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“Unity and co-ordination” are the two key mantras for designing a successful system or organization. Co-ordination can be achieved by forming healthy interactions between the constituent elements of the system. Interacting elements form a network and proper interaction results in the efficient flow of information or flux to achieve a particular target. So, proper networking among the constituents plays a crucial role in the success of that organization.

The essence of networking is beautifully explained by some of the well-organized systems exists in nature. Flashing pattern of light by a group of firefly may seem meaningless to us, however, it is actually their license to find a mating partner. Female firefly responds to their conspecific male partner by the synchronous flashing. A shoal formed by a group of fish is another example of nature driven network. Movement of individual fish in such a group may look like a random one while the complete system tells us how well they are coordinating with each other. Similarly, focusing on the movement of individual ant or starling may not provide much information, however, studying the movement of a group of ants or starlings can help to discover the beautiful formation of marching ants in a straight line or a murmuration of thousands of starlings. These individual elements formed a network and practiced to co-ordinate with each other to successfully build such organizations.

The list of biological metaphors for networks is huge, be it in macroscopic (organism) level to the microscopic (genes, proteins, or metabolites) level. We live in a society and interact with each other with different kind of relationships. Some of the relationships are bi-directional such as a friend, foe or unidirectional like being a fan or follower of someone. Friendship and love are some of the positive interaction exist around us whereas foe, hatred are some of the negative interactions added to such a network. Being in a society, we all are coordinating and managing these positive and negative interactions to maintain harmony in our surrounding. In the current scenario, we can clearly see and feel the network around us, and all credit goes to the growing social networking.

Protein-protein interaction, regulation of genes by transcription factors are some of the well known microscopic network present in the body. Like that of networks at the macroscopic level, we also experience positive and negative interactions at the microscopic level. Considering an instance of Gene Regulatory Network (GRN), where genes and the regulatory factors are the elements of the network, enhancing the gene expression can be considered as positive interaction whereas inhibition of gene expression is a negative interaction.

To understand the function of a system, it is important to understand the structure of the system. “System biology” is an emerging area where it entertains the systems level understanding of any functional organization. A system can be modeled into a network using the concepts of graph theory. Nodes represent the elements of the system while edges denote the interaction exists between the two nodes or elements. Studying various properties of the network helps in better understanding of the system and its behavior in various conditions. Studies have shown the existence of well co-ordination between the elements of the successful system.

These systems-level studies reiterate the essence of the well said proverb “United we stand, divided we fall”. This holds true for every functional system, be a macroscopic or microscopic one.

Written by:  



Mr. Santosh Kumar Behera, DBT-BINC, Junior Research Fellow, Centre for Systems Biology and Molecular Medicine, Yenepoya Research Centre, Yenepoya (Deemed to be University), Mangalore-575018, Karnataka, India.

 

 

 

Artwork: Ms. Nupur Agarwal

Edited by: Mr. Saketh Kapoor and Mr. Jagdish k

 
We need to train Ph.D. students to be thinkers and not just specialists, in particular, critical thinkers. In other words, just putting the philosophy back into the doctorate of philosophy, said Prof. Antonio Mazzocca, Faculty Member in the Interdisciplinary Department of Medicine at University of Bari School of Medicine in a tête-à-tête with Mr. Saketh Kapoor. He shares his opinions on strengthening the links between laboratories and the clinics. He divulges into his journey from identifying LPAR6 as a potential therapeutic target for hepatocellular adenocarcinoma and briefly touches upon the importance of maintaining work-life balance.

SK: You chose an unconventional path and you decided to pursue research after medical school. How was the transgression from being an ‘MD doctor’ to being a Ph.D. doctor?

Thank you for your question. Well, the transgression was quite good and it turned out to be a valuable transgression in my professional life. I think that combining training in medicine and in research is an amazing experience in a scientist’s life. So I have to say that I am definitely happy to be a MD-Ph.D.

SK: Do you miss visiting a clinic or you enjoy being in the lab?

Well, actually I am not missing my clinical duty because I am still in connection with the clinics but I really really enjoy my work in the lab - as a scientist, of course.

SK: Although researchers are equipped with the biological questions and right techniques and methods to tackle them, it would not be an exaggeration to say that clinicians know the ‘real’ clinical dilemmas. Do you think that generating clinical collaborations would be a smarter and more effective way to understand disease biology?

