Thursday, December 27, 2012


(December 27, 1822 – September 28, 1895)

A tribute to the great man of science , regarded as Father of Microbiology, on his birth anniversary

Louis Pasteur was born on December 27 1822 in Dole in the Jura region of France and grew up in the town of Arbois. His father, Jean Pasteur, was a poorly educated tanner. Louis's aptitude was recognized by his college headmaster, who recommended that the young man apply for the École Normale Supérieure. After serving briefly as professor of physics at Dijon Lycée in 1848, Pasteur became professor of chemistry at Strasbourg University where he met Marie Laurent, daughter of the university's rector in 1849. They were married on May 29, 1849. They had five children, only two of whom survived to adulthood.

Though Pasteur began as a chemist working on the optical properties of tartaric acid and its stereochemistry (1849), his studies on fermentation led him to take interest in microorganisms. He coined the terms ‘microbiology’, as the study of the living organisms of microscopic size and ‘vaccine’. He disapproved the theory of spontaneous generation. This led to understanding of the germ theory of infection, and his method of killing harmful bacteria in liquids by holding them for a time at a given temperature, which is now known as pasteurisation.

He created and tested vaccines for diphtheria, cholera, yellow fever, plague, rabies, anthrax, and tuberculosis. He is regarded as one of the three main founders of microbiology, together with Ferdinand Cohn and Robert Koch. In 1888, in recognition of his achievements, the Pasteur Institute of Paris (Institut Pasteur) was built by public contribution during his lifetime for investigations of infectious diseases and preparation of vaccines. He died in Paris on September 28, 1895. He is buried beneath the Institut Pasteur, a rare honor in France.

Some of the Quotes by and on Pasteur :

I am on the edge of mysteries and the veil is getting thinner and thinner.Letter (December 1851); as quoted in The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague In History (2004) by John M. Barry
Science knows no country, because knowledge belongs to humanity, and is the torch which illuminates the world. Science is the highest personification of the nation because that nation will remain the first which carries the furthest the works of thought and intelligence.As quoted in Louis Pasteur, Free Lance of Science (1960) by René Jules Dubos, Ch. 3 "Pasteur in Action"

I am utterly convinced that Science and Peace will triumph over Ignorance and War, that nations will eventually unite not to destroy but to edify, and that the future will belong to those who have done the most for the sake of suffering humanity.
As quoted in Louis Pasteur, Free Lance of Science (1960) by René Jules Dubos, Ch. 3 "Pasteur in Action"
"To will is a great thing dear sisters, for Action and Work usually follow Will, and almost always Work is accompanied by Success. These three things, Work, Will, Success, fill human existence. Will opens the door to success both brilliant and happy; Work passes these doors, and at the end of the journey Success comes to crown one's efforts."Louis Pasteur wrote this in a letter to his sisters

In the field of observation, chance favours only the prepared mind.Inaugural Address as Professor of Chemistry and Dean of Faculty of Science, Lillie, France (1854). In Hugh Chisholm, The Encyclopædia Britannica Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, Literature and General Information (1911), Vol. 20, 893.

Let me tell you the secret that has led me to my goal. My only strength lies in my tenacity.
Quoted in René Dubos, Louis Pasteur: Freelance of Science (1950). In W.I.B. Beveridge, The Art of Scientific Investigation (1953), 140.

He who proclaims the existence of the Infinite, and none can avoid it — accumulates in that affirmation more of the supernatural than is to be found in all the miracles of all the religions; for the notion of the Infinite presents that double character that forces itself upon us and yet is incomprehensible. When this notion seizes upon our understanding we can but kneel ... I see everywhere the inevitable expression of the Infinite in the world; through it the supernatural is at the bottom of every heart. The idea of God is a form of the idea of the Infinite. As long as the mystery of the infinite weighs on human thought, temples will be erected for the worship of the Infinite, whether God is called Brahma, Allah, Jehovah, or Jesus; and on the pavement of these temples, men will be seen kneeling, prostrated, annihilated by the thought of the Infinite.As quoted by Sir William Osler in his introduction to The Life of Pasteur (1907) by Rene Vallery-Radot, as translated by R .L. Devonshire (1923)

Friday, November 9, 2012

Science.... discarding it ?!

