Science, Art, Litt, Science based Art & Science Communication

                                                                 Interactive science series

Q: What is Cryogenic Preservation of human bodies?

Krishna: Cryopreservation is one where the whole body is frozen in the hope that one day it will be possible to revive it.

On a smaller scale in day-to-day medicine, freezing is an extremely useful technique for storing living cells, such as blood cells, bone marrow, sperm and embryos, at ultra-low temperatures. But preserving and reawakening the complete human body is a remote possibility which would take massive breakthroughs in technology.

Cryonics is an effort to save lives by using temperatures so cold that a person beyond help by today's medicine might be preserved for decades or centuries until a future medical technology can restore that person to full health.

This is how briefly it is done: After death, patients have to be acted on quickly. When your heart stops beating and you are pronounced "legally dead," an emergency response team from the facility who is standing by to preserve your body takes charge. The team stabilizes your body, supplying your brain with enough oxygen and blood to preserve minimal function until you can be transported to the suspension facility. Your body is packed in ice and injected with heparin (an anticoagulant) to prevent your blood from clotting during the trip. A medical team awaits the arrival of your body at the cryonics facility.

Once you are transported to the cryonics facility, the actual "freezing" begins. Cryonics facilities can't simply put their patients into a vat of liquid nitrogen, because the water inside their cells would freeze. When water freezes, it expands -- this would cause the cells to simply shatter. The cryonics team must first remove the water from your cells and replace it with a glycerol-based chemical mixture called a cryoprotectant -- a sort of human antifreeze. The goal is to protect the organs and tissues from forming ice crystals at extremely low temperatures. This process, called vitrification  (deep cooling without freezing), puts the cells into a state of suspended animation.

Once the water in your body is replaced with the cryoprotectant, your body is cooled on a bed of dry ice  until it reaches -130 C (-202 F), completing the vitrification process. The next step is to insert your body into an individual container that is then placed into a large metal tank filled with liquid nitrogen at a temperature of around -196 degrees Celsius (-320 degrees Fahrenheit). Your body is stored head down, so if there were ever a leak in the tank, your brain would stay immersed in the freezing liquid.

The low temperatures are needed to allow the cells to survive dehydration after death - but uncontrolled dehydration and freezing is also lethal to living cells, so it has to be done very .carefully.

The eventual aim is that one day they will be rewarmed and revived

But at the moment we have no objective evidence that a whole human body can survive cryopreservation with cells which will function after rewarming. And it is an extremely costly affair only the rich can afford.

Q: Do you have a homemade lab?

Krishna: I used to have one when I was doing my Post Doctoral work. My mother was not well and I had to look after her at the same time, I couldn’t stop my research work. So I set up a small lab in my home but I had to be very careful because I am a microbiologist and dealing with microbes at home is not easy. I tried my best to do what ever I could with limited resources I had but finally succeeded in completing my work. I still have some lab equipment at my home reminding me of the hard times I went through then and my efforts to overcome them and my triumph in the end. My lab at my home is my ‘treasure trove’. 

Q: Why do you give so much importance to science?

Krishna: Because this whole universe is written in the language of science! Without it nobody or nothing exists here. 

Science is my hero because it fuels the economy, it feeds the world, it fights disease, it gives more quality life to us.

Science bolsters our global stature by its institutionalized respect for the truth, its evidence-based decision-making, and its willingness to accept differing opinions when the facts dictate them.

Read more reasons here:

Q: Is it important for scientists to take part in decision making processes that have impact on governing various countries in the world?

Krishna: Yes, absolutely! We cannot depend on ill-informed and scientifically illiterate people to take healthy decisions on important issues humanity is facing right now. We need to radically rethink how the press, scientists and politicians place science in the national discourses. We have to assert the special role of science in planning for our future, especially, of course, when it comes to climate change, adoption of GM technologies for the benefit of mankind, stem cell research, pharmaceutical research, environmental contaminants and several other issues that have effect on all of us.

Getting the facts right about science, understanding the spirit and process of discovery, the culture of the research enterprise and the relevance of science to so many other fields like industry, agriculture, business etc. that drive our economies is extremely critical for the good shape of a nation. Without critically thinking scientists participating in the decision making processes, we cannot have our world in the top form.

