News on Health & Science

Lab Report

Chillies can bust malaria:
Good old chillies could become the latest weapon in fighting malaria. Researchers at Vector Biology Research Lab in the University of Mysore have found that capsaicin, a compound that gives chilli its characteristic pungency and heat, can kill larvae of the malaria-spreading Anopheles stephensi mosquito and filaria-spreading Culex quinquefasciatus mosquito effectively. The study, which appeared in a recent issue of the Journal of Vector Borne Diseases, showed that when the larvae are exposed to a solution containing .024 per cent capsaicin, they become inactive in about 18 hours.While the observed mortality of Cx. Quinquefasciatus larvae was 99 per cent, that of An. stephensi larvae was nearly 96 per cent. It is estimated that more than 500 million people all over the world suffer from mosquito-borne diseases every year.

Are you in search of an antidote for hypertension? A team of researchers in Tamil Nadu has found that eating food cooked in sesame oil can lower blood pressure. When 50 volunteers aged 35 to 60 years ate food cooked in sesame oil for 45 days their systolic and diastolic blood pressure came down to normal, the researchers reported in the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine recently. But when the cooking medium was changed, the values shot up to the earlier levels. Other benefits of sesame oil include decreased lipid per oxidation and improved anti-oxidant status in hypertensive patients, they claimed.

Trapping photons to store data

In a classic example of how inspired minds produce “high science” with limited physical resources, researchers at Bhavnagar University in Gujarat have created devices that can store data by trapping normal light. The novel optical storage technique may be simple but can have profound practical applications. The physicists, led R.V. Mehta, have found that photons (particles of light) can be trapped in a non-magnetic fluid containing nano-sized (where 1 nanometre is equal to one-billionth of a metre) magnetic particles when a magnetic force is applied. More importantly, the photons thus stored in micro-cavities of nanoparticles can be retrieved at will in a steady fashion by switching off the magnetic field. The discovery, recently reported in the journal Physical Review Letters, is far simpler than the existing optical storage techniques.

Berry good for health

“Superfruit” sea buckthorn gets yet another thumbs up. A team of researchers at the Defence Institute of Physiology & Allied Sciences in New Delhi has found that oil extracted from the seeds of sea buckthorn, a kind of berry grown in high-altitude areas bordering China, is excellent for preventing cardiovascular diseases, particularly atherosclerosis (hardening of arteries) and hypercholesterolemia (or high blood cholesterol). The scientists demonstrated that while healthy rabbits who were fed one milligramme of sea buckthorn seed oil showed a significant decline in plasma cholesterol and “bad” LDL cholesterol and an improved “good” HDL cholesterol level in 18 days, those put on a high-cholesterol diet for 60 days before the administration of the same quantity of the oil achieved normal values in less than 30 days. The study appears in today’s issue of the journal Phytomedicine.

Source: The Telegraph (Kolkata, India)

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