09 February 2012
Medical Panel To Clear 167 Research Projects This Year
The Armed Forces Medical Services (AFMS) will soon undertake a project for the DNA sequencing of nearly 1.13 million soldiers of the Indian Army.
Director General of AMFS Lt. Gen. HL Kakria told reporters here on Wednesday, “We are starting with a pilot project involving collection of blood samples of 1,000 soldiers and analysis and confirmation of their tests. The project will be implemented on a national scale thereafter.”
Deoxyribonucleic acid, commonly known as DNA, is a nucleic acid containing the genetic instructions used in the development and functioning of living organisms. DNA profiling is accepted as the most advanced and reliable method of establishing identity of living individuals as well as dead bodies and body remnants.
Kakria, along with top officials from the AFMS’ three wings, is in the city to attend the 60th Armed Forces Medical Confrence and the golden jubilee celebration of the Armed Forces Medical Research Committee (AFMRC), which is the apex body that plans health policies and commissions research for improving health of the troops.
“This year, 167 research projects of periods ranging from two to three years will be given to different officers,” he said. The topics vary from the health of the soldiers in high altitude, on land, in aviation, in different climatic dispersion or underwater. From 2009 to 2011, the AFMRC commissioned 125, 134 and 177 research proposals, respectively.
Kakria inaugurated a state–of–theart DNA profiling centre and repository, set up at a cost of Rs 2.5 crore, at the department of forensic sciences of the Armed Forces Medical College (AFMC). “As of now, the armed forces in the United States and Israel are known to have such facilities,” he said.
“The centre was a long–felt need because we want to know the identity of our each and every soldier, especially those deployed in the forward areas,” he said. “At times when something unfortunate like death in the battlefield or in action happens, we find it difficult to establish identity of the body. With the DNA profiling it will be easier to know the identity,” he added.
Kakria said, “Post–pilot study, blood samples of all soldiers will be collected by doctors working at their respective field units. These samples can be stored up to 21 years at the repository of the profiling centre here. The samples will be tested at the centre by using modern equipment and machines.”
“Over the time, the project will be extended to the air force and navy personnel,” he said. “There is no timeframe set for completing the project considering that it’s a long–drawn process of collecting samples from various formations and units… The project is important for everybody and certainly for the vulnerable groups deployed in the forward areas,” he added.
As of now, the AFMS has no plans to get into other medico–legal aspects involving the DNA profiling centre. “We are restricting ourselves to identification, although in future the facility may be used for genomic profile and AFMRC research projects,” Kakria said.
Referring to the prevailing thrust of research under AFMRC, Kakria said, “Lifestyle diseases like hypertension and diabetes, and cancer are taking greater attention compared to Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) instances, which have gone down drastically in the armed forces.”
Asked to comment on the problems faced by the ex–servicemen comprehensive health scheme (ECHS) beneficiaries due to inadequate health staff, Kakria said, “There is no deficiency of officers, nursing officers and jawans in the AFMS. While the ECHS is not for the armed forces, we are helping them in handling the rush, which the authorities may not have anticipated when the scheme was launched.”
He said that the ECHS network was being enhanced with 199 more ECHS polyclinics being commissioned. The AFMS also has chalked out a plan for medical examination of all personnel below officer rank, he added.
Director General of AMFS Lt Gen H L Kakria (left) at the inauguration of the DNA profiling centre at the AFMC on Wednesday