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National Facility for Gene Function in Health & Disease: what it will do, what it has

The National Facility for Gene Function in Health and Disease was inaugurated in Pune by Dharmendra Pradhan, Union Minister of Education on Friday. Why is it needed?

Written by Anjali Marar , Edited by Explained Desk | Pune |
Updated: May 28, 2022 12:24:49 pm
The NFGFHD at Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Pune, which was inaugurated Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, on Friday. (Source: IISER, Pune)

The National Facility for Gene Function in Health and Disease (NFGFHD) was inaugurated in Pune by Dharmendra Pradhan, Union Minister of Education on Friday.

The NFGFHD has been set up at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research (IISER), Pune. Built by IISER Pune and supported by the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) at a total cost of about Rs 45 crore, this will be one-of-its-kind large facilities providing timely supply of animal models to researchers studying a range of diseases from cancer to diabetes. Rats, mice and rabbits will be housed here, doing away with the need to import them.

Why it is needed

With a growing zoonotic disease burden on human health, there is an increased urgency to perform disease studies based on physiological evidence and methods. Since human trials alone cannot suffice for such studies, the need for having experimental setups using animal models has become imperative. Hence, animal, plant and microorganism-based models are now being significantly deployed to study diseases in a time-bound manner.

“Scientists depend on small animals such as rats, mice and rabbits to study human diseases. When an animal model is used to study diseases, we need to carefully follow the animal’s well-being for long durations. During this time-frame, the animals are prudently observed, bred for further generations. Their behaviours are monitored in responses to stimuli, signs for any phenotypic variations, feeding behaviours and changes in habits if any,” said Prof Anjan Banerjee, Dean, Research and Development at IISER, Pune.

Technological facilities

The facility houses molecular biology laboratories and mico-injection setups to generate mouse models, in which scientists will knock out existing genes and replace them with external or artificial genes that are linked to the disease under study. This is done through CRISPR / Cas9 systems.

The genome engineering facility at NFGFHD in the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, Pune. (Source: IISER, Pune)

There are facilities for making embryonic stem cell-based models and traditional transgenic mice models, embryo and sperm cryopreservation, and in-vitro fertilisation.

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“We now have trained and skilled manpower, including veterinary scientists and technicians to provide timely service such as transgenic (gene knockout or knock-in) mice, rats, to scientists working at IISER Pune and other institutes, universities and industries across the country,” Dr Banerjee said.

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