Thank you for this particular question.  I think that collaborations are definitely important in science. I think that engaging clinicians in collaborative research works is very helpful and particularly in these days, especially to boost the systematic approach in biomedical research. So, this should be enough as a motivation to engage them. We really need a more systemic view and more integrative work as well as interdisciplinary work in research.

SK: Both, researchers as well as clinicians strive for the same goal – to improve the healthcare system. However, the methods we choose to achieve this goal are starkly different. What can spark the passion of doing basic science research in a clinician?

Well, I have to say that most of them are not really trained for doing that, I think we need to get them more involved in at least our work in the lab. This is absolutely important. At least, they could start enjoying the methodology in the lab. For example, just learning the basic methodology could somehow be of support for their activity in terms of knowledge. So at least they should know what we do, in order to strengthen the link between the laboratories and the clinics.

SK: Something that really caught my eye was the quote displayed on your publications tab on your webpage. It says “Imagination is more important than knowledge” - Albert Einstein. Although we agree that research is about passion, we more often end up following more protocols than our passion. How would you encourage researchers to inculcate creativity while pursuing their degrees?

As you said, following protocols rather than following passion seems to be the main attitude for the young investigators. We need to train Ph.D. students to be thinkers and not just specialists, in particular, critical thinkers. In other words, just putting the “Philosophy” back into the doctorate of philosophy. That’s what we need! So more critical thinkers than specialists.

SK: The current scenario in science is ‘publish or perish’. Do you think that in the near future translational research should be given more emphasis than scientific publications?

Since the translational research is present already, we should give more emphasis to good science which usually is slow science or doing pressure-free science. But this is not always possible since scientists are in a system which is driven by publish or perish pressure. Of course, scientific publications are extremely important to the scientific endeavor, so I think we should get less pressure in a system of publish or perish and do more slow science and much more good science.

SK: My friends across the globe agree that research life can best be enjoyed in European countries. While all countries are contributing significantly to research, why is the word ‘enjoyment’ associated mostly with European countries? Is there more to research than the research itself? The ambience for example or work-life balance?

Quite simply, I think that the work-life balance in European countries is ideal for research life because of the optimal compromise between the cozy ambience and the quality of life in many European towns or countries. I think this is the reason why research life in Europe is still appealing.

SK: Where have you come up with the best of ideas? In lab meetings/conferences, over a cup of coffee or with a bottle of beer with friends?!!

That’s a good question of course. Generally, brilliant ideas in science come to mind when you are more relaxed, maybe you are not in the lab, and you are involved in different activities, for example, running or walking or showering so why not over a cup of coffee or a tea or just having a beer with friends. Just the right time!

SK: International collaboration between labs can engage researchers to expedite contribution to science by utilizing their domains of the expertise. Diverse workplace environments and diverse minds to solve the same problem may also encourage innovation and problem-solving skills among students. To encourage such research culture, would you be open to collaborating with my home institute on some projects?

Absolutely, we need to encourage such a research culture by creating collaborative and interdisciplinary networks. The collaboration with your home institute has already started being you in my lab. So best of luck with our research!

SK: Researchers all over the world are working towards identifying biomarkers for various diseases. Your lab has been working on LPAR6, a biomarker for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). How was your journey from identifying LPAR6 as a potential biomarker to targeting it for treating HCC?

Of course, it is a long journey. Actually, we discovered LPAR6 as a factor involved in promoting and supporting tumorogenesis in HCC, so I think it could definitely be a theranostic target since it is accessible and druggable in addition to LPA which is significantly increased in patients with HCC.

CLOSING REMARKS: We thank Prof. Antonio Mazzocca for giving us an opportunity to have a splendid conversation. The interview was conducted during the research visit of Mr. Saketh Kapoor in Prof. Mazzocca's lab. If you wish to know more about Prof. Mazzocca's work, please visit http://www.antoniomazzocca.com/

 

 

 
Regenerative Medicine is the baby of “Stem Cells and Developmental Biology” and  Regenerative biology precedes Regenerative Medicine. The term, “Regenerative Medicine” is in high demand now to regenerate damaged or diseased parts of the human body. Well, with special emphasis to the human body, is it possible to regenerate every part or any part by hook or crook or else, spontaneously when severed?

