The NMIMS Sunandan Divatia School of Science is strongly driven by highly qualified scientific talent pool. The main focus of our R & D activities has been to conduct applied research at the interface of Chemistry and the Biosciences on current problems of national importance.
Various research oriented projects in the area of Biological Sciences and Chemical Sciences that have been initiated at Sunandan Divatia School of Science have been highlighted below:
The work in this area at the School involves use of adult, embryonic and pluripotent stem cells to understand fundamental mechanism of pluripotency and differentiation. Previously at the School extensive work was carried out on human umbilical cord derived mesenchymal stem cells (hUC-MSCs), their differentiation into hepatocytes and also assessing the use of nanoparticles for in vivo tracking of hUC-MSCs. The research on human pluripotent stem cells are focused on understanding the role of histone modifiers during differentiation into pancreatic and neuronal cell lineages. Differentiation of pluripotent stem cells requires precise orchestration between changes in chromatin, transcription, translation, metabolism and cell morphology. Pluripotent stem cells have an “open chromatin” and hence they can differentiate into all three germ lineages such as endoderm, mesoderm and ectoderm in response to extraneous signals. Chromatin remodelling is an essential step towards differentiation in the case of pluripotent stem cells. Two most widely studied chromatin modifications in stem cells are DNA methylation and histone modifications. Polycomb group (PcG) proteins are developmentally crucial set of histone modifying proteins that bring about gene repression. PcG form multiprotein complexes called Polycomb Repressive Complexes (PRC) such as PRC1 and PRC2.
We aim to study the PcG expression, location as well as histone modifications catalysed by them at developmentally crucial genes during pancreatic and neuronal differentiation from human ES and iPS cells. At the School of Science, the following projects have been undertaken to understand the role of Polycomb Group (PcG) proteins during human pluripotent stem cells differentiation:
We have received funds from Department of Science and Technology (DST) under the Early Career Research Award (ECR) scheme for one of the above mentioned projects.
Oral cancer is a major health concern in India being the most common cancer in males and fifth most common cancer females, with 77,003 new cancer cases diagnosed annually. In the recent past, genomic constitution of an individual has been shown to play a critical role in development, progression, prognosis and response to treatment in human cancers. Our project in oral cancer aims to unravel the role of genomic variants as ‘Predictive Biomarkers’ in oral cancer. Besides, interaction of the genes harbouring genomic variants and/or somatic mutations including H.ras at codons 12 (Gly12Val) and 13 (Gly13Asp), and several additional molecules including p53, TGFBR2 and FHIT proteins, deregulated in oral cancers are investigated as targets for ‘small drug-like molecules’ through in silico analysis as a novel approach for treatment of oral cancer patients in the realm of ‘Personalised Medicine’. The focus of our studies are multiple SNPs in genes functioning in cell cycle, cell proliferation and differentiation, metastasis, oxidative stress and apoptosis in 500 oral cancer patients and 500 healthy long term tobacco habitués in an Indian cohort.
Areas of Cancer Research
Molecular Pathology of Oral Cancer
In Silico analysis of small drug like molecules for targeting genomic variants and somatic mutations in oral cancer.
The research project was supported by an intramural grant from NMIMS (deemed-to-be) University, Mumbai.
Dr. Dhananjaya Saranath
Medicinal plants play an important role in supporting healthcare system in India. According to the World Health Organization, approximately 65-80% of world’s population still relies on locally available medicinal plants to meet its health needs. India has a rich heritage of medicinal plants. Our goal through research on medicinal plants is to identify plants/extracts with the potential to improve human health and to enable their safe, effective and proper use.
Research projects on medicinal plants at SDSOS focus on studying the phytochemical and pharmacological activities of medicinal plants against various diseases that are currently affecting the population in general. The approach for the study relies on a battery of biological assays, both in vitro (cellular, biochemical and molecular) and in vivo to detect pharmacological activity as well as phytochemical standardization of the extracts. Research groups are also involved in New Drug Development from Plants, Herb Drug interactions, Enhancement of Solubility profiles of Ayurvedic drugs, Isolations and Characterization of Chemical Constituents from Plants by Physico chemical Methods, Validations of plants with respect to marker compounds, impurity profiling of Modern Drugs by LC/MS/MS.
Various studies undertaken on medicinal plants at SDSOS are as follows:
With the advent of nanotechnology, new materials are being explored for their application in biomedical arena. Nanoparticle mediated drug delivery has helped us to achieve high payload and specificity of chemotherapeutics thereby reducing their adverse effects on patients. The nanomaterials are also very useful for fabricating biosensors for detection of specific diseases. Department of Chemistry at Sunandan Divatia School of Science is involved in Nanoresearch with an objective to synthesize various nanomaterials for multimodal applications. One of them being, synthesis of dendrimer based nanoparticles for early detection of liver diseases. While on other hand, we are also working towards development of biocompatible magnetic nanoparticles for imaging, targeting and in-vivo tracking of stem cell. Yet another approach of our research is concomitant to the saying "There is plenty of room at the bottom" by Richard Feynman-Nobel Laureate. With an understanding that nanomedicine can offer plenteous ways of treating cancer, we ought to design a multimodal nano-platform for dual drug therapy and multiple treatment modalities (photo-thermal, Chemotherapy, magnetic hyperthermia).
Besides biomedical applications, we are also involved in designing advanced nanomaterials for their use in alternative energy generation and storage such as fabrication of supercapacitors. With several collaborations abroad, our department is involved in multi-disciplinary research with an aim to develop functional nanomaterials for a rich variety of applications.
Use of arsenic and its derivatives dates back to more than 2400 years with Arsenic trioxide (As2O3) being successfully implemented to treat refractory or relapsed Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia (APL). One of its limiting factor for cancer treatment include its toxicity against normal cells. Nanoparticles offer the flexibility with sustained-release characteristics, ability of surface-modification, bio-ligand attachment thereby offering a plethora of options. Hence, we attempted to synthesize biocompatible As2O3 nanoparticles (NPS) that would provide lowered toxicity and high anti-cancer activity for various solid tumors. In vitro anticancer efficacy of biopolymer coated As2O3 NPs was investigated in LNCaP and PC-3 cell lines, by assessing DNA damage, changes in epigenetic modulations, expression level of apoptotic markers and cell cycle analysis following treatment with As2O3 NPs. Our results demonstrated that the nanoparticulate formulation of dimercaptosuccinic acid (DMSA) and chitosan coated As2O3 is capable of inducing morphological changes, DNA damage and caspase-dependent apoptosis along with the expression of cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor p21 by upregulation of Bax and downregulation of Bcl-2 and Bcl-xL proteins. . We plan to explore and have a detailed understanding of the molecular interaction between the drug i.e arsenic trioxide with the coating material using molecular modelling in silico. Blood compatibility studies would be done to understand the effect of the drug on body fluid specifically blood cells. Hence, this would help us in gaining a deep understanding of the interaction of arsenic trioxide nanoparticles on cancer cell lines.