Gold rush at C'wealth Games may be in the genes

Harsh conditions make persons from rural background stronger
Last Updated 18 October 2010, 19:17 IST

India, which is described by molecular biologists as a “goldmine of genetic variation,” is the home of hardy individuals in certain parts of the country, particularly in the Punjab and Haryana belt, according to former director of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular
Biology (CCMB) and founder of Genome Foundation Dr Lalji Singh.

Speaking to Deccan Herald, Dr Singh said the Genome Foundation, which is established six years ago as a not-for-profit organisation with Hyderabad as its headquarters, will be tracking and recording genetic information of larger populations in the rural areas of the country.

However, the main mission of the foundation is to scan the poor for genetic disorders like thalassemia, muscular dystrophy, diabetes mellitus, coronary heart diseases, etc. “Like most Indians are genetically prone to diabetes and heart diseases, some are genetically stronger, making them fit to excel in sports. All we have to do is to embark on a wide population study to identify them,” Dr Singh added.

He also said centuries of adaptation to harsh conditions also make persons from the rural background stronger when compared to their urban counterparts. The foundation with stalwarts from the medical industry like Dr K Kasturirangan, C Rangarajan, M S Swaminathan, R A Mashelkar established its first rural centre in the backward Kalwari village in the Jaunpur district of Uttar Pradesh.

With the CSIR expressing its inability to directly finance the project, Dr Singh mustered help from both public and private agencies.  The German Optical major Zeis donated an Axio-Imager, Millipore presented a water purifier, CSIR helped in collecting samples from 20,000 persons in the vicinity and BSNL connected the centre with the world wide web through wireless internet facility.

The only thing the centre doesn’t have is assured power supply. The department of Science and Technology is ready with a 12KV solar project, which will be completed very soon.

The Foundation is setting up another centre at Kolar in Karnataka with the help of  Sri Devaraj Urs University. Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal are the other states that have come forward to house the genetic facility sub-centres in their states.

With the Andhra Pradesh state government earmarking five acres in Chengicherla village in Rangareddy district on the outskirts of Hyderabad, the foundation hopes to start its operations soon.

(Published 18 October 2010, 19:17 IST)

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