Have you heard of any creature that can help regenerate its head along with the brain when severed?

The spontaneous answers are:

  • Yes, must be some mythological character that could do so, or,

  • No, organisms such as salamanders, lizards can regenerate limb bud and tail, but reviving severed head must be an impossible task


Interestingly, some creatures on the earth can regenerate their heads when severed. These are several species of marine ribbon worms.

Regeneration of posterior end such as tails when severed has been well documented in stem cells and regenerative biology research in salamanders and lizards. However, head regeneration/anterior part of the body usually are impossible because the brain is the master regulator of all the physiological, metabolical and developmental processes. Recently, 22 species in the invertebrate phylum ‘Nemertea’ have been tested for the regeneration of both heads and tails. Out of these 22 species, 5 species are even adapted to regenerate heads when decapitated. As per the evolutionary reports, the species Lineus sanguineus has evolved the ability to regenerate its head about 10-15 million years ago that might be the reason of non- extinction of this species till date. Considering the existence of Lineus sanguineus, the species Homo sapiens are much recent in the history of evolution!

Although this work was carried out by Zattara and the team at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. USA, the work focused on evolutionary biology, rather than regenerative and stem cells biology. Hence, the head regeneration in Lineus sanguineus is likely to provide definitive cues to the stem cell-developmental and regenerative biologists for deciphering novel factors involved in difficult-to-regenerate parts of the body.

Image Description: Photograph of marine ribbon worm (Lineus sanguineus) has been shown to regenerate its head. Top panel shows the photographs taken 4 days after the head was cut off and the bottom panel shows the photograph taken 15 days after decapitation. The head has grown back 15 days after decapitation. Image/Experimentation credit: Eduardo E. Zattara

Reference: Zattara, E. E., Fernandez-Alvarez, F. A., Hiebert, T. C., Bely, A. E., & Norenburg, J. L. (2018). A phylum-wide survey reveals multiple independent gains of head regeneration ability in Nemertea. bioRxiv, 439497.

Written by: 



Dr. Bipasha Bose, Associate Professor, Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine Centre, Yenepoya Research Centre, Yenepoya (Deemed to be University), Mangalore-575018, Karnataka, India.
Professor Bradley’s group in Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute, UK recently reported that CRISPR-Cas9 led gene editing can lead to potential DNA damage by introducing unwanted large-scale deletions and complex rearrangements. The work which was done on cell lines derived from human and mouse have shown that this technique creates extensive DNA damage. The study was published recently in the scientific journal Nature Biotechnology. So the major implications will be that the CRISPR based therapies may not be as useful to treat diseases as we may have been thought earlier.

Two other studies which were published two months ago in the scientific journal Nature Medicine, one from the Karolinska Institute Sweden and the other from the company Novartis showed concerns that CRISPR/Cas9 editing can induce cancer.  So the promise of using this technique in clinical trials for blood-related disorders such as hemophilia, sickle cell anemia, and Beta-Thalassemia, and other disorders such as Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy which are potential candidate for gene editing could be delayed because of the astonishing results reported.

CRISPR, short for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats system is based on the defense mechanism used by bacteria to protect themselves against the invading viruses. The Cas9 protein which acts as molecular scissors cleaves the virus genetic material and protects the bacteria. The bacteria also store the fragmented virus genetic material, which acts as a guide for the future attack by the same virus.

The system has been tweaked by scientists to be used as a gene editing tool. So in simple terms, CRISPR/Cas9 is a genome-editing technique which cuts/breaks the DNA at a specific site(s) with the help of a guide RNA which is associated with Cas9 protein. The cell repair system then adds the new DNA at the cut site thereby activating or deactivating gene(s) to treat a certain condition.

More recently, a team from the University of Illinois invented CRISPR-SKIP technique where instead of cutting the DNA, the machinery actually causes the region of DNA to be “skipped”. Since we know that DNA contains exons (the coding regions) and introns (the non-coding regions). When the cell transcribes the gene into RNA, all the exons are stitched together which is to be used for protein synthesis. The stitching of exons happens due to the presence of specific base sequence at the start and end of each exon. CRISPR-SKIP modifies these specific base sequence, leading to exon skipping and thus the exon gets ignored during protein synthesis.

