In the Southern Ocean region, carbon atoms move between rocks, rivers, plants, oceans and other sources in a planet-scale life cycle.

The open water nearest to the sea ice surrounding Antarctica releases significantly more carbon dioxide in winter than previously believed, showed a study conducted using an array of robotic floats. The robotic floats diving and drifting in the Southern Ocean around the southernmost continent made it possible to gather data during the peak of the Southern Hemisphere’s winter from a place that remains poorly studied, despite its role in regulating the global climate.

“These results came as a really big surprise, because previous studies found that the Southern Ocean was absorbing a lot of carbon dioxide,” said lead author Alison Gray, Assistant Professor at the University of Washington.

In the Southern Ocean region, carbon atoms move between rocks, rivers, plants, oceans and other sources in a planet-scale life cycle. It is also among the world’s most turbulent bodies of water, which makes obtaining data extremely difficult. According to the study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, the floating instruments collected the new observations. The instruments dive down to 1 km and float with the currents for nine days.

Next, they drop even farther, to 2 km, and then rise back to the surface while measuring water properties. After surfacing they beam their observations back to shore via satellite. Unlike more common Argo floats, which only measure ocean temperature and salinity, the robotic floats also monitor dissolved oxygen, nitrogen and pH — the relative acidity of water.

The study analysed data collected by 35 floats between 2014 and 2017. The team used the pH measurements to calculate the amount of dissolved carbon dioxide, and then uses that to figure out how strongly the water is absorbing or emitting carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.

Courtesy - Indian Express


Contrary to popular claim, e-cigarettes are not safe. According to a study, they may be safer in terms of the cancer risk, but they can damage immunity, disable lung cells and cause inflammation.

Vaping or smoking e-cigarettes has been found to be a harmful practice. According to a study, it can damage immunity, disable cells in the lungs and cause inflammation, a BBC report says. The study was led by professor David Thickett at the University of Birmingham and has been published online in the journal Thorax. Contrary to popular claim, e-cigarettes are not safe.

In order to arrive at the conclusion, researchers devised a mechanical device that mimicked vaping at the laboratory. Lung tissue samples provided by non-smokers were used to carry out the experiment. It was found that the vapour led to inflammation and damaged activity of alveolar macrophages — cells that aid in removing dust particles, allergens and bacteria. It was concluded that further research was needed to get a better understanding of the health impact of vaping as the study was carried out within the confines of the laboratory.

Thickett said, “I don’t believe e-cigarettes are more harmful than ordinary cigarettes. But we should have a cautious scepticism that they are as safe as we are being led to believe. They are safer in terms of cancer risk – but if you vape for 20 or 30 years, it can cause chronic obstructive pulmonary disease,” Thickett was quoted saying, according to a report in The Sun.

Public Health England, however, considers vaping safer than traditional cigarettes. It believed that e-cigarettes can help one overcome the habit of smoking and should be allowed on prescription.


Courtesy - Indian Express

Polypharmacy: It means when a person takes five or more prescription medicines in a day. It may help control various health issues, but taking them together can cause more harm than good.

Popping multiple pills every day to manage a multitude of health conditions is a reality for many people in the country. While the disease itself is a big problem, taking various medicines that may react with each other and cause adverse effects is even more worrisome.

Medically recognised as “Polypharmacy”, it means when a person takes five or more prescription medicines in a day. While the medication may help control various health issues, taking them together can cause more harm than good, says Dr Sushila Kataria, Internal Medicine, Medanta. “It is often ‘doctor driven’ where one single patient ends up seeing multiple physicians and specialists, all of whom prescribe a different medication,” Kataria adds.

It is particularly prominent in the elderly population, who take drugs for long-term conditions like diabetes, arthritis, blood pressure, along with medicines for immediate cures to aches, fever and digestive problems.

“The fact that patients will have to take multiple drugs is inevitable,” says Dr Tarun Sahni, senior consultant, Internal Medicine, Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals. However, the advantages far outweigh the challenges, if the treatment is structured. “Sometimes the patients take counter drugs for issues like common cold and they have no idea that the drug might interfere with their ongoing medication, leading to adverse reactions.”

Sometimes the medicines can also enhance or reduce the efficacy of each other. One drug might interfere with the functioning of the other and reduce its effective time, and vice versa.

Here are some precautions that patients can take to minimise the risk of Polypharmacy:

Know your health conditions: It is important that every person is aware of their health condition. If there are multiple health issues, keeping a handy notebook might help.

Try and have a central physician: This doctor can oversee all medication, offer comprehensive advice and if necessary even coordinate with specific doctors and specialists.

