life of patients.

For receiving free ART, the minimum CD4-count limit had been reduced from 500 to 350. The count is a measure of the viral load.

Bill in Rajya Sabha

Meanwhile, the government tabled the Human Immunodeficiency Virus Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (Prevention and Control) Bill, 2014, in the Rajya Sabha. It seeks to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS and protect the human rights of people living with it. At present, India is estimated to have 2.39 million people living with HIV/AIDS.

The Bill seeks to prohibit any kind of discrimination against the infected person — for instance, denial or termination of employment or occupation, unfair treatment, denial of access to any sector and forcible HIV testing.

[Credit – The Hindu]


No Bad Health Effects from Mobiles

mobile technology

A British research program spanning eleven years has found no evidence of adverse effects on people’s health from the use of mobile phone technology. Some 31 individual research projects over eleven years were funded by the MTHR (Mobile Telecommunications and Health Research) to address public concerns over the possible health effects arising from mobile technology. And no evidence was found that using mobile phones increased the risk of leukaemia, or cellular base stations (tower) emissions during pregnancy increased the risk of cancer in early childhood.

The studies also found that electromagnetic fields associated with mobile devices are relatively small as compared to other regular appliances that people use such as hair dryers and electric razors.

The Interphone Study – 2010

Eearlier in 2010-11, on the basis of ‘The Interphone Study’, WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified mobile phone radiation as Group 2B – possibly carcinogenic. That means that there could be some risk of carcinogenicity, so additional research into the long-term, heavy use of mobile phones needs to be conducted. The WHO added the devices do not raise the risk of brain cancer, except for a possible slight increase in tumours among the most intensive users.

Overfed Males pass on Diabetes


Males who develop diabetic tendencies by eating too much can pass on an increased susceptibility for the disease to offspring through changes that occur in their sperm. In research published recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a team of Chinese scientists examined whether overfed male mice could, along with their DNA, also pass on chemically tagged genes to the next generation.

There has been growing interest in epigenetics, which deals with how traits change without alterations to genes encoded in the DNA. The tagging of genes with a methyl group (-CH3), is one way that traits are modified. Such methylation typically reduces the amount of protein that cells produce from a tagged gene.

Human studies and animal experiments have indicated that parental diet can act through epigenetic mechanisms and affect their offspring’s disease risk. A trait acquired by a father could be transmitted to the next generation through changes in the methylation of sperm DNA. These findings may have implications in explaining the prevalence of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and other chronic metabolic diseases.

 (Credit – The Hindu]

Pills to treat Blood Cancer

Blood cancer

Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL) could now be treated with oral pills that substitute chemotherapy. This is the conclusion drawn by scientists at Weill Cornell Medical College whose study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The new study has revealed that use of a twice-daily pill could turn a deadly blood cancer into a highly treatable disease.

In this randomized study, researchers from 19 medical centers in five countries tested a combination of two targeted drugs that attack cancer without damaging healthy cells. They found that those who received the combination of idelalsib and rituximab went longer without their disease worsening than those who received only rituximab, which has been the standard of care.

CLL is the most common form of leukemia, a cancer of the white blood cells. The treatment today for CLL can be worse than the disease, leading to a great deal of side effects and death.

[The study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.]
[Photo Credit : Molecular Me]
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