Researchers in India and Japan have recently collaborated on a research program that will help accelerate translation of cutting-edge stem cell technology in context of human disease research in India.
The application of stem cells in medicine has grown exponentially in recent years and has increasingly demonstrated the potential to revolutionize future medical therapies. In 2012, Prof. Shinya Yamanaka was awarded the Nobel Prize for the discovery of proteins that could convert a mature adult cell to a stem cell. Prof. Yamanaka founded The Centre for iPS Cell Research and Application (CiRA) in Kyoto University, Japan in 2010 with the mission of using induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells for new medical therapies. Today, CiRA is one of the world’s leading institutes in pioneering induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cell technology.
The Indo-Japan collaboration has been made possible by the program “Accelerating the application of stem cell technology in human diseases” (ASHD), a multi-institutional initiative comprising several national research institutes located within the two countries, including CiRA.
A group of 5 early career Indian researchers recently got an opportunity to participate in a special training program conducted by CiRA. This program held in Japan was part of a series that aims to train the Indian human resource pool working on stem cell technology. It also aims to make a significant contribution to individual researcher’s career growth and to strengthen collaborative ties between these international research institutes.
The researchers were trained by experts to develop a deeper understanding of the basics of stem cell generation, maintenance and storage, they also had an opportunity to interact with a few principal investigators of CiRA This interaction with CiRA faculty and students will open doors for cross-cultural understanding and ambitions for future research.
"It was a good knowledge transfer initiative by NCBS and CiRA. I am trying to explore the pathophysiological underpinnings of Lowe syndrome (a rare genetic condition of humans caused by a single defective gene which effect eyes, brain and kidney) using patient derived iPSCs. Hence this extensive training on generation and maintenance of feeder free human iPSC cultures was useful for me to improvise my culture handling techniques. We also got to attend a lecture on microRNAs as a tool to select differentiating population in culture. I can use this technique as tool to select differentiating neurons in the dish” - Pramod Singh, Post-doctoral researcher, NCBS.
“Prof. Asaka and his team were very generous, kind and patiently taught us all technical procedures. At NCBS, I am involved in the generation and characterization of transgene free Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (HiPSCs) from patient and control blood samples. I had several of my queries regarding stem cell culturing techniques answered during the training, however I wish we had more time to have discussions about the theory and principle behind the techniques. We were also given a tour of CiRA and brief account of various CiRA ventures like iPS cell banking which I found very interesting since we are also working on establishing a bio repository of iPS cell lines at NCBS” - Shruti Iyer, Research Fellow, NCBS.
"The training program was beneficial for a researcher like me who is in the early stages of learning about iPSC cultures. I am a first year PhD student who is planning to study the biology of neurodegenerative disorders using patient derived iPSC lines. The practical experience with the standardized protocols boosted my confidence now to work on iPSC cultures.” - Sowmya, PhD student, NIMHANS.
"In the history of science, the development of new technologies has always provided a new impetus to the challenge of solving scientific problems. iPSC technology is an excellent example of this and it has opened up new approaches and possibilities to understanding and solving questions in human disease biology. Our engagement with CiRA, the leading centre in the world for this technology will be a huge boost to human biology research in India." says Dr. Raghu Padinjat, ASHD Project coordinator, NCBS
Talking about his experience with the training programme, Prof. Isao Asaka, CiRA Training coordinator, CiRA says "It was a pleasure for me that Indian researchers visited CiRA from September 14 to15. I enjoyed collaborations with them on the practical training, even though it was rather brief. All members were earnest in their training. I was impressed with their enthusiastic and eagerness to master iPS technology. One of my main missions is to disseminate iPS technology for the realization of iPS cell therapy. It would please me if this training course was beneficial to the participants and contributes to the dissemination of iPS technology in India."
Background: The ASHD program supported by the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) and the Pratiksha Trust, a charitable trust setup by Mr. Kris Gopalakrishnan, co-founder of Infosys and his family, has two broad research components dealing with human diseases of national importance, namely “Accelerator program for discovery in brain disorders using stem cells (ADBS)” and “Novel approaches to hematological disorders (NAHD)”. ADBS program is a joint research venture between National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS), Institute for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine (inStem) and National Institute for Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) which involves the use of stem cells to study the basis of mental illness while the Centre for Stem Cell Research (CSCR), a unit of inStem, at Christian Medical College (CMC), Vellore partners with inStem, Bangalore to develop gene therapy for hereditary blood disorders like hemophilia, thalassemia and sickle cell anemia.
More about the ADBS Program: (https://www.ncbs.res.in/adbs/)