Ayurveda meets Allopathy

CS_25JUL2016_IM-SpecialSection_PIC

For many Indians, Ayurveda represents a traditional system of holistic approaches to good health, practiced since generations. With the advent of the more conventional ‘scientific medicine’ or ‘Biomedicine’ or ‘Allopathy’, Ayurveda has retreated into what is now popularly known as ‘alternative medicine’.
The 25 July 2016 issue of Current Science includes a compilation of nine articles under a SPECIAL SECTION on INTEGRATIVE MEDICINE (IM) that focuses on the integration of the methods of Ayurveda with classical biomedicine. These articles, authored by various medical experts, both from India and outside, discuss the benefits of such an integrative approach, the current healthcare scenario in India– emphasising the role of government policies, and the challenges that exist in implementing strategies that can combine the best of both worlds.
Dr S R Narahari and Dr M Guruprasad Aggithaya, from the Institute of Applied Dermatology, Kerala, and Dr. Terence J Ryan, from the Dept. of Dermatology, University of Oxford, UK, state the importance of collaborations between practitioners of Ayurveda and Allopathy in developing protocols for managing diseases using Integrative Medicine, in the preface to this special section. Ms Sanju Arianayagam from the Dept. of Dermatology, University of Oxford, UK, in her article ‘Disorders of pigmentation of the skin–hypotheses underlying interventions by multiple systems of medicine: is there a role for integrated medicine?’ explains, using the skin as an illustration, how various factors play a part in physiological processes and diseases and how “Biomedicine that seeks single causes is reductionist in its approach to therapy and often ignores the synergism that characterises cellular biochemistry.”
Touching upon topics such as Ayurvedic intervention in the eradication of leprosy, treating of skin diseases, promoting sleep quality in patients with generalized anxiety disorder and co-morbid generalized social phobia and the reverse pharmacology approach for drug discovery employing insights from Ayurveda, particularly in the context of the treatment of arthritis, the authors agree that an integrative approach involving Ayurveda is no doubt beneficial, especially when combined with biomedical therapy. A successfully developed IM protocol by a ‘Multi System Medical Team’ at the Institute of Applied Dermatology (IAD), for managing lower-limb lymphoedema, with proven clinical results, sets the standards for developing protocols for conducting evidence-based clinical studies to develop new IM therapies for chronic skin diseases.
India’s current position on the regulation of Ayurvedic practice, research and education, however, requires an extensive revaluation and amendments, so as to fit into the current standards of health administration and patient care. With dedicated collaborative efforts from researchers, doctors, educators and policy makers in the field of Ayurveda one can envision a future where integrative medicine, incorporating Ayurvedic methods, plays important roles in the restitution of health in the cases of many, suffering from various chronic ailments.
The special section on integrative medicine published in Vol. 111(2) on 25 July 2016 can be freely accessed via the link provided here. The section has received a mention in Deccan Herald and The Wire and these articles are available via the following links:
Deccan Herald
The Wire

MID-YEAR MEETING 2016

Since 1990, the Mid-Year Meeting (MYM) has become a regular feature of the Indian Academy of Sciences. These meetings were started to provide the elected Fellows and Associates of the Academy an opportunity and a platform to meet and share their work.
Every year the Mid-Year Meeting is held in the Faculty Hall of the Indian Institute of Science. Only on two occasions the meetings travelled to the Royal Cities of Mysore and Hyderabad –during the Diamond and Platinum Jubilee years of the Academy.
One of the major attractions of these meetings is the special and public lectures. The special lectures mark the beginning of the day, and the day ends with a public lecture, usually delivered by an eminent researcher or a scholar. In the past, Ramachandra Guha, a well-known historian-writer, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, Founder of Biocon, and several others from different walks of life have delivered these talks. The public lecture on the evening of 1st July will be by Pratap Bhanu Mehta from the Centre of Policy Research, New Delhi. He will talk on the “Two Ideas of India”—India as a Federation of Communities and India as a Zone of Freedom, and how the emphasis must shift from the former to the latter.
Given that this year has been proclaimed as the International Year of Pulses, this edition of the Academy meeting has arranged a special lecture on a possible second Green Revolution through pulses.
The other special lecture is a talk on India’s ASTROSTAT mission – the instruments on board and the scientific results obtained so far.
More recently, timely topical symposiums have been added to add a diverse flavour to the gathering. For instance, a mini-symposium on the ‘Science of Himalaya’ was organized in one of the previous editions of this meeting. This year the meeting will host a symposium on the recent discovery of gravitational waves. Scientists involved directly with the discovery of the gravity waves earlier this year will speak about the challenges faced when trying to observe these waves. The history of gravity waves from prediction to discovery, as well as the future prospects of these waves and the implications for setting up observatories in India, will be discussed.
This edition of MYM is definitely bigger and more exciting. Join us on 1-2 July, 2016, at the Indian Institute of Science!
For a detailed programme card, click here: http://www.ias.ac.in/public/Resources/Events/27_MYM_Programme.pdf
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Making waves: the breaking story

