Jisha Bhattacharjee | Aug 10, 2015

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Today cancer has become almost synonymous to a condition which kills and has no cure. Epigenetics is a research field which aims at controlling the disease by knowing the effects of chemical modifications on genes. This particular field of cancer related research is being pursued by the Epigenetics and Cancer Research Laboratory of Department of Life Science of NIT Rourkela under the supervision of Prof. Samir Kumar Patra. The following is a brief introduction to the research being undertaken by the department.

Epigenetics and Cancer Research Laboratory (EACRL) is actively engaged in exploring the challenging field of epigenetics with a futuristic goal to provide an epigenetic therapy for successful cancer treatment.  Epigenetics is a relatively new challenge to the research world and many of its mysteries have yet to be unveiled.

Research in this laboratory is mainly focused on the solving some of the fundamental problems of epigenetics such as (1) reversible methylation modifications of DNA and its role in regulation of transcription, (2) reversible acetylation and methylation modifications of histone proteins, histone variants incorporation and their effect on transcriptional competence, (3) microRNA mediated gene silencing and correlation with the other epigenetic modulators, (4) elucidation of the molecular signalling networks that co-ordinate the above epigenetic modifications and their dynamicity and (5) exploring the field of epigenoformatics by intertwining bioinformatics approaches to solve the problems of epigenetics.

In the last four years, the research team has achieved significant success. The team has established the epigenetics mechanisms behind different signalling pathways simultaneously the pathways which are disturbed due to epigenetics. When the research started in 2009, basic instruments and laboratories were lacking. that said, the research now, has a stable cell culture lab, cell line bank as well as protein expression profile sets of various cancer related genes.

The research work being done by the department and the worth of the enmeshed scholars is being recognised and appreciated within and outside the institute. Sabnam Parbin, a research scholar in the field of epigenetics, has received the Fulbright Fellowship and is presently in USA for her research work. Arunima Shilpi went to North-Western University, Texas to do a part of her research for six months in 2014.  Sandip K. Rath has been awarded the Erasmus Mundus Fellowship and is presently pursuing his research in Gottingen University in Germany. Dr. Moonmoon Deb, who recently completed her Ph.D degree, will be pursuing her post doctoral studies in Oxford University.

The department is in active collaboration with IIT Kharagpur and has been under taking visits for FACS analysis under the supervision of Prof. Sujit Ghosh of IIT KGP. Dipta Sengupta, also a Ph.D scholar under S. K. Patra is doing his research on gene cloning in IISER Kolkata. Also prof. S. K. Patra was invited to CLEPSO 2015 to present the research to Dusseldorf Germany. By far the laboratory has produced more than 50 publications in high impact factor peer-reviewed international journals.

The laboratory is in need of some instruments which will boost the research in epigenetics research as well as for molecular biology. Besides that the quantity of chemicals or antibiotics required is also below par.

The department of Life Science might not be the most celebrated one in the campus but the zeal of the faculties and scholars is definitely worth a lot of appreciation. The subsequent editions shall take a deeper look into the various hidden assets of this yet-to-be-famous department.

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