Archive for September 20th, 2008


Research takes patience, and so do Indian weddings.

Sep 20, 2008 in Uncategorized

Things have begun to pick up with my stem cell project. This week I dissected my first limbus and identified a set of stem cells with an immunostaining procedure. Maybe its freshman luck, but I’m happy that my first experiment was a success! If you wonder where my experimental tissues comes from, they are the byproducts from generously donated eyes. We get two types of tissues, limbal rings, which consist of a portion of the peripheral cornea and a few millimeters of sclera, and full globes. The ring is basically what is left over from a corneal transplant, when an ophthalmologist removes the central cornea to restore the vision of another patient. The globes are whole eyes that were removed and deemed, for one reason or another, unsuitable for transplantation purposes.

In the department adjacent to the stem cell lab is the Rotary International Eye Bank. A sign in the hallway gives the statistic that over 12,000 eyes were “harvested” last year, and over 5,000 corneal transplantation were preformed at Aravind. The eye has to be surgically removed within 6 hours of death, and we usually see them in the lab within 24 hours.

On a more social note, my coworker on the stem cell project, Vaishali, invited some us over to her cousin’s wedding. We couldn’t pass on the opportunity to see how south Indian Brahmins tie the knot, literally! They are considered married only after the groom ties a knot around the brides neck, there may be rings too, but I didn’t notice. To be honest, I didn’t understand about 90% of the ceremonies, but I gathered a few impressions and here there… First of all, this is not a one day ordeal, a minimum of two days are involved. The reception is held the evening before the wedding, and the bride and groom arrive via horse drawn carriage that evening. The puja, or ritual involving food and prayers, is performed by several priests who sit onstage with the bride, groom, and several relatives during the ceremony.

The puja is basically chanting and burning a wood fire on bricks, which are decorated by the priests who draw symbols on them, in the middle of the stage, this fills the room with smoke and “purifies” it. Per usual south Indian dress, the women are all dressed in color full saris, and unlike an American wedding, there are no groomsmen or brides maids. A meal placed on banana leaves was provided before and after the ceremonies, no utensils available. I’m getting used to eating with my hands, hopefully not so much that I forget the knife and fork when I get home! Hahaha.