“All organisms have the capacity to remove damaged cells from the body by programmed cell death known as apoptosis,” noted Dr. Nandita Mishra, Assistant Professor, Amrita School of Biotechnology at Amritapuri.
Having completed her PhD from the Department of Biotechnology at IIT Kharagpur, Dr. Nandita engaged in post-doctoral research at the Health Sciences Centre of the University of Texas in San Antonio, USA, before moving back to India to join Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham.
Dr. Nandita recently received funding from the Department of Science and Technology (DST) of the Government of India for a research project titled Paraptosis: A Newer Approach to Target Cancer.
This three-year project will also see the involvement of research scholars such as Ms. Divya Nedungadi.
“Cancerous cells escape the programmed cell death pathway and are resistant to many existing therapies and drugs. Our studies will investigate the use of natural products to kill the drug-resistant cancerous cells through paraptosis,” Dr. Nandita stated.
The phenomenon of paraptosis also follows the programmed cell death pathway. Unlike apoptosis, however, it is characterized by the formation of large vacuoles in the cell cytoplasm and the swelling of mitochondria.
Although apoptosis has been extensively studied, paraptosis has not been investigated as much.
Dr. Nandita will study and screen natural products previously isolated and characterized by Prof. Asoke Banerji’s team in the Phytochemistry Laboratory of the Amrita School of Biotechnology. Work has already begun with breast cancer cells.
“Cancerous cells grow faster and hence need to synthesize new proteins for their survival, when compared to normal cells. These are more susceptible to misfolding and aggregation,” explained Dr. Nandita.
Elaborating further, she added, “Proteins need to fold in the proper shape for their activity. If they misfold, they aggregate inside the cells and form large cytoplasmic vacuoles in the rapidly dividing cancer cells.”
“This mechanism of misfolding and aggregation is also responsible for neuronal cell death in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimers, Parkinson’s etc. We are exploring the possibility of using this phenomenon for cancer treatment,” she highlighted.
Dr. Nandita’s proposed study is directed towards the identification of new natural compounds that would induce cytoplasmic vacuolation mediated cell death. “We hope to find out their mechanism of action on cancer cells,” she underlined.
April 8, 2013
School of Biotechnology, Amritapuri