Invited Talk: Neuroprotective and neurodestructive effects of Ayurvedic drug constituents: Parkinson’s disease @ Amriteshwari Hall
Aug 12 @ 2:55 pm – 3:20 pm

mohanakumarK. P. Mohanakumar, Ph.D.
Chief Scientist, Cell Biology & Physiology Division, Indian Institute of Chemical Biology, Kolkata

Neuroprotective and neurodestructive effects of Ayurvedic drug constituents: Parkinson’s disease

The present study reports the good and the bad entities in an Indian traditional medicine used for treating Parkinson’s disease (PD). A prospective clinical trial on the effectiveness of Ayurvedic medication in a population of PD patients revealed significant benefits, which has been attributed to L-DOPA present in the herbs [1]. Later studies revealed better benefits with one of the herbs alone, compared to pure L-DOPA in a clinical trial conducted in UK [2], and in several studies conducted on animal models of PD in independent laboratories world over [3-5]. We have adapted strategies to segregate molecules from the herb, and then carefully removed L-DOPA contained therein, and tested each of these sub-fractions for anti-PD activity in 1-methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine, rotenone and 6-hydroxydopamine -induced parkinsonian animal models, and transgenic mitochondrial cybrids. We report here two classes of molecules contained in the herb, one of which possessed severe pro-parkinsonian (phenolic amine derivatives) and the other having excellent anti-parkinsonian potential (substituted tetrahydroisoquinoline derivatives). The former has been shown to cause severe dopamine depletion in the striatum of rodents, when administered acutely or chronically. It also caused significant behavioral aberrations, leading to anxiety and depression [6]. The latter class of molecules administered in PD animal model [7], caused reversal of behavioral dysfunctions and significant attenuation of striatal dopamine loss. These effects were comparable or better than the effects of the anti-PD drugs, selegiline or L-DOPA. The mechanism of action of the molecule has been found to be novel, at the postsynaptic receptor signaling level, as well as cellular α-synuclein oligomerization and specifically at mitochondria. The molecule helped in maintaining mitochondrial ETC complex activity and stabilized cellular respiration, and mitochondrial fusion-fission machinery with specific effect on the dynamin related protein 1. Although there existed significant medical benefits that could be derived to patients due to the synergistic actions of several molecules present in a traditional preparation, accumulated data in our hands suggest complicated mechanisms of actions of Ayurvedic medication. Our results also provide great hope for extracting, synthesizing and optimizing the activity of anti-parkinsonian molecules present in traditional Ayurvedic herbs, and for designing novel drugs with novel mechanisms of action.

  1. N, Nagashayana, P Sankarankutty, MRV Nampoothiri, PK Mohan and KP Mohanakumar, J Neurol Sci. 176, 124-7, 2000.
  2. Katzenschlager R, Evans A, Manson A, Patsalos PN, Ratnaraj N, Watt H, Timmermann L, Van der Giessen R, Lees AJ. J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry.75, 1672-7, 2004.
  3. Manyam BV, Dhanasekaran M, Hare TA. Phytother Res. 18, 706-12, 2004.
  4. Kasture S, Pontis S, Pinna A, Schintu N, Spina L, Longoni R, Simola N, Ballero M, Morelli M. Neurotox Res. 15, 111-22, 2009.
  5. Lieu CA, Kunselman AR, Manyam BV, Venkiteswaran K, Subramanian T. Parkinsonism Relat Disord.16, 458-65, 2010.
  6. T Sengupta and KP Mohanakumar, Neurochem Int. 57, 637-46, 2010.
  7. T Sengupta, J Vinayagam, N Nagashayana, B Gowda, P Jaisankar and KP Mohanakumar, Neurochem Res 36, 177-86, 2011

MOhan (1) MOhan (2)

Dr. Lee Hartwell Session @ Amriteshwari Hall
Aug 12 @ 8:15 pm – 9:15 pm
LeeHartwellLeland H. Hartwell Ph.D.
2001 Nobel Laureate, Physiology & Medicine

Dr. Lee Hartwell received the 2001 Nobel Prize in Physiology / Medicine for his discovery of protein molecules that control the division of cells. He was the President and Director of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington before moving to Arizona State University’s Center for Sustainable Health.

