Importance of Ginseng

2 06 2013

Ginseng is an herb (part of the Panax family of the Araliaceae) that has been used in Asian and Russian cultures for centuries for the flavour it adds to cooking but more importantly as an herbal medicine. The root of Asian Ginseng contains many active chemicals that give the herb its medicinal properties.

Benefits of Ginseng

Panax ginseng contains many active substances. The substances thought to be most important are called ginsenosides or panaxosides. Ginsenosides have been extensively studied (Fazzati et al.][1] and found to have numerous complex actions (Christensen et al.)[2], including the following: They stimulate bone marrow production, stimulate the immune system, inhibit tumor growth, balance blood sugar, stabilize blood pressure, and detoxify the liver, among many other tonic effects. The potential health effects of ginsenosides include anticarcinogenic, immunomodulatory, anti-inflammatory, antiallergic, antiatherosclerotic, antihypertensive, and antidiabetic effects as well as antistress activity and effects on the central nervous system. Ginsensoides can be metabolized in the stomach (acid hydrolysis) and in the gastrointestinal tract (bacterial hydrolysis) or transformed to other ginsenosides by drying and steaming of ginseng to more bioavailable and bioactive ginsenosides. The metabolization and transformation of intact ginsenosides, which seems to play an important role for their potential health effects.

There is increasing interest in developing ginseng products as cancer preventive or therapeutic agents. A study conducted in 2007 (Zhang et al.)[3] have determined biological structure-activity relationships (SAR) for saponins present in Panax ginseng fruits. In this study, Zhang and team identified 11 compounds, that were identified as 20(R)-dammarane-3beta,12beta,20,25-tetrol (25-OH-PPD, 1); 20(R)-dammarane-3beta,6alpha,12beta,20,25-pentol (25-OH-PPT, 2); 20(S)-protopanaxadiol (PPD, 3); daucosterine 4, 20(S)-ginsenoside-Rh(2) (Rh(2), 5); 20(S)-ginsenoside-Rg(3) (Rg(3,) 6); 20(S)-ginsenoside-Rg(2) (Rg(2), 7); 20(S)-ginsenoside-Rg(1) (Rg(1), 8); 20(S)-ginsenoside-Rd (Rd, 9); 20(S)-ginsenoside-Re (Re, 10); and 20(S)-ginsenoside-Rb(1) (Rb(1), 11). Among the eleven compounds, 1, 3 and 5 were the most effective inhibitors of cell growth and proliferation and inducers of apoptosis and cell cycle arrest. For 1, the IC(50) values for most cell lines were in the range of 10-60 microM, at least twofold lower than for any of the other compounds. Compounds 1 and 3 had significant, dose-dependent effects on apoptosis, proliferation, and cell cycle progression.

In 1999, scientists at CMAP Lucknow have been studied the qualitative and quantitative difference in the various ginsenoside constituents of the crude butanol-soluble saponin fractions in two indian species (namely P. sikkimensis and P. pseudoginseng) of Panax ginsend, then compared with that of American ginseng (Uniyal et al.)[4]. In another recent study, Zhang et al. evaluated ginsenosides as cancer therapeutic agents and support further pre-clinical and clinical development of these agents for the treatment of primary and metastatic tumors [5].


1. Analysis methods of ginsenosides. Fazzati et al., J Chromatogr B Analyt Technol Biomed Life Sci. 2004 Dec 5;812(1-2):119-33.
2. Ginsenosides chemistry, biosynthesis, analysis, and potential health effects. Christensen et al., Adv Food Nutr Res. 2009;55:1-99
3. In vitro anti-cancer activity and structure-activity relationships of natural products isolated from fruits of Panax ginseng. Zhang et al. Cancer Chemother
Pharmacol. 2007 Apr;59(5):589-601
4. Comparison of qualitative and quantitative in vitro ginsenoside production in callus cultures of three Panax species. Uniyal et al., Planta Med. 1999 Jun;65(5):484-6.
5. Ginsenosides as Anticancer Agents: In vitro and in vivo Activities, Structure–Activity Relationships, and Molecular Mechanisms of Action. Zhang et al., Front Pharmacol. 2012; 3: 25.

Fetal genome mapped before birth

9 06 2012

For the first time, a group of scientists at the University of Washington have determined virtually the entire genome of a fetus using a blood sample from the pregnent women and a saliva specimen from the father. This enables the parent to know the complete DNA blueprint of a child before it is born, that would allow thousands of genetic diseases to be detected prenatally. The research team took the advantage of high-throughput DNA sequencing and some statistical and computational approaches to get DNA sequence of the fetus at 98% accuracy.


kala-azar: second-largest parasitic killer in the world

4 03 2012

kala-azar“, also known as Visceral leishmaniasis (VL), black fever, and Dumdum fever, is the most severe form of Leishmaniasis (a disease caused by protozoan parasites of the Leishmania genus). This disease is the second-largest parasitic killer in the world (after malaria), responsible for an estimated 500,000 cases each year worldwide, with a 90% fatality rate within two years if left untreated. The parasite migrates to the internal organs such as liver, spleen (hence ‘visceral’) and bone marrow. At this point, the protozoan is in the smaller of its two forms, called an amastigote — round, non-motile, and only three to seven micrometers in diameter.

