Wednesday, 14 November 2018

NIPGR Researchers Open A Window On The Secrets Of Plant Life to Public

NIPGR organized an Open day for the general public in order to popularize research in plant sciences and its applications.

BY SCISOUP  Appeared In BiotechTimes ResearchStash

On October 26, 2018, New Delhi based National Institute of Plant Genome Research (NIPGR), an autonomous institute under the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India, had organized an Open day for the general public in order to popularize research in plant sciences and its applications.

Students and teachers were invited from various National Capital Region (NCR) based schools and colleges to visit laboratories of NIPGR. Here is a link to a short report on NIPGR Science Outreach event:
In this event, a total of 1079 students participated along with their teachers. Among the participant, 958 were school students from 30 different government and private schools and 121 college students from 3 colleges. The NIPGR community presented 31 posters and 18 exhibits on various aspects of life sciences in general and plant sciences in particular.

“The open day is an opportunity for NIPGR to open its doors to the local community and contribute towards inculcating in students a passion for science,” said Prof. Ramesh V. Sonti, Director at NIPGR, New Delhi.

NIPGR scientists, technical specialists, and young researchers explained in very simple language about ongoing plant research activities in the institute. They covered various aspects of plant sciences including photosynthesis, ecological nitrogen fixation, plant-pathogen interactions, crop yield improvement etc.

Various posters, exhibitions, and practical demonstrations like how to isolate DNA from plants, how to visualize protein and DNA in gel etc. were arranged to provide real experiences of a working molecular biology laboratory. The visitors were also provided a tour of the research facilities at NIPGR, where they were explained about the working of various scientific instruments like the Confocal Microscope, automated DNA Sequencer, PCR, Real-time PCR, central instrumentation facility etc.

School students got an opportunity to witness the banana plant tissue culture techniques for a better understanding of working with plants in the laboratory. Students were also shown plant cells under the foldscope microscope. They were shown videos clearly demonstrating how plant stem cells look like under advanced microscopes.

Day-Long activities and interactions with NIPGR researchers have sensitized and inspired students and teachers about the opportunities in plant sciences, particularly in plant molecular biology.

Monday, 22 October 2018

Injectable Gel May Deliver Islet Cells for Type 1 Diabetes: Study

IIT-Guwahati researchers developed an injectable gel using silk proteins to deliver insulin-producing cells needed to address type-1 diabetes.

By Ratneshwar Thakur Published in India Science Wire

(Left to Right) Dr. Biman B. Mandal And Dr. Manishekhar Kumar

Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology, Guwahati have developed an injectable gel using silk proteins to deliver insulin-producing cells needed to address type1 diabetes.
The gel has been tested in rats. Normally islets in the pancreas are surrounded by the extracellular matrix which provides structural and biochemical support to cells. The components of this matrix bind to transmembrane proteins on the islet surface to facilitate cell to cell connection, proliferation and insulin secretion.
Previous studies had suggested hydrogels have potential to deliver islets as they contain high water content and mimic hydrophilic content of extracellular matrix. However, use of harsh chemicals in making gels makes them unsuitable to deliver cells or bioactive molecules.
To address this problem, researchers used mixture of two silk proteins (mulberry Bombyx mori and non-mulberry Antheraea assama) which leads to self-gelation. Insulin-producing islet cells were harvested from rats and encapsulated in the hydrogel. The hydrogel was loaded with immunosuppressive drugs to prevent immune rejection. It was then injected under the skin of rats.
“The islet delivery matrix could be easily injected in a minimally invasive manner while maintaining islet cell viability and glucose-responsive insulin production at the transplantation site. The hydrogel could be highly affordable as raw materials for making the hydrogel are abundantly available,” said Dr. Biman B. Mandal, who led the research.
The development, he said, is promising as it may help type 1 diabetes patients to get rid of frequent insulin injections in future.
The research team included Manishekhar Kumar, Prerak Gupta, Sohenii Bhattacharjee and Biman B. Mandal (IIT- Guwahati); AND Samit K. Nandi (West Bengal University of Animal and Fishery Sciences, Kolkata). The study results have been published in journal Biomaterials.

Journal Reference:

Friday, 19 October 2018

This Gel Can Protect Farmers From Toxic Pesticides

Indian farmers usually do not wear any protective gear while spraying chemicals in farms. This exposes them to harmful toxins contained in pesticides, causing severe health impacts and even death in extreme cases. Indian scientists now develop a protective gel to address this problem. 

