Hyderabad:Dr K. Thangaraj, a scientist at the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB), Hyderabad has received the first Major UK-India Education and Research Initiative (UKIERI) Award.Launched by the UK Prime Minister, Mr Tony Blair, d uring his last visit to India, the UKIERI award is aimed to promote the innovative research and academic excellence between the two countries.
The award has been given to Dr Thangaraj and his collaborators Dr Mart Mirazon Lahr and Dr Toomas Kivisild of Cambridge University for a four-year collaborative project involving genetic analysis of the various populations in India.
It also involves mutual exchange visits of scientists between CCMB and Cambridge University.
This is the first major award given to carry out the research in the field of genomics, out of the six major awards selected from 103 proposals from India and the UK.
The award was presented by Mr Gordon Brown, Chancellor of the Exchequer of Britain, at a function in New Delhi recently, according to a CCMB release.
It carries a research grant of Rs 2.5 crore. The project aims at probing the question: “Was the first `out of Africa’ settlement of Homo sapiens in India?”
Dr Lalji Singh, Director of CCMB, said that the initiative would bring many more international research collaborations in future to the centre.
Indian scientists from CCMB find new genetic mutations
Novel genetic mutations associated with certain neuro-generative disorders, cardio-myopathies and male infertility have been found in Indian population by scientists of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) in studies conducted in collaboration with other medical institutions.
The mutations have been found in mitochondrial DNA which is inherited from the mother, unlike the chromosomal DNA, inherited from both the parents. Mitochondrion plays an important role in cellular energy metabolism. In the past decade, genetic variations in mitochondrial DNA have been linked with various disorders, particularly neurological.
Senior scientist of CCMB Kumaraswamy Thangaraj, who led the research teams, told that they had begun studying the molecular basis of mitochondrial disorders in the population a couple of years ago. They focussed on neuro-muscular diseases, cardiomyopathy, male infertility and recurrent pregnancy loss and analysed hundreds of samples in each category.
The studies showed new genetic variations associated with neuro-generative disorders like MELAS (Mitochondrial encephalopathy lactic acidosis stroke-like episodes) and Leigh, cardiomyopathies and male infertility.Dr. Thangaraj said most of the mutations found in the Western were not found here. “Since Indians have a unique origin, the genetic variations will be different,” he added. CCMB scientists are analysing samples to identify specific sets of mutations associated with mitochondrial disorders for early diagnosis. Regarding genetic causes for male infertility, he said the problem of low sperm motility was looked into to understand the involvement of mitochondrial DNA. C11994T mutation in ND4 gene of mitochondria was found to be associated with low motility, he added