In the first 25 year, the Department of Biochemistry at the Institute arose out of the Department of Applied chemistry. Systemic work of enzymes, soil chemistry and microbiology, plant biochemistry, proteins, carbohydrates, animal nutrition and micro-chemical analysis began with the equipping of the Department for such biochemical work. Iodine deficiency studies in connection with goiter were initiated. Methods for the preparation of vegetable proteins from seed cakes, vegetable milk of high nutrition value, glandular products, vitamin fortification of oils, disinfection of foods were carried out, entailing fundamental studies on enzymes, insulin, vitamins and the stability of vitamin-A in fish and ghee.
In the next 25 year, the focus of research shifted to more fundamental lines following the establishment of CSIR and ICMR laboratories for applied research. Newer separation techniques like circular paper chromatography and agar plate electrophoresis aided research on carbohydrate, amino acids,vitamins, proteins including serum proteins and enzymes. Cytological studies to understand the structure of plant chromosomes and establishing the presence of nucleus, chromosomes and vaculoe in yeast showed that these cells were eucaryotic in nature. Significant findings included the chemical characterization of the toxic principle of Kesari dhal as oxalyldiaminopropionic acid, understanding the mechanism of intestinal absorption and transport of vitamin A, identification of several novel oxidative enzymes in the metabolism of aromatic compounds in plants (Tecoma) and microorganisms .
Further in next 25 year, the research has been diverse with several new areas of research added with the induction of several new faculty members and the strengthening of ongoing research programmes. Again a major thrust has been in enzymology, now done with greater sophistication with the availability of newer techniques and equipments. Notable advances were made in energy metabolism like evidence for a novel mechanism involving lipid peroxidation for cellular thermogenesis. The organization and expression of genes in rice and the mapping of genes for structural proteins and lytic enzymes in colitis phage were worked out. The mechanism of DNA-DNA pairing and recombination and the involvement of chromatinization of DNA with implications for gene targeting has been studied. Spectacular progress has been made in understanding avian and mammalian reproduction, like the role of steroids in the regulation of placental proteins and of gonadotropins in the differentiation of Leyding cells have been studied. With the development of facilities for animal and plant tissue culture, monoclonal antibodies to a variety of antigens were prepared.
A major emphasis in recent years is towards biomedical areas. The immunology and molecular biology and pathogens such as Japanese encephalitis virus, Plasmodium and Mycobacterium are being studied. Immunochemistry of nucleic acids was developed to probe the structure of nucleic acids with RNA and DNA binding antibodies. Isolation and characterization of carotenoids from the plant was done. Molecular and biophysical techniques have been applied in understanding plant viral (Physalis-mottle, Sesbania mosaic and pepper-vein binding viruses) structure and assembly, with efforts to obtain transgenic viral resistent plants. New initiatives are underway to engineer plants for production of useful lipids. The cell biology approach is applied to study the biogenesis of secretary and membrane proteins in animal cells. Mechanisms by which host immune response is trigerred and proteases involved in protein degradation are being studied.
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