By Dinesh C Sharma Published in India Science Wire
(Members of the research team at InStem, Bangalore)

Indian farmers usually do not wear any protective gear while spraying chemicals in fields. This exposes them to harmful toxics contained in pesticides, causing severe health impacts and even death in extreme cases. Indian scientists have now developed a protective gel to address this problem.

The gel can be applied on skin and can break down toxic chemicals in pesticides, insecticides and fungicides including the most hazardous and widely used organo phosphorous compounds. The gel deactivates these chemicals, preventing them from going deep into the skin and organs like the brain and the lungs. It has been found to be effective in tests done in rats and researchers hope to soon test it in humans.

Exposure to chemicals contained in pesticides interferes with an enzyme called acetylcholinesterase (AChE) which is present in the nervous system and is critical for neuromuscular functions. When its functioning is disrupted by chemical pesticides entering the body through the skin, it can cause neurotoxicity, cognitive dysfunction and even death in severe cases. 

When the gel was applied on rats and they were exposed to a lethal dose of pesticide MPT, it did not lead to any change in their AChE level, showing it could prevent penetration of the pesticide into the skin.

The gel, named poly-Oxime, has been prepared by researchers at the Institute for Stem Cell Science and Regenerative Medicine (InStem), Bangalore from a nucleophilic polymer. In lab studies, rats treated with poly-Oxime gel survived pesticide treatment, whereas rats with no gel or sham gel showed symptoms of poisoning or died. The results of the study were reported in journal Science Advances on Thursday.

The gel does not act like a physical barrier, but it acts like a catalyst to deactivate organophosphate. An oxime could hydrolyze multiple organophosphate molecules, one after another. And it can do so at temperatures ranging from 20 to 40 degrees, and even after long exposure to ultraviolet light. 

“Our data suggests that a thin layer of poly-Oxime gel can hydrolyze organo-phosphates on the skin; therefore, it can prevent AChE inhibition quantitatively in blood and in all internal organs such as brain, lung, liver, and heart,” the study notes. It has also been found that the catalytic gel can work against a range of commonly used commercial pesticides, insecticides, and fungicides.

“At present, we are conducting extensive safety studies in animals which will be completed in four months. Subsequently we plan a pilot study in humans to demonstrate efficacy of the gel,” Praveen Kumar Vemula, a senior member of the research team, told India Science Wire.

As the next logical step, the research group plans to develop an active mask to deactivate pesticides since the gel now developed does not provide any protection from inhalation of pesticide vapours, according to Vemula.

In order to understand the problem of toxicity caused by pesticides, researchers interacted with several farmers and their families. While many of them said they experienced pain right after spraying pesticides, they had no access to protective means. Farmers, according to researchers, showed willingness to adopt any low-cost topical methods that can prevent pesticide exposure.

The research team included Ketan Thorat, Subhashini Pandey, Sandeep Chandrashekharappa, Nikitha Vavilthota, Ankita A. Hiwale, Purna Shah, Sneha Sreekumar, Shubhangi Upadhyay, Tenzin Phuntsok, Manohar Mahato, Kiran K. Mudnakudu-Nagaraju, Omprakash Sunnapu and Praveen K. Vemula.

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Scientists Find Why Long Chain Lipids Accumulate Inside Brain In PHARC Disorder

Study will help to better understand the pathology of PHARC and it might enable development of much-needed biomarkers, very long chain lipids, for better diagnostics.

(Research team at IISER Pune)

PHARC is a rare genetic human neurological disorder caused by mutations to the Abhd12 gene, which encodes the integral membrane serine hydrolase enzyme ABHD12. 

Recent studies have shown that mice without ABHD12, murine model of PHARC, show increased concentrations of lyso-phosphatidylserine (lyso-PS) lipids in brains. Now Indian researchers, using mice model, have found the biochemical explanation for such very long chain lipids accumulation in the brain.

Dr. Siddhesh S. Kamat’s team at Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Pune - have shown that the enzyme ABHD12 has a strong substrate preference for very long chain lipids which contains ≥ C22 atoms. 

Researchers found the location of this enzyme (ABHD12) in the membrane of the endoplasmic reticulum, a cellular compartment, where virtually, all of the very long chain lipids are biosynthesized. The results of this study were published in ‘The Journal of Biological Chemistry.’

