Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Dec., 2013: Interesting Articles & Links

Cancer patients - Carefree just for a second - http://www.utrend.tv/v/one-second/

* A graphic designers resume -- http://rleonardi.com/interactive-resume/

- now 5 of 15 petabytes (10^15bytes)! -- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petabyte

* Advt - Put racism in the right place -- http://www.dnaindia.com/videos/1931595

* Nano Park in Karnataka gets Rs.100 Cr GoI funds - http://www.pharmabiz.com/NewsDetails.aspx?aid=79109&sid=1
- diagnostic sensors and lab-on-a-chip which may soon become an important part to improve global health
- Graphene holds much promise for the future and the world’s first FM radio transmitters made from it was announced by Columbia University just last week.
- state government called on scientists to come up with tangible nanotechnology-based solutions for food security, energy security, water purification, medicine and healthcare vis-à-vis waste management

Photography - girlfriend leading - http://petapixel.com/2013/03/01/photographer-captures-girlfriend-leading-him-around-the-world/

Nagarajan, Rema (2013): http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/80-of-medicines-not-covered-by-price-control-order/articleshow/26678324.cms
- government merely lifted the entire National List of Essential Medicines (NLEM) 2011, comprising 348 medicines, and placed it under price control
- The combinations not covered under NLEM account for Rs 31,866 crore or almost 45% of the total pharma market of Rs 71,246 crore in 2012
- S Srinivasan of LOCOST, a company producing drugs for use by NGOs to treat the poor
- An independent evaluation of the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Policy, by the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) and the Institute for Studies in Industrial Development (ISID)

* Malaria Vaccine from Oxford - boosting CD8-T cells
- Nature Communications paper - http://www.nature.com/ncomms/2013/131128/ncomms3836/full/ncomms3836.html
- BS (2Dec) - http://www.business-standard.com/article/international/new-promising-malaria-vaccine-developed-113120100136_1.html
- Okairos - T-cell based vaccine company
- Genetic vaccines using modified Adenovirus vectors - http://www.okairos.com/files/file/Okairos%20Fact%20Sheet_%20Sept%20'2011(1).pdf

* Dinosaur DNA -- http://www.economist.com/news/science-and-technology/21590874-how-remnants-dinosaur-tissue-have-survived-millions-years-life?fsrc=scn/fb/wl/pe/lifeintheoldfossilyet
- "...nothing organic could possibily survive for 68 million years"
- highly reactive ions known as free radicals, which are produced by iron as it is released from the haemoglobin, interact with the organic tissue causing abnormal chemical bonds to form. These bonds effectively tie proteins in knots at the molecular level, much as the preservative formaldehyde does.
- DNA is thought to have a half-life of 521 years

- Can iron-preserved proteins retain DNA structure? ... the team used an iron-removal compound known as pyridoxal isonicotinic hydrazide to delicately pull iron away from the dinosaur tissues without damaging them. They then added four different stains that react only with either DNA itself, or with proteins closely associated with it in organisms other than microbes. Remarkably, in all cases, these specific stains lit up inside the ancient cells in the tissue samples.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

For Argument's Sake

A drunken Indian got run over by a bus. His friends vented their anger on public property, by overturning a few vehicles, torching some police cars and running amok until they got bored and exhausted.

This would have been a fairly commonplace sequence of events in most cities. Singapore was not meant to be one of them. Following the ethnic riots of the 1960s, the city-state under Lee Kuan Yew had enforced a series of measures to ensure small sparks did not lead to major conflagrations.

Unfortunately this is exactly what happened last week. Temporary migrant workers of Indian origin let loose their anger and frustration on public property. The police was at first taken aback but finally when the dust settled, 30 workers were booked, many were imprisoned or deported. While all this was going on, it was interesting to see what was happening on the sidelines.

One particular 'average singaporean' went overboard with his allegations about Indians in general, and in reply, this is what one Mogan Das had to say -

useful article.i was looking for a piece of writing for my students that will demonstrate fallacies in argument.you seem to have covered nearly all - ad hominem, burden of proof, reductive fallacy, argument from false authority,use of cliches, confusing correlation and causation, appeal to coincidence, false cause amongst many many other fallacies...in such a short article furthermore.i don't know where you were educated but it certainly paid off. i didn't know that people like you actually existed. people posting comments here may call you a degenerate and a dehumanized piece of asswipe, rightly so if i may add, but i still need to thank you from the bottom of my heart for this 'excellent' piece of analysis that will entertain my students for years to come.