Keep notes of all medications: Patients need to not just keep track of their drugs but on every visit to the doctor, they must cross check if the medication needs to continue. Whenever a new condition develops, the doctor must be told about all the medication being taken, including supplements.

Ask your doctor everything: Ask the doctor about the drugs being prescribed, the possible side effects and the most adverse reactions that could happen. That will help everyone understand what to expect.

Discuss diets: Often drugs react with certain foods and supplements being consumed. Therefore, the doctor must be told of dietary patterns so that they make the right recommendations and dosages.

Don’t dismiss anything as old-age: A lot of people often dismiss certain reactions by putting them in the “age-related” tag. For example, certain drugs cause drowsiness and fatigue, which more often than not is dismissed as a sign of growing old.

Follow instructions: This is especially important because many people want to stop their medication as soon as they feel better. It is extremely important to follow the doctor’s advice regarding dosage and timings.

Keep track of all reactions: No matter how small it might seem, recording every reaction is important in ensuring the drug is not causing some long-term side effect.

Similar drugs: Senior citizens need to be extra alert to drugs that look or sound alike. Very often, similar sounding drugs are consumed and can cause stress in the body.


Courtesy - Indian Express


Many years ago, I started researching India’s surviving women freedom fighters. I traced a group of women — Savitri Ramakishen, Sarla Sharma, Subhadra Khosla and Vijay Chauhan — who had raised the tricolour inside the Lahore Women’s jail on August 9, 1942. This heroic act of courage had gone completely unrecorded. Was it that in the aftermath of Partition many such stories have gone unrecorded, or is it that the contribution women make is bound to remain unacknowledged?

Then I met Momota Mehta, a member of the Indian National Army (INA)’s Rani of Jhansi regiment — the first all-women’s military regiment of the world — at her home in New Delhi. She recalled, “I was 16 years old when I heard him (Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose) say, ‘Tum mujhe khoon do, main tumhe azaadi doonga’. I was spellbound and I joined him.” Her account of the military training, night marches and her admiration for Netaji and her commander, Janaky Thevar, who took over the leadership of the Rani of Jhansi regiment from Lakshmi Sahgal in Myanmar, was mesmerising.

This propelled my journey in 2004 to Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Burma (now Myanmar), where I recorded oral testimonies of ordinary people who joined the INA and performed extraordinary acts of courage for the freedom of India. Yet, they remain unrecognised.

At her home in Kuala Lumpur, I met Thevar, who had rescued wounded soldiers when the British bombed the Red Cross hospital in Rangoon. She recalled the 21-day trek through the forests of Burma, along with Netaji, to get the women back to their homes safely, as the INA retreated.

I drove across the length and breadth of Malaysia and met Kannusamy in Prai. When I asked him why he had fought for the freedom of India, not ever having set foot on its soil, he retorted, “It’s a funny question to ask an Indian! Once an Indian, always an Indian.”

Gandhi Nathan was tall with a polished, gentlemanly demeanour. He had been handpicked by Bose to train in Japan along with 20 others. His account of his arrest, incarceration in a prison in Hong Kong, and the voyage back accompanied by abuse and deprivation was illuminating. However, he couldn’t find a foothold in India nor admission to the Indian Military Academy so he returned to Malaysia. “I never regretted joining the freedom struggle,” he said with pride.

Liberty, without fraternity: Lieutenant Perumal of the INA (R), who is a person without a country, at the fomer INA headquarters in Yangon. (Photo: Sagari Chhabra)

When the British reoccupied Malaya, the INA freedom fighters had hidden their identity. However, most of them were found out and interrogated. Some were put under house arrest and others received different kinds of punishment. Surely, we in free India could honour these surviving freedom fighters and give them a pension or some allowance?

In Singapore, I met Bhagyalakshmi Davies, who had joined the Rani of Jhansi regiment for a unique reason — to escape getting married. She said with candour, “My stepmother wanted to marry me off and I thought it was better to die for a cause than to get married to a man I may not like.”

It was in Myanmar that I had some heart-wrenching encounters. Despite my landlord, who made it his business to keep me under his surveillance — the military was in power — I managed to meet some amazing freedom fighters, by giving him the slip.

I met Perumal in Rangoon. He had a quiet air of dignity and spoke in a mixture of Hindi and English. “I was born in Rangoon in the Kambe area in 1928… I joined the struggle hamare desh ke vaaste, azadi ke vaaste.” Then he joined the INA’s propaganda department and then the Azad Hind bank to collect donations. After the Japanese lost the war, he was captured by the British and kept in the Rangoon jail. But he is not a citizen of Myanmar or for that matter any country at all. Neither are his children or grandchildren citizens. They reside there thanks to a Foreigners’ Registration Certificate which has to be renewed every year. They have to seek permission if they wish to travel even within Myanmar.