“We first chemically synthesized a library of lipid substrates ranging from fatty acids C10 – C24 with different degrees of un-saturations. Next, we performed enzyme kinetics studies for this lipid library against recombinant human, and endogenous mouse brain ABHD12, and found in both cases that there is a preference for very long chain lipids,” said  Dr. Siddhesh S. Kamat.

“Our study will help to better understand the pathology of PHARC and it might enable development of much-needed biomarkers (very long chain lipids) for better diagnostics for this condition,” he added.

“This work is a classic illustration of the value of a biochemical approach in understanding what a clinically important protein actually does in cells. This biochemical characterization reveals a very broad substrate choice for this important protein, and also explains how cells can maintain an appropriate balance of long-chain lipid substrates. This can now be used to identify activators or inhibitors of this enzyme,” commented Dr. Sunil Laxman from InStem, Bangalore, who was not associated with this study.

The research team included Alaumy Joshi, Minhaj Shaikh, Shubham Singh, Abinaya Rajendran, Amol Mhetre and Siddhesh S. Kamat from IISER Pune. This study was supported by Wellcome Trust DBT India Alliance and DST-FIST infrastructure development grant.

Journal Reference:

Monday, 1 October 2018

Scientists Open New Avenue To Study Head Muscle Dystrophy

The study, done in mice and human stem cells, may help in future to test drugs developed for treating muscular dystrophies involving head muscles.

                                                     Dr. Ramkumar Sambasivan with his research team at inSTEM

Indian researchers have identified the mechanism by which muscles above the neck, known as head muscles, are formed during development of the embryo in the womb.

The study, done in mice and human stem cells, may help in future to test drugs developed for treating muscular dystrophies involving head muscles.

Till now scientists had only known about the way muscles below the neck develop in the embryo. The new study has found that the process is different for the development of head muscles. It was observed that formation of head muscles was triggered by inhibition of two pathways called Wnt/beta-catenin and Nodal pathways, while muscles below neck require switching on of two different pathways (Wnt and Fgf).

“We found that muscles in the head, such as jaw and facial muscles, have fundamentally different developmental program when compared to that of muscles below neck. We have shown this by mutating two genes in mice embryos,” explained Dr. Ramkumar Sambasivan, study leader and Scientist at the Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine (InStem), Bangalore.

“We observed that in the mutant mice embryos, muscle development below neck fails completely. The head muscle development, however, surprisingly, appeared completely normal. These findings provided evidence that the two muscle groups have distinct paths of development,” he added. 

“The study has traced an evolutionary process that allowed emergence of head in vertebrates and identifies mechanistic cues that might be involved in the process. This information can be used to streamline therapy for muscular disorders affecting distinct parts of the body, rather than a ‘one therapy fits all muscles’ approach,” commented Dr. Suchitra Gopinath of Translational Health Science and Technology Institute (THSTI), Faridabad, who was not part of this study.

Sam J. Mathew, Assistant Professor at Regional Centre for Biotechnology (RCB), Faridabad, said, “This work raises interesting possibilities to find new treatment strategies for patients who have weakness and dysfunction of the head muscles.”

The research team included Nitya Nandkishore (InStem and SASTRA University, Thanjavur), Bhakti Vyas (InStem and Manipal Academy of Higher Education, Manipal), Alok Javali (InStem and NCBS), Subho Ghosh and Dr. Sambasivan (InStem). 

The results have been published in journal DevelopmentThe study was supported by Department of Biotechnology.

Journal Reference: 

Friday, 21 September 2018

NBRC Scientists Unravel Mysteries of Human Brain In An Open Day To Lay Public

DBT-National Brain Research Centre (NBRC) organized an Open Day  to educate the general public about scientific research and its benefits.

In order to educate the general public about scientific research and its benefits, DBT-National Brain Research Centre (NBRC), Manesar - organized an Open Day on September 20, 2018, under India International Science Festival 2018 (IISF) banner. Students and teachers were invited from schools and colleges to visit laboratories of NBRC. 

Scientists of NBRC arranged poster sessions to showcase their ongoing neuroscience research activities. The posters were explained in easy language by young researchers. In addition to more than a dozen posters, a talk was delivered by a senior scientist Prof. Shiv K. Sharma on functioning of the healthy brain and how diseases affect the brain. 

He explained, how brain forms memories and helps in recalling them. Prof. Sharma also explained experiments that are commonly done to understand the mechanisms of learning and memory. 