Due to the stupendous scope of its application, CRISPR was eventually touted as an ultimate method for editing genes. Treating genetic disorders and cancer, improving crop yields, reviving extinct mammals and producing designer babies are only a minuscule portion of the portrayed promises made by scientists. What eventually followed was a massive patent war between two teams. Having tested the CRISPR gene editing potential in a cell-free system, Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier of U.C. Berkeley and the University of Vienna, respectively filed a patent application in the year 2012. Another patent was filed by Feng Zhang from the Broad Institute (collaboration between MIT and Harvard) in 2014. This team filed for the patent in using CRISPR in editing eukaryotic genes. Having applied through a fast-track process of review, the latter team was first awarded the patent. U.C. Berkeley and the University of Vienna appealed against this decision and claimed an ‘interference proceeding’. Stating that the claims made by the Broad Institute were ‘non-obvious’ and unique in its own right, a federal appeals court upheld the judgment passed by Patent Trial and Appeal Board in favor of the Broad Institute on September 10, 2018.

Having mentioned the flaws such as off-targets effects and unwanted DNA damage by various studies, this technique has a lot of outstanding potential in the scientific field. Since the CRISPR/Cas9 technique has progressed very quickly over the years, it is important to understand the reliability and after-effects of this technique.

Written by: 



Saketh Kapoor, Graduate student, Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine Centre, Yenepoya Research Centre, Yenepoya (Deemed to be University), Mangalore-575018, Karnataka, India.

 

 

Artwork: Saketh Kapoor and Dr. Pratigya Subba

Edited by: Dr. Raghu Bhushan

 

 

 

Did you know? More than 5000 people in India die every year due to Leptospirosis or Rat Fever. It mainly affects people who come in contact with contaminated soil or water during floods. Leptospirosis cases have seen to be elevated during the rainy season due to exposure to contaminated water and soil.


Rat Fever is caused by a spirochete named Leptospira. Surprisingly it’s been more than 100 years since the discovery of this bacterium yet, no rapid diagnostic tools are available. This is mainly due to the slow growth rate in culture media, laborious detection and can only be performed in reference labs with all the serovars. Interestingly, this bacterium does not only infect humans but also a variety of organisms like hamsters, swine, other rodents and cattle animals which act as carriers.


Mode of infection is through the urine of infected animals, which shed the spirochete microbes into water or soil. The bacteria can enter the body through the injured skin or mucous membranes. Drinking contaminated water can also cause infection (Refer the schematic diagram).


Is it really dangerous? Typical symptomatic human Leptospirosis shows symptoms like dengue and malarial fever (so if your doctor says no Dengue or Malaria, it can be Leptospirosis!). The severity of the disease ranges from chronic fever, cough, headache, chills, and conjunctivitis to acute meningitis, extreme fatigue, respiratory distress and some severe cases like pulmonary haemorrhage, myocarditis, renal failure, uveitis and even death.


Rat fever can be prevented by consuming a prophylactic antibiotic as prescribed by the Physicians. Vaccination of the farm animals is necessary as this is another source of transmission. Simple practices like practicing good self-sanitization, avoiding swimming in the infected animal urine contaminated water bodies, avoiding direct contact with the mud or fresh water during a flood can save you from getting the Rat fever.


With fallout of severe floods in the states of Kerala and Karnataka, there is an earnest appeal for all the rescue team members helping out distressed people; Kindly make sure to incorporate all the necessary precautions like wearing the gloves, boots and take prophylactic drugs to avoid the risk of contracting Leptospirosis infection as it could get more serious in flood-affected areas. For the people who are already exposed to the conditions, kindly consult medical team deployed at the relief sites to avoid further complications, and also advise for the same to the affected people.


“Stay hygienic, Stay safe”


Written by: Mr. Mohammed Tarique, Technical Research Assistant (ICMR Project), Yenepoya Research Centre, Yenepoya (Deemed to be University), Mangalore-575018, Karnataka, India.

Artwork: Mr. Mohammed Tarique and Mr. Utsav Sen

Edited by: Mr. Jagdish k and Mrs. Saptami U. Kanekar
In our daily life, we are frequently being told that happiness is either relative or an illusion. Some of us will not agree with this statement, some of us will say yes, and we have also experienced the happiness positively. We often find ourselves oscillate between happy and unhappy moments and realize that in fact, there is no permanent state of mind. In other words, “Change is the only constant”.