Dr. Hartwell is also adjunct faculty at Amrita University. He spoke to the delegates at Bioquest from his office in the US, over Amrita’s e-learning platform A-View. Given below are excerpts from his address.

I would like to address the young people in the audience. I know that many of you may have come to this meeting wondering, “How can I become a successful scientist? How can I prepare myself to make a contribution in this world?”

These questions are interesting to me also.

Believe it or not, I am still trying to be a successful scientist. That may surprise you since you probably think that a Nobel laureate must have found the answers. But the problem is that the answers to these questions change with time and the answers are different today than what they were when I began my career fifty years ago. The strategy of the 1960’s doesn’t work so well anymore. What is different now?

First, what we know now is much more. For example, by 1970, no genes from any organisms were sequenced. In 2013, we have the complete sequence of the human genome. Second, not only do we know much more today, accessing that knowledge is easy. Third, obtaining new information is much faster today.

Our rich understanding of science and technology is now needed to solve many serious problems. The human population has reached the size where we are utilizing all available resource of the planet. We are utilizing all of the agricultural land, all of the water, all of the forest and fishing resources. We are also polluting the planet that we live on.

We are polluting the land with fertilizers and pesticides; the oceans with acids and the atmosphere with carbon dioxide. We are using up top soil and ground water, thereby reducing our capacity to feed ourselves. We are using up petroleum, the energy source that our entire economy is dependent on. These are problems we were largely unaware of, fifty years ago. But these are problems that must be solved in your life times.

The big question facing your generation is, how can human beings live sustainably on planet earth. Your two broad goals on sustainability are 1) leave the planet as you first found it for your future generations; don’t use up the resources and don’t pollute the planet 2) everyone deserves to have an equal share of the earth’s resources.

Income strongly determines one’s opportunities in life. Many poor people succumb to chronic diseases and unhealthy environments. This inequality undermines our ability to live sustainably. We can’t ask the poor to leave the planet as they found it if they can’t support their families. Education, healthcare, employment are essential to having a sustainable society.

How can we be a successful scientist in 2013?
1. First choose a problem to solve
2. Ask questions to understand why it is not solved
3. Collaborate with those who can help
4. Develop a solution that works in the real world

Chronic diseases are our major burden and this burden will get worse. Heart disease, diabetes, cancer, dementia and other diseases. The good news is that the chronic diseases are largely preventable and more easily curable if detected early. One question that attracts me is how can we detect disease earlier when it can be more easily cured?

Can we use our increasing knowledge in molecular biology to identify biomarkers for early disease detection?

We need to collaborate very closely with clinicians who care for patients to find out exactly where they need help.

I think if we apply our technology to important clinical questions we will actually save medical expenditure and be well on our way to making a great contribution to society.


Plenary Talk: Biosensor and Single Cell Manipulation using Nanopipettes @ Amriteshwari Hall
Aug 13 @ 10:06 am – 10:49 am

NaderNader Pourmand, Ph.D.
Director, UCSC Genome Technology Center,University of California, Santa Cruz

Biosensor and Single Cell Manipulation using Nanopipettes

Approaching sub-cellular biological problems from an engineering perspective begs for the incorporation of electronic readouts. With their high sensitivity and low invasiveness, nanotechnology-based tools hold great promise for biochemical sensing and single-cell manipulation. During my talk I will discuss the incorporation of electrical measurements into nanopipette technology and present results showing the rapid and reversible response of these subcellular sensors  to different analytes such as antigens, ions and carbohydrates. In addition, I will present the development of a single-cell manipulation platform that uses a nanopipette in a scanning ion-conductive microscopy technique. We use this newly developed technology to position the nanopipette with nanoscale precision, and to inject and/or aspirate a minute amount of material to and from individual cells or organelle without comprising cell viability. Furthermore, if time permits, I will show our strategy for a new, single-cell DNA/ RNA sequencing technology that will potentially use nanopipette technology to analyze the minute amount of aspirated cellular material.