“The enthusiasm of students in Science in general and in brain and Neuroscience in particular was evident from their keen interest in the lecture, and the questions that followed. Interaction with teachers, and answering their queries was a full-filing experience. The activities organized by NBRC were appreciated by the teachers and the students alike,” said Prof. Shiv Kumar Sharma. 

The visiting students were also provided a tour of research facilities at NBRC, where they got a chance to see how imaging of human brains is done by MRI and EEG. Live demonstrations of EEG recordings were done and students enthusiastically participated in the activity. 

“It was a wonderful experience to discuss our discoveries on brain infections with college and school students. We look forward for another opportunity to interact with young minds,” said Prof. Pankaj Seth. 

All students were given demonstration of real human brain and spinal cord for a better understanding of the nervous system which was liked by all the students. Students were also shown human brain stem cells under the microscope and were educated on this exciting and upcoming field of stem cells. They were shown videos taken using microscopes that clearly demonstrated how neural stem cells divide under culture conditions. 

The day long activity ended with interaction of students with researchers at NBRC. Students enjoyed their visit and wanted to know when will be next Open Day so that they can come back and learn more about human brain and how researchers unravel the mysteries of human brain. 

Prof. Neeraj Jain, Director, NBRC, informed that the next Open Day will be on December 17, 2018.

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Experiments In Rats Show Some Bad Memories Can Be Forgotten

Indian scientists found that exaggerated response and difficulty to get rid of bad memories could depend on whether the bad memory was formed before or after a stressful event.

Prof. Sumantra Chattarji and Dr. M. M. Rahman (Left to Right)

It is believed that exaggerated response to bad memories is similar for all negative memories. Now, a team of Indian scientists have shown that exaggerated response and difficulty to get rid of bad memories could depend on whether the bad memory was formed before or after a stressful event.

The finding is based on experiments done in rats using a technique called fear conditioning. When a rat is presented with a sound tone along with an aversive cue, it forms a memory that the tone is bad. The rat freezes in fear whenever the tone is played. But when the tone is repeated without the aversive cue, the animal learns to forget aversive memory and realises that the tone is not bad.

When rats underwent stressful experience before fear conditioning, they showed increased fear response and inability to forget aversive memory. In contrast, when they underwent the stressful experience afterwards, they did not show any enhanced response fear or inability to extinguish the fear memory.

Researchers also recorded brain activity of the rats as they underwent fear conditioning and stressful experience. It was found that although amygdala (emotional hub of the brain) remained hyperactive in stressed animals, it did not affect expression of fear memory. The prefrontal cortex which remained relatively unaffected in stressed animals seemed to control the normal fear response.

Earlier studies had shown that amygdala and prefrontal cortex play important role in fear-related behaviour. While amygdala is involved in formation of fear memories, prefrontal cortex (involved in making executive decisions) helps in their regulation and finally extinction. Stress has been found to elicit opposite effects on the two brain structures.

“When fear-enhancing effects of prior exposure to stress are not in play, the expression of fear reflects normal regulation of prefrontal activity, not stress-induced hyperactivity in the amygdala,” explained Prof. Sumantra Chattarji, leader of the research team.

Stress-induced strengthening of fear memories and impaired fear extinction are generally believed to be behavioural manifestation of these contrasting effects on amygdala and prefrontal cortex. This has given rise to the view that stress impairs the ability to extinguish fear memories. “Our study questions this view”, researchers said. However, more studies in animals and humans will be required to further explore how this research can be used for treating stress disorders.

The study done by Bangalore-based National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS) and Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine (inSTEM) has been published in journal eLife. The research team included Mohammed Mostafizur Rahman, Ashutosh Shukla and Sumantra Chattarji. This work was supported by Department of Atomic Energy and Department of Biotechnology, Govt. of India.

Journal Reference:

Friday, 14 September 2018

New Approach Can Help Make Better Titanium Alloy For Implants

A new approach for developing orthopedic implants with better ability to bond with the bone.

                                                                                           Kaushik Chatterjee and Sumit Bahl (Left to Right)

Researchers at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in Bangalore have proposed a new approach for developing orthopedic implants with better ability to bond with the bone.

Currently, orthopedic implants for knee and hip arthroplasty are made of metallic alloys that contain potentially toxic elements like aluminum, vanadium and nickel. They are also much stiffer than human bone and don’t bond well with the bone.

