A Minuscule molecule, a giant breakthrough?

A Minuscule molecule, a giant breakthrough?

Tanaya Sahoo | Jul 29, 2019

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An optimistic project on an alternative therapeutic molecule to bridle cancer, spearheaded by Professor Bibekanand Mallik was carried out by Basudev Das, Jyoti Roy, Neha Jain, Swati Mohapatra, research students at the Department of Life Science. In what has been cited as a revolutionary study, the research extensively explored beneficiations of the largest group of ‘small single-stranded non-coding RNAs’- piRNAs (PIWI Interacting RNAs). A particular piRNA was studied and decrypted to find potential target genes involved in chemotherapeutic drug resistance. This particular piRNA was tested on fibrosarcoma cells and paediatric cancer cells. After conducting a series of assays, this particular piRNA was found enhancing the sensitivity of the drug. But unlike applications of drugs that have potential side-effects, these fragments are introduced at the DNA level to directly bind with mRNAs that affect physiological processes in our body and inhibit the action of cancerous cells.

Professor Mallik states,

Chemotherapy techniques and the drugs that we have been using so far poses significant demerits and side-effects. On one hand, they are effective in curing cancer while on the other hand their prolonged applications in treatment cause cancer cells to develop drug resistance, hampering treatment further. So, as an alternative we have been thinking of harnessing the properties of certain small genes in our body that might be in an inactive form, synthesize them and use their anti-tumour effect to contain cancer and disadvantages of chemotherapy. Our labs and our enriched infrastructure facilities at NIT Rourkela have been working on these small RNAs around 10 years for now and were in awe of the beauty of these pigmy molecules to treat cancer cells.

The momentousness of this study can be gauged by the fact that there has been little rigorous research done on this aspect of piRNA or this particular molecule in India and worldwide. PiRNAs can not only target cancer cells but also target other terminal disease-causing cells with little to nil chances of causing side-effects. Subsequent developments on this technique can help make cancer treatment more affordable as well as economical. A roadmap towards working with collaborators of the department namely, Bose Institute, IIT-BHU, IIT Delhi and so on will help test the results of a study and consequential developments. While NIT Rourkela and the department of Life Science reap the benefits of ground-breaking research, the findings remain an indication of far-fetching possibilities of anti-cancer properties in genes for dealing with terminal cancers. Testing on animal models as the next course of action is what the dedicated researchers here are looking forward to. According to Professor Mallick and Mr Basudev Das, the science community outside NIT Rourkela is looking upon further developments on this aspect and challenges namely testing on animals and establishing parameters need to be tackled. The work has so far received several acclaimed citations.

Cancer remains a generic term for a series of life-threatening illness. In a dawning horizon of advancements in medical science, it remains to be seen how great a leap this endeavour takes in upcoming times to combat cancer if at all it is developed at a world scale and do away with the malignant evils of chemotherapy.

Team MM wishes good luck to the dedicated research team.

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