I asked him whether he wished to become a citizen of India but he said he wished to stay on in Myanmar, where his children and eight grandchildren reside. I asked him if he had written to India for a pension. He replied, “Yes, I have. But I get nothing. I am a citizen of no country,” and a shadow crossed his face.

He was not alone; I met Chinnaya living in a shanty: blind, poverty-stricken but still singing the INA songs. He too was not a citizen of any country. He was born in Tamil Nadu and came to Burma with his parents. “My job was to carry the injured to the hospital,” he recalled. As I saw his rank poverty I was grateful that he could not see the tears of shame that flowed down my cheeks at the government of free India being both blind and oblivious to his existence.

I met at least a score of such stoic freedom fighters, who do not get a single rupee as pension or honoranium. These are indeed strange times; India has failed to pay a humble pension to just a handful of our surviving freedom fighters in southeast Asia.

When a journalist friend was visiting Rangoon last week, I gave him Perumal’s address. To my delight, he found Perumal still alive, although now 90 years old and still awaiting his Myanmar citizenship and some pension as a freedom fighter.

Sagari Chhabra is an author and filmmaker.

Courtesy - Indian Express

Experiencing feelings of depression, anxiety or irritability following what is otherwise a satisfactory intercourse, is termed as ‘Postcoital Dysphoria’. Read on to know more.

The obsession with sex and everything related to it is a cause of concern. While sex addiction has become easier to talk about behind closed doors, during therapy sessions, post-sex blues are yet to be identified as a problem, at least on a larger scale. Probably, because most people are not aware of it themselves. Feeling sad, depressed and finding yourself in tears after sex is a real health issue and there is a term for it: ‘Postcoital Dysphoria’.

Recently, a study estimating the prevalence of PCD in men was published in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy. The Australian research team surveyed more than 1,200 men with an online questionnaire and found that almost 41% men experienced PCD at some point and 20% felt it in the last four weeks. As many as 4% said they had PCD on a regular basis. “Results indicate that the male experience of the resolution phase may be far more varied, complex, and nuanced than previously thought,” the authors wrote.

It usually lasts up to two hours post-coitus and may cause the person experiencing it to avoid or become abusive towards their partner(s). “The reasons for Postcoital Dysphoria may vary – from a person’s attitude towards sex, relationship with the partner, prevalent social and cultural factors.

“Anxiety over being susceptible to Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD), etc”, says Dr Kedar Tilwe, a psychiatrist, sexologist and geriatric psychiatrist at Hiranandani Hospital, Vashi – A Fortis Network Hospital.

Postcoital Dysphoria occurs despite enjoying a satisfactory sexual intercourse. However, it is more frequent following casual or clandestine relationships. One needs to understand their feelings and experiences, as well as re-examine their beliefs, attitudes and expectations towards intercourse.

“It is important to remember that Postcoital Dysphoria is more emotional than physiological. However, if it persists for a longer time, formal therapy may help. In clinical practice this is a fairly common presentation. It can occur in both sexes, however it seems to be more prevalent amongst men”, Dr Tilwe adds.

Courtesy - Indian Express

With a gravity boost from the sun, the Parker will attain a top speed of 430,000 mph, about 120 miles a second, at its closest approach of only 3.8 million miles, becoming the fastest human-made object to hurtle through the solar system

NASA successfully launched a spacecraft toward the sun on Sunday, hoping to increase scientific understanding of how our star works. The Parker Solar Probe’s departure promises to set a plethora of records, including speediest spacecraft, highest velocity while leaving Earth and closest solar approach. It will also mark the first robotic visit to a uniquely hostile environment: the unstable atmosphere of a giant ball of perpetual nuclear fusion.

The probe lifted off at 3:31 a.m. Eastern time from Cape Canaveral, Florida, aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket sporting a rare third stage, giving it extra oomph to boost the payload into an interplanetary trajectory. The launch speed of 43,000 miles per hour (69,000 kilometers per hour) was expected to be the fastest of any previous launch because of the pace required to set a course directly to the sun.

The probe failed to launch in its original Saturday slot after missing a 45-minute window, NASA said.

“We always say that luck has absolutely nothing to do with this business, but I will take all that I can get,” ULA Chief Executive Officer Tory Bruno said in an interview Friday. The alliance is a joint venture of Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp.