The research team at IISc has developed a strategy to increase the bioactivity of titanium alloy consisting of non-toxic elements - titanium, niobium and tin, through surface severe plastic deformation (metal working techniques). This approach could help produce new titanium alloys that are less stiff compared to currently used. The researchers have published a report on their work in the journal ‘ACS Biomaterials Science & Engineering.’

The researchers used a technique known as surface mechanical attrition treatment (SMAT) to boost bioactivity of alloy’s surface. In this technique, the metal alloy sheet is placed inside a chamber containing hard steel balls typically used in ball bearings. The chamber is vibrated using electromechanical means because of which the balls start to move randomly at high speed inside the chamber.

“The SMAT treatment deforms surface of the metal sheet, which leads to increase in surface hardness, modification in surface roughness and surface wettability and its chemistry. These modifications are responsible for increasing biological activity of the metal,” explained Dr Kaushik Chatterjee, who led the research, while speaking to India Science Wire.

SMAT can improve biomechanical properties like fatigue and wear resistance, added Dr Sumit Bahl, lead author of the study. The equipment used for the experiment was developed in collaboration with a Bengaluru company.

"The study has shown that traditional metal processing techniques can be still used to improve the cell-material interaction of new class of titanium alloys," commented Dr T.S. Sampath Kumar of Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, who was not connected with the study.

The research team included Sai Rama Krishna Meka, Sumit Bahl, Satyam Suwas, and Kaushik Chatterjee. The study was supported by the Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB).

Thursday, 6 September 2018

Scientists Find Protein Role In Muscle Disease

A new study has shown that genetic loss of SIL1 disrupts Endoplasmic Reticulum (ER) homeostasis, leading to a condition of muscle disease.

Linda M. Hendershot and Viraj P. Ichhaporia (Left to Right)

Marinesco-Sjögren Syndrome (MSS) is a rare pediatric disease, where patients experience loss of balance and coordination, develop cataracts, and undergo severe and progressive loss of muscle strength. Scientists have previously shown a link between mutations in the SIL1 gene and MSS. However, it is not well understood how loss of SIL1, as in the case of MSS, causes the manifold signs of this disease.

A research team led by Dr. Linda M. Hendershot and Viraj P. Ichhaporia at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, USA, has recently shown that the genetic loss of SIL1 disrupts Endoplasmic Reticulum (ER) homeostasis, leading to a condition of muscle disease. The results of this study were published in the journal ‘Disease Models & Mechanisms’.

The ER, a network of membranous tubules within the cytoplasm of a eukaryotic cell, folds and modifies newly formed proteins so they have particular 3-dimensional shape. SIL1 plays a key role in the process of protein folding where a newly synthesized string of amino acids gets transformed to its respective 3-dimensional shape to perform its functions.

“We use a preclinical model that is lacking SIL1 to help us better understand the underlying disease mechanisms of MSS. We focused on the progressive loss of muscle mass, which is a hallmark of MSS, and accompanying muscle weakness. We reasoned that understanding the molecular changes leading to muscle dysfunction would provide insights into many other pathological aspects of MSS,” said the lead author, Viraj P. Ichhaporia. 

“We observed that as the preclinical model began to age, they had difficulty holding on to the wired food tray while eating. This observation paved the way for the first experiment, which proved that the preclinical SIL1-deficient disease model displayed significant muscle weakness, and urged us to further investigate the underlying mechanisms” he added. 

Dr. Linda Hendershot, the corresponding author of this study, stated “we show that loss of SIL1 affects protein folding within the cell and dramatically disrupts protein homeostasis, which causes a cascading ripple effect.” 

“This research is particularly exciting to our lab because we are now able to understand the molecular events underlying muscle weakness in the preclinical model lacking SIL1, and believe that a similar ripple effect could also trigger the collapse of protein homeostasis in individuals with MSS. Identifying the molecular milestones of the progressive loss of muscle mass and strength that we can monitor, it allows us to ask how we can treat these defects?,” she concluded.

The research team included Viraj P. Ichhaporia, Jieun Kim, Kanisha Kavdia, Peter Vogel, Linda Horner, Sharon Frase and Linda M. Hendershot. The study was funded by the National Institue of Health and the American Lebanese Syrian Associated Charities at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Journal Reference:

Sunday, 2 September 2018

IIT-K Bridging Gaps Between Engineering And Healthcare Problems

IIT-Kanpur have started immersion programmes where engineers and doctors are working together to find technological solution for problems in healthcare sector.

