Better and more efficient laboratory techniques are a dream come true for any scientist. That dream could materialize for stem cell biologists thanks to a new finding by NCBS's Mitradas Panicker and his team that makes one of the most important steps in stem cell research - that of identifying human pluripotent stem cells (cells that can differentiate into any kind of adult cell) - easier. The scientists show that a blue fluorescence is emitted by fat-storing organelles or lipid bodies in specific types of pluripotent stem cells. They utilized this to distinguish these stem cells from others more easily and efficiently. The new technique is also a cost-effective and less labor-intensive alternative for scientists who need to culture stem cell colonies for research experiments. Scientists are hopeful that delving deeper into the principles of this technique could throw more light on pluripotent states and the process of pluripotency itself, a significant step towards understanding stem cells better.
Shashank Dalvi, alumnus of NCBS's post-graduate program in Wildlife Biology and Conservation received the Carl Zeiss Conservation Award for 2014. Padma Vibhushan Shri. Karan Singh presented a trophy and a pair of Carl Zeiss binoculars (Zeiss Victory 8x42 T*FL) to Dalvi on 25th April 2014 at the India Habitat Centre in New Delhi.
A team comprising inStem's Kouichi Hasegawa, AstraZeneca's Vasan Sambandamurthy and Susanta Ghosh of the National Institute of Malaria Research has won the Grand Challenges Explorations grant awarded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Hasegawa, Sambandamurthy, Ghosh and Varadharajan Sundaramurthy (NCBS) propose to develop an assay of the liver-stage (one of the several life stages) of the malaria-causing protozoan Plasmodium vivax. They will use the latest techniques in stem cell biology to develop this new assay to make it suitable for drug screening. With this venture, Hasegawa, Sambandamurthy and their team hope to throw light on the poorly-understood biology of P. vivax. The new information they generate will bring science many steps closer to controlling and ultimately eradicating P. vivax-driven malaria, a dreaded disease afflicting people in many tropical countries.
Yamuna Krishnan, Associate Professor at NCBS, has been awarded a Human Frontier Science Program (HFSP) program grant. Krishnan and her team of collaborators including Professors Ludger Johannes (Curie Institute, France), Mark Bathe (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge) and John Ipsen (University of Southern Denmark) will examine the mechanisms of endocytosis (the process of cells absorbing molecules by engulfing them) and associated cell signaling using innovative nanoprobes.
Tree-dotted grasslands epitomize Africa like no other landscape can. What environmental factors maintain similar tropical savannas worldwide? Differing intensities of rain and fire across continents govern the structure of these savannas, according to a recent study published in Science.
doublesex is one multitasker. The gene that controls gender and sexual differences in insects is also a mimicry supergene that determines wing pattern variations in a mimetic butterfly, according to a study led by scientists from the National Center for Biological Sciences (NCBS) and the University of Chicago.
Harold Varmus, Nobel Laureate and Director of the US National Cancer Institute (NCI), visited the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS) on 21st January 2014. Varmus interacted with scientists working at NCBS and other Indian institutes to assess the status of cancer research in the country and draw out priorities in research. Based on these interactions, Varmus hopes to determine ways in which India and the United States can work towards boosting cancer research.
"The meeting with Varmus was to mainly give him a perspective of what is going on: in cancer research as well as others that can connect to cancer research in some way," says Satyajit Mayor, Director of NCBS and InStem. "Varmus was chiefly interested in exploring how to link up cancer research in India with research going on outside the country."
NCBS Senior research scholar Sunaina Surana won the Malhotra Weikfield Foundation NanoScience Fellowship Award for the year 2013 in the 6th Bangalore INDIA NANO Awards held on 5th and 6th December 2013. She received the award from Bharat Ratna Dr. C. N. R. Rao. Surana won the Fellowship for her doctoral work which she summarized in her poster A DNA Nanomachine Maps Spatiotemporal pH Changes in a Multicellular Living Organism at the event.
Eminent neuroscientist Huda Zoghbi visited the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS) today. On campus, she interacted with students, post-doctoral fellows and faculty of the NCBS and InStem. Zoghbi is in town to deliver a talk at the Indian Institute of Science, organized as part of the Cell Press-TNQ India Distinguished Lectureship Series 2014. Her lecture A Journey from the Clinic to the Laboratory to Understand Brain Disorders, which will be delivered in the cities of Chennai and New Delhi as well is dedicated to NCBS founder and renowned scientist late Obaid Siddiqi.
NCBS research scholar Bipan Kumar Deb's talk won the Dr. V.C. Shah Prize for the Best Platform Presentation in the recently concluded XXXVII All India Cell Biology Conference (AICBC). Deb talked about his work on store-operated calcium entry (SOCE), a mechanism by which nerve cells take up calcium from extracellular space. Mentored by NCBS Senior Professor Gaiti Hasan, Deb's work, initiated in collaboration with other researchers in the Hasan lab, shows that a group of proteins called septins (the 'Pnut' septin specifically), plays a hitherto-unknown role in regulating SOCE in neurons of the common fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. This in turn modulates flight behaviour in fruit flies.
