The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as a state of complete physical, mental and social well being. Health is often defined as the absence of any diseases. Although our understanding of disease biology has grown rapidly in recent decades with the advent of modern technologies including proteomics and genomics, underlying mechanisms of many diseases remain obscure. Hence unraveling the biology of complex diseases is an extremely high priority requirement.
Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology’s (RGCB) Disease Biology Research does innovative research in cellular and molecular mechanisms of human, animal and plant diseases. The program is designed to make the institute a world-class research establishment in molecular and medical aspects of human, animal and plant disease biology integrating theory, modeling, simulation and experiential science encompassing disciplines such as biology, genetics, chemical biology, immunology and many other disciplines.
RGCB has major research programs in disease biology. Our mission is to understand the underlying biology of human, animal and plant diseases and eventually develop a new complimentary approach to train individuals in translational biology and promote collaborations between clinical, veterinary and agricultural professionals with basic biology scientists. This we hope will serve as a catalyst to move discoveries effectively to implementation for public benefit.
The range of disease areas, which are actively studied, includes cancer, atherosclerosis & heart disease, tuberculosis, viral infections, cholera, neurological disorders and reproductive problems. In addition, application of modern technologies such as high throughput sequencing, DNA bar-coding, synthetic biology, nano-biotechnology and chemical biology are used to develop delivery systems, understand the fundamentals of cellular function during disease and also characterize the molecular taxonomy of disease manifestations.
Our cancer research program includes scientists investigating the crucial role of cancer stem cells in drug resistance & minimal residual disease, engineering tumor cells for better anti cancer drug screening platforms, understanding the biology of tubulin binding drugs, looking for the molecular mechanisms involved in chemosensitization, development of selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs) as well as understanding the action of natural compounds on BRACA mutated breast cancers.
In infectious diseases, we study molecular epidemiology of mycobacteria, host-pathogen interaction & regulation of macrophage gene expression by mycobacterial proteins, developing inhibitors to NS2 proteases in dengue fever, viruses and cancer, bird flu and understanding the clinico-biology of cholera. We also search using metagenomics, the microbial flora in different environment niches for biologically active products and enzymes.
RGCB has a strong chemical biology program where anti microbial peptides are isolated from rare frogs found in the forests of the Western Ghats and then characterized & tested. We do DNA bar-coding of such frogs as part of an international program on molecular ecology. Our chemical biologists also develop degradable scaffolds for cell differentiation, controlled drug release systems using polymer nanoparticles and film based drug releasing systems as well as design & synthesis of new polymer matrices for organic synthesis.
Our human genetics program analyzes various pharmaco-genomic profiles and their role in responses to various drugs used for management of neuro-psychiatric disorders while in reproductive biology we search for differentially expressed proteomes associated with anomalies in sperm development & maturation as well as molecular factors involved in defective implantation and utero-embryo interaction.
RGCB's neurobiologists study in detail the role of the enzyme CaMKII in biochemical regulation at neuronal synapses and the trans-differentiation of umbilical cord blood derived mesenchymal stem cells into neural lineage, specifically into ocular fate specified cells.
And finally our important cardio vascular biology laboratories investigate the molecular risk factors associated with type II diabetes in patients with cardiovascular disease, the molecular genetics of congenital cono-truncal anomalies and varicose veins. Another exciting study currently in pre clinical evaluation involves the use of cardiac stem cells in the management of ischemic injury.
RGCB also has take up with all due importance and earnest, development of advanced diagnostics for assessing diagnosis, prognosis and disease course for cardiac disease, cancer and infectious diseases. We already have an incubation facility with HLL Healthcare Ltd to jointly develop an accurate platform for differential dengue diagnosis. In addition we have upgraded our own Regional Facility for Molecular Diagnostics to also begin R&D programs in bioengineering. These programs include design and fabrication of modular assay systems including the development of nano release pads for the effective optimum release of test reagents in point of care testing devices.
Our plant disease biology programs are directed to thrust upon spices and medicinal plants, the two important components of the rich biodiversity of Southern India. Our principal interests are to improve biotic and abiotic stress resistance in spice crops, exploit the state's rich biodiversity for obtaining pharmacologically important bioactive compounds for use in liver and gastrointestinal disease, to exploit genetic machinery of medicinal plants for improving the content of bioactive secondary metabolites and to use plant system to produce pharmaceutical products (biopharming).
In spices, we focus on those segments in crop improvement where conventional methodologies can contribute little. In view of the lack of resistance source in the cultivated germplasm of ginger and black pepper for various diseases, high throughput functional genomics methods are employed to mine agronomically useful genes and promoters from their wild congeners. Real time analysis of gene expression and functional evaluation of candidate genes using gene knock-out technologies are performed to gain deeper insights into the molecular basis of physiological and biochemical processes underlying resistance response in wild relatives of these crops. In addition, modern genomic technologies are applied to understand molecular basis of abiotic stress tolerance in spices.
RGCB has a major interest in bioprospecting medicinal plants found in the rich biodiversity of the Western Ghats as well as those used in traditional tribal medicine and also those described in the classical texts of ayurveda. We use modern genomic tools to characterize the plants and then adopt bioactivity guided fractionation, molecular pharmacology and biology to study the cellular effects of the selected extracts. RGCB's major interests are in compounds that can prevent or reverse hepatic damage, have anti hepatitis B activity and in inhibiting the ulcerative action of helicobacter pylori.
RGCB is therefore a lead anchor in the translation process of biological sciences to better patient management, animal welfare, increased production of spices and newer bioactives from natural compounds – all truly in the quest and delivery of translational biology for a better society.