With a gravity boost from the sun, the Parker will attain a top speed of 430,000 mph, about 120 miles a second, at its closest approach of only 3.8 million miles, becoming the fastest human-made object to hurtle through the solar system. The probe will investigate two key questions about solar physics: How does the solar wind start and attain speeds of as much as 1.8 million mph? And why is the sun’s surface, at 10,000 degrees Fahrenheit (5,500 Celsius), just a tiny fraction of the million-plus degree corona?

“We’ll be going where no spacecraft has dared go before — within the corona of a star,” said project scientist Nicky Fox of the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab in Laurel, Maryland, which designed the probe and manages the mission.

The Parker will make 24 orbits of the sun over almost seven years, using Venus to help slow down and reduce its orbital distance to the sun. Parker’s first approach, at 15 million miles, is expected on Nov. 1. So far, the Helios 2 spacecraft has made the closest approach, which flew within 27 million miles in 1976. The probe will fly close enough to observe solar winds, assess their speed and study the formation of high-energy solar particles, which are associated with flares that can wreak havoc on Earth.

Cooling Off

Four suites of instruments will measure the sun’s magnetic field, solar-wind speed and the density and temperature of wind particles. The devices are protected from 2,550-degree heat by a 4.5-inch (11.4-centimeter) carbon-composite shield that will keep the equipment at a cozy 85 degrees during the journey. The $1.5 billion probe is named after Eugene Parker, 91, a University of Chicago physicist who theorized in 1958 that the sun creates a solar wind — a notion that his peers found ridiculous until 1962, when the National Aeronautic and Space Administration’s Mariner 2 mission to Venus confirmed the theory.

Courtesy - Indian Express

Intestinal stem cells are responsible for maintaining the lining of the intestine, which typically renews itself every five days. When an injury or infection occurs, stem cells are key to repairing any damage.

The US biologists found that a 24-hour fast can reverse the age-related loss of intestinal stem cell function that can regenerate new intestinal cells. The study, published on Thursday in the journal Cell Stem Cell, revealed that fasting dramatically improves stem cells’ ability to regenerate, in both aged and young mice, Xinhua reported. In fasting mice, cells begin breaking down fatty acids instead of glucose, a change that stimulates the stem cells to become more regenerative. The researchers found that they could also boost regeneration with a molecule that activates the same metabolic switch and such an intervention could potentially help older people recovering from gastrointestinal infections or cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.

“Fasting has many effects in the intestine, which include boosting regeneration as well as potential uses in any type of ailment that impinges on the intestine, such as infections or cancers,” said Omer Yilmaz, an assistant professor of biology in Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and one of the senior authors of the study. “This study provided evidence that fasting induces a metabolic switch in the intestinal stem cells, from utilizing carbohydrates to burning fat,” said David Sabatini, an MIT professor of biology and the paper’s another senior author. “Interestingly, switching these cells to fatty acid oxidation enhanced their function significantly. Pharmacological targeting of this pathway may provide a therapeutic opportunity to improve tissue homeostasis in age-associated pathologies.”

Intestinal stem cells are responsible for maintaining the lining of the intestine, which typically renews itself every five days. When an injury or infection occurs, stem cells are key to repairing any damage. However as people age, the regenerative abilities of these intestinal stem cells decline, so it takes longer for the intestine to recover. After mice fasted for 24 hours, the researchers removed intestinal stem cells and grew them in a culture dish, allowing them to determine whether the cells can give rise to “mini-intestines” known as organoids. The researchers found that stem cells from the fasting mice doubled their regenerative capacity.

The researchers sequenced the messenger RNA of stem cells from the mice that fasted, and revealed that fasting induces cells to switch from their usual metabolism, which burns carbohydrates such as sugars, to metabolizing fatty acids. This switch occurs through the activation of transcription factors called PPARs, which turn on many genes that are involved in metabolizing fatty acids, according to the researchers. The researchers found that if they turned off this pathway, fasting could no longer boost regeneration and they could reproduce the beneficial effects of fasting by treating mice with a molecule that mimics the effects of PPARs. The findings suggest that drug treatment could stimulate regeneration without requiring patients to fast, which is difficult for most people.

One group that could benefit from such treatment is cancer patients who are receiving chemotherapy, which often harms intestinal cells. It could also benefit older people who experience intestinal infections or other gastrointestinal disorders that can damage the lining of the intestine.

Courtesy - Indian Express


Researchers took fragments of proteins from bacteria and flatworms, which when fused together were effective at binding to the gold nanoparticle surface and able to form stable bonds to any other protein.