It seems that happiness is the ultimate goal or achievement of our life. Our childhood was spent having lots of fun and happiness at that time meant self-gratification. As we grew, making our parents proud gave that happiness. Gradually it got extended to our boss, life partner and kids making them happy in whatever ways it demanded. . . But this pursuit of happiness has left us in an elusive approach of chasing a mirage of so-called happiness which happens to be a crucial and ever-increasing need in every moment of our lives

What is Happiness? Why is this so important in our life? Let’s understand a scientific basis of this happiness on contrary to more of philosophical views so far. While philosophically true happiness has a different definition for each of us, science can give us a clear picture of the prevailing factors that lead to the state if being happy. There are thousands of factors involved in our happiness; from the food we eat to bed, we sleep in room temperature, which plays a role to regulate our temper and in turn, the complex functionalities of our brain. . . Understanding these factors which are related to our happiness will help us to know about our temporary state of mind.

Mechanisms that are responsible for the happy mood are very interesting though. Researchers revealed human behaviors in novel ways that weren't studied earlier. With their knowledge and advanced technology at their disposition, scientists were able to discover what goes on into our body when we experience happiness. Studies were also carried out in the area of the human brain that is responsible for happiness and positive memories as well as the neurotransmitters involved like Serotonin. In the human central nervous system (CNS), this neurotransmitter connects nerve cells and is associated with a feeling of happiness or decreased anxiety. Serotonin is a significant part of many popular drug treatments for depression and anxiety. It helps to regulate essential human functions like; learning, mood, sleep, sexuality, appetite.

Another neurotransmitter is Dopamine which is both a neurotransmitter and a neurohormone that is produced in several different areas of the brain. Dopamine is mostly associated with the "pleasure system' of the brain, providing feelings of enjoyment and motivating us to do or not to do or continue doing some activities. Assuredly, this neurotransmitter is released by naturally occurring events such as food, abuse of drugs, sex and neutral stimuli that become with them. Dopamine is often touted as a ‘reward chemical’ or part of the brain’s ‘Reward center'.  Apart from this, dopamine rewards us by regulating some critical functions such as feelings after punishment, movement, motivation, and attention, emotional responses, working memory, etc.

So if you are curious about the science of happiness, Check out your status and you will discover what it is that contributes to your Happiness...... Meet Your Happy Chemicals - BE Happy & Make Others Happy!!!

Written by:

Mr. Utsav Sen, ICMR-Senior Research Fellow, Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine Centre, Yenepoya Research Centre, Yenepoya (Deemed to be University), Mangalore-575018, Karnataka, India.

 

 

Edited by: Mr. Jagdish k and Mr. Saketh Kapoor
We all are gifted naturally with immense potential for excellence. A conscious living leads to a conscious will, that is what we call is willpower. Conscious living releases so much of the latent energy that energizes our entire being to do so much. Then, where is the question of mediocrity or non-performance??? Intrigued, isn’t it!!!

The crux of the matter is how you spend your 6 pm to 9 am every single day decides how productive your 9 am to 6 pm will be. I am serious and not joking. I would request each of you who are reading this blog, to reflect upon yourselves and think how you have been spending your 6 pm to 9 am every day. You do not have to go much far in the past, but a week’s data should be sufficient to indicate the levels of your productivity, in other words, your commitment to excellence.

Well, I know the answer most of you will be having. Some of the typical answers are:

  1. I am so very exhausted at the end of the day that, I freshen up and just couch with my cell phone at 6 pm and try to relax. Then, I realize it is dinner time. 3-4 hours fly off.

  2. I am so very exhausted at the end of the day that, I freshen up and just switch on the TV at 6 pm as soon as I reach home and try unwinding. Then, I realize it is dinner time. 3-4 hours fly off.

  3. I am so very exhausted at the end of the day that I need to get busy with the household chores such as homework of children. Then, I realize it is dinner time. 3-4 hours fly off.

  4. Well, I just do things such as talking on the phone, having dinner and going to bed.

  5. I go to eat out sometimes and come home late followed by sleep. 3-4 hours fly off.

  6. I switch on my computer to study something and often get distracted and end up watching a movie or entertaining videos on YouTube. 3-4 hours fly off.


