Connecting Epigenetics and Natural Resources
The 2015-16 GYA North-South Interdisciplinary Grant was awarded to Alexander (Sashsa) Kagansky (UK) and Vidushi Neergheen-Bhujun (Mauritius) for their research proposal: Connecting Epigenetics and Natural Resources: The Road Towards Cancer Management and Biodiversity Conservation.
In 400 B.C. Hippocrates said, “Let thy food be thy medicine and thy medicine be thy food.” Despite technological and cultural advances, the essence of these words has seen contemporary resurgence through renewed interest in food and their ability to reduce the incidence of chronic diseases. The deliverable summarizing objective of this trans-disciplinary project will thus be to demonstrate how food plants, edible mushrooms and marine invertebrates, traditionally known for their medicinal uses in Mauritius can intercept metabolic networks and epigenetic reactions that promote tumorigenesis. This will thus provide the basis for the conservation of the remaining tropical biodiversity in Mauritius in order to keep researching anti-cancer properties on natural compounds within the increasingly aging and technologically advancing world. In addition, the findings will help to better understand the mechanisms of action in order to predict their respective efficacy thereby validating their medicinal properties.
The interdisciplinary nature of the study is valuable not only for its immediate benefits to our research, but also for keeping the door open to science policy and societal impact both via cancer chemoprevention and biodiversity protection.
The seed money provided by the interdisciplinary grant produced a preliminary set of data, which opens up new avenues for securing larger external funding. In addition to the scientific data generated, the study provided a number of opportunities and outcomes:
Networking and scientific collaboration
via a nanosymposium on “Natural extracts as potential cancer modulators” with eminent scientists at the University of Edinburgh and a talk by Dr Kagansky on “Epigenetic transitions in mammalian cells: link to cancer diagnostics and treatment” at the University of Mauritius.
MPhil/PhD student, Miss Rima Beesoo from the University of Mauritius spent 3 months in Dr Kagansky’s lab at the Institute of Genetics and Molecular Medicine (University of Edinburgh) where she accessed the latest state of art technology including RPPA microarray, laboratory robots, fluorescent microscope, etc.
Dr Kagansky, Dr Neergheen-Bhujun and Miss Rima Beesoo participated in Happigenetics outreach for school students aged between 10-12 years at Stockbridge School, Edinburgh and Le Bocage International School, Mauritius. In addition, Rima Beesoo also volunteered in social activities organised by the Royal Society of Edinburgh including coaching of extra-curricular activities for school students at the Kilwinning Academy, Glasgow.
One original research article has been accepted to publication in the Open Access research journal belonging to the Nature publishing group:
Global Histone Modification Fingerprinting in Human Cells Using Epigenetic Reverse Phase Protein Array by Marina
Partolina, Thoms HC, MacLeod K, Rodriguez-Blanco G, Clarke MN, Venkatasubramani AV, Beesoo R, Larionov V, Neergheen-Bhujun V, Serrels B, Kimura H, Carragher N, Kagansky A.
2 original research articles are in the pipeline regarding the potential of marine sponges and endemic medicinal plants on epigenetic markers in cancer cell lines. Both investigators presented the concept of their research and some preliminary data at the general assembly of the GYA held in May 2016 in Eindhoven, Netherlands.
Working group within the GYA
The work conducted created great momentum and interest among GYA members on connecting biomedicine and biodiversity and this has given rise to a new active working group – Biodiversity for Survival via Biomedicine.
As an outcome of their work together Alexander Kagansky and Vidushi Neergheen-Bhujun published a paper – “Mauritian Endemic Medicinal Plant Extracts Induce G2/M Phase Cell Cycle Arrest and Growth Inhibition of Oesophageal Squamous Cell Carcinoma” – in ActaNaturae (Vol. 11/1, 2019). More on this paper here.