By IIT-Kanpur Desk

The journey of this programme began in the first week of May 2018. KGMU Lucknow hosted the first phase of the immersion programme where a group consisting of two PhD students and five undergraduate students stayed at KGMU for fifteen days. The main aim of the clinical immersion programme was to familiarize them with the problems in the current medical system and figure out engineering solutions for them.

“I found it to be enjoyable, both as an exercise in thinking about how to design medical equipment and actually observing what goes on inside the human body. It was fun to travel with friends, have a good time along the way and meet new people”, says Sambhav Mattoo, one of seven members from IIT Kanpur who visited King George’s Medical University (KGMU) Lucknow during the last summer for a collaborative programme between the two institutes.

From left: Vitthal Khatik, Anushya Goenka, Virender Singh, Tarun Mascarenhas, Sambhav Mattoo, Akshay Shendre and Adarsh Kumar outside the operation theatre

The mentor of this programme, Prof. Amitabha Bandyopadhyay, the Professor-in-Charge (PIC) of SIIC (SIDBI Incubation and Innovation Centre) at IIT Kanpur, informed us that a similar program called ‘Stanford India Biodesign Programme' inspired him to take such steps. One of India’s famous cardiologists and science administrator, Dr. Balram Bhargava of AIIMS New Delhi had led the programme with the purpose of channelizing India’s top technical brains to bring new technological innovations to medicine. 

Professor Bandyopadhyay said, “modern medicine extensively relies on sophisticated tools, the needs for which are known to the doctors but the technical know-how lies with the engineers. Therefore, such immersion programmes serve to bridge the gaps between engineers and doctors as well as medical needs and technological solution.”


Prof. Bandyopadhyay gave an insight into the SIIC and Bio-Incubator framework and various channels of funding that support innovation at IIT Kanpur. After being set up in 2000, the SIIC matured under Prof. B.V. Phani and reached new heights under Prof. Sameer Khandekar. 

In 2013, Prof. Bandyopadhyay was instrumental in setting up the Bio-Incubator, within the SIIC, to specifically promote biotechnology and pharmaceuticals-related innovations. With generous funding from Government of India through BIRAC ((Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council), Bio-Incubator now proudly hosts a well-equipped lab that Prof. Bandyopadhyay claims, is capable of providing 70% of the facilities available in the BSBE department of IITK. 

In 2017, IIT Kanpur was made one of the six prime centres for granting the Biotechnology Ignition Grant (BIG), a fund by the Govt. of India that can dispense funds up to Rs. 50 lacs to support innovation in biotechnology. Additional funding of two crore rupees was granted by BIRAC to IITK for creating an incubator for supporting innovations in medical technology and devices (MedTech Incubator). This funding pipeline is named the BioNest. 

Prof. Bandyopadhyay leveraged this fund and funds from Prof. Satyaki Roy, then the officiating PI (Principal Investigator) of the Design Innovation Centre of IITK and the support from the BSBE department to sponsor the IITK - KGMU collaborative programme.

Experience of the participants

Anushya Goenka, a senior undergraduate student participant, reminisces about her experiences and tells us the details of the programme: “KGMU provided us with extremely comfortable lodging at their New Guest House. On the first day, we had a long chat over lunch with Dr. Rishi Sethi, who coordinated the program at KGMU. The 15-day schedule of meetings with renowned doctors, visits to different departments and operation theatres, got us excited. 

One Sunday morning, we had a lovely chat over tea with Dr. Bobby Ramakant, Dr. Pooja Ramakant, and Dr. Tim France on a video call. We talked about the motivation behind the program. They talked about their newly developed SDGi search engine. Over the next few days, we visited the operation theatres of Endocrinology, Neurology, Cardiology, Urology and Plastic Surgery departments. 

At the Endocrinology operation theatres, Dr. Pooja Ramakant let us scrub in for the operations too. We feel lucky to have the once-in-a-lifetime experience of witnessing surgeries. Yes, we have been the audience to the procedures of Angioplasty, Heart Bypass Surgery, Breast Cancer Surgery, and many more. We toured the OT (operation theatre), acquainting ourselves with the different surgical instruments, witnessed blood oozing out, the rise and fall of the instrument beep in some critical and otherwise cheerful operation environments. 