Some of the uncommon answers are:

  1. I go home, freshen up and go to the gym or go for a walk without my cell phone or any distraction before taking to anyone or getting busy with routine chores.

  2. I go home, freshen up, and sit alone reflecting upon how I had spent my day. I write down the accountability to myself for betterment before taking to anyone or getting busy with routine chores.

  3. I go home, freshen up and remind myself that I am mortal and I need to live my every moment productively, reflect upon how I had spent my day and do better tomorrow. All of these I do before taking to anyone or getting busy with the chores.

  4. I go home freshen up, do some yoga and meditation and self-reflection before taking to anyone or getting busy with the chores.


I understand that it takes a tremendous amount of willpower to practice what the uncommon answers correspond to and that too at the end of the day. However, the good news is that you do not need to spend the entire evening doing yoga, going for a walk, meditating, working out in the gym and reflecting on oneself. One can spend just an hour doing it and feel so much energized, focused with high levels of endorphins. Also, you will have an excellent sleep in the night. Very simple, isn’t it. Your commitment to yourself means to spend time for yourself, not much, just an hour every day (morning or evening) being with yourself, meditating, exercising and reflecting. Most important, make this a regular habit. You will be surprised to find the new scientific ideas flowing through your mind just after these precious moments with yourself. Pen them down immediately. This commitment to yourself will keep you energized as similar to an oasis in a desert before the entire world tears you apart with mediocrity.

The attitude should be: I promise to give quality time to myself because I am committed to excellence. Of course, I do not need to show off my superiority to the entire world around me. Instead, it becomes evident as I reflect more energy, more positivity, and more happiness. That creates an impact on the world around me. I do not compete with anyone; instead, I run my race to give more to myself. It is important to remind oneself that, “I have more energy to do what I am doing today and I am meant for doing more.” Efficiency and productivity are none other than excellence.
If we all practice this small exercise for one hour every day, we all can impact the world around us with excellence rather than being a little clod of mediocrity.

Happy reading!

With respect and love to all the readers of this blog.

Written by:

Dr. Bipasha Bose, Associate Professor, Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine Centre, Yenepoya Research Centre, Yenepoya (Deemed to be University), Mangalore-575018, Karnataka, India.

 

 

 

Photo courtesy and Artwork by:

Mr. Utsav Sen, ICMR-Senior Research Fellow, Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine Centre, Yenepoya Research Centre, Yenepoya (Deemed to be University), Mangalore-575018, Karnataka, India.
“I really enjoy doing the simplest of simple things and this is one of the things one should learn. Even if you are in a smaller place and you have done one experiment like transformation and if you are looking forward to what happens to that experiment next morning, and you see the transformants on the plate, that enjoyment and excitement is really something that I live for” quoted Prof. Umesh Varshney when asked about what he enjoys the most about being a scientist.

Prof. Umesh Varshney, Molecular Biologist, at the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore visited the Yenepoya Research Centre (YRC), Yenepoya (Deemed to be University) on July 21, 2018 to deliver a guest lecture on “Initiation with the initiator tRNA”.

We, research fellows at YRC grabbed this opportunity to interact with him albeit informally(!) and asked him few questions other than mainstream science. So, in an interview with Saketh Kapoor, Gayathree Karthikkeyan and Rex DAB, Prof. Varshney shared his insights and experiences in scientific research today as well as his personal interests on the questions posed to him.

The first thing he expressed about how he enjoys interacting with his students. “Many a time I will have one view on something, the student will have another view and the kind of things that we can come up with discussion and the questions that we can ask, makes it really interesting, so let’s say, me and my student have different hypothesis, now how to distinguish between two hypotheses by designing simple experiments is interesting“ stated Prof. Varshney.

We also queried him about that one study which he is really fascinated about. However, the answer we received was not just one study but various studies which Prof. Varshney mentioned. He described the very first kind of suppressor that his team analyzed which fell into one carbon metabolism and how it affected the fidelity of protein synthesis. “We were asking a question that a tRNA, which is not really a bona fide initiator tRNA and we know it should not be allowed to initiate, but because of one mutation, it goes into a pathway which normally would not be connected with protein synthesis, that really becomes then interesting to solve that puzzle. So basically, much of the molecular genetics is about solving a puzzle. And it was the first of its kind, when we identified that methylations in rRNA are important in fidelity of selection of initiator tRNA. This study which was immediately published in EMBO journal. And more recently we are finding out that there is heterogeneity in the ribosomes that is again something very exciting for us to go ahead and resolve it”.