It is painful to see the crop of people who distort the reality...distort the cultural values...
no morals... no ethics... no long term perspective.... criticising the ancient values is the only agenda....
We boast ourselves as 'scientifically well developed'...
we believe if  the so called scientists   are working on 'teleportation' ....  but we never want to believe that our ancient rishis practiced it.
we believe if some country talks about virtual world... we never believe 'trishanku swarga'...
we believe  tissue cultures or stem cells ... but we never believe how the kauravas are  born dronacharya was born....
we believe in sperm donation... but we never believe how pandavas born...
we believe atom bomb or neutron bomb.... but we never believe brahmastra existed in india long back...
we believe that we can make laser light that can melt even the thickest iron sheets... but we never believe that Lord shiva used it long back...
our ancient people exactly calculated when the eclipses can occur, when the rains would come etc... but we spend crores of rupees on environmental institutes... and everybody knows how their predictions are (despite the boasted scientific equipment)..
if Einstein says E=MC2 and energy can not be destroyed-it only changes its form, everyone applauds... we are never prepared to accept that in Bhagavadgeetha, Lord Krishna told 'Ninam chindanti sastrani..." and also the form of energy, vishnu is changing his avataras to maintain the universe in equilibrium... the creating part is 'brahma'-maintaing part is-vishu while the destruction (as a preparation for new creation ) - shiva.. three roles worked in perfect harmony.
we believe that americans can make stinger weapons... but we never try to accept that even before ramayana, indians know to use 'sabda bhedi'...
so on... a big list to make here.
but  criticizing the mythology is becoming a fashion...without understanding it...   we say that the science never existed... without completely understanding it.. we speak negative things about it.  we  believe 'stephan covey' and similar genre who sell 'personality development'... but we never try to understand the  'Bhagavadgeeta' which is the best book available on personality development...and 'sundara kanda" is the best  treatise on communication skills... and Udyoga parvam is the best treatise on international politics and a guide for ambassadors ?
Some speaker  in a  TV channel was  commenting that he has never seen God.. so he never  believes the existence of God... whether he believes or  not will be his personal is not an universal fact. I wanted to ask  him, whether he has ever personally  seen  Ronald Reagon or Einstein or Karl Marx except in photos or videos.... we believe our videos and pictures as the proof that those people existed... we call it as science... but we never believe if something is written in 'tala patras' or vedas.... and discard them as old or rubbish... and the more vigorously a person discards them, the more scientifically he is projected....!
Is the relativity of time that makes things believable ? is it the materialistic proof that makes the things believable ?
How do you believe that a  remote control can operate a TV ? how do you believe a space scientist can communicate with the space ship thousands of miles away ? if we know about infra red rays only we can believe remote control.(if we don't know about it, we would have thought it is a miracle or some thing). but they became a common thing now... without understanding Infrared waves, we use remote... without the knowledge of  radio-frequencies, we use cell phone or FM radio... they became a part of our life. Can you make a  2-year old kid to understand infrared rays..though he uses TV remote? understand the science, you expect a minimum background knowledge...and maturity. Till then, the true knowledge about the things will be obscure even if we continue to use them as a part of our life.
The ancient science is a similar one. we adopted certain cultures and ethical values. To understand it, we need certain level of basic knowledge and maturity coupled with wisdom. Till then it is obscure.  And, God is not there somewhere outside, but he is in every one of us...we can find it only with practiced introspection.... Without that inclination to explore,  is discarding our culture and values  is called vignana ? the real vignana will be trying to explore the hidden treasures of our  ancient wisdom and apply them to help the people  in coping with the present day complexities. It requires energy.. logic.. capacity to understand the ancient literature in applying our present day science.  
As long as we lack it, we continue to discard or disregard  the  ancient culture, values, ethics and morals;  and promote cheap gimmicks as true science, under the cover of rejecting some baseless superstitions. 

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2012

As decided by the "The Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet" , the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for the year  2012 was awarded jointly to John B. Gurdon and Shinya Yamanaka for the discovery that the mature cells can be reprogrammed to become pluripotent. (The prize was announced today (8th October, 2012) in a press release by Nobel Foundation).  

