Path-breaking finding

MOMENTOUS OCCASION: Utpal Bhadra, Lalji Singh, Director of CCMB, and Manikapal during a presentation at the CCCMB in Hyderabad on Saturday.  

Special Correspondent

HYDERABAD: A scientist couple in the city has come up with a pioneering finding showing the crucial role played by RNA interference (RNAi), an intermediate component between DNA and proteins, in regulating genes in the development of animals and humans.

After detained research on the fruit fly, which has several genes similar to humans, Dr. Utpal Bhadra of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) and his wife, Manika Pal (Indian Institute of Chemical Technology), published a paper in the prestigious international scientific journal, Cell. Their research, conducted in collaboration with French scientists, has possible implications for combating defects and diseases at the embryonic stage.

CCMB Director Lalji Singh described the finding as "path-breaking in terms of concept in science." This was the first paper from any CSIR lab to have been published in the journal.

Dr. Utpal Bhadra said the developmental process was quite complex with each organ having a set of active genes and another set of "silent genes". For instance the genes which are active in the formation of ear are inactive during the growth of nose and vice versa.

It was believed so far that proteins functioned as controllers of human development. Now, it was shown for the first time that RNAi played a crucial role in controlling the "development switches" leading to organ formation and body plan.


The scientist couple said understanding of the RNAi mechanism could help modern medicine destroy infectious organisms and combat complex and contagious diseases. Referring to developmental abnormalities which are known to cause birth defects, they said the understanding of RNAi mechanism would help find ways to control the defects with greater success than before.

Dr. Utpal Bhadra said most of the developmental genes and processes were almost identical in humans and fruit fly. As many as 714 genes which cause different diseases and disorders were similar in both.