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Monday, November 5, 2007

Twin girl with eight limbs to have surgery

By Sam Relph and Peter Foster in New Delhi

Last Updated: 5:52pm GMT 05/11/2007

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An Indian girl born with four arms and four legs is to undergo a 40-hour operation tomorrow as doctors try to give her a chance at a normal life.

  • How the operation will work
  • Peter Foster: Light in the darkness | Doublespeak | Naked at Heathrow
  • Lakshmi Tatma is a two-year-old girl named after the Hindu goddess of wealth who has four arms. She was believed to have been "sent from God" when she was born to a poor rural family in the Indian state of Bihar.


    Two-year-old Lakshmi Tatma plays with her
    mother, Poonam, as she waits for her operation

    As news of her birth spread among the 500 inhabitants of Rampur Kodar Katti — a remote settlement without electricity or running water — men, women and children queued for a darshan, or blessing, from the baby.

    However, it will require the latest techniques in medical science to separate Lakshmi from her "parasitical", headless, undeveloped "twin", which is joined to her body at the pelvis.

    The £100,000 operation will require differently skilled teams of more than 30 surgeons to work in eight-hour shifts to separate Lakshmi's spinal column and kidney from that of her twin.

    After attempting to transplant the shared kidney wholly into Lakshmi's body, another team of surgeons will gradually close up her pelvic girdle while re-orientating her bladder and genital systems. Plastic surgeons will then graft skin to cover her wounds while an "external fixator" will be attached to close her pelvis gradually over a three-week period.

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    The procedure has been described as "like shutting an open book".

    Without the operation at the Narayana Health City, on the outskirts of Bangalore, Lakshmi's parents were told their daughter was unlikely to survive beyond early adolescence.

    After more than two months of preparation, Dr Sharan Patil, the consultant orthopaedic surgeon leading the operation, said that her team was reasonably confident that the procedure would succeed in helping Lakshmi to survive.

    "Fortunately, Lakshmi has one complete body with a near perfect set of internal organs," she said.

    "Her skeletal system involves two bodies which are fused together at the level of the pelvis.

    "The operation itself, although it presents several challenges, is not the most complex in the world. What is highly unusual in Lakshmi's case is precisely how her bodies are fused, almost mirroring each other."


    An x-ray photograph of Lakshmi Tatma
    An X-ray picture shows how the two
    bodies are joined at the pelvis

    Her mother, Poonam, and father, Shambu Tatma, who earn about 50p a day as casual labourers and are both in their twenties, were turned away by a government hospital when they asked for help to increase Lakshmi's chances of survival.

    However, they were brought to Bangalore after Dr Patil visited their village.

    "We tried to take Lakshmi to hospital but they turned us away and said nothing could be done," Mrs Tatma said yesterday. "We saved money and even went to Delhi but the hospitals there turned us away too. Lakshmi had never once seen a doctor until Dr Patil came to our village and took an interest in our case.

    "I believe that Lakshmi is a miracle, a reincarnation, but she is my daughter and she cannot live a normal life like this."

    Australian town to run on solar power in 2 years

    Sun Nov 4, 2007 3:44am EST

    SYDNEY (Reuters) - A sun-drenched town in Australia's north hopes to use only solar power in two years after being chosen as the site for a solar thermal power station.

    Remote Cloncurry, which boasts recording Australia's hottest day, would be able to generate electricity on rarecloudy days and at night from the station, which runs off heat stored in graphite blocks.

    The Queensland state government said on Sunday it would build the A$7 million ($6.5 million), 10-megawatt power station as part of a push to make Cloncurry one of the first towns to rely on solar power alone.

    "The town of Cloncurry has long claimed the title of having recorded Australia's hottest day -- 53 degrees (Celsius) in the shade in 1889, so I reckon we're on a winner," Queensland
    Premier Anna Bligh was quoted as saying by Australian Associated Press.

    Solar thermal power differs from photovoltaic panels that make power directly.

    Instead, 8,000 mirrors will reflect sunlight onto graphite blocks. Water will be pumped through the blocks to generate steam which generates electricity via turbines.

    Heat stored in the graphite produces steam well after the sun goes down, allowing electricity generators to keep running at night.

    The Queensland government said the station would deliver about 30 million kilowatt hours of electricity a year, enough to power the entire town. It is expected to be running by early
    2010.

    Australia and the United States have refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, which sets binding targets for carbon pollution by developed countries.

    Australian Prime Minister John Howard says any global agreement must include big developing nations such as China and India, whose burgeoning economies have led to rapid growth in
    carbon dioxide emissions, which are blamed for global warming.

    Australia's greenhouse gas emissions are among the world's highest per-capita and the government prefers to focus on energy efficiency and technology to limit carbon emissions.

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    Unique Results from Swedish Study of HIV vaccine

    A Swedish HIV vaccine study conducted by researchers at Karolinska Institutet (KI), Karolinska University Hospital and the Swedish Institute for Infectious Disease Control (SMI) has produced surprisingly good results. Over 90 per cent of the subjects in the phase 1 trials developed an immune response to HIV.

    "Never has such a good result been seen with a vaccine of this type," says Professor Eric Sandström, Chief Physician at Karolinska University Hospital.

    A vaccine developed by SMI scientists has now undergone the first clinical study on healthy individuals in Sweden in order to examine its safety and different methods of administration. The vaccine is what is known as a genetic vaccine, which uses parts of the virus DNA to stimulate the rapid endogenous production of the proteins for which the injected DNA codes.

    The trial subjects were vaccinated on three occasions with this vaccine using a needle-free method of injection. In order to enhance the effect, the researchers also gave the subjects a fourth dose of a vaccine in which parts of the HIV virus DNA had been integrated into another virus (vaccinia = the cowpox virus). This vaccine-based HIV vaccine is produced by the USA's National Institutes of Health and was donated for use in this Swedish study

    "Our vaccine is designed in such a way that it's able to protect against many of the circulating HIV types in Africa and the West," says Professor Britta Wahren at the SMI/KI.

    Over 90 per cent of the trial subjects developed an immune response to HIV, and the vaccines have been tolerated well.

    Scientists now hope to follow up the Swedish study with a larger phase 1  phase 2 study in Tanzania, planned to commence this autumn, in order to corroborate the Swedish results on African subjects and to help train Tanzanians to carry out parts of the study, including sophisticated laboratory examinations, on site.

    For further information, please contact:


    Gunnel Biberfeld, Professor of Immunology, SMI and KI. Phone: +46-8-457 26 60, +46-73-346 26 60. E-mail: gunnel.biberfeld@smi.ki.se

    Eric Sandström, Professor of Dermatovenerology, Chief Physician at Karolinska University Hospital. Phone: +46-8-616 25 71, +46-70-484 60 37. E-mail: eric.sandstrom@karolinska.se

    Britta Wahren, Professor of Virology, SMI and KI. Phone:+46-8-457 26 30, +46-70-674 15 27. E-mail: britta.wahren@smi.ki.se

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