5 Oct 2008

Indo US Collaboration on Contraception and Reproductive Health Research

The Department of Biotechnology and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), USA have an ongoing bilateral collaboration in the area of Contraception and Reproductive Health Research.

The programme was initiated in 1997 and has successfully completed 10 years. Both the sides have agreed to continue support for the programme. The NICHD has committed US $ 1 million for supporting 3-4 RO1 grants each year.

The programme has supported 26 projects so far resulting in 50 publications. Two of these were published in Nature Methods and Vaccine respectively this year.Since human beings can not be experimented upon, transgenic animals are generated using human genes and are popularly used in the understanding of a disease and in the development of therapeutics.

Existing technology is expensive, labour-intensive, time-consuming and requires hundreds of animals. Dr. Subeer Majumdar's group in the National Institute of Immunology has reported in Nature Methods (July 2008) the development of a deathless technique for generating transgenic mice without the need for hundreds of mice eggs or sacrifice of animals.

The technique involves inserting genes in the testicular germ cells (spermatogonia) of mice through a process called "in vivo electroporation" which is achieved by passing mild current for a fraction of a second. Such mice can continuously generate transgenic pups for more than one year.

Using different genes, the team has reported a success rate of about 94% which is 3-4 fold higher than that achieved by the existing technique which utilises lots of eggs at the cost of several animals. With the technique developed by Dr. Majumdar, every biologist can generate his/her own transgenic animals world wide, at low cost and without the help of specialized labs or personnel.

This technique is also ethically superior because it will abolish sacrifice of animals for the purpose of transgenesis. It has also opened avenues for generating transgenic cattle expressing human proteins in their milk, and for creating models of difficult human diseases using sub-human primates.

Dr. A. Bandivdekar and his team from National Institute for Research in Reproductive Health, Mumbai have evaluated the potential of synthetic peptides of 80 kDa human sperm antigen for the development of contraceptive vaccine for male. In rabbits the molecule produced 100% infertility and the vaccine studies on pygmy monkeys have resulted in 85% efficacy. This has been reported in Vaccine, June 2008.

Source : BiotechNews India

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