Humor and sarcasm aside, I was not able to differentiate some fallacies in argument. Here is a refresher recap:

* Ad hominem - Attack on the character of a person rather than his arguments
* Burden of proof - Also known "appeal to ignorance" this fallacy places the burden of proof on the wrong side

For a full list of fallacies, please check the Nizkor Project link.



Logical fallacies - https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/659/03/

The Nizkor Project - https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/659/03/

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Biotech Meets Nanotech

In India, Nano is the name adopted for a little car which was meant to be the most affordable car in the world.

On the other side of the globe, in USA, a scientist-entrepreneur of Indian origin is ready with something on a completely different scale. Dr. Anita Goel of Nanobiosym, has created a portable device called Gene-RADAR which, for the first time, can detect deadly diseases such as HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis in less than an hour, using just a drop of saliva or blood.

Incredible as this may sound, it is one of the many strides that being made with 'devices' that are no bigger than some molecules. In this case, Gene-RADAR uses nano-machines to detect specific DNA and RNA bio-markers in real time.

What are these nano-machines? A nano refers to a billionth measure (1/10^9). So a nanometer is a meter divided by 1000,000,000. It is a scale on which you can describe the size of molecules, parts of a living cell and the wavelength of visible light-spectrum.

Such devices are beginning to be used to detect the presence of viruses. As of now, the most accurate form of HIV viral load testing is  based on polymerase chain reaction technology,  a technique which amplifies a few copies of a piece of DNA to generate thousands or millions of a particular sequence for testing. In the U.S., the test costs about $200, and takes at least two weeks to get results, since the equipment used is large and not found in most hospitals.

At AIIMS in India, the premier, government-subsidized tertiary hospital in New Delhi, the same test costs about Rs.6000 (~ USD 100). Even then, it is way beyond the reach of regular patients.The is some hope that Nanobiosym's innovations will help bring down the cost of these tests.

Dr. Goel is  a pioneer in the emerging field of nanobiophysics, a new science at the convergence of physics, nanotechnology, and biomedicine. Her company aims to drastically cut the time and cost involved in diagnosing diseases, especially in parts of the world where it is difficult to install cumbersome lab equipment. Gene-RADARs are going to be field-tested in Rwanda next year, and possibly in India, later.

Under the current set of laws and regulations covering clinical trials, it is difficult to test the technology in India. It would be interesting to see how the device fares in Rwanda.



* What to consider before a DNA test -- http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424127887323308504579087103446161772

* Beikimpis, Victoria (2013) - Heal Thyself - http://mag.newsweek.com/2013/12/06/heal-thyself.html

* http://www.nanobiosym.com/our-team.html
- science & tech in society forum - http://www.stsforum.org/

* 23andMe - http://www.newsweek.com/fda-doesnt-want-you-unzip-your-genes-207358
- 23andMe - DIY genetic screening device - uses just a saliva swab
- Promised “health reports on 254 disease and conditions,” “carrier status,” “health risks” and “drug response” as a “first step in prevention…"

* http://venturebeat.com/2013/11/26/warning-letter-to-23andme-could-be-a-landmark-case-for-health-care/
- The FDA recently clamped down on a mobile medical app called uChek, pointing out that the company’s marketing was misleading.
-  Navigenics (a 23andMe rival that was acquired by Life Technologies for an unspecified sum)

* http://venturebeat.com/2012/08/13/using-a-few-drops-of-saliva-23andme-creates-a-song-out-of-your-dna/

* http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2013-11-25/a-portable-hiv-test-that-provides-results-in-minutes
- Gene-Radar uses nano-machines to detect specific DNA and RNA bio-markers in real time
- other lab-on-a-chip project - Theranos, for example, recently made its instant diagnosis technology available in some Walgreens (WAG) stores

* http://www.bizjournals.com/boston/blog/bioflash/2013/12/still-in-stealth-nanobiosym-sheds.html

* http://mag.newsweek.com/2013/10/18/cervical-cancer.html

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Squirrels on a Chinar Tree

At an IGNCA exhibition of Mughal miniature paintings this was one of my favorites. 

Painted about 500 years ago by an artist named Abu'l Hassan and titled "Squirrels on a Plane Tree", it shows a hunter attempting to climb up a lovely, lone Chinar, sending a dozen furry tails scampering into the autumn foliage.

One question remained though - are the squirrels in the upper Himalaya's different from the common striped ones you see on the plains? 

The squirrels in this painting certainly look a lot more like the ones in the Ushiku Daibutsu zoo in Japan, than any types I've seen in India so far..