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 CHEMCOS Journal of The Chemical Society, IIT Delhi
 Issue III : November 2008
 Journal Home > Issue III (November 2008) > India Academy of Sciences
74th Annual Meeting of the Indian Academy of Sciences

The 74th Annual Meeting of the Indian Academy of Science kicked off in some style. Being the foremost science organization of the country, one would expect the meeting to start off in a scientific note, but this one seemed to be different, taking inspiration from Shakespeare’s description of the Romans’ enduring fascination of Cleopatra. The CHEMCOS team brings a few talks to your computer screens.

The following reports were compiled by :
Miss. Pallavi Thaplyal
, M.Sc. Chemistry, Delhi University.
Miss. Jency Thomas
, PhD student, Dept. of Chemistry, IIT Delhi.
Miss. Rachna Rastogi, PhD student, Centre for Bio-Medical Engineering, IIT Delhi.

The human eye lens: a tissue that age does wither, custom does stale
Prof. D. Balasubramanium, L.V Prasad Eye Institute, Hyderabad.

A comparison of French painter Claude Monet´s paintings before and after he contracted cataract described the extent of damage caused to the vision of most patients. Prof. Balasubramanian adopted this approach of explanation using vivid images throughout his presentation. The lecture was about one of the most prevalent eye conditions in India- cataract. That there are some 50 million people in India suffering from eye disorders, with over 60% of them having cataract, set the tone for what was a thoroughly enlightening lecture.

The functions of the various parts of the eye were described. How the cornea focuses the image and how the eye lens accommodates. The deterioration of the tissue around the eye is the major cause of cataract. The tissue cannot be regenerated due to which the process is not reversible. A key component of the lens are crystallins, proteins that can be categorized as α and β. Mutations in the proteins are the major cause for cataract. The most prevalent form of cataract in India is the nuclear cataract and as the name suggests, there is loss of vision at the centre, although peripheral vision persists.
Cataract cases have been found to be age related. There is decreased transmission of light with age which results in increased glare. Insoluble protein accumulates and precipitates, this leads to lens hardening. There is browning of the lens and more light is required to read. Accommodation of the lens gets weakened. The age dependence of transmission of light was shown with the use of graphs and comparative study, further elucidating the relation.

The mechanism for the damage of the lens can be attributed to photochemical oxidative changes. There is also a possibility of a sugar based reaction with proteins called caramelisation. Studies are still going on to describe the exact damage mechanism.
The best option when one contracts cataract is the intra ocular transplant. The main issue of concern is post operative care. The disadvantage of the one day eye camps lies in the fact that there is no follow up after the surgery. Thus, the LV Prasad Eye Institute trains people in an area or a village to check for symptoms of cataract, refer patients to hospitals and educate them about post operative care. The objective of the Institute is to reach out to 50 Million cataract patient through a very innovative pyramidal set up by 2020. On the bottom most rung of the pyramid are the vision guardians, trainees who do preliminary check ups and send patients for further referrals. Then comes the vision centre where trainees are given a diploma after being taught how to use some basic instruments, no surgery is performed though. Followed by the secondary service centre (50 of which have been established by LV Prasad Eye Institute), the tertiary service centre and finally the centre of excellence. This model has a very inclusive approach, where communities will get involved in a self help organizational manner, and promises to have an impact through out the country.

Delhi – The city of many gates
Narayani Gupta, Jamia Milia Islamia, New Delhi.

Dr. Narayani Gupta, Professor of Urban History at the Department of History and Culture, Jamia Milia Islamia, New Delhi delivered a fascinating lecture on the history of Delhi. Her talk "Delhi-The City of Many Gates" was avid and highly picturesque. As the talk itself highlighted, the city has a number of gates, Dr. Gupta pointed out that these doorways got their names from the routes they connected, for example Ajmeri Gate (Delhi-Ajmer) and Kashmiri Gate (Delhi-Kashmir). They also hold memories of historical events such as The Khooni Darwaza, where the British army cold-bloodedly shot four Mughal princes in 1857. The dilapidation of the Kashmiri Gate is attributed to the canon shots fired by the British during their forced entry into the city.

The talk emphasized extensively on the culture of the city since its establishment by the Tughlaqs and Khiljis to the British rule. She stated that the inhabitants have left an indelible mark on the history of the city, to cite some examples; the names of places such as Shahpur Jat and Mongol Puri are based on the clans like Jats of Haryana and the Mongols residing in their areas. Even the cuisines have an origin from Lahore brought to the city by the Mughal chefs. Delhi, originally called Daulatabad has been an important city during the Mughal reign along with Lahore and Agra, formerly Akbarabad. It however gained capital status during the British rule who named it New Delhi. Dr. Gupta showed commendable knowledge on the various archaeological sites of the city. She showed pride in mentioning that Delhi is one of the rare cities to have three sites; the Qutub complex, the Red Fort and the Humayun Tomb on the World Heritage List. Her talk left an after-thought that with progression of time the city is losing its history due to negligence and lack of concern.

Microtubule dynamics, mitosis and cancer chemotherapy
Prof. Dulal Panda, Indian Institute of Technology, Mumbai.

Professor Dulal Panda, School of Biosciences and Bioengineering, IIT Mumbai gave a brilliant scientific presentation on the functions of microtubules and their roles in the progression of cancer. Microtubules are typically of a diameter of 24 nm and play an important part in the formation of kinetocores binding the chromosome during mitosis. The number of microtubules binding to each chromatid is 20 and the succession of metaphase to anaphase is hindered till complete binding. Dr. Panda gave detailed insights on the action of various anti-cancer agents such as Vinca alkaloids and taxol derivatives which affect the microtubule assembly. He presented detailed studies on drugs such as estramustine and benomyl which perturb the polymerization of tubulin, a chief constituent of microtubules. The talk concluded with the discussion of how microtubule dynamics and their stabilization can lead to apoptosis or cell death.

Crystal engineering: polymorphs, cocrystals and network solids
Ashwini Nangia, University of Hyderabad, Hyderabad.

The major emphasis of Prof. Nangia’s talk was on crystal engineering of polymorphs and cocrystals in organic solids. He began his talk with a brief history of development and various aspects of crystal engineering. The term crystal engineering was first used by Pepinsky in 1955. Since then significant contributions in this area have been made by Schimdt (1971), Desiraju (1989), Nangia (2002) and others. Crystal engineering of polymorphs and cocrystals has attracted immense interest during the past decade. The term polymorphism was coined by McCrone in 1965 for the phenonmenon wherein a particular solid can crystallise in different systems having the same chemical composition. Currently over 5,000 polymorphs are registered in Cambridge Structure Database (CSD) of which around 2,000 are dimorphic. In 2007 Roy and coworkers reported a solid having 7 polymorphic modifications. A cocrystal, on the other hand, is a crystal adduct held by non-covalent interactions such as hydrogen bonding, p···p interactions etc. Using the example of diphenyl benzene he demonstrated how CH···O interactions could be related to the number of assymetric entities in a unit cell (Z). His group analysed various solids in CSD and they were able to conclude that shorter CH–O interaction resulted in higher Z. cocrystals are of great interest in pharamacueticals. Drugs which are usually highly soluble exhibit low stability. Designing cocrystals of such drugs is therefore desirable. In this context, cocrystal of temozolomide and bipyridine-N-oxide (BPNO) was one of the examples discussed by Prof. Nangia.


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