Organisation of membranes in living cells

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Published: 20 Nov 2012
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Dr Satyajit Mayor – National Centre for Biological Sciences, India

Dr Satyajit Mayor talks to ecancer about the development of the National Centre for Biological Sciences in India and their multi-disciplinary approach combining cell biology with Physics and Chemistry to study how a cell may locally regulate membrane composition and control shape to engage in fundamental cellular processes such as signaling and endocytosis, respectively.

It’s very broad and I think that’s a huge challenge. We look at molecules to ecosystems in a biological context so we look at people who study things at the nanoscale and things at the ecological scale, from nanoseconds to evolutionary time. So there’s a whole breadth of biology, individuals though, there’s no major programme in any of these areas, it’s all a collection of people who work on these different scales of biology, both spatial and temporal. That’s one part of the campus, the other part… The campus is actually three parts: it’s the NCBS which is the National Centre for Biological Sciences doing mainly basic biology and then there is the Institute for Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine which is a much more focussed, stem cell biology driven question programme. And then there’s a third component which is the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Platforms which is a core technology development as well as an entrepreneurship society on the campus. So we are actually three different entities.

Which of the programmes link into the international collaboration?

Currently, in fact, the programme is mainly related to the Stem Cell Institute link in this theme, because there are areas on looking at the idea of cancer stem cells or stem cells in cancer as well as cancer microenvironments. One of our colleagues was in fact an IFOM investigator, Colin Jamora, he hopes to investigate while he’s a member of our faculty in Bangalore. So he’s looking at tumour microenvironments in skin and how they form in situ in an animal. That’s perhaps the most closely linked activity to what’s happening here at IFOM. There are others who work on cancers, HPV papilloma virus, cervical cancers is another focus of another investigator. But generally a lot of the basic biology does impinge on activities here which is the exciting part of the collaboration. Many of us are doing basic cell biological research and much of the questions that we ask in basic cell biological research connect in many ways to disruptions or perturbations that one sees in cancers.

Have these collaborations accelerated progress?

Just the exchange and the fact that some of us come here and engage with the researchers on this campus. One provides us a new window into activities that are extremely focussed in the cancer arena, something that we would never have on our own campus. And just having a critical mass of colleagues in a given area somewhere else but intimately linked to us now because of our connection gives us a huge, almost instantaneous, breadth of knowledge right at our doorstep, so to speak. What’s also interesting is that IFOM also is a site for many collaborative engagements, with IEO for example, and the mechanisms of engagement between institutions is also something that we are learning from, from, in fact, the experiences that IFOM has put in place or has acquired here. We have also… in Bangalore we have three institutes and learning to live together, learning to grow together is something that is actually not the easiest thing one would imagine, even though one would think it’s the most natural thing that we should be doing, learning and to grow together synergistically. But all that requires effort and so these two aspects of the science, as well as institutional building and institutional connections is something that’s hugely beneficial for our engagement.