R Venkataramanan

R Venkataramanan

R Venkat's Blog

R Venkat's Blog
"To be an Inspiring Teacher,one should be a Disciplined Student throughout Life" - Venkataramanan Ramasethu



Sunday, August 15, 2010

RV at EIVOC 2010,Chennai,India

RV with DrSSB,Chairman Emeritus,Sankara Nethralaya at EIVOC 2010

RV presented a Scientific Poster on "Clinical Significance of Filters as a Rehabilitative Tool in Low Vision" which fetched Best Scientific Presentation Award in Low Vision Category at EIVOC 2010

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Dr Kanchan Gaba,Head,NAB,National Association For Blind,Kolkata - A source of inspiration to Visually Impaired

Kanchan Gaba was only eight years old when her world became dark. She was in Std II, and one morning she woke up to see… nothing. "I rubbed my eyes several times and then screamed out in horror. I felt the world closing up around me…" Doctors said she had glaucoma with retinal detachment. “I was too young to understand what I had lost,” she says, but her parents refused to believe that their daughter had become blind. She remembers their mood; for one year, they took their daughter everywhere possible for treatment. They finally reconciled themselves to the fact that their daughter would never see again.

"I was admitted to the Calcutta Blind School. I started learning Braille. My mother tongue was Punjabi, and the medium of instruction was Bangla. So even though I scored 94% or 96% in all subjects, I got only 36% in Bangla,” Kanchan remembers. “I was determined to excel in that subject too.” In her Std X exams, this strong-minded young girl topped the Handicapped Section in West Bengal. She then finished her Std XII exams from Lady Brabone College, and went on to go to law college on a national scholarship.

In school, she had joined the four-and-a-half year Girl Guide programme with other children, all sighted. "Once again I was happy. The programme included first-aid training, tent pitching, fire fighting, forest and mountain trekking." Along with completing her secondary and higher secondary level exams with elan, Kanchan completed her Girl Guide course – learning first-aid, survival skills in a jungle, walking over wooden bridges, crossing streams, etc.

Later, Kanchan did a full-fledged course in rock climbing at the Darjeeling Institute of Mountaineering, scaling the Tenzing Rock, the Gambhu Rock and the Sandakfu. She won the state's Best Girl Guide medal, and qualified for the national meet in Adra, Purulia. Here, she defeated nearly 600 non-disabled competitors from all over the country to win the President's award, presented by Shri Shankar Dayal Sharma, in 1994.

The President of India is the chief patron of the Bharat Scouts and Guides, which is affiliated to the International Scouts and Guides, headed by the Queen of England. Kanchan has represented India twice at international Girl Guide meets: in London (1997) and Bangladesh (2001).

In London, she was the only blind person among 700 participants. The gruelling competition’s 40 challenges could be completed by only 40 children, Kanchan being one of them.

She did everything much faster and better than others. "I climbed the difficult Harrison Rocks, abseiled from a 150 feet high tower, rappelled down rocks and did river rafting...," and scored much higher to win the Best Girl Guide in the World Award.

Queen Elizabeth II, while presenting the award, admitted, "I would not have believed Kanchan’s story had I not seen her perform with my own eyes." A dinner was hosted at the Buckingham Palace in her honour.

In 1997, Kanchan received the SCORE award for Sporting Excellence (in the blind category), given to her by Kiran Bedi, and the Neelam Kanga ‘Successful Woman’ Award in 2003, presented by the Mumbai branch of National Association of the Blind.

Why did she take up law as a profession? “I have been very competitive since childhood,” she reveals. “Law is a prestigious profession, and it also lets me help people who need assistance.” For her studies, she had a reader who recorded relevant material for her. She studied by listening to those recordings as there were “no Braille books at that time”.

She started work with a senior lawyer while in her fifth year of L.L.M., organising briefs for clients and doing consultancy work. Today, she works at K.D. Associates, and is a successful lawyer in Kolkata, dealing with intellectual property issues.

Computers are a great help when she is preparing her briefs. She has screen reading software, and uses CDs a lot. She also has a reader for her work.