We further asked him the about the qualities a budding researcher must possess. To which he again cited the example of a transformation experiment that how much a student is motivated and excited to see the results of his experiment the very next morning. The other very important thing is that a person has to be very persistent and motivated. “I always give this example, let’s say, you went to do some hobby activities, and you have to pay for it. But here my hobby is to do research and at the same time I am getting paid for it. So that is one of the incentives a student who is getting into a research always gets. It’s like getting paid for what you love to do! So, this is the best profession to be in. Also, one should not get depressed or disappointed with one failed experiment because we may not be sure whether it’s a failure. Many a time we are going with our hypothesis and the results we are getting is not fitting into hypothesis, we start calling it as a failure. But one should always try to look for an alternate hypothesis which will explain this outcome and if there aren’t then one should always look whether if there are any technical flaws in what you did”.

We then discussed how important is it for a researcher to go abroad to get an experience from other countries. To which he replied, “The number of scientists that we have in our country is very limited and if you now start picking up a particular area that becomes even narrower. So, if you have an interest in a particular area and if there are facilities available elsewhere, one should always explore that. I would not take the approach that one should just work in the country rather than going abroad, instead, go abroad, learn the things and bring the technologies back to the country”.

Finally, the interview concluded on a lighter note where we asked what he likes to do when not doing research. “Well I like to do nothing!! Being a senior faculty at IISc, there are lots of administrative responsibilities as well, so much of my time goes in fulfilling those responsibilities also. However, having said that, I actually like doing some exercise like jogging, cycling, which have become very infrequent now, but I still try to do it once in a while”.

We thank Prof. Varshney for sharing his time and his experiences with us. We also hope that this transcript will help our readers to motivate themselves for doing science research or other fields/areas they wish to pursue in their lives.
Human body is a well-known niche for trillions of microbes outreaching a number ten times higher than own cells. Some of the well-studied microbial niches are the ones that are found on/inside the human body. For instance, skin, mouth, gut, lungs and respiratory tract, vagina etc. These microbes have beneficial and harmful effects and is of great interest in relation to health and disease. The Human Microbiome Project (HMP) was established in 2008 with the aim to characterize microbiome and to analyze its role in human health. June 27th, 2018 was called as “World Microbiome Day” initiated by APC Microbiome, Ireland.

On constant exposure to the environment from the time of birth over the years build up the whole microbiome. The human microbiome is comprised of numerous classes of microbes; some of which are ‘good’, some being ‘harmful’ and some are ‘essential for the good’ ones. The beneficial function of microbiome has been well established; they take part in the metabolism, building immunity, extracting energy, managing appetite, keeping the general homeostasis of the body and supplying vitamins. Multiple factors like antibiotics, diet, age, stress, human genetics and environment may alter the microbiome. The microbial imbalance is known to be associated with various diseases related to metabolism, respiration, infection, liver and gastrointestinal cancers. Not only these conditions but also the physique and mental health are associated with a healthy microbiome. Besides, their association is also found in obesity, malnutrition, diabetes mellitus, atherosclerosis, cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma.

Microbiome analyses are the new phase of diagnostics that provide an advanced understanding of disease progression and treatment. In today’s world, we have been using microbial supplements in the form of probiotics. Probably in the near future, every disease associated with microbiota may have a prebiotic or probiotic treatment as one of the options. There isn’t a clear picture yet of how far the microbiome is capable of being involved in human health and disease.

 

Written by:



Sajida Abdul Kadar is a research scholar in Yenepoya Research Centre. She is currently working on Bacteria associated with Kidney stone diseases.

 

 

 

 
Drug trafficking and abuse are so real, it is lurking very close to you with a moment of carelessness, it will latch itself onto your life or that of your loved ones!