Fig: Microscopic view of Amastigotes in chorionic villus

Attack: Kalazar affect vital organs and bone marrow, destroying white and red blood cells. Because it attacks the immune system, it has been called the parasitic version of HIV/AIDS.

Recently, India and US have jointly started human trials of a new and powerful vaccine against kalazar (The Times Of India, Hyderabad, dated 3rd, March, 2012). The Phase-1 clinical trial on 36 adult volunteers has started in Washington that will evaluate the vaccine’s safety and immunogenicity.

The second trial will be conducted in India for which Seattle based Infectious Disease Research Institute (IDRI) has transferred its technology to Pune based Gennova Biopharmaceuticals, where the candidate vaccine will be produced.

The vaccine LEISH-F3 + GLA-SE will be tested on healthy indian adults in collaboration with Banarus Hindu University later this year. The vaccine is a highly purified, recombinant and incorporates two fused parasite proteins and a powerful adjuvat to stimulate an immune response.

While the disease can be treated, current treaments are too expensive, difficult to administer and improtantly the drug resistance is growing problem in India. Scientists warn that the geographical range of leishmaniasis is expanding, due to mass migration, rapid urbanization and global warming, as cases are being reported in previously unaffected areas.

The team involved in the vaccine’s clinical development, hoping that with this clinical trial we will be able to launch new era in the fight against kala-azar.

Village on the height: Mana (Uttarachal, India)

2 09 2011

Mana, a tiny village near Badrinath (State Uttarachal, India), is located just few meters inside the Indo-Tibet border in the Himalayas. This village, referred to as the last village of India on the Indo-Tibet border, has been designated as a ‘tourism village’ by the Uttarakhand government.

With 10,248 ft above sea, Mana village holds a lot of mythological relevance and we can actually see traces of the Mahabharata scattered across this small village.

On the top of hill at Mana, the air is more rarified and it is difficult to breath as well. There is a board announcing ‘India’s last tea shop’, stands distinctly with a neat crowd of tourists mingling about. Chand, the owner of hotel, welcomes all with smile and a cup of tea. He always says “Take this tulsi tea. In the Himalayas tulsi is available in plenty”.

You can have a view of border road on the one side and Himalayas on the other side. From here, there is no other way to go!

H1N1 virus – What do H & N refer to ?

7 01 2011

The influenza A virus is divided into subtypes, such as H1N1. The letters H and N refer to hemagglutinin and Neuraminidase. Hemagglutinin and neuraminidase are antigens, proteins that provoke an immune response in the human body.

There are 16 known hemagglutinin subtypes for influenza A (H1 to H16) and 9 known neuraminidase subtypes (N1 to N9). Each of these subtypes is vulnerable to a similar type of antibody.

There are three hemagglutinin subtypes that are known to attack human cells: H1, H2, and H3. These three subtypes bind with cells in the human respiratory tract. Other hemagglutinin subtypes target different mammals or birds. H5, for example, attacks the digestive tracts of birds. Of the nine neuraminidase subtypes, N1 and N2 are most commonly found in humans.

Attack of H and N:- Each viral particle is covered with hemagglutinin and neuraminidase. Hemagglutinin binds to the targeted host cell and injects the virus’s genetic material into it. After the virus has reproduced inside the host cell, neuraminidase releases the offspring. The host cell then dies

Microsoft Biology Foundation

7 01 2011

The Microsoft Biology Foundation (MBF) is a language-neutral bioinformatics toolkit built as an extension to the Microsoft .NET Framework, initially aimed at the area of Genomics research. Currently, it implements a range of parsers for common bioinformatics file formats; a range of algorithms for manipulating DNA, RNA, and protein sequences; and a set of connectors to biological web services such as NCBI BLAST. MBF is available under an open source license, and executables, source code, demo applications, and documentation are freely downloadable.

The source code and development of MBF is managed on CodePlex site, but all downloads are hosted on the Microsoft Research site here:

GSL: GNU Scientific Library – An overview

15 12 2010

Another wonderful project from GNU, the GSL library for mathematics !!!
GSL is a numerical library written in C that provides a wide range of mathematical routines, that the C/C++ developers can make use of, to implement or design a nice platform for mathematicians. There are many such libraries available in Python (NumPy or SciPy), Java (JMSL, JavaNumerics, JNL), Perl (PDL). But GSL comes with over 1000 functions and an extensive test suite for beginners.

My dream was to utilize this API to build all-in-one suite for mathematics world. That’s I’m with ScientificX, one of my dream project which is currently in progress.

More about GSL | Documentation | my ScientificX project