Kanchan is a person of myriad interests. She has worked on a year-long research project on the plight of women prisoners in Bengal. Her work was supported by the Scholar of Peace award from the Foundation for Universal Responsibility, an NGO headed by the Dalai Lama. “I have a background in both sociology and law, and women’s issues always interest me,” explained Kanchan. The second reason for her choice of subject was more personal. “There is a belief that disabled people only work for disability. But given a chance, we would like to serve society as a whole.” She has presented her findings at a seminar; and hopes to publish them soon.

“If you want to be a lawyer, you have to be a good talker,” she advises. “It is your mode of talking which influences your client. You have to be very communicative.”

Why she does what she does is motivated by a strong desire to transform the social mindset that takes blind or visually impaired people for granted, or views them as fit only for charity.

She feels that she has been lucky that she has found good people to help her. Society functions on a give-and-take basis; if you want something from people, then you have to contribute your share too – whether you are blind or not.

Kanchan Gaba can be contacted at kanchangaba@yahoo.com.

Breakthrough in stem cell therapy

A collaborative effort between the Vision Research Foundation and Nichi-In Biosciences has borne fruit with the invention of a novel procedure which will help treat diseases like persistent corneal ulcers, Stevens-Johnson Syndrome and other severely damaging injuries to the corneal epithelium.

In 2003, VRF scientists identified a synthetic material — the Mebiol Gel — which was used to grow corneal limbal stem cells of rabbits.

According to Dr. HN Madhavan, President, Vision Research Foundation, who headed the VRF team, the stem cells multiplied rapidly in the Mebiol Gel, which liquefies when cooled.

The cell culture dish was placed in a refrigerator and once the gel liquefied, scientists injected the stem cells, after separating it from the liquid, into the eyes of 12 rabbits blinded because of ocular surface damage.

The results were promising —vision was completely restored in seven rabbits and partially restored in three rabbits. The procedure, however, failed to yield any significant response in the remaining two rabbits.

Dr. Madhavan, who is also Director & Professor of Microbiology, Sankara Nethralaya, said that cultivating stem cells using the Mebiol Gel prevented rejection and infection.

The team applied for a patent in 2005 and in March 2010, both VRF and Nichi-In Biosciences were awarded the patent for “a method for cultivating cells derived from corneal limbal tissue.”

Describing the patent as a “great achievement,” Sankara Nethralaya Chairman Emeritus Dr. SS Badrinath said, “It is a red letter day for Sankara Nethralaya. This product will be of service to humanity, benefiting patients with corneal blindness.”

Deputy Consul General of Japan in Chennai, Mr. Takayuki Kitagawa, who was the chief guest, said India was emerging as a major destination for stem cell research and called for enhanced collaboration and cooperation between the countries in the field of medicine.

Dr. Samuel JK Abraham, Director, Nichi-In Biosciences, spoke on the hurdles that the organisations had to overcome while undertaking the research.

Annual meeting on ophthalmic research held

Nineteen scientists from the Vision Research Foundation participated at the 18th Indian Eye Research Group (IERG) meeting at Hyderabad held from July 31 to August 1, 2010.

Held from 1992, the annual IERG meeting brings together investigators involved in different areas of basic and clinical eye research across India to discuss the latest research methodologies and current trends in ophthalmology.

The two-day meeting included oral presentations on Gene and Cell based therapy, Community Eye Health, Cornea and Lens, Glaucoma and Retina and numerous poster presentations. Talks and papers, presented by researchers, on ocular stem cells, lens crystallines, age-related macular degeneration were very informative.

Dr. S Krishna Kumar, Head of Department, Ocular Pathology, gave a talk on “Epcam, Myself, Retinoblastoma and the Continuing Journey;” Dr. Ronnie George, Senior Consultant, Glaucoma, spoke on “Population based studies: implications for Glaucoma Care in India,” and Dr. LS Vardharajan spoke on “Models of Amblyopic Vision.”

One of the highlights of the meeting was the talk given by Abraham Scaria from Genzyme on “Gene Therapy for the treatment of Wet-AMD.”

Dr. Namperumalswamy, Chairman, Aravind Eye Care Centre, Dr. G. N. Rao, Founder, L.V. Prasad Eye Institute and Dr. SS Badrinath, Chairman Emeritus, Sankara Nethralaya, were honored with mementos for their monumental work on clinical eye research and their service.

In the validation ceremony, it was announced that IERG will unite with ARVO (India chapter) and will be called as IERG –ARVO.