Monday, Nov 24, 2003
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By Shyama Rajagopal
Neurotransmitters are the chemical messengers released by neurons (brain cells). Studies by the Centre for Neuroscience in the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), Cusat, have indicated that there is a possibility of using neurotransmitters as tools to design drugs for diseases like diabetes and cancer, counter alcoholism and accelerate fracture healing.
The director of the centre, C. S. Paulose, said that some of the latest research in neuroscience at the centre had indicated that more inputs from hospitals would prove helpful. Research inputs and faculties from various medical and related research institutions in Kerala, outside the State and abroad would be coordinated at the Centre.
Some of the leading medical institutions in Kochi, like the Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences and Research, Lakeshore Hospital and Research Centre, Lissie Hospital, Lourdes Hospital, Medical Trust Hospital and institutions like Little Flower, Angamaly, Medical Mission, Kollencherry, Muvattupuzha Medical Centre, Nair's Hospital, Vyttila, and Kottayam Medical College have in principle agreed to collaborate with the centre.
At a recent meeting, medical experts as well as companies involved in manufacturing medicinal plant extracts or ayurvedic formulations like Synthite and Kerala Ayurvedic Pharmaceuticals Limited also participated. Other research institutions like Fisheries College at Panangad, Department of Zoology, Kerala University, and some of the departments of Cusat like the Department of Polymer Science, Instrumentation and Computer Science have also agreed to be part of the major project. Studies have been conducted with a number of neurotransmitters, like nor epinephrine, epinephrine, GABA (Gama amino butyric acid), dopamine, acetylcholine, serotonin, etc, which have shown how each chemical activates live cells and enables them to perform particular functions.
Further research in this area can reveal how this property can be utilised to check the growth of cancerous cells or how it can accelerate injury healing or produce insulin, etc, Dr. Paulose says.
Research will also be undertaken in modelling of biomolecules. Another area in which the centre intends to concentrate is stem cell research, says Dr. Paulose. According to him it is one of the most intriguing areas for researchers.
Breakthrough in stem cell research would be invaluable to medical science, he said. Stem cell research involves creating different organs from stem cells, that is, cells which can be induced to form any organ. The centre is engaged in research on the role of coded genetic information in defining the process and regulation of insulin production, pancreatic cell proliferation and alcoholism. According to the Managing Director of Lakeshore Hospital, Philip Augustine, ``we are interested in clinically-oriented research. It is a new concept that is being developed here. We have a lot of clinical information and can help with our inputs.''
According to Dr. Augustine, utilising the infrastructure of Cusat for such research which will be useful for medical science. The Indian Council of Medical Research, Department of Science and Technology, Department of Biotechnology and Kerala STEC will be funding the projects at the centre.
According to Dr. Paulose, he was trying to get the Central DST, Central DBT, University Grants Commission, and National Brain Research Centre to participate in the project.
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