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Department of Biochemistry

Guardians of the Genome

Prof. Shikha Laloraya’s lab at the Indian Institute of Science is actively engaged in studying the structural organisation of chromosomes within the nucleus and how this affects various chromosomal transactions.

Scientists elucidate the working ways of a natural detoxifier

A recent study published in Journal of Biological Chemistry identifies a novel detoxifier that helps cells get rid of excess of a critical but toxic metabolite – methylgloxal (MG). This detoxifier keeps in check the cellular levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS) – chemically reactive oxygen molecules, which are crucial in cellular signalling, but whose higher levels can damage cell’s structures and biomolecules.

Neo-natal exposure to estrogenic steroids leads to changes in the expression of genes involved in synaptogenesis: IISc Study

Estradiol (a.k.a. 17β-estradiol) is a steroid hormone and the primary female sex hormone. It regulates the estrous and menstrual reproductive cycles and maintains the female reproductive tissues. It is to be noted that the brain sex differentiation takes place very early during development. While this steroid hormone is essential for the normal functioning of the female reproductive organs, high doses of estradiol or related steroid hormones result in infertility and masculinization. Exactly how this happens at the molecular and cellular level is still not very well known. Recently, a team of scientists at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore have demonstrated that some critical changes take place in some of the regions of the brain such as preoptic area (POA) in the rats exposed to estradiol soon after birth.

The intricacies of immune system & novel diagnosis methods

Amidst the bustle of everyday life, we fail to appreciate the remarkable work done by our body’s immune system in keeping us safe during a hectic day’s work or a lazy day’s rest. The immune system is analogous to a nation’s armed forces, and never ceases its vigilance. It comprises an intricate communication network of immune cells that follow efficient strategies to protect us from attack by pathogenic intruders. But, what if our defence system overreacts?

Demystifying pathogen strategies to evade the immune system

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.”, wrote Sun Tzu, the eminent military strategist in his famous book, ‘The Art of War’.Nestled in the Biological Sciences division of the lush green IISc campus is a lab that lives up to this ideology. Led by Professor Dipankar Nandi, the lab addresses the twin questions of how pathogens cause infections and how our defense network – the immune system – responds to the infection.

The cancer assassins: A history of immunotoxins

Cancer cells are essentially regular body cells, but with a difference: they have literally turned into freeloading parasites. How does one fight out-of-control cells that do not work as they should, but only feed and divide? Unfortunately, unlike regular parasites like bacteria or worms, they’re often too similar to normal cells to be targeted using drugs like antibiotics. Drugs capable of killing cancer cells often kill a lot of normal cells in a swathe of indiscriminate toxicity.

LAB STORY: Tiny proteins in the disease fighting arsenal

Consider the two life threatening diseases that made news recently: the Ebola outbreak last year and swine flu, which has been recurring since 2009. Strong evidence suggests that Ebola is transmitted by fruit bats, and swine flu by pigs. Both are “zoonotic” diseases – they are transmitted to humans from animals.
Could these epidemics have been prevented, if we had studied animal diseases more? We will never know. Prof Utpal Tatu, a Professor at the Department of Biochemistry, IISc is of the view that more research is needed into animal diseases. He operates under the idea of “One Health”: human and animal diseases cannot be viewed as separate entities in a complex world like ours.

An organic compound as a promising anti-cancer drug

Cancer needs no introduction. The dreaded disease has claimed millions of lives throughout the world. Despite being actively studied across the globe, a possible cure for cancer remains elusive. Treatment is usually given in the form of chemotherapy, which is associated with a lot of side effects. Most of the drugs which are given with the intention to kill cancerous cells, can also kill normal cells in the body.

IISc study reveals new insights into lesser-known DNA repair mechanism

A range of causes, from excess sunlight to poor eating habits, can potentially trigger events leading to damage of DNA – the long, double-stranded molecules that contain our genetic code. But our ever-efficient human body has developed elaborate DNA repair mechanisms to combat such situations. Such processes involve a wide range of cellular machinery working in tandem to repair the damage. If everything else fails, there is even a backup in place – nudging the damaged cell into committing suicide before others are affected. Studying such repair mechanisms is important, because some faults in DNA repair could lead to uncontrolled cell division, resulting in cancer.