Their observations challenge the dogma that the specialised cell is irreversibly committed to its fate. Based on his experiments in  egg cell of frog, John B. Gurdon discovered in 1962 that the specialisation of cells is reversible. In 2006,Shinya Yamanaka discovered  that intact mature cells in mice could be reprogrammed to become immature stem cells by introducing only a few genes.  Their surprizing findings carry several applications in medicine, like using the reprogrammed cells to understand the disease processes as well as to develop therapeutic strategies using pleuripotent cells.

((click on the image for larger view).)

The following is the press release of the Nobel Foundation (The 2012 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine - Press Release". 8 Oct 2012

Press Release : 
The Nobel Prize recognizes two scientists who discovered that mature, specialised cells can be reprogrammed to become immature cells capable of developing into all tissues of the body. Their findings have revolutionised our understanding of how cells and organisms develop.

John B. Gurdon discovered in 1962 that the specialisation of cells is reversible. In a classic experiment, he replaced the immature cell nucleus in an egg cell of a frog with the nucleus from a mature intestinal cell. This modified egg cell developed into a normal tadpole. The DNA of the mature cell still had all the information needed to develop all cells in the frog.

Shinya Yamanaka discovered more than 40 years later, in 2006, how intact mature cells in mice could be reprogrammed to become immature stem cells. Surprisingly, by introducing only a few genes, he could reprogram mature cells to become pluripotent stem cells, i.e. immature cells that are able to develop into all types of cells in the body.

These groundbreaking discoveries have completely changed our view of the development and cellular specialisation. We now understand that the mature cell does not have to be confined forever to its specialised state. Textbooks have been rewritten and new research fields have been established. By reprogramming human cells, scientists have created new opportunities to study diseases and develop methods for diagnosis and therapy.

Life – a journey towards increasing specialisation
All of us developed from fertilized egg cells. During the first days after conception, the embryo consists of immature cells, each of which is capable of developing into all the cell types that form the adult organism. Such cells are called pluripotent stem cells. With further development of the embryo, these cells give rise to nerve cells, muscle cells, liver cells and all other cell types - each of them specialised to carry out a specific task in the adult body. This journey from immature to specialised cell was previously considered to be unidirectional. It was thought that the cell changes in such a way during maturation that it would no longer be possible for it to return to an immature, pluripotent stage.

Frogs jump backwards in development
John B. Gurdon challenged the dogma that the specialised cell is irreversibly committed to its fate. He hypothesised that its genome might still contain all the information needed to drive its development into all the different cell types of an organism. In 1962, he tested this hypothesis by replacing the cell nucleus of a frog's egg cell with a nucleus from a mature, specialised cell derived from the intestine of a tadpole. The egg developed into a fully functional, cloned tadpole and subsequent repeats of the experiment yielded adult frogs. The nucleus of the mature cell had not lost its capacity to drive development to a fully functional organism.

Gurdon's landmark discovery was initially met with scepticism but became accepted when it had been confirmed by other scientists. It initiated intense research and the technique was further developed, leading eventually to the cloning of mammals. Gurdon's research taught us that the nucleus of a mature, specialized cell can be returned to an immature, pluripotent state. But his experiment involved the removal of cell nuclei with pipettes followed by their introduction into other cells. Would it ever be possible to turn an intact cell back into a pluripotent stem cell?

A roundtrip journey – mature cells return to a stem cell state

Shinya Yamanaka was able to answer this question in a scientific breakthrough more than 40 years after Gurdon´s discovery. His research concerned embryonal stem cells, i.e. pluripotent stem cells that are isolated from the embryo and cultured in the laboratory. Such stem cells were initially isolated from mice by Martin Evans (Nobel Prize 2007) and Yamanaka tried to find the genes that kept them immature. When several of these genes had been identified, he tested whether any of them could reprogram mature cells to become pluripotent stem cells.

Yamanaka and his co-workers introduced these genes, in different combinations, into mature cells from connective tissue, fibroblasts, and examined the results under the microscope. They finally found a combination that worked, and the recipe was surprisingly simple. By introducing four genes together, they could reprogram their fibroblasts into immature stem cells!

