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Sunday, 25 September 2022 | HEALTH PIONEER


Public support needed to create tobacco-free India: Kumar Shubham, Director, Sewa International

Tobacco control is a key parameter in Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led ‘Healthy India’ campaign. However, to enable the government to take stringent tobacco control measures, it is imperative that people are aware of the imminent dangers of tobacco products and fully support such measures.

Noted public policy expert Kumar Shubham, Director of Sewa International, an international organization supporting Indians in need globally, feels that amendments to the tobacco-control law COTPA can play a significant role in curbing the availability and accessibility of tobacco products. He was participating in a discussion organized by Tobacco Free India, a citizen’s group.

Ironically, nearly 13 lakh Indians succumb to tobacco-related diseases every year, in addition to causing a colossal burden on the country’s healthcare system and the affected families. The problem further gets compounded with youth and children chiefly being on the radar of tobacco companies, said Shubham in a talk with Arun Anand, author, and senior journalist.

Not only tobacco companies are engaged in surrogate advertising but also displaying advertisements of tobacco products at points of sale (PoS) to attract children towards tobacco products while purchasing toffees, candies, etc, he rued.

Calling for a ban on surrogate advertising and on the display of ads at PoS, Mr. Shubham said, “PoS are smaller versions of the checkout counters we see at malls that reinforce the idea of buying products that we may otherwise overlook. Ban on the display of ads at PoS can prevent children from getting lured into trying out these products.”

Another area of concern is the designated smoking areas at airports, restaurants, hotels, and resorts. These smoking zones are not only the source of hazardous secondhand smoke but also tacitly legitimize smoking.

“Taking a cue from countries that have gone smoke-free, India must ban designated smoking areas even if that translates into a lower rating for hotels or resorts, as it helps save non-smokers from several diseases,” he said.

As India gears up to evolve into a developed nation by 2047, India can follow Israel, where people just walk up to strangers and stop them from smoking in public places. For this, the Government will need to instill confidence through a strong tobacco-control law, which can be achieved through COTPA amendments that propose making public places 100% smoke-free, said the well-known activist.

Microrobots treat deadly pneumonia in mice

Nanoengineers at the University of California San Diego have developed

microscopic robots, called

microrobots, that can swim around in the lungs, deliver medication and be used to clear up life-threatening cases of bacterial pneumonia.

In mice, the microrobots— made of algae cells whose surfaces are speckled with antibiotic-filled nanoparticles— safely eliminated pneumonia-causing bacteria in the lungs and resulted in 100% survival. By contrast, untreated mice all died within three days after infection.

The results are published in Nature Materials.

The work is a joint effort between the labs of nanoengineering professors Joseph Wang and Liangfang Zhang.

Sugar-coated pouches in body fluids to detect cancer

Detection of the cancer microenvironment may soon become much easier with the help of a new molecular biosensor recently developed by a team of India scientists. Cancer cells secrete small pouches, namely extracellular vesicles (EV) covered with sugar molecules, Hyaluronan (HA), which has a direct link to tumour malignancy and is

considered a potential biomarker for early diagnosis of colon


These EVs are abundant in body fluids (blood, faeces, etc.), and all types of cells secrete these EVs into the extracellular matrix. Cancer cells secrete at least two times more EVs into the body fluids than normal cells). Therefore, these EVs could be isolated non-invasively from a patient’s body for early cancer diagnosis.

Dr. Tatini Rakshit laboratory, supported by Inspire faculty grant of the Department of Science and Technology (DST), at Shiv Nadar Institute of Eminence, Delhi, in collaboration with S. N. Bose National Centre for Basic Sciences (SNBNCBS), Kolkata, Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics, Kolkata and IIT Bhilai, Chhatisgarh has unravelled the contour lengths of HA on a single cancer cell-derived EV surface.

Their study showed that a single cancer cell-derived EV is coated with very short chain HA molecules (contour length less than 500 nanometers) using single molecule techniques and elucidated that these short-chain HA-coated EVs are significantly more elastic than the normal cell-derived EVs. This intrinsic elasticity of HA-coated EVs in cancer helps them to withstand multiple external forces during extracellular transportation, uptake, excretion by cells,

adhesion to cell surfaces, etc. The study has been published in Physical Chemistry Letters.

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