- PrakashLab partner with DBT and its Star College programme.
- Students in identified colleges starting with those under ‘Star College’ scheme will receive the Foldscope.
- Students will join in Foldscope’s user-camps
Undergraduate students in all parts of the country will soon be able to take a peek at the world of microscopic organisms with a microscopethat they can take anywhere, following an initiative by the Department of Biotechnology to reach a PrakashLab’s low cost paper folding-microscope, the Foldscope (url) http://www.foldscope.com/ to them.
The ‘Foldscope’ has been developed by Dr Manu Prakash, an Indian-origin Assistant Professor at Stanford University. (URL) https://www.stanford.edu/
The letter of intent exchanged between the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) and the PrakashLab in the presence of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi to distribute Foldscope through DBT’s star college http://www.dbtindia.nic.in/programmes/programmes-human-resource-development/star-college-scheme and other programmes was a unique demonstration of how the government is was using the social media in novel ways to stimulate citizen science.
It all started with a tweet from Secretary, Department of Biotechnology Professor K VijayRaghavan to Dr Prakash on August 12 this year.
‘Hi, can we discuss using Foldscope widely in India? I am at the Dept of Biotech, Govt of India’.
Dr Prakash responded immediately welcoming it. A skype call followed subsequently. Prime Minister’s office also responded enthusiastically to the call requesting for his support.
Rapid communication through the social media played a crucial role quickly paving the pathway for the letter of intent to spread the low technology widely through DBT’s network.
Dr Prakash is excited about engaging through DBT to extend further the Foldscope’s reach to all parts of India. He said, “Our vision is to bring a microscope into the hands of every single kid in the world”.
It is a wonderful example of how small moves to connect with the world can translate already generated knowledge to our people.
“Partnering with PrakashLab’s Foldscope is an exciting new adventure for the Department of Biotechnology. It is Citizen Science at its best. The Foldscope is torchlight in the hands of human curiosity that allows each and every one of us to explore our planet at the microscopic level, just as the telescope allows us to explore the stars. The beauty we see and the science underneath it will create a new generation of young scientists in India. We look forward to taking this wonderful partnership ahead” said Professor VijayRaghavan.
PrakashLab, a research group at Stanford University working in the field of engineering and physical biology, will source Foldscope to DBT and its constituents.
The DBT will ensure that the Foldscope is provided to students of the Star College scheme in each identified college. This will be done progressively and staged based on the availability of Foldscope.
Foldscope will be used as an educational and training tool to understand physics, chemistry, biology and instrumentation.
Foldscope is provided as a kit where the student starts by first building the actual unit from the kit; and explores curiosity driven questions surrounding the microscopic world in physics, chemistry and biology. The users build an online community and share insights, projects, questions and scientific discoveries with the community at Foldscope online platform (URL). http://www.foldscope.com/10kmicroscope-project-blog/2014/10/25/why-cant-i-just-buy-a-foldscope-already
Workshops and training programmes will be run by PrakashLab in collaboration with Indian institutions. The nascent Local Foldscope community based in India will also be involved in training.
After this initial pilot program, the collaboration with PrakashLab will be expanded to setting up of joint research for explorations of other low cost instrumentation in colleges as deemed mutually appropriate.
This was a case of matching of views that focused to create a spark. The Prime Minister has been stressing on using Indian experts abroad to bring benefits to India. PrakashLab with its vision of democratizing science develops low cost scientific tools that can scale up to match problems in global health and science education. Further connecting PrakashLabs to India can create magic through science driven by the young.
Source : DBT, India.
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By Milka Kostic
For an avid exerciser, a muscle pull or tear is a painful and fairly common occurrence. A sudden turn or an unusually vigorous bout of aerobics can leave one with a muscle tear that will effectively confine a person to bed for a few weeks. However, muscles do heal – a set of quiescent cells called myosatellite cells in muscles are activated by injury to divide and form myoblasts, which in turn fuse with muscle cells to repair damaged muscles. The mechanistic basis of myoblast fusion with muscle fibers is now clearer thanks to recent work from Vijayraghavan’s group at the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS).