We had a few problems and ideas to work on in fifteen exciting days. We researched and presented draft solutions to the concerned doctors. A group of considerate students at KGMU, who called themselves ‘Soul Cushions,’ even organized a hackathon at KGMU which was judged by the doctors. The seven of us were divided into three teams and grouped with MBBS students to solve the hackathon problems.”
Tarun, another group member, says, “One of the biggest things I noticed was the complementarity of expertise. While the doctors and nurses have the exposure and know how to identify problems, they do not know of the possibilities offered by technology, that can be applied to create solutions. 

The staff we interacted with were all very welcoming and tried to accommodate our wildest ideas and did their best to answer our myriad queries. Especially Dr. Rishi who made sure things stayed focused while still having fun. Also, for Akshay (another member) and me, it was a great glimpse into the career path we almost chose as we both left the field of medicine to study in IIT.”

The environment of the OT and the hospital took Akshay Shendre back to his college years. “It gave us the glimpse into the reality that how people of the developing nations like ours are sometimes not even able to buy a medicinal item of Rs. 50 which might be easily available in other developed nations. That is the real motivation for me, I think, to use engineering to solve such problems,” he said.

The doctors offered feedback on their instruments and techniques and their team could get the professional opinion on how to apply engineering knowledge to make those instruments better. Sambhav urges IIT-K students to join this programme as it is a huge learning experience while also very enjoyable. “Students could end up designing solutions to problems which can save lives while learning designing, managing, and networking with people,” he added.

After the successful completion of the program, IIT-K sent its second batch in the first week of June 2018 to KGMU which also analyzed similar problems as the first batch did. During the rest of the summer of 2018, students from both the batches further brainstormed over the ideas acquired from their experiences at KGMU and shared them with the faculty at IIT-K and developed the prototype. They also discussed their plans with doctors and debated on whether any of them has commercial values.

Future prospects

Prof. Bandyopadhyay feels that our institute is trying its best to set up an entrepreneurial ecosystem, and calls out for support from students and members of the faculty for this goal. His mission is to engage faculty and students on a daily basis; not asking them to start a business right away, but to attend seminars and meetups with doctors and healthcare professionals, which the Bio-Incubator and the BSBE department conducts. For students, he advises, 
Be aware of the things around you and something might click.

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Scientists Find Protein Role In TB Bacteria Growth

Indian researchers have identified the role of a protein which is critical for the growth of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb).

(Left to Right) Preeti Jain and Dr. Vinay K. Nadicoori

In their efforts to find new drug targets against tuberculosis, Indian researchers have identified the role of a protein which is critical for the growth of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb).

Researchers at the National Institute of Immunology (NII) in collaboration with CSIR- Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB) have determined the role of FtsQ, a critical cell division protein and shown that both increasing and decreasing amounts of this protein in Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb) hampers its growth and division patterns.

This work builds upon research to understand the regulatory roles of set of enzymes known as protein kinases in Mycobacterium tuberculosis. “We were investigating the role of phosphorylation, a process which involves addition of phosphate group, of protein in controlling cell division. Interestingly, Cell division protein FtsQ was identified as one of the targets undergoing such regulatory modification,” said study leader Dr. Vinay Kumar Nandicoori.

The studies involved investigating various aspects of this pathogen related to its growth regulation, cell division and its survival in the hostile environment of the host cells. “While humans are the natural hosts of Mtb, for research purpose we use cell lines and mice models of infection,” he added.

Preeti Jain,  first author in this study, said, “We sought to understand how these pathogenic bacteria grow and divide from one cell into two daughter cells and how the process is controlled. While a lot is known about the proteins involved in cell division regulation in other bacteria, the identity of the majority of proteins in Mtb is still unknown.”

It was found that modifying optimum protein levels of FtsQ inside Mtb significantly influenced the average cell length, an outcome of abnormal cell division. While the initial decrease in the cellular concentration resulted in smaller cells, upon further decrease they became larger which eventually led to death.

"Cell length and growth regulation in Mycobacterium tuberculosis are currently an intense area of research. The findings are exceptional and exciting, making FtsQ an important target for new anti-TB interventions,” commented Anand Ranganathan, Associate Professor, Special Centre for Molecular Medicine, Jawaharlal Nehru University. He was not involved in this study.

The research team included Preeti Jain, Basanti Malakar, Mehak Zahoor Khan, Savita Lochab and Vinay Kumar Nandicoori (NII); Archana Singh (IGIB). The results of this study were published in ‘Journal of Biological Chemistry.’ This study was funded by the Department of Science and Technology.

Journal Reference:
Delineating FtsQ-mediated regulation of cell division in Mycobacterium tuberculosis