Q: I want to ask you a difficult question. If a referendum takes place on an important issue like GM mosquito trial and if the majority of the people in the city the trial is about to take place don’t want the area they are living in to be used as the site of an experiment, would you stop your work even though you know your work doesn't harm the people and in fact  help them? Do you impose your will on the people forcibly?

Krishna: Answering the Q  isn't difficult at all. :) I act like a mother very concerned about the welfare of her child in such a situation. I know vaccinating my child  will keep her free from certain diseases through out her life. But my child doesn't know this. She dreads injections and cries and screams a lot to take them and might even suffer from mild complications because of the vaccine. But that doesn't make me stop doing what I think is better for her. I would definitely go ahead with my decision of vaccinating her. 

Likewise, I would do everything possible to educate people before the referendum about the benefits of releasing GM   mosquitoes to control deadly diseases like zika, malaria, dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever  if I myself am convinced about the benefits of such a trial as a consequence of indisputable facts provided to me. But still like I said elsewhere in my articles, just because you say something in the right way people need not understand it in the way it should be understood. They might still oppose it. 

Then the decision should be solely left to scientists' panel  who can skillfully analyse the situation using informed evidence. If they decide to go ahead with the trial despite the opposition from the public, I support the scientific community that chooses the right path. I am concerned about the welfare of the society as a whole. I don't care about the ill-informed community opinions and misconception based ideas. Scientists' resolution should be final and binding. Period.  

Q: Is ethnic diversity important in scientific progress?

Krishna: Yes. Bringing to table a variety of ideas, thoughts, models, experiments and efforts is extremely significant. CERN is a very good example. At the Large Hadron Collider, where the biggest science experiment ever mounted, every day  hundreds of brilliant women and men of all races, languages, physical abilities and sexual orientations - around 12,000 scientists from over 70 countries and 120 different nationalities work. A huge project like the LHC wouldn't be possible without this diversity. Big science is necessarily inclusive. The Higgs-boson was not discovered by just one people-group. It is the culmination of coming together of great minds of  the whole humanity!

The co-operation among these scientists coming from various ethnic groups is about everything science stands for.  And it made science triumph in a superb way.

What a beautiful scenery?!

Q: Do frauds in science effect people?

Krishna: Yes, they do! Best examples are falsifying data in Autism studies linking the disease to vaccines. People got terrified  after reading these false stories and refused to get their children vaccinated with the result that these children developed various diseases and suffered a lot.

A retracted (paper) British study that linked autism to childhood vaccines was an "elaborate fraud" that has done long-lasting damage to public health, a leading medical  investigation published by the British medical journal BMJ concludes the study's author, Dr. Andrew Wakefield, misrepresented or altered the medical histories of all 12 of the patients whose cases formed the basis of the 1998 study -- and that there was "no doubt" Wakefield was responsible. The paper published by Wakefield was a deliberate attempt to create an impression that there was a link by falsifying the data.

Britain stripped Wakefield of his medical license because of this. But the damage to public health continues, fueled by unbalanced media reporting and an ineffective response from government, researchers, journals and the medical profession BMJ stated in an editorial accompanying the work.

And religious people, those who are anti-science and anti-vaccinators still quote the retracted paper of Wakefield. What are the consequences? 

The discredited paper panicked many parents and led to a sharp drop in the number of children getting the vaccine that prevents measles, mumps and rubella. Vaccination rates dropped sharply in Britain after its publication, falling as low as 80% by 2004. Measles cases have gone up sharply in the ensuing years.

In the United States, more cases of measles were reported in 2008 than in any other year since 1997, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 90% of those infected had not been vaccinated or their vaccination status was unknown, the CDC reported.

"But perhaps as important as the scare's effect on infectious disease is the energy, emotion and money that have been diverted away from efforts to understand the real causes of autism and how to help children and families who live with it," the BMJ editorial states.

Wakefield has been unable to reproduce his results in the face of criticism, and other researchers have been unable to match them. Most of his co-authors withdrew their names from the study in 2004 after learning he had had been paid by a law firm that intended to sue vaccine manufacturers -- a serious conflict of interest he failed to disclose. After years on controversy, the Lancet, the prestigious journal that originally published the research, retracted Wakefield's paper.

This is a sad story of "falsifying medical histories of children and essentially concocting a picture, which was the picture he was contracted to find by lawyers hoping to sue vaccine manufacturers and to create a vaccine scare."

According to BMJ, Wakefield received more than 435,000 pounds ($674,000) from the lawyers. The BMJ study shows that of the 12 cases Wakefield examined in his paper, five showed developmental problems before receiving the MMR vaccine and three never had autism.

Q: Are there any journals that publish negative results?

Krishna: Yes, there are some journals that think negative results in science are important too and publish significant ones. Here is a list of such journals...

  • New Negatives in Plant SciencePublishes hypothesis-driven, scientifically sound studies that describe unexpected, controversial, dissenting, and/or null (negative) results in basic plant sciences.
  • Journal of Negative ResultsProvides an online medium to publish peer-reviewed, sound scientific work in ecology and evolutionary biology that is scientifically rigorous but does not rely upon arbitrary significance thresholds to support conclusions.
  • Journal of Negative Results in BioMedicineProvides a platform for the publication and discussion of unexpected, controversial, provocative and/or negative results in the context of current tenets.
  • Journal of Pharmaceutical Negative ResultsPublishes original, innovative and novel research articles resulting in negative results; publishes theoretical and empirical papers that report the negative findings and research failures in pharmaceutical field.
  • The All Results journals. The main objective of the four journals – Chem, Nano, Biol and Phys – is to recover and publish negative results, valuable pieces of information in science.

Source of the list of journals that publish negative results: Elsevier

Q: Can you tell whether a place is polluted or not without using any gadgets?

Krishna: Yes! With the help of Lichens, the Natural gadgets.


(Lichens: Indicators of pollution ... Art work by Dr. Krishna Kumari Challa )

Lichens are mosaics of fungi partnered with algae or cyanobacteria that speckle tree bark and dangle from the canopy.  In those precarious perches, lichens absorb their food from fog, wind and rain. With no roots but very absorbent tissue, lichens are exquisitely vulnerable to gases released from burning fossil fuels and other 
pollutants carried by the wind and rain. That sensitivity makes lichens powerful watchdogs of pollution. Where there is pollution, there is a predictable effect on lichens. Rare and delicate lichen species that are highly specialized to their habitat are some of the first to die as air quality falls. Less-sensitive, generalist lichens hang on longer and, in some cases, even survive and expand. Both can signal problems to come.

Pollution builds up inside lichen tissues in proportion to its concentration in the wider environment. Anything poisoning lichens is also accumulating more broadly in the atmosphere. Lichens and other supersensitive species begin to shift first. 

To figure out how much pollution is there in any given place, scientists look to lichens. Lichens start to disappear at a lower amount of air pollution than other species and are good indicators of the health of an eco-system. If they disappear, like I found in many parts of our city, it means the pollution levels are increasing to alarming proportions.

Q: Why did you choose to become a Science communicator?

Krishna: 'The hardest thing to do is make hard things look easy'. I love to do difficult things to prove to myself  my capabilities.

I love science and knowledge. I want to learn more.  This is one way to do it because without learning things scientific, I cannot tell others.

Ignorance, misconceptions, pseudo-science and other harmful issues prevalent in people around me that are making them vulnerable to various forms of exploitation. 

This makes me a person of high personality grade.

I am extremely passionate about science. I want to promote it because I believe it would help the humanity if it truly follows a scientific way.

Q: Why are scientists alcoholic? 

Krishna: What?! I never even tasted any alcoholic drink in my life. None of my colleagues drink.

Well some scientists might drink unable to cope with the stress they face. But I think that makes things even worse. Can you think critically with alcohol controlling your mind? A bad way of choosing to do things important. 

Q: Why do we get high temperatures during fevers?

Krishna: It is a natural way our bodies try to control infections because at high temperatures, some of the disease causing microbes cannot survive. The presence of a fever is usually related to stimulation of the body's immune response. Fever can support the immune system's attempt to gain advantage over infectious agents, such as viruses and bacteria, and it makes the body less favorable as a host for replicating viruses and bacteria, which are temperature sensitive.

There is an excellent story that tells us how earlier physicians exploited this natural therapy.

Austrian Neurologist Julius Wagner von Jauregg treated syphilis patients with malaria and won 1927 Nobel Prize in medicine. The main work pursued by Wagner-Jauregg throughout his life was related to the treatment of mental disease  by inducing a fever, an approach known as pyrotherapy.  He tried in 1917 the inoculation of malaria parasites, which proved to be very successful in the case of dementia paralytica (also called general paresis of the insane), caused by neurosyphilis, at that time a terminal disease.   It had been observed that some who develop high fevers could be cured of syphilis. Thus, from 1917 to the mid 1940s, malaria induced by the least aggressive parasite, Plasmodium vivax , was used as treatment for tertiary syphilis because it produced prolonged and high fevers (a form of pyrotherapy). This was considered an acceptable risk because the malaria could later be treated with quinine, which was available at that time. This discovery earned him the Nobel Prize in medicine in 1927. His main publication was a book titled Verhütung und Behandlung der progressiven Paralyse durch Impfmalaria (Prevention and treatment of progressive paralysis by malaria inoculation) in the Memorial Volume of the Handbuch der experimentellen Therapie, (1931). The technique was known as malariotherapy,  however, it was found to be dangerous, killing about 15% of patients, so it is no longer in use.

Excessive fever can, on rare occasions, cause seizures, collapse and delirium.

Fever is an elevated temperature of the human body that is substantially beyond the normal range. Normal body temperature fluctuates daily from about one degree below 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit to one degree above that number. Lower body temperatures usually occur before dawn; higher temperatures in the afternoon.

Body temperature also varies slightly depending on where on the human body it is measured. Rectal (internal) temperature tends normally to be higher than skin (surface) temperature. Oral and armpit temperatures can approximate actual body temperature and are more convenient to measure.

Fever can help fight infection, but sometimes it can climb too high for the body's own good. Internal body temperatures in excess of 105 degrees F, for instance, expose proteins and body fats to direct temperature stressors. This form of heat distress can threaten the integrity and function of proteins accustomed to the body's usual temperature variations and the occasional less excessive fevers. Cellular stress, infarctions, necrosis, seizures and delirium are among the potential consequences of prolonged, severe fevers. The receptor environment at the hypothalamus maintains limitations on high fevers. In the rare instances in which the hypothalamus itself malfunctions, the result is typically low body temperature, not elevated body temperature.

Q: I am a science student. I am concerned about the political situation that is anti-science. How can we deal with politicians who say they don't believe in stem cell research or evolution happens or smoking causes cancer and  those who think climate change theory is a hoax?

Krishna: I want to suggest, 'just ignore them'. But ironically I can't! Because the policy decisions these people take will have an impact on whole of humanity.

In an era of  Post-truth - “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief”, you just can't ignore these people who are anti-science. 

Standing up for science and protecting it from these ill-informed policy makers are more necessary now. Educating public about their ill-intentions, stupidity, ignorance becomes highly relevant.   

Act now and quick before they become a menace! 

And don't worry, science will definitely triumph in the end. Even the most anti-science person has to go to a doctor and take the help of medical science if he is faced with a deadly disease and wants to prolong his life by getting cured from it. Nobody can ignore science like that for long.

Q: Is social media bad for us?

Krishna: That depends on how you use it. I am using it for my benefit and those of others around the world. In that way it is good for me. I can distinguish between what is right and what is wrong. But...not all can do this. They will be carried away by emotions, false propaganda, misinformation and what not.

Some social media are responsible for things going bad. How? Like this...they propagate false news and perceptions. It is interesting to note the various ways that internet technologies can lead people to believe false information.

Some social media want their users to be engaged, not overwhelmed, so they employs proprietary software that filters users’ news feeds and chooses the content that will appear. The risk lies in how this tailoring is done.

There’s ample evidence that people are drawn to news that affirms their religious, cultural, regional and  political viewpoints. The media software learns from users’ past actions; it tries to guess which stories they are likely to click or share in the future. Taken to its extreme, this produces a filter bubble, in which users are exposed only to content that reaffirms their biases. The risk, then, is that filter bubbles promote misperceptions by hiding the truth.