Abuse, the very term initiates widened idea of thoughts however, pertaining to physical, mental and sexual abuse. Most of us have failed to acknowledge another form of abuse, drug or substance abuse which might primarily be due to our ignorance or failing to acknowledge the existence of it. For years, many countries with help of their government and other local and world-level organizations have been staging a mighty war to eradicate drug trafficking and abuse. We often relate drug abuse to health-related problems but, the most important burden that it projects on the society is the economic burden, including law and order issues too. This clearly necessitates a special focus and reaching out to the common people extrapolating the various forms of threats that drug trafficking and abuse poses. To spread awareness, each year the international day against drug usage and trafficking has been observed on the 26th of June, an initiative started by the United Nations Office of Drug and Crime (UNODC) since 1987. A new theme is observed every year and “Listen First” is the theme for 2018, as a minute step towards a greater good. The initiative focuses on listening to the children and the youth, the main targets for drug dealers and thereby to be abused. This is framed to ensure better parenting and help the youngster to grow safe.

According to the UNODC report, about 1.9 lakh people lose their lives to substance abuse and its ill-effect doesn’t stop there. This serious issue has also been ruining the life of living, breaking hell into their lives before they meet their untimely ultimatum. Transmission of HIV, hepatitis and tuberculosis have found the easier way through sharing of needles and other tools used for intake of the drug. As per the report by the UNODC, drug trafficking on the other hand owns up to money laundering in billions across international boundaries, alteration of the socioeconomic structures, organized crimes, insurgency and terrorism. The UNDOC report, 2017 mainly focussed on the influence of money laundering into support of terrorism. Looking at the drug abuse status in India, about 7.21 crore people have been estimated to be drug addicts, a report that dates back to 2001. Since then, no follow up on the statistics have ever been made, which makes us rethink on the strategy to be employed to reach out to the common man, explaining the seriousness of the issue and getting out data straight to the current era.

Usage of drugs is termed an abuse due to the effects it has on the brain. These drugs interfere with the neuronal communication (by activating or suppressing them), alter release of neurotransmitters (chemicals that send signals) and the reception of these chemicals by the subsequent neurons. The drugs can influence a neuron by activation/suppression due to its chemical similarity with the neurotransmitter. Although these drugs share a good structural similarity with the natural neurotransmitters, the effects produced by them differ largely from that of the neurotransmitters. Marijuana and heroin are drugs that activate the neurons while amphetamine and cocaine stimulate the neurons to secrete neurotransmitters, this way each drug/substance has its own effects on the brain. Excessive and continuous usage of drugs makes one addictive which, is a resultant of the pleasure it gives to one’s senses or thoughts, in other ways the brain’s reward system and perception. Once the drug effect vanes off, the person can no longer feel better as the neuronal communication falls back to normalcy. To bring back the significant pleasure one gets addicted and depended on the drugs. Due to the rewarding (pleasurable) feeling these drugs offer, a person is inclined to experience it over and over thereby, creating a vicious cycle of drug intake. The reward system is primarily controlled by the neurotransmitter dopamine, which is released at a heightened intensity and efficiency with amphetamine usage. Numerous studies have been carried out to understand the influence of drugs on an individual’s mental, physical and social health and, brain development. The findings suggest the impairment of brain development and behaviour. Among children, those with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder are more prone towards eventual intake of drugs, as showcased by a 15 year follow up study. This sheds light on the children’s welfare, the environment they are brought-up and the help they need from parents or guardians to help them grow in a safe environment. The “Listen First” theme is thus imperative to strengthen the children to give a better tomorrow and thereby one-day, a society free of drug trafficking and abuse.

A lot of references and reports can be spread along in making one understand the importance of saying no to drugs and their trafficking. All that matters is to reach out to everyone we know, a small by-word awareness might be enough to save at least one person from falling into the deep pits of immeasurable suffering. We also have an obligation to our society and help the ones in need, the ones that are in the verge of taking a dive at the deep hell (of drugs) and to rescue the ones already drowning in it. Rehabilitation centres, psychological counselling, helping people battle depression etc. can help in sculpting the society for greater good.

Light the fire in you, towards life, not the drugs that shrink to a minuscule of nothing.

Say no to drug abuse and illicit drug trafficking.

 

Written by:

Gayathree K. is a research scholar at Center for Systems Biology and Molecular Medicine, Yenepoya Research Centre. She is working on proteomics and metabolomics analysis of neurodegenerative disorders.