Smaller and better
Researchers at Lucknow’s Central Drug Research Institute (CDRI) have identified two chemical molecules which are nearly 25 times powerful than nonoxynol-9 or N-9, an active ingredient used in most spermicidal creams, jellies and sprays. The molecules — called DSE-36 and DSE-37 — are not only safe but also are required in smaller quantities to be effective, the scientists said. The findings are reported in a recent issue of Human Reproduction. Besides, unlike N-9, these molecules do not inhibit the growth of lactobacilli, which are believed to have a protective function in the vagina. N-9, which is also used in detergents and several cleaning and cosmetic products, on the other hand, makes women who use it vulnerable to urinary tract infection and other sexually transmitted diseases.
The arsenic-cancer link
Scientists in Calcutta have zeroed in on a gene variant that makes some people vulnerable to arsenic-triggered skin cancers. Though over six million people in West Bengal are exposed to high levels of arsenic in drinking water, only 15-20 per cent develop skin lesions. Researchers from the Indian Institute of Chemical Biology and four other institutions in the city who studied 318 people (of which 165 suffer from hyperkeratosis — a precurser to arsenic-induced skin cancers — and the rest are without any skin lesions) showed that this could greatly be explained as a specific genetic variation in ERCC-2, a gene that plays a part in DNA repair. The study has been reported in a recent issue of Carcinogenesis.