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Ethnomedicine and Medicinal Plants Division

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The division was co-established with the Centre in 2006. The division started its activities with creation of "Database for medicinal plants of Western Ghats", based on the data collected by ICMR through a multi-centric task force study. The database was released in 2010 in the form of CD. The other two initial activities of the division were establishing the "Herbal Garden for Medicinal Plants of Western Ghats" and "Museum for Ethnomedicinal Plants of Western Ghats", funded by National Medicinal Plants Board and Central Council for Research in Ayurveda, respectively. The established garden has more than 350 species of medicinal plants, whereas the museum harbours 450 drug samples, photographs of 700 species and 1500 herbarium specimens of 600 species of medicinal plants.

The documentation of traditional practices from the region is the core activity of the Division. In addition, efforts are being made to develop quality control parameters for the Ethno medicinal plants. In the process of validation of traditional practices, the preparations for arthritis, ulcers, fever and abdominal colic pain have been evaluated. The division is also working on cultivation and processing methods of medicinal plants, as mentioned in Ayurveda, to provide scientific basis of these methods. Workshops, field visits and hands on training programs related to plants identification, herbarium and pharmacognosy techniques are being organized regularly, along with Ph.D, Masters Dissertation and training programs. The division is providing services like taxonomic identification and authentication of plants, helping in collection/processing of medicinal plants to the other divisions of the Centre, and several neighbouring institutes in the region.

Phytochemistry Division

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The Phytochemistry division, established in 2008 is working on the Chemistry of Medicinal Plants and Formulations used by the local Healers. The division started its work on Chemoprofiling of Medicinal and Aromatic plants (MAPs) planted in the Medical Plant Garden of NITM (Formerly RMRC), Belagavi and Western Ghats, North West Karnataka. The Chemical constituents of 20 MAPs have been identified for the first time. Moreover, various MAPs growing in Belagavi and North West Karnataka have been identified as chemotype(s).

The Extraction, Isolation, Purification and Characterization of Active Molecules/Fractions are the basic studies of this Division. This Division has identified Antidiabetic activity of traditionally used plants and obtained Extract(s) and Fraction(s) with potent Anti-hyperglycemic activity in Animal Models.

The Division is also working on Microbiome of Medicinal plant along with the biological efficacy of their Extract(s) and Isolated constituents including immunomodulatory potential.

Microbiology & Molecular Biology Division

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Established in 2009, the Molecular Biology Laboratory has been carrying research on: (i) Genotyping of Medicinal Plants to generate "Passport Data" (ii) Documenting Genetic diversity of Plants used in Traditional Medicines, correlation with Activity of Marker compound(s), identifying Elite Clones, etc. (iii) Development of Genetic Markers for Identification of useful Medicinal Plants and its Adulterants, if any (iv) Understanding the Mechanisms of Actions, and (v) Molecular biology support to studies undertaken in other Sections of the Centre.

Some important contributions are:

  • Documentation of Genetic variations in Gymnema sylvestre of Eastern Himalayas and the Western Ghats.
  • Identification of an Elite clone of Gymnema sylvestre producing high quantities of Marker compounds.
  • Genetic diversity of Saraca asoca and Development of tools to differentiate from common adulterants.
  • Development of Phylogenetic tools to identify Elcipta alba and its differences from Wedