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Showing posts from April 28, 2017

Scientists find nine-million-year-old ape fossils in Himachal Pradesh (downtoearth)

In a significant development in research on human evolution, scientists have found that a very primitive ape-like ancestor which was hitherto considered a native of only Eurasia had existed in India too.

Scientists discovered the surprise fossil during an excavation in Haritalyangar in Shiwalik hills region in Himachal Pradesh, about 120 km from Shimla on the road to Kangra.

The fossils are nine million year old and are in the form of lower molar germs or permanent teeth that are un-erupted and still forming in lower jaw. The crowns of both the molars are fully formed, but there is no root formation. This indicates that they belonged to infants of slightly different ages at the time of their deaths. One specimen is a partial right first molar and other a complete left second molar. The apes seemed to be slightly larger (about 15 kg heavier) than the modern-day Siamang Gibbons, that are found in the Himalaya and South-East Asia.

Detailed studies showed that the specimens were similar …

Scientists find new anti-diabetic drug from plant source, call it non-toxic, safe (downtoearth,)

Scientists in India have found that a plant-derived substance called chalcone can be used to make effective anti-diabetic drug.

They have found that chalcone, which is ubiquitously found in many plants, improves insulin sensitivity and reduces blood glucose levels in the same way as commercially available anti-diabetic drugs.

Patients with type-2 diabetes are unable to utilise sugars properly. After a meal, their blood glucose levels remain elevated for prolonged periods of time. Gradually, their muscles become insensitive to insulin, the hormone that converts unspent blood glucose into glycogen which is stored in the liver. Since the amount of glycogen also reduces with time, patients develop cholesterol disorders.

Scientists from the Central Drug Research Institute (CDRI), Lucknow, have reported that treating muscle cells with a particular type of chalcone (phenolic compound) can improve glucose uptake. This makes it particularly useful for diabetic patients. Since their muscles ar…

It’s triple-check for science reporting (hindu)

Medical stories should be complete and carefully verified

Since the office of the Readers’ Editor was established in The Hindu in 2006, one reader has been relentless in his pursuit for accuracy. He has an excellent eye for detail and a phenomenal memory of sporting events. Dr. Maniyur Raghavendran is a consultant urologist and transplant surgeon. While most of his letters are about slip ups in sports stories, his recent mail questioned the credibility of a journal cited in a medical story.

The report, “Woman takes risk, achieves motherhood after 20 miscarriages” (April 15, 2017), was filed by the Nellore staff reporter. It was a moving story about a woman who wanted to have a child despite difficult medical conditions, and who was ready to take a risk because her husband’s family was pressuring him to marry again. The report was based on interviews with the woman and her doctor. It was a good human-interest story, but was marred by the strapline which read: “In view of the rare natu…

Learning to run twice as fast (.hindu)

The challenge of the States in achieving a debt ceiling of 20% by 2023 threatens overall fiscal responsibility targets

It is no mean achievement that the daunting fiscal deficit target of 3.5% of GDP for the past year was met. Beyond the 3.2% fiscal deficit target for the current year, the government has accepted a 3% target thereafter. Continuing this trend in the future will enable the realisation of the preferred 60% debt-GDP ratio by 2023. The Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) Review Committee report, now in the public domain, has preferred a debt to GDP ratio of 60% for the general government by 2023, comprising 40% for the Central government and 20% for the State governments. Given the recent track record, there is a reasonable probability of the Central government achieving the 40% debt to GDP ratio. The focus now is on the States. Can they, in partnership with the Central government, enable the near optimum of 60% to be achieved by the terminal date? For inte…

What’s cricket?: On BCCI's approach to cricket (.hindu)

The BCCI must take the message from the ICC’s course correction on revenue-sharing

The last few months have been a chastening spell for the Board of Control for Cricket in India. The Justice R.M. Lodha reforms punctured the bubble of entitlements that some BCCI officials lived in. Even as the sport’s administrators struggled to come to terms with the diktats of the Supreme Court, a big shock wave has emanated from Dubai with the International Cricket Council voting overwhelmingly in favour of changes to its governance and revenue model. All that remains is a formal ratification at the ICC’s annual general body meeting in London in June. The decisions of the Dubai meeting effectively negate the BCCI’s ambitious move initiated by its then president, N. Srinivasan, in 2014. The proposal had envisaged a “Big Three” governance and revenue-sharing structure that co-opted Cricket Australia and the England and Wales Cricket Board. It offered a maximum of 21% of the ICC’s revenue share to the…

In four doses: On malaria vaccines (.hindu )

The first malaria vaccine is cleared for pilot tests, raising hopes about wider use

Beginning next year, the World Health Organisation will begin pilot tests of the injectable malaria vaccine RTS,S (or Mosquirix) on 750,000 children aged 5-17 months in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi. The vaccine has been successfully put through a Phase III trial, in which the drug is tested for safety and efficacy. Any decision on wider use will be taken based on the results of the pilot tests in the three countries. If the vaccine does indeed prove to be ready for large-scale use, it will be a milestone in the fight against malaria. Although the number of cases globally and in the African region came down by 21% between 2010 and 2015, in 2015 itself the number of deaths worldwide on account of the disease was as high as 429,000. According to WHO estimates, Africa accounted for 92% of these deaths, and 90% of the 212 million new cases that year. In such a scenario, even a vaccine with limited benefits coul…