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Betel Nut - The Chewing Package that activates a Precancerous Oral Disease

The traditional Asian chewing package used in marriages for symbolising heavenly love, is no longer having its heavenly charm according to a new research. Areca nut, packed with betel leaves and slaked lime, is an important chewing dessert in many Asian cultures. Its usage to cure indigestion and impotence dates back to first century AD and it is still being consumed by around 700 million people in the tropics for its psychoactive and brain stimulating properties. However, studies have indicated that several chemical compounds present in areca nut are carcinogens and its usage has been linked to oral cancers. Now a new study points at a detailed pathway on how chewing areca nut causes a precancerous condition.

5 new gene mutations found, making a significant contribution to an international database.

A collaborative study conducted by researchers at the Department of Molecular Reproduction, Development and Genetics, Indian Institute of Science (IISc) and the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS), Bangalore, has analyzed DNA samples of Indian families to study brain diseases. Headed by Dr. Arun Kumar from IISc and Dr. P. S. Bindu from NIMHANS, it is the first report on the genetic analysis of 22 Indian families with neurodegenerative diseases caused by alterations in a specific gene called PLA26G.

A novel insight into the mechanism behind what makes Tuberculosis tick

An increasing number of cases of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis and total-drug resistant tuberculosis are being discovered in India, accounting for the highest TB burden in any country across the globe. It has been said, ‘It is not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change’. Mycobacterium tuberculosis is able to adapt and thrive despite the immune system and drugs that are targeted against it. This is due to its ability to sense and adapt to its host's environment. Dr. Deepak Saini’s laboratory at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, is working at unraveling the molecular mechanism that helps M. tuberculosis sense, respond and adapt to its host environment.

Do healthy muscles fight infections too?

It has been repeatedly reported that physical exercises are beneficial for health and also for improving the body’s ability to fight infections. However, exactly how exercising helps improve immunity against infections is still a mystery. The immune system which consists of both innate and acquired mechanisms protects the body from invading pathogens (infectious agents). The innate (native) immunity is the first line of defence post exposure to infection. Subsequently, the more complex and potent acquired (adapted) immune responses take over. In the Indian subcontinent, we are no strangers to infections, having been exposed to an ever increasing range of infectious diseases and related health concerns. Can exercising help build good muscles which then in turn are better at fighting infection?

Rapid imaging strategy puts woes of developmental biologists in the past

Developmental biologists are often required to study embryogenesis in different stages and acquire this information by imaging their samples at periodic intervals. These samples are commonly labeled with fluorescent dyes which emit a specific wavelength of light after excitation with a specific wavelength of light source, such as a laser. Though this is a universal practice, the dyes are often easily photobleached due to excessive exposure to light. This results in the loss of signal intensity and a high background (non-specific signals arising out of autofluorescence), which ultimately limits the quality of images.

Scientists decipher a key puzzle in brain tumor research

Glioblastoma - one of the most common forms of brain tumor does not have a foolproof cure till date. A person with glioblastoma, who has undergone radiation therapy coupled with chemotherapy and all the other latest therapies, survives for an average of just over a year (12-17 months). Needless to say, glioblastoma cells still remain an enigma.

Study reveals toxic effects of a widely used medicinal plant

Plants have been used as a traditional medicine from ancient times. The 2015 Nobel Prize in Medicine for the discovery of Artemisinin from a plant extract is an epitome of the potential benefits of plants. However, certain commonly used medicinal plants can be toxic to human health. The concept that herbal medicines are totally safe is a myth and their properties need to be thoroughly investigated.

Roundup® the usual suspects: Could a weed killer cause hormonal imbalances in rats?

Pesticides are becoming a major health concern worldwide. Recently, Saudi Arabia, one of the major importers of green chillies from India issued a ban against this import citing high levels of pesticides in shipments. In a bizarre case in North India, five tigers were thought to have been killed by pesticides—DDT—between 2013 and 2015. Yet another story blames the widespread use of pesticides in Punjab as the main reason for rising cancer rates in the state.

How does arecanut habit lead to Oral diseases?

Chewing arecanut or betel nut is a very common practice in our country, and arecanut has very important place in cultural and religious life of different communities. Although people believe that it has various health benefits, it is an established fact that habitual arecanut use can cause cancer. A major health hazard caused by arecanut is Oral submucous fibrosis (OSF), which is a pre-cancerous condition commonly found in South and South East Asians.

Gut Feelings: Dissecting the molecular basis of chronic non-infectious diarrhoea

A healthy gut is a prerequisite for a healthy life. However, when things go wrong in the bowels, diarrhoea or leaky bowels are often the result – with the condition ranging from being merely irritating or embarrassing to life-threatening. Recently, novel mutations have been discovered to be responsible for causing distinct gastro-intestinal disorders of hitherto unknown causes. The work was carried out by scientists at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore in collaboration with international teams from Austria and Norway.

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