An ecological niche supports a complex community of micro organisms, interacting along the way, to sustain itself. In understanding the functioning of a biological niche from the microbial perspective, our attempt is primarily focused on understanding the diversity of the microbes present and their functional role in sustaining the ecosystem. The YSS lab and National Centre of Microbial Resources (NCMR) work jointly, sharing resources and expertise in working on some of the pressing issues in microbial taxonomy, diversity and ecology. Using extensive –omics approaches, we strive to highlight and understand the role of microbes in our research themes. The work culture and facilities attract students from diverse background, both nationally and internationally, and work with the right scientific spirit towards enhancing knowledge of the microbial realm.
Humans are colonized for life with more than trillions of bacteria, creating a vast diverse ecosystem whose contributions to human health remain poorly understood. In recent years, there has been a revolution in Biology due to advances in sequencing technology that has helped understand how and why humans harbor multitudes of microbes. Advances in research in recent years have now made it possible to understand this unexplored reservoir of microbes. Increasing evidence suggests that the human microbiota changes according to diet, age, lifestyle, climate and geography, genetic make-up, early microbial exposure and health status. Hence, it becomes increasingly relevant to have a greater understanding of population specific microbiome to devise targeted therapies. Studying the Indian population is relevant given the known dietary and geographical variety, family structure, ethnic diversity and the presence of many endemic tribes. Ultimately, understanding the characteristics of microbiota may lead to natural therapeutics for human diseases and understanding of life evolution.
Recently, we have proposed Indian Human Microbiome Initiative, a collaborative project involving multiple institutes in India aimed at studying microbiome of indigenous populations to enhance our knowledge of the distinct features of the Indian Microbiome and its evolution with host specificity. Studying the microbiomes in Indian population pose a unique opportunity given the diversity of diet, geography, ethnicity and presence of many endemic tribes. A preliminary analysis conducted at the YSS lab shows that the Indian gut microbiome is distinct from other populations of the world and is even different from other Asiatic populations.
Apart from research, students are actively engaged in Microbial Science Outreach Initiative, started with the aim to engage students and the public in appreciating the fascinating world of microbes present around us. It’s our attempt to demystify the academic language of science and approach the audience with the hope that correct awareness among the public should only lead for a better appreciation for these little creatures. We hope that the initiative provides wider engagement and an open platform for stimulating ideas which are crucial for the spread of science.
We collaborate with scientists, clinicians, anthropologists, environmentalists and dieticians for our research. Some of our collaborating institutes being:
‘The YSS Lab’ at the National Centre for Cell Science (NCCS) has evolved prominently since its inception in 1990. Since the beginning, students of this lab have always been promoting and contributing in the science of microbes, by working on various problems in microbial diversity, antibiotic resistance and microbial ecology and systematics.
The YSS Lab was set up in Lab no. 3 with Dr. Milind Patole at the National Centre for Cell Science and funded by Department of biotechnology (Government of India). YSS lab was the only lab in NCCS working in the field of microbiology and was one of the pioneering lab in molecular biology and DNA sequencing in India. Eventually, from basic microbiology lab, it expanded to the areas of microbial taxonomy, microbial diversity and vector biology, focusing mainly on Insect microbial diversity, DNA barcoding, Lonar Lake microbial diversity and Antimicrobial resistance. The YSS lab received its first major project ‘EST project’ followed by the Astrobiology Balloon experiment with ISRO and CCMB in 2004. From a single capillary sequencing instrument to an automated 96 well capillary sequencer and now with multiple next generation sequencing platforms, the YSS Lab has developed a strong expertise in targeted amplicon and genome sequencing.
Soon in 2007, the lab was given a responsibility of preserving the microbial heritage of India with more than 200,000 isolates preserved currently at the facility, turning it into the ‘Microbial Culture Collection’, now known as ‘National Centre for Microbial Resource’.
In early 2009, the YSS lab cultivated interest in the field of human microbiome, microbial genomics and metagenomics with the first study on obesity and microbiome. Now in its third decade, with a team of scientists, postdoctoral students and graduate students, the YSS Lab works on different aspects of microbial taxonomy, genomics and metagenomics.