As part of its drug discovery projects and research alliances, the Chennai based Nichi-In Centre for Regenerative Medicine (NCRM), an institute conducting stem cell researches, has entered into a tie-up with the Vision Research Foundation, Sankara Nethralaya, a city based super speciality institute of ophthalmology, to pursue collaborative research on finding solutions for treatment to viral diseases affecting the eye.
As per the contract, the two institutes will jointly conduct researches on viruses that cause eye diseases, later on it will be turned into other viruses. The Centre wants to enter into drug discovery sector in conjunction with other leading research institutions in the country and outside. But viral diseases affecting eyes are a major threat to human health, so the research is concentrated on viruses that cause eye diseases, said Dr Samuel Abraham, director of NCRM.
Regarding the procedure of the study, he said “we propose to multiply the viruses in a nano-polymer three dimensional scaffold so that we can try the anti-viral agents in them to check which one is of use in curtailing the viral growth in in-vitro conditions. Though such cultures have been done in two-dimensional manner, to our knowledge, this could be the first such attempt to culture viruses in 3D.”
He further said the study will be conducted on many viruses in the beginning and once the preliminary study is over they will focus on the specific viruses giving priority based on the outcome. The scientists in the Centre have a plan to develop a new drug to treat the eye diseases caused by virus, he said and added that the Centre has engaged in tie up with many institutes like ICMR Institute of Pathology, New Delhi for skin epithelial stem cell research, ACTREC-Tata Institute, Mumbai for cancer cell expansion and characterization.
According to him, viral diseases of the eye and other organs pose a major threat to health and the key issue in solving the same lies with antiviral agents. The efficacy of antiviral agents has to be tested in laboratory models where the disease causing viruses themselves are grown and various antiviral agents are tried at different doses to choose the appropriate one that will curtail the specific virus. NCRM has been working jointly with Japanese institutes and has come out with several nano-polymer scaffolds which have great potentials for growing the viruses in the lab in a healthy manner. In these scaffolds, the anti-viral agents could be tried to find out the right agent and dosage for controlling the viruses following which the same could be tried in translational settings.
Dr H N Madhavan, president, VRF, Sankara Nethralaya said, “several viral strains for which we do not have a proper laboratory model, but they can be isolated in cell cultures cultivated in the polymer and be multiplied with this technology. Thereby optimal solutions could be arrived at which will help us treat not only the viral diseases of the eye but also that in other specialities.”