Nagaraju Dhanyasi from Vijayraghavan’s group, has collaborated with Prof. Ben-Zion Shilo and Dr. Eyal Schejter at the Weizmann Institute of Science, Israel, who are also investigating the processes governing myoblast fusion in flies and mice. To study the process at a high resolution, it was necessary to generate electron microscope (EM) images. This allowed researchers to reconstruct the steps in the dynamic process of myoblast fusion, where the structure of the fusing membranes was closely examined. The work involved molecular biology and state-of-the-art electron microscopic techniques, which were carried out in collaboration with the EM facility of the Weizmann Institute. The team’s investigations have resulted in a description of the events during the merging of individual myoblast cells with muscle cells, and was published in the October issue of the Journal of Cell Biology.
Most of our knowledge about the fusion of myoblasts to form multinucleate muscle fibers has been gleaned from studies on the development of tubular muscles of Drosophila larvae. However, the mechanisms governing myogenesis (formation of muscle fibres) in striated muscles of the skeletal musculature in vertebrates is not very clear. This study focuses on the events occurring in myoblast fusion in Drosophila during the formation of flight muscles. These muscles serve as a particularly attractive model, since their developmental program, and their muscle fibre organisation resemble key aspects of vertebrate skeletal myogenesis.
“This work is actually a continuation of studies carried out by Vijay’s earlier students – Priyankana Mukherkjee and Rajesh Gunage”, says Nagaraju Dhanyasi, the first author of the paper. “Priyankana began this work by investigating the role of various fusion proteins using confocal microscopy in the myogenesis of flight muscles of Drosophila. This work was also a collaboration with Drs. Shilo and Schejter. Rajesh established the presence of stem cells in Drosophila muscles similar to the satellite cells in vertebrate muscles. This set the stage for addressing questions on vertebrate muscle regeneration in a Drosophila model system.” The advantages of using Drosophila as a model are many – the tiny fly is easily grown and is amenable to a huge array of genetic manipulations. In spite of this, the study of myogenic processes in flight muscles has lagged behind, primarily because tools for the genetic manipulation of later developmental phases were lacking. “With the advent of RNAi technology, this problem was solved, and we were able to study the myoblast fusion process in great detail”, says Dhanyasi.
The study shows that the fusion of myoblasts to existing muscle fibres, called myotubes, follows a set of distinct stages that requires communication between transmembrane elements and the actin cytoskeleton. An elegant series of experiments allowed the researchers to delineate the ultra-structural details of a series of discrete steps in this event. The process begins with myoblasts binding to the surface of an existing myotube with the help of a host of cell adhesion proteins, a process known as apposition. Following apposition is a flattening of the myoblast membrane to increase its contact surface with the myotube. This step has been shown to require elements of the cell cytoskeletal machinery. The third step in this process is a crucial one where the myoblast membrane and the myotube surface are brought very close to each other in a condition known as ‘tight apposition’. The tight apposition forms multiple areas of cell-to-cell contacts called ‘nascent pore sites’. These contact areas form fusion pores, where the cell membranes of the myoblast and myotubes merge. The fusion pores eventually expand until the myoblast is fully incorporated into the growing myotube.
Future studies are likely to involve detailed investigations on the mechanisms of fusion pore formation and in discovering the molecular players involved in pore formation. “We believe that the cellular and molecular mechanisms uncovered in this study, and in future studies are highly conserved, and therefore also applicable in vertebrate systems. This study is therefore likely to provide key insights into understanding muscle development and repair processes”, says Dhanyasi.
The paper titled “Surface apposition and multiple cell contacts promote myoblast fusion in Drosophila flight muscles” can be accessed here.
PA position is available in the Bioengineering group at the CSIR-National Chemical Laboratory, Pune for a project related to “glycoform analysis and control of industrially relevant recombinant proteins produced in mammalian (CHO) cells”.
For the PI’s research interests please see
To be considered for this position, please fill out the following online form:
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