Research on high altitude is important to both nations: Selvamurthy

The visit of Kyrgyzstan Defence Minister Major General Abibilla Kudayberdiev to New Delhi from Thursday night will open “new avenues in defence-related biomedical research, which will have a lot of spin-off benefits for the civilian sector,” Chief Controller (Life Sciences and International Cooperation) in the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) W. Selvamurthy said on Wednesday.

The bond between the DRDO and Kyrgyzstan, would get strengthened with Maj. Gen. Kudayberdiev's visit to the Defence Institute of Physiology and Applied Sciences (DIPAS) in New Delhi, Dr. Selvamurthy noted.

The institute is involved in biomedical and physiological research to improve human performance in high-altitude areas and other extreme conditions.

The DRDO would present to Kyrgyzstan's Health Ministry equipment such as critical-care ventilators, coronary stents, dental implants, special ambulances, bio-digestors and mobile catheter laboratory, all valued at Rs.9.7 crore.

A new chapter in biomedical research began when Defence Minister A.K. Antony and Kyrgyzstan's President Roza Otunbayeva jointly inaugurated the Kyrgyz-India Mountain Biomedical Research Centre (KIMBMRC) at Kyrgyzstan capital Bishkek on July 5, 2011.

The DRDO established this centre for collaboration in biomedical research with the National Centre for Cardiology and Internal Medicine (NCCIM) of Kyrgyzstan.

Scientific Advisor to the Defence Minister V.K. Saraswat was part of the delegation led by Mr. Antony.

Besides the KIMBMRC, a field station was set up at Tuu Ashu at an altitude of 3,200 metres for conducting studies in high-altitude acclimatisation and amelioration of maladies in mountain operations.

The India-Kyrgyzstan collaboration in mountain medicine had its genesis in the interaction Dr. Selvamurthy, who was then DIPAS Director, had with Director of the NCCIM M. Mirrhakimov.

Dr. Selvamurthy said, “We have deployed soldiers at an altitude of 22,000 feet in the Siachen glacier. We have populations living in altitude areas in Himachal Pradesh. Our pilgrims undertake ‘padayatra' to Amarnath. Kyrgyzstan has several high altitude areas. So research related to high altitude is important to both India and Kyrgyzstan.

“In high altitude, hypoxia and cold are the major threats. We face solar radiation there. Soldiers posted there face psychological stress in the form of isolation, separation from family, fear of the unknown, sensory deprivation and so on. So the DRDO's mandate is how to keep soldiers fighting-fit in the high altitude areas.”

The KIMBMRC's objectives are to study the short-and long-term high altitude acclimatisation procedures; find strategies for rapid and efficient acclimatisation; study the mechanism of development of mountain maladies; conduct experiments in improving the physical endurance; do research on the effects of using the nitric-oxide delivery system, aloe vera cream, bio-digestors, and heating gloves and socks for protection against cold injuries; and to improve the treatment of bronchial asthma, vascular diseases, anaemia and hypertension caused by exposure to moderate altitudes.

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