The appeal of this explanation is obvious. It’s easy to understand, so maybe it’ll be easy to fix. Get rid of personalized news feeds, and filter bubbles are no more.

The problem with the filter bubble metaphor is that it assumes people are perfectly insulated from other perspectives. In fact, numerous studieshave shown that individuals’ media diets almost always include information and sources that challenge their political attitudes. And a study of Facebook user data found that encounters with cross-cutting information is widespread. In other words, holding false beliefs is unlikely to be explained by people’s lack of contact with more accurate news.

Instead, people’s preexisting political and other identities profoundly shape their beliefs. So even when faced with the same information, whether it’s a news article or a fact check, people with different political orientations often extract dramatically different meaning (1).

Post-truth effect of social media can't be ignored. It can have great impact on outcomes of several contests in the political, economic, and other important issues the world is facing. How can ill-informed, emotionally -charged people decide correctly which way to go? And they choose the wrong direction and get lost!

Internet also gives wrong information on several things scientific. General public can't distinguish between correct and the wrong ones. People send several stupid articles and claims to me too. I get annoyed and write on them to make them and others realize the mistakes. But how many people really read them and get corrected is a Q whose answer is blowing in the wind.

Q: What do scientists think of 'Intelligent Design' concept?

Krishna: Different scientists think in different ways depending on their beliefs, perceptions and conditioning of minds. But I can say majority of them could overcome these things that influenced their thought processes and think in this way...

Q: Can a scientific mind believe in superstitions?

Krishna: A true scientific mind can overcome religious, cultural, political and emotional conditioning of minds. Scientific training is not like training in car driving - learn it on roads and forget it when you go home. But some think that it is limited to labs and are prone to various influences and biases because they cannot overcome their own weaknesses.

Once trained correctly, science has to stay with a scientist 24X30X12X60 and should influence everything he or she thinks and does. Then only he or she becomes an accurate scientist. Otherwise there is no difference between him and any ordinary mind. 

Q: How can I have a scientific mind?

Krishna:  A true scientific mind thinks only in a critical way without any biases and can overcome religious, cultural, political and emotional conditioning of minds. Scientific training is not like training in car driving - learn it on roads and forget it when you go home. But some think that it is limited to labs and are prone to various influences and biases because they cannot overcome their own weaknesses.

Once trained correctly, science has to stay with a scientist 24X30X12X60 and should influence everything he or she thinks and does. Then only he or she becomes an accurate scientist. Otherwise there is no difference between him and any ordinary mind. 

Develop a scientific way of thinking and doing things.

Q: I read recently that Homeopathy is a fraud. Is this true? What evidence do scientists present to say such things?

Krishna: “That which is presented without evidence can be dismissed without evidence”.

Homeopathy is pseudoscience – a belief that is incorrectly presented as scientific. Homeopathic preparations are not effective for treating any condition large-scale studies have found homeopathy to be no more effective than a placebo, suggesting that any positive feelings that follow treatment are only due to the placebo effect and normal recovery from illness.

Q: Your way of writing things is different from the ones followed by other scientists. They mostly deal with points, presenting data and numbers in a specific manner. You don't follow them. Why is this so?

Krishna: :) Because several people told me  the way other scientists present things intimidate them. That is why I try to present things like any ordinary man on the road does. Usually no patterns. Simple, unrefined articles will be easy on people's minds.

Q: Can we use menstrual blood for transfusions?

Krishna: NO! Why? Because it is  partly blood and partly dead tissue that once was the inner lining of  the womb before because of the peaking of progesterone levels in the blood the spiral arteries feeding the endometrium got all kinked up and the endometrium lost the  blood flow needed to maintain it, so dies and sloughs off.

Moreover, the vagina is also full of symbiotic bacteria, and the last place you want to put any sort of bacteria is directly into your bloodstream! That causes “bacteremia” or “blood poisoning” and would almost certainly lead to an excruciatingly painful death.

But menstrual blood can be donated (eg if you use a menstrual cup you can collect it). It has more stem cells than cord blood apparently so it can be used for treating people with cancer and immune system illnesses.




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