The new year at the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS) kicked off with a lecture by Nobel Laureate Venkatraman Ramakrishnan on January 2nd 2014. Hosted by NCBS faculty Deepak T. Nair, Ramakrishnan's talk was part of the Golden Jubilee Celebrations of the University of Agricultural Sciences, GKVK (Bangalore). In his lecture, Ramakrishnan described recent advances in electron microscopy; the novel techniques have revolutionized the field of ribosome studies. Ribosome structure and function is an aspect Ramakrishnan and his team have been conducting path-breaking research on for several decades.
Pirates shuddered at the thought of black spots - they signified your imminent bloody demotion from pirate hierarchy. But for ecologists, the recently released Black Spot Leaf Area Calculator is a cause for celebration. Developed by NCBS doctoral students Varun Varma and Anand M. Osuri, Black Spot quantifies the surface area of an individual leaf. Leaf area measurements are used to derive a number of metrics used extensively in ecological studies.
The World Academy of Sciences (TWAS) selected NCBS Senior Professor Jayant Udgaonkar to be a Fellow of the prestigious academy on October 2nd, 2013. Membership to the Academy is based on scientific merit, and Udgaonkar is one of the 52 members to be appointed this year. "It's always nice to get recognition of this sort," says Udgaonkar. "It is motivating for both myself and my students." Udgaonkar will be inducted into the Academy at its 25th General Meeting in 2014.
Dhiraj Bhatia, doctoral student of NCBS Assistant Professor Yamuna Krishnan from 2007 to 2013, has won the First Prize in the Eli Lilly and Company Asia Outstanding Thesis Award for this year. His thesis titled Icosahedral DNA nanocapsules for targeted functional bioimaging in cellulis and in vivo explores structural DNA nanotechnology, a field of nano-research which utilizes the basic principles of DNA structure to create complex systems and devices that have extensive scientific and technological applications.
Three Grade 12 students from the Central School for Tibetans at Mundgod in Karnataka are currently interning at the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS). Following an agreement with their school and the NCBS, Tenzin Tsetan, Tenzin Phentok and Tenzin Zomkey began their internship on 6th May with Professors Uma Ramakrishnan, Vatsala Thirumalai and Axel Brockmann.
The fragmented forests of the night might soon be darker places, with fewer tigers to brighten them. How is this possible when recent census reports show rising tiger numbers in India? A study by scientists from the NCBS and Cardiff University shows that mere counts are not enough. Current tiger populations in India have lost 93% of their former genetic variation, information coded in genes, vital to species' survival. Also, the populations are not interbreeding like they used to, becoming isolated in fragmented habitats. The authors warn that this motif could portend decline, even extinction, of the endangered big cat in India.
One and a half million: The estimated number of deaths caused by mosquito-borne diseases every year across the world. Prevention is fundamental to curbing these diseases, and doctors recommend the use of nets and vaccines, as well as repellants, which deter mosquitoes by interfering with their sense of smell. Scientists at the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS) have now discovered 110 new proteins in three mosquito species - proteins belonging to a group critical to mosquito olfaction. Repellants targetting this larger group of proteins may function better than existing ones, decreasing instances of dreaded diseases such as dengue and malaria.
A Bachelors degree in Botany and then a Masters in Wildlife Sciences: not many botanists are wildlife biologists. What drew you to wildlife biology?
I always liked plants, although wildlife sciences was definitely my first love. Professor Madhav Pendse, then the head of the Botany Department at Sir Parashurambhau College, was always supportive and encouraging of all my work on wildlife. I would say I finished my Bachelors degree and have come to appreciate plants much more than before, thanks to him. And the second person who influenced me is Milind Watve, currently professor at IISER Pune: because of him, I would say I finished my education and am into research. Looking back, I think the degree in Botany was one of the best things that happened to me in college. I started pursuing work on butterflies much more seriously during that time, though I did not dream that I would study butterflies for a living. Because I had a background in botany, learning about butterflies, their host plants and the forests where they fly became much easier. I put this knowledge to use in my butterfly studies now.
The international Human Science Frontier Program awarded a Young Investigator research grant to NCBS principal investigator Madhusudhan Venkadesan and his collaborators, Mahesh Bandi (Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University, Japan) and Shreyas Mandre (School of Engineering, Brown University, USA) last month. They received the three-year grant (of $350,000 per year), for a project titled "Foot in Motion: Materials, Mechanics and Control" which proposes to study how the human foot helps in stable, energy efficient locomotion.
Aristotle's maxim holds especially true when it comes to scientific research - where the diversity of disciplines adds so much more to forge the gigantic whole. And collaborations are key to the multi-disciplinary approaches that have fostered many contemporary science successes today. Now, after nearly ten years of ongoing collaborations between NCBS and the RIKEN Kobe Institute in Japan, the Bangalore Bio-Cluster comprising NCBS, inStem and C-CAMP has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with RIKEN Japan. The MoU will strengthen ongoing collaborations, now extending to all RIKEN institutes across Japan, promote graduate and post-doctoral exchange programs between the organizations involved and potentially also set up a new research center in the premises of the Bangalore Bio-Cluster.