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Time Square preparing for International Yoga Day celebrations

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In preparation for International Yoga Day on June 21, banners have been put up at the United Nations in New York
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In preparation for International Yoga Day on June 21, banners have been put up at the United Nations in New York
In preparation for International Yoga Day on June 21, banners have been put up at the United Nations in New York (IANS)

New York: As the world celebrates International Day of Yoga on Sunday in a unique event that is in many ways an endorsement of the Indian way of life, more than 30,000 people are expected to participate in a mass demonstration of the ancient art in the city’s Times Square, after global leaders and diplomats from around the world launch the observance at the UN headquarters.

Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon is to deliver the keynote address at the start of the day’s celebrations at the UN headquarters in an open plaza along the East River. India’s Permanent Representative, Asoke Kumar Mukerji, told reporters here Tuesday. General Assembly President, Sam Kutesa and External Affairs Minister, Sushma Swaraj are slated to speak on the occasion along with representatives of some of the nations that co-sponsored the International Day of Yoga resolution.

Sri Sri Ravishankar, the founder of the Art of Living Foundation, is to give a lecture on the benefits of yoga and lead a demonstration by several hundred people at the UN and, through a video link, the thousands on Times Square – which is known as “the crossroads of the world.”

The UN celebrations are to be webcast on the UN network, and also are supposed to be shown on the NASDAQ market building’s giant, seven storey-tall video screen, and also on Times Square.

“Yoga offers a simple, accessible and inclusive means to promote physical and spirtual health and well-being,” Ban said in his message for International Day of Yoga. “It promotes respect for one’s fellow human beings and for the planet we share.”

He said that he had tried out yoga by doing the tree pose or Vrksasana, and “appreciated the simple sense of satisfaction that yoga can bring.”

A manifestation of the universal value of “vasudhaiva kutumbakam” — the world is one family, the UN General Assembly resolution for International Day of Yoga was co-sponsored by 177 nations, and adopted by acclamation by the 193-member organisation, Mukerji said. This was the largest number of co-sponsors ever for such a resolution, he added.

The idea of an International Day of Yoga was proposed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his address to the General Assembly last September, calling yoga “a holistic approach to health and well being” and to finding “the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and the nature.”

“Yoga embodies the unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfilment; the harmony between man and nature; a holistic approach to health and well being. It is not about exercise but to discover the sense of oneness with yourself, the world and the nature.”

For yoga day to be observed starting this year, Mukerji said that the resolution for it had to be passed by the General Assembly before the end of last year but the calendar had already been set with no room for fresh items.

The Indian Mission found a way around this, by invoking the association Modi made between health and yoga, Mukerji said. They had the Yoga Day resolution introduced as part of the health agenda, that was already on the calendar for December, he said.

The Mission brought the full force of multilateral diplomacy to bear the project, he said. The Indian diplomats were able to have the 18-sponsors they initially had, which then snowball to reach a total of 177 co-sponsors. And when both the United States and China signed on, the effort gained momentum.

Asked by a reporter about the role of Muslim countries as co-sponsors, and the controversies raised in India by some Muslims, Mukerji said that yoga was presented as a health matter with no religious undertones, and he pointed out that 47 of the 56 members of the Muslim grouping, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, joined as co-sponsors. While Pakistan and Saudi Arabia did not co-sponsor, they did not object to the resolution either. (IANS)

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NASA to Send Organ-on-Chips To Test Human Tissue Health in Space

Called a micro-physiological system, a tissue chip needs three main properties

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NASA, tissue
NASA to send tissue chips to space to test human health, genetic changes. Flcikr

NASA is planning to send small devices containing human cells in a 3D matrix — known as tissue chips or organs-on-chips — to the International Space Station (ISS) to test how they respond to stress, drugs and genetic changes.

Made of flexible plastic, tissue chips have ports and channels to provide nutrients and oxygen to the cells inside them.

The “Tissue Chips in Space” initiative seeks to better understand the role of microgravity on human health and disease and to translate that understanding to improved human health on Earth, NASA said.

“Spaceflight causes many significant changes in the human body,” said Liz Warren, Associate Program Scientist at the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) in the US.

Kepler, NASA, tissue
This illustration made available by NASA shows the Kepler Space Telescope. As of October 2018, the planet-hunting spacecraft has been in space for nearly a decade. VOA

“We expect tissue chips in space to behave much like an astronaut’s body, experiencing the same kind of rapid change,” Warren said.

The US space agency is planning the investigations in collaboration with CASIS and the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) at the National Institutes for Health (NIH).

Many of the changes in the human body caused by microgravity resemble the onset and progression of diseases associated with ageing on Earth, such as bone and muscle loss. But the space-related changes occur much faster.

That means scientists may be able to use tissue chips in space to model changes that might take months or years to happen on Earth.

Parkinson's Disease, Kepler, NASA, tissue
A researcher takes a tissue sample from a human brain at the Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson’s UK Tissue Bank, VOA

This first phase of Tissue Chips in Space includes five investigations. An investigation of immune system ageing is planned for launch on the SpaceX CRS-16 flight, scheduled for this year.

The other four, scheduled to launch on SpaceX CRS-17 or subsequent flights, include lung host defense, the blood-brain barrier, musculoskeletal disease and kidney function.

In addition, four more projects are scheduled for launch in summer 2020, including two on engineered heart tissue to understand cardiovascular health, one on muscle wasting and another on gut inflammation.

Kepler, NASA, tissue
“Detecting life in an agnostic fashion means not using characteristics particular to Earth life,” said Heather Graham at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Pixabay

Also called a micro-physiological system, a tissue chip needs three main properties, according to Lucie Low, scientific programme manager at National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences in the US.

Also Read: NASA’s Ralph Will Explore Jupiter’s Trojan Asteroids in 2021

“It has to be 3D, because humans are 3D,” she explained.

“It must have multiple, different types of cells, because an organ is made up of all kinds of tissue types. And it must have microfluidic channels, because every single tissue in your body has vasculature to bring in blood and nutrients and to take away detritus,” she added. (IANS)