A recent report by the World Health Organization estimates that about two million deaths occur every year due to tuberculosis (TB). An alarming dimension to this problem is the fact that some strains of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (Mtb), the causative agent of TB, have developed resistance to some antibiotics used to kill them, leading to the emergence of ‘drug resistant TB’ and causing a global threat. Drug resistance is a way by which bacteria respond to the drug stress they face. Due to improper and irregular use of antibiotics by patients, not all bacteria may be killed, leading to the emergence of drug resistant strains that survive even when further doses of the drug are administered. Now, a team of researchers at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, led by Prof. Nagasuma Chandra and Prof. Amit Singh, have explored the mechanism behind the development of resistance to a front-line anti-tubercular drug called isoniazid, used widely in the clinic.
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Many lifesaving medical devices such as urinary catheters, pacemakers, intrauterine devices and voice prosthesis, which are usually inserted into some part of the body, are plagued by a common problem – ‘bacterial biofilms’. These ‘biofilms’ grow on the surfaces of these devices and may cause infections. They are harder to treat than individual bacteria and need about 1000 – 10000 times stronger dose of antibiotics. But this may no longer be the case, as a group of scientists led by Prof. Dipshikha Chakravortty and Prof. Jagadeesh Gopalan from the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, have found a novel method to fight biofilm infections.
If you just relished a cup of yogurt or a platter of cheese, its time to thank the cook – bacteria! Yes, these microorganisms cook up the magic by converting the lactose in milk into lactic acid, thus giving a relishing taste. However, bacteria are often associated with diseases and despair they bring about – think of tuberculosis or ulcers – and are despised. What if, the same bacteria that we despise, are actually helpful in curing yet another serious and often life threatening disease like cancer? Sounds impossible?
Growth impairment, vision problems and chronic kidney ailment are hallmarks of cystinosis, a rare genetic disease that affects children, who, in most cases, do not survive into their adulthood. The disease affects one in about 250000 children worldwide and many of them go undiagnosed in the initial stages, only to be detected at a later stage when complications develop in the kidneys. Now, a new study by researchers and doctors at the Indian Institute of Science and Education Research (IISER), Mohali, and the Madras Institute of Orthopaedics and Traumatology (MIOT), Chennai, may have clues to detecting this disease early on in Indian patients, thus opening up possibilities of early diagnosis and treatment.
Diabetes mellitus is one of the prevalent non-communicable diseases in the world, with India being infamously called the diabetes capital. A report by World Health Organization states that the number of diabetics has quadrupled since 1980 to 422 million adults globally. India has witnessed a dramatic rise in its diabetic population from 11.9 million in 1980 to 69.2 million in 2015. This alarming worldwide rise in the visibility of diabetes has prompted urgent research and intervention to alleviate its potentially catastrophic consequences. Prof. Milind Watve’s lab at the Indian Institute of Science, Education and Research (IISER), Pune, is adding a new dimension to this research by studying the underlying pathogenesis of diseases like diabetes from an evolutionary perspective.
Ribosomes are molecular machines that make proteins in cells. That the ribosomes are important can be judged by the fact that the cells spend about 40% of their energy in assembling them. In bacteria, ribosomes are made up of a large (50S) and a small (30S) subunits. Flaws in the assembly and maturation (biogenesis) of any of these subunits affect protein synthesis in various ways and often result in the organism’s intolerance to cold, and impact their resistance to drugs and pathogenity. In higher organisms (including humans), defective biogenesis of ribosomes could lead to various diseases. Hence, an understanding of how cells manage accuracy in the complex process of ribosome biogenesis is of utmost importance in developing therapeutic interventions. Now, a study from the laboratory of Prof. Umesh Varshney at the Department of Microbiology and Cell Biology, Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore, has unravelled the mechanism behind synthesis of ribosomes.
Science has established that the father’s sperm, which fertilizes the mother’s ovum resulting in the formation of an embryo, decides the sex of an individual. So it’s only logical that if the ‘male factor’ of the sperm/ovum relationship is damaged, the product will be too. Now, a recent collaborative study by a team of researchers led by Prof. Hanudatta Atreya of the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, and Prof. Satish Kumar Adiga of Kasturba Medical College, Manipal, has found that if the sperm, set to fertilize a particular ovum, has damaged DNA, it affects the metabolism of the embryo that it fathers. The study was conducted using samples of sperm and ova from couples undergoing Intra-Cytoplamic Sperm Injection (ICSI), a popular technique to help infertile couples conceive.
How many tropical diseases do you know of? Malaria, dengue and sleeping sickness immediately come to mind. Maybe leprosy, if you think hard enough. But, many of us may not have heard of cutaneous leishmaniasis, a less dangerous but much more prevalent cousin of kala azar or black fever. Cutaneous Leishmaniasis (CL) is caused by the protozoan Leishmania parasites which are transmitted by the bite of infected female sandflies. A team of researchers led by Dr. Shailza Singh from the National Centre for Cell Science (NCCS), Pune have been studying this disease extensively and have now discovered a new lead compound to help combat this neglected tropical disease. Dr. Sudipta Basu and his team from Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Pune have co-authored this work.
Turmeric is a ubiquitous ingredient in home remedies for ailments ranging from infections to arthritis. A mixture of turmeric and milk (haldi-doodh) has been used as a traditional cure for bone fractures. Modern science has shown that curcumin, the primary component of turmeric, possesses anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. In recent times, researchers in the field of bone tissue engineering, who seek to engineer novel strategies for bone tissue regeneration, are exploring the documented benefits of curcumin on bone growth. Now, a new study by Prof. Kaushik Chatterjee and his group at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru, shows that encapsulating curcumin in a restorable ‘scaffold’ enables sustained release of the chemical, and enhances bone repair. The study is an attempt to highlight the promise of phytochemicals, a class of molecules found in Indian spices, in bone tissue engineering.