Wednesday, September 24, 2008

New Protests Break Out in Kashmir, Across India

For a second day, police in Indian-controlled Kashmir have opened fire during protests in the main town of Srinagar.

Thousands of Muslims took to the streets Wednesday to mourn fellow protesters killed in skirmishes with police. Demonstrators chanted slogans calling for revenge and independence from India, while destroying police bunkers.

Others scrambled to stock up on supplies as Indian forces briefly eased a total curfew.

Officials say at least 21 people have been killed since Monday, when Muslim separatists began demonstrating against an economic blockade and India's rule over the region. Many others have been wounded in clashes.

Muslim separatist leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq today called for three days of mourning and urged people to protest peacefully.

United Nations spokesman in New York, Farhan Haq, today said the High Commissioner for Human Rights is monitoring developments and Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is aware of the situation.

Muslim protesters oppose the Hindu blockade of a major highway leading to the Muslim-dominated Kashmir Valley. The blockade has disrupted the flow of supplies to the region.

Meanwhile, the demonstrations spread throughout India - as Hindu nationalists in New Delhi, Mumbai and the tourist city of Agra blocked traffic and railway lines for several hours, bringing the cities to a temporary standstill.

Hindu protesters are demanding that the government re-instate a land transfer to a Hindu shrine.

Kashmir is divided between Pakistan and India, and claimed by both. Islamic separatists have been fighting for Kashmir's independence from India, or for the region's merger with Pakistan.

Monday, September 15, 2008


A dendrimer is a highly branched macromolecule with a spherical shape. The surface of the particle may be functionalized in many ways and many of the properties of the resulting construct are determined by its surface.

In particular it is possible to construct a cationic dendrimer, i.e. one with a positive surface charge. When in the presence of genetic material such as DNA or RNA, charge complimentarity leads to a temporary association of the nucleic acid with the cationic dendrimer. On reaching its destination the dendrimer-nucleic acid complex is then taken into the cell via endocytosis.
In recent years the benchmark for transfection agents has been cationic lipids. Limitations of these competing reagents have been reported to include: the lack of ability to transfect a number of cell types, the lack of robust active targeting capabilities, incompatibility with animal models, and toxicity. Dendrimers offer robust covalent construction and extreme control over molecule structure, and therefore size. Together these give compelling advantages compared to existing approaches.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Aerobic biodegradation of pollutants

The burgeoning amount of bacterial genomic data provides unparalleled opportunities for understanding the genetic and molecular bases of the degradation of organic pollutants. Aromatic compounds are among the most recalcitrant of these pollutants and lessons can be learned from the recent genomic studies of Burkholderia xenovorans LB400 and Rhodococcus sp. strain RHA1, two of the largest bacterial genomes completely sequenced to date. These studies have helped expand our understanding of bacterial catabolism, non-catabolic physiological adaptation to organic compounds, and the evolution of large bacterial genomes. First, the metabolic pathways from phylogenetically diverse isolates are very similar with respect to overall organization. Thus, as originally noted in pseudomonads, a large number of "peripheral aromatic" pathways funnel a range of natural and xenobiotic compounds into a restricted number of "central aromatic" pathways. Nevertheless, these pathways are genetically organized in genus-specific fashions, as exemplified by the b-ketoadipate and Paa pathways. Comparative genomic studies further reveal that some pathways are more widespread than initially thought. Thus, the Box and Paa pathways illustrate the prevalence of non-oxygenolytic ring-cleavage strategies in aerobic aromatic degradation processes.