Assistant Professor, School of Biotechnology, Amrita University
Development of a Phototrophic Microbial Fuel Cell with sacrificial electrodes and a novel proton exchange matrix
If micro organisms can solve Sudoku and possibly have feelings, who is to say that they cannot also solve the planet’s energy crisis? Mr. Madhavan employs micro organisms to produce energy using microbial fuel cell (MFC). Micro organisms go through a series of cycles and pathways in order to survive, including the Electron Transport Pathway (ETP) in which bacteria release electrons which can be tapped as energy. In a two-chambered MFC, micro organisms interact with an anode in one chamber and in the presence of an oxidizing agent in the cathodic chamber scavenges electrons from the cathode. The two chambers are connected by an external circuit and connected to a load. In between the two chambers is a proton exchange membrane (PEM) which transports protons from the second chamber to the first and acts as a barrier for electrons. Therefore, a renewable source of energy can be maintained by just providing your bacterial culture with the proper nutrients to thrive and remain happy and satisfied (assuming they have emotions).
Mr. Madhavan has done extensive work on such MFCs and has experimented with various micro organisms and substrates to achieve high energy production. The phototropic MFC Mr. Madhavan designed using Synechococcus elongates using waste water as a substrate was able to generate approximately 10 mȦ and 1 volt of electricity. Other research in this area has even shown that using human urine can be used as a substrate for certain bacteria to produce enough energy to charge a mobile phone.
Although this microbial technology seems to be the “next big thing” (despite their small size) when it comes to renewable energy sources there is still a lot of work to be done before these bacteria batteries hit the market. As of now the MFCs are still much less efficient than solar cells and the search for the perfect bacteria and substrate continues.
Shrikant Anant, Ph.D.
The Department of Molecular & Integrative Physiology, Kansas University Medical Center, USA
Cancer Stem Cells: Target Colon Cancers
Shrikant Anant, Deep Kwatra and Dharmalingam Subramaniam
Colon cancer is a leading cause of cancer related deaths in the US, and its rate is increasing at an alarming rate in lndia. Recent studies have suggested the drug resistance role for a mall number of cells within a tumor called cancer stem cells. We identified the colon cancer stem cell marker DCLK1, a member of the protein kinase superfamily and the doublecortin family. The protein encodes a Cterminal serinethreonine protein kinase domain, which shows substantial homology to Ca2calmodulindependent protein kinase. Our current studies have been to identify compounds that can either affect DCLK1 expression or inhibits its activity as a way to inhibit cancer stem cells. Honokiol is a biphenolic compound that has been used in the traditional Chinese Medicine for treating various ailments. In vitro kinase assays with recombinant DCLK1 demonstrated that honokiol inhibits its kinase activity in a dose dependent manner. We therefore determined the effect of honokiol on stem cells. One method to look at effects on stem cells is perform a spheroid assay, where spheroids formation is suggested to maintain stemlike characteristic of cancer cells. Honokiol significantly suppressed colonosphere formation of two colon cancer cell lines HCT116 and SW480. Flow cytometry studies confirmed that honokiol reduced the number of DCLK1cells. A critical signaling pathway known to modulate intestinal stem cell proliferation is the Hippo signaling pathway, and deregulation of the pathway leads to tumor development. DCLK1cells had high levels of YAP1, the nuclear target of Hippo signaling. We determined the effect of honokiol on components of the hipposignaling pathway. Honokiol reduced the phosphorylation of Mst1/2, Lats1/2 and YAP1. Furthermore, honokiol treatment resulted in downregulation of YAPTEAD complex protein TEAD-1. Ectopic expression of the TEAD-1 partially rescued the cells from honokiol mediated growth suppression. To determine the effect of honokiol on tumor growth in vivo, nude mice harboring HCT116 tumor xenografts in their flanks were administered the compound intraperitoneally every day for 21 days. Honokiol treatment significantly inhibited tumor xenograft growth. Western blot and immunohistochemistry analyses demonstrated significant inhibition in the expression of stem marker and Hippo signaling proteins in the honokioltreated xenograft tissues. Taken together, these data suggest that honokiol is a potent inhibitor of colon cancer that targets DCLK1 stem cells by inhibiting Hippo signaling pathway.