Scientists have developed a new technique to bind proteins to nanoparticles that can help make drugs “smarter” and more effective at reaching their target.

The new technique decorates gold nanoparticles with a protein of choice so that they can be used to tailor drug to more accurately target an area on the body, such as a cancer tumour.

Gold nanoparticles are spheres made of gold atoms having a diameter of only few billionths of a metre which can be coated with a biological protein and combined with drugs to enable the treatment to travel through the body and reach the affected area.

“Gold nanoparticles are a vital tool in new drug development and drug delivery systems. We have unlocked the key to binding proteins and molecules so that those drugs will be more effective,” said Enrico Ferrari, a nanobiotechnologist from Britain’s University of Lincoln.

Until now, the proteins used to coat the nanoparticles had to be mixed together with particles which do not have the ability to control the way they bind, possibly making the drug less effective.

However, the new method, published in the journal Nature Communications, enables pharmacologists to place the proteins onto the gold nanoparticles layer by layer in a specific order.

This maintains the integrity of the protein so that the drug is more effective, opening up possibilities for the development of nanomedicine.

“This method might help to design nanomedicines that do not need extensive chemical modification of a protein drug or a nano-carrier and therefore can be developed more easily and faster,” Ferrari added.

Researchers took fragments of proteins from bacteria and flatworms, which when fused together were effective at binding to the gold nanoparticle surface and able to form stable bonds to any other protein.

By mixing this fusion protein with gold nanoparticles, it permanently binds to the gold surface while also being able to stably bind a target protein.

The novel method could also potentially be applied to biosensors and diagnostic kits that use gold, such as those used in clinical settings to identify ongoing infections in patients’ blood, the researchers said.


Courtesy - Indian Express

Middle-age and older adults often display a blunted thirst perception, which places them at risk for dehydration and subsequently may reduce the cognitive health-related benefits of exercise.

Older people who indulge in physical activity should increase their amount of water intake, to reap the full cognitive benefits of exercise, researchers suggest.

Dehydration has been shown to impair exercise performance and brain function in young people, but less is known about its impact on older populations.

The findings showed that hydration boosts performance on test of executive function that includes the skills needed to plan, focus, remember and multitask following exercise.

Exercise has been shown to improve intellectual health, including executive function.

“Middle-age and older adults often display a blunted thirst perception, which places them at risk for dehydration and subsequently may reduce the cognitive health-related benefits of exercise,” said researchers including Brandon Yates, of Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston, US.

The study, presented at the American Physiological Society (APS) annual meeting at Experimental Biology 2018 in San Diego, explored the association between hydration status before exercising and exercise-enhanced cognition in older adults.

The team recruited recreational cyclists (average age 55) who participated in a large cycling event on a warm day (78-86 degrees F).

The cyclists performed a “trail-making” executive function test–quickly and accurately connecting numbered dots using paper and pencil — before and after the event.

The team tested the volunteers’ urine before they exercised and divided them into two groups — normal hydration and dehydrated — based on their hydration status.

The normal hydration group showed noticeable improvement in the completion time of the trail-making test after cycling when compared to their pre-cycling test.

The dehydration group also completed their post-cycling test more quickly, but the time reduction was not significant.

“This suggests that older adults should adopt adequate drinking behaviours to reduce cognitive fatigue and potentially enhance the cognitive benefits of regular exercise participation,” the researchers said.

Courtesy - Indian Express

Significant improvements in positive mood and pain scores, as well as decreases in negative mood and anxiety, were observed, the researchers said. Patients perceived BVAI as overall positive (95 per cent) and wished to participate in future art-based interventions (85 per cent).

A brief bedside art therapy may improve mood and decrease the levels of pain and anxiety in patients with cancer, a study claims. In the study published in the European Journal of Cancer Care, a bedside visual art intervention (BVAI) facilitated by art educators improved mood and reduced pain and anxiety in inpatients with haematological cancers.

The study was conducted on 19 female and two male patients admitted to the inpatient bone marrow transplant and haematologic services at Mayo Clinic School of Medicine-Rochester in the US. They were invited to participate in a BVAI where the goal of the session was to teach art technique for about 30 minutes. Significant improvements in positive mood and pain scores, as well as decreases in negative mood and anxiety, were observed, the researchers said.

Patients perceived BVAI as overall positive (95 per cent) and wished to participate in future art-based interventions (85 per cent), they said. According to the researchers, the findings indicate that experiences provided by artists within the community may be an adjunct to conventional treatments in patients with cancer-related mood symptoms and pain.

Courtesy - Indian Express

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