Monday, September 29, 2014

India, not Hindutvastan...

It is not about Rajdeep Sardesai.

A journalist was heckled and beaten up because he asked "stupid", awkward questions and because he has a very different point of view. So do we start beating up each other because we ask uncomfortable questions of one another and that we do not agree with each others views?

That the saner amongst us might be blind to or silent on where this can all lead to, is frightening. A bold, strong, confident, developed India, proud of its multi-cultural as well as ancient ethos, is certainly what I look forward to and whole-heatedly will work for. But a belligerent, macho Hindutvastan, scares me.

Friday, August 1, 2014

The Tripping Point hypothesis in epigenetics - the start of cancer?

Researchers have long known that cancer is caused by damage to some critical stretch of DNA. Exposure to radiation as well as cigarette smoking causes genetic damage and that's how they cause cancer.

In recent times, the role of epigenetics, or more precisely, epigenetic damage as a cause of cancer has emerged as well.

So what is epigenetics? Some genes in our genome act as switches, turning other genes on or off. At embryonic stage, this switching on or off at different times and for different lengths of time is what determines which stem cells end up as eyes and which ones end up as our ears.

This switching on and off, does not end post the embryo stage or at birth, but is a constant and continuous process.

Whenever damage occurs in our body - to a tissue, a cell or even our genes, this switching kicks in to undertake necessary repair. Once the repair work is completed, the switch is reversed. If the damage occurs frequently or is intense, the number of times the switching occurs and the duration it is expressed is increased.

Now, for a moment, step aside into the mundane physical world. Consider a sudden burst of voltage in your home - what happens then? The circuit breaker will trip and the harmful burst of electricty will be cut off, till such time that an external influence (such as you or your electrician) does not fix and REVERSE it - the operative word being REVERSE.

It is from this analogy that i derive the name for the proposed hypothesis - The Tripping point.
Faced with a situation where the occurrence of damage is extremely frequent and extremely intense - such as that caused by chain smoking - how might epigenetics react? Is there a possibility that these switches are permanently forced in one state, just as the circuit breaker in our home example above? Does the process, coerced into producing cells to repair a damage, then simply not stop producing cells because it has reached the tripping point?


The hypothesis may have some substance after all. Seth Pollak, a professor at the University of Wisconsin and his team conducted a study on the impact that abuse during childhood may have at a cellular level.

It turns out that a gene NR3C1 that helps our body cope with stress is permanently switched off in most of the children who had undergone abuse during their childhood. When the body is exposed to stress, it releases the hormone cortisol that sends a signal to ramp up the blood sugar for a quick burst of energy at the expense of other energy demanding processes such as digestion, growth and immune functions. NR3C1 triggers a receptor that drains the cortisol from the body, allowing the body to return to its normal state after some time. If this gene is switched off, the body remains in "alert" mode all the time, which was the case with most of the children who participated in the study.

"They (the children) often misinterpret innocent behavior as threatening; they can be aggressive, and they struggle with change. The long-term results are the chronic psychological problems like anxiety and depression and chronic physical problems like heart disease and type II diabetes, which often surface years later in victims of childhood abuse", the study noted. In the context of my hypothesis, the tripping point for NR3C1 had been reached.

Is this then what occurs in certain types of cancers? Do some of us smoke to the point where the gene(s) that need(s) to repair the damage caused by smoking reaches the tripping point thus triggering the cancer itself?

From NOVA online
Abuse Casts a Long Shadow by Changing Children’s Genes
Epigenetic Therapy

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Sacche din kab ayenge?

In our enthusiasm to mock Kejriwal and AAP, let us not forget, the biggest joke is on us, the citizens of India - the corrupt, the inept and the criminals, they all roam free and that is the biggest mockery of all.

You see, five years will pass. I have no doubt we will be better off as a country. And yet, nothing, nothing at all will be done against all the Congress scams.

It is week since the election results were declared and the Vasundhara govt has yet to act on Vadra. We were told, she did nothing in the four months since she took office as BJP would have been accused of being vindictive/election code of conduct etc.

What Kejriwal and AAP have been trying to tell us all is precisely this - the implicit nexus between major political parties on matters related to corruption.

Sacche din kab ayenge?

Thursday, February 20, 2014

A bit of India died this week...

A bit of India died this week...the week of 17th February, 2014.

In one of the most shameful and abysmal acts i have witnessed in my lifetime, political parties, especially those in TN, went into overdrive to release murderers. Not just any murderers, but cold blooded assassins of a Prime Minister of India.

A party, that has everything to lose, played its last hand, and gambled that the bifurcation of a state might win it some bargaining edge in the coming elections.

No sir, we don't need Pakistan's ISI to deliver a thousand cuts, we are capable of doing it ourselves.