The resulting induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS cells) could develop into mature cell types such as fibroblasts, nerve cells and gut cells. The discovery that intact, mature cells could be reprogrammed into pluripotent stem cells was published in 2006 and was immediately considered a major breakthrough.

From surprising discovery to medical use

The discoveries of Gurdon and Yamanaka have shown that specialised cells can turn back the developmental clock under certain circumstances. Although their genome undergoes modifications during development, these modifications are not irreversible. We have obtained a new view of the development of cells and organisms.

Research during recent years has shown that iPS cells can give rise to all the different cell types of the body. These discoveries have also provided new tools for scientists around the world and led to remarkable progress in many areas of medicine. iPS cells can also be prepared from human cells.

For instance, skin cells can be obtained from patients with various diseases, reprogrammed, and examined in the laboratory to determine how they differ from cells of healthy individuals. Such cells constitute invaluable tools for understanding disease mechanisms and so provide new opportunities to develop medical therapies.

About the scientists : 

Sir John B. Gurdon was born in 1933 in Dippenhall, UK. He received his Doctorate from the University of Oxford in 1960 and was a postdoctoral fellow at California Institute of Technology. He joined Cambridge University, UK, in 1972 and has served as Professor of Cell Biology and Master of Magdalene College. Gurdon is currently at the Gurdon Institute in Cambridge.

Shinya Yamanaka was born in Osaka, Japan in 1962. He obtained his MD in 1987 at Kobe University and trained as an orthopaedic surgeon before switching to basic research. Yamanaka received his PhD at Osaka City University in 1993, after which he worked at the Gladstone Institute in San Francisco and Nara Institute of Science and Technology in Japan. Yamanaka is currently Professor at Kyoto University and also affiliated with the Gladstone Institute.


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Happy teachers day...

Happy teachers day...

when several students are saying  this to me...

I felt glad... at the same time, I also felt little guilty..

Are we really able to deliver the desired level of inspiration to the student community.

I still remember my childhood teachers...not that I have a good memory, but it is because of the way they inspired me.

But, now a days, most students are ignoring the teachers as soon as they pass the subjects.. most of the time, we find fault that the students are changing and teacher-student relationships are going down. But is it completely true ?

I feel that a student need not remember us… but he should remember what we teach, till eternity.

I feel that we, the teachers are also students, in an incessant learning process, but little ahead of our students, so that we will be able to guide them to understand in a simple way. I feel that I am a facilitator, rather than a teacher for my students. I also learn while teaching them.

If a student misses a class, I feel the same way a mother feels when her baby goes out for playing without eating food or drinking milk. I enquire several times for their absence. One of the students mentioned to me that, they are habitually becoming absent because several teachers don’t bother if a class is cancelled…nobody ever asked them why they are mass bunking the classes..the students are happy… and the teachers are also happy. One of the teachers mentioned to me that, if the class is not held as the students mass bunked, they should consider the class is held and go ahead with rest of the schedule. Is it correct ? if we keep a glass of milk ready for our kid… and if he does not drink it, will we leave him, presuming that he drank milk and it is not our responsibility to see that he really consumes it. Is our responsibility ending just by preparing a glass of milk? Shouldn’t we ensure that it is actually consumed by our kid. If students behave in an irresponsible way, it is the teacher’s responsibility to motivate them towards good behavior. The teacher should set an example to the students. Definitely some borderline students will change and lead others to change too.

Another thing is the methodology… we should use the technological advances to facilitate our teaching methods. With the emergence of powerpoint presentations, a new trend has emerged. Power point is not for reading out the slides in the class room. It is for facilitating our teaching process with points for memorizing and graphics/animations for more visual explanation of the concept. But it is being thoroughly misused by several teachers. Teachers are mechanically typing the powerpoints… or even worse, some teachers ask their postgraduates to ‘prepare’ the slides and directly read them in the class room, without even checking once. The students automatically develop lighter opinion of such teachers and think that they can download such slides by themselves. It promotes absenteeism. Some senior professors criticize the new generation teachers for using power point for the same reason. Another hidden reason might be, they can not learn doing powerpoint with a big learning curve. They satisfy themselves by telling repeatedly that the powerpoint is for the people who can not teach well. Both (mechanical reading of slides as well as completely rejecting the power point) are extreme views. We should use the technology to optimize our presentations. We should supplement our class with the slides. We should not substitute the teaching process with mechanical reading of the overcrowded slides…!