Resonance is the monthly journal of science education brought out by the Indian Academy of Sciences. Most of the content is serious enough to justify the ‘Journal’ – it is meant to be a useful resource for students and teachers of science. The main target is the undergraduate group, though spill-over to interested students in the higher secondary ‘plus two’ group as well as postgraduate does happen.  The articles are refereed, and also edited for clarity and readability even after acceptance, and are expected to go beyond what is readily available in textbooks.

Right from the start, the founding fathers of Resonance felt that the serious purpose of the journal did not mean a staid appearance.  The size was chosen to fit into a hand or a small bag and carry around. (This was 1995, before everyone carried around a smartphone!) The front cover varies depending on what the issue contains, and the back cover carries the portrait of a scientist we feel that students should know more about. Authors often put in historical anecdotes, unexpected connections, digress into boxes and marginal notes. And cartoons have always been part of Resonance.  The latest issue, March 2016, is unique in the twenty year history of the journal because it brings to readers a dramatic discovery which was unannounced  (though strongly suspected) when the February issue had just come out!  The story requires a short  digression into another kind of wave.

Consider how much we all depend on electromagnetic waves –  the physicists’ name for  what most people call  radio waves or microwaves.  Maxwell gave the theory of electromagnetic waves in 1864, and Hertz produced and detected them in 1887, with our own JC Bose leaping into the fray  soon after. It took a few more decades for   radio,  television and wireless communication to appear as outstanding applications. Today, these have been eclipsed by mobile phones, the GPS, where satellites guide you to your favourite pizza place, and of course the Internet.  (The internet uses light in glass fibres, but this too is an electromagnetic wave.)

Now, there is another kind of wave, as fundamental to the physicist as the electromagnetic.  Einstein proposed his new theory of gravity in 1915, replacing Newton’s grand vision of two hundred and fifty years earlier. It took him only more one year to propose that changes in the force of gravity too must travel through space at the same speed as electromagnetic waves. The twist is that gravity is itself a property of space in Einstein’s theory!  This means that the mathematics is more complicated than what Maxwell’s waves needed. One has to understand the distortion of space moving through a space that is itself distorted.  This  complication held up people, Einstein included, for more than fifty years!  Visionaries like Wheeler in the US and Zeldovich in Russia did not wait for mathematical certainty, but plunged into the role of Einstein’s gravity for stars, and for   the universe as a whole,  from  the nineteen sixties onwards. Black holes became the symbol of this revolution.

That brings us to the announcement of February 11, 2016.   A team of hundreds of scientists and engineers who had toiled for more than a decade on LIGO stood before the world and proclaimed that the gravitational waves had finally been detected. The signature? Unimaginably minute   movements of huge mirrors in kilometre-long vacuum tubes in two separate observatories separated by most of North America, matching each other. How minute? A millionth of a millionth of a millionth of a centimetre!   The movements matched what the theorists had long said would be the death cries of two black holes merging into one. The cry is not just a figure of speech, because the frequencies are indeed in the audible range. The simulated sound would rise  in pitch and in intensity to  a shriek before lapsing into silence. This event made it to all newspapers the next day.

The Resonance team is usually in a state of tension in the middle of the month, there are articles to be copy edited, authors coaxed into responding to queries, matters of fonts and placement and all the unseen work that goes into a magazine. The gravitational wave detection forced us to abandon our plans and start afresh and in even higher gear. Fortunately, some Indian scientists have been involved in the gravitational wave scene for years, and with their help, a rather different issue was put together centred on gravitational waves, with pieces on the history, the future, the astronomy, and some of the personalities involved.  Hopefully, the brief surge of excitement which most students would have felt on reading the news will now be reinforced for some of them with a more detailed and scientific account of what this discovery means. And some of them may go on to take part in the new science which will unfold from this detection.