Research Highlights

Killing Cancer with a Light Saber!

A team at IISc, Bangalore has successfully developed a novel technique to target and destroy cancer cells through multiple actions.

As a group of diseases, cancer affects over 7 lakh people every year in India alone and kills majority of those that are affected. Cancer occurs when normal cells go rogue – tweaking certain functions that makes it easier for the cancerous cells to multiply and invade normal tissues, thereby affecting the organs’ functions. The current treatment for cancer involves radiation, chemotherapy and occasionally surgery, all aimed at killing the cancerous cells. However, these therapies can, at times, be inaccurate, killing a large number of healthy cells too.

Synthetic arabinomannans – A novel weapon against the century old mycobacterial threat

Considered as mankind’s greatest killer, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, the causative agent of tuberculosis, has indeed become one group of bacteria which has challenged microbiologists and medical researchers for decades. Since the discovery of Mycobacterium tuberculosis in 1882, many scientists and researchers have employed different strategies to handle and treat mycobacterial infections. Longtreatment regime, the emergence of multiple drug resistance and chronic infections are the serious challenges associated with tuberculosis control. Now scientists from the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) Bangalore have tried out an interdisciplinary approach for fighting these killer bacteria.

To Cut or Not to Cut-The Bacterial Dilemma!

Some bacteria possess an interesting ability of incorporating a new piece of DNA from the outside.This new DNA might come from its surroundings, other bacteria or even invading virus and might help in fostering genomic diversity. In fact, scientists now believe that this phenomenonis much more common than previously thought. However, incorporating a viral DNA may be harmful where the viruses utilize every opportunity to sneak into a bacterium and, hijack its machinery to replicate the viral DNA. Hence, to protect themselves, bacteria have evolved a mechanism called restriction modification system. And yet, it could work for the advantage of the bacterium sometimes to restrain this system and usher in new foreign DNA that might contribute to its own genomic diversity.

Malaria- it is not just a human disease

Our world is changing - too much and too fast. Species are moving into higher latitudes and altitudes, often carrying new infectious agents with them. As climate changes, vectors of infectious diseases such as mosquitoes, often find themselves in excellent breeding environmental conditions for extended periods of time. They thrive in these altered climatic conditions, and so do the diseases they carry. Many of these vectors infect wild populations of birds. Many aspects influence disease transmission in birds - evolutionary history of the species, whether it is a migratory or non-migratory species, whether it evolved in isolation (such as on an island) or the mainland (where it was exposed to many parasites), the presence and diversity of vectors (mosquitoes and other arthropods) in its habitat, the structure and composition of the forest it inhabits, and climatic variables that influence bird migration and vector breeding.

How our memories become a 'treasure-trove'

At one time or another in our life, all of us are confronted with the most fundamental question of “who am I?” Do our memories make us who we are? When our memories are lost we are thrown into a realm of confusion about ourselves. From this we can safely conclude that our memories are a significant part of our identity. But have you ever wondered about the genesis of these memories? How is it that certain memories are more profound than others? Isn’t it puzzling how the same brain that can sometimes forget the simplest of things can also remember certain incidents that haunt us for the rest of our lives!

5 new gene mutations found, making a significant contribution to an international database.

A collaborative study conducted by researchers at the Department of Molecular Reproduction, Development and Genetics, Indian Institute of Science (IISc) and the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS), Bangalore, has analyzed DNA samples of Indian families to study brain diseases. Headed by Dr. Arun Kumar from IISc and Dr. P. S. Bindu from NIMHANS, it is the first report on the genetic analysis of 22 Indian families with neurodegenerative diseases caused by alterations in a specific gene called PLA26G.

Lab Story: Understanding a Versatile Bacterium in our Stomach

People had never thought that Gastritis in the stomach was caused by a bacterium, never believed it could be, so much so that one of the two scientists Barry Marshall and Robin Warren had to drink a cupful of Helicobacter pylori culture to show that he developed gastritis! They were later awarded a noble prize for their discovery of the bacterium Helicobacter pylori and its role in gastritis and peptic ulcer.

Orchestrating eye-hand movements: What mechanisms does the brain use?

The eyes and the hands work together as a team for most of the daily tasks we perform. When we pick up the morning coffee, or when we drive to work, our brains are constantly commandeering our eye and hand systems to bring about smooth, coordinated movements. We often do not consciously compute the steps required to bring them about. However, when the coordination is disrupted, even the simplest of tasks like picking up a book prove to be extremely challenging. How does the brain achieve efficient eye-hand coordination? A recent study from Prof. Aditya Murthy’s laboratory at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, explores this critical question and suggests a framework to understand the control mechanisms ofcoordinated eye-hand movements.

Understanding Insect Talk

The first land animals to communicate using sound were, in all probability, insects. Insect acoustics is an exciting field of study that addresses questions such as how insects use their sounds to communicate, how different are the 'languages' or the 'words' that various insects use and how acoustic signals are interpreted by them. An expert in this discipline is Prof. Rohini Balakrishnan from the Center for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore.

A novel insight into the mechanism behind what makes Tuberculosis tick

An increasing number of cases of multi-drug resistant tuberculosis and total-drug resistant tuberculosis are being discovered in India, accounting for the highest TB burden in any country across the globe. It has been said, ‘It is not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change’. Mycobacterium tuberculosis is able to adapt and thrive despite the immune system and drugs that are targeted against it. This is due to its ability to sense and adapt to its host's environment. Dr. Deepak Saini’s laboratory at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, is working at unraveling the molecular mechanism that helps M. tuberculosis sense, respond and adapt to its host environment.

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