Coming to the concept…we should encourage problem based learning. Some of the students mentioned to me that though they like microbiology (or for that fact, any other subject) well… but by the time, they learn about the actual clinical importance of a particular organism, they are overwhelmed and exhausted with elaborate description of all the biochemical reactions of the organism. Such data may be necessary for a PG student… but is it necessary in depth, for an undergraduate student. We should concentrate upon the clinical importance and other practical issues which will really help them in patient care. In this regard, even the examination system needs to be changed. At least some questions to be focused on clinical implications. I wondered when one of a senior examiner asked students in viva about the width of a tapeworm segment…diameter of pinworm… length of female schistosoma and things like that…is it practicable to remember thousands of such numerical values. And what purpose do they serve. Some examiners like asking about outdated tests. We should redesign the curriculum to suit the needs of the present day health care system which is very complex. Are we ready for the change ? !

How much we are learning after ‘passing’ MD or MS ? I observed that some of the faculty telling the PGs that passing exams should be the only goal… and they can learn the subject after passing. Is it real? Can it happen? When they are not learning properly while doing PG, they may not learn any further after passing PG. Instead, they start behaving as if they know everything and mask their ignorance with arrogance so that nobody can approach them easily. The ego prevents us from learning any further. Then we start focusing on materialistic things like –discussing with colleagues about shopping lists, real estate, share market, current politics, future increments/promotions, casual leaves etc. We internally start feeling happy if a class is cancelled… but externally, say that the students are becoming irregular….!



Majority of People

Spend an inordinate amount of time and thought

On their own affairs,

Associates watching one another anxiously

To make sure the other isn’t paid larger salary,

Doesn’t own a bigger car,

Doesn’t take a longer vacation,

The trouble is obviously

They aren’t committed to their job.

That is what ails civilization.

They don’t care a damn for the ship,

So long as they get

What they think is coming to them

In rank, wages, shore leaves, pensions etc.


(Read about : Abraham Lincoln’s letter to his son’s teacher : click here)

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Present

Two men, both seriously ill, occupied the same hospital room.One man was allowed to sit up in his bed for an hour each afternoon to help drain the fluid from his lungs.His bed was next to the room’s only window.
The other man had to spend all his time flat on his back.
The men talked for hours on end.
They spoke of their wives and families, their homes, their jobs, their
involvement in the military service, where they had been on vacation.
Every afternoon, when the man in the bed by the window could sit up,
he would pass the time by describing to his roommate all the things he could see outside the window.
The man in the other bed began to live for those one hour periods
where his world would be broadened and enlivened by all the activity
and color of the world outside.
The window overlooked a park with a lovely lake. Ducks and swans
played on the water while children sailed their model boats. Young
lovers walked arm in arm amidst flowers of every color and a fine view of the city skyline could be seen in the distance.
As the man by the window described all this in exquisite details, the
man on the other side of the room would close his eyes and imagine
this picturesque scene.
One warm afternoon, the man by the window described a parade passing by. Although the other man could not hear the band, he could see it in his mind’s eye as the gentleman by the window portrayed it with descriptive words. Days, weeks and months passed.
One morning, the day nurse arrived to bring water for their baths only
to find the lifeless body of the man by the window, who had died peacefully in his sleep.
She was saddened and called the hospital attendants to take the body away
As soon as it seemed appropriate, the other man asked if he could be
moved next to the window. The nurse was happy to make the switch, and after making sure he was comfortable, she left him alone.
Slowly, painfully, he propped himself up on one elbow to take his
first look at the realworld outside.He strained to slowly turn to look
out the window beside the bed.It faced a blank wall.
The man asked the nurse what could have compelled his deceased
roommate who had described such wonderful things outside this window.
The nurse responded that the man was blind and could not even see the wall.
She said, ‘Perhaps he just wanted to encourage you.’

There is tremendous happiness in making others happy, despite our own situations. Shared grief is half the sorrow, but happiness when shared, is doubled. If you want to feel rich, just count all the things you have that money can’t buy.

‘Today is a gift, that is why it is called The Present".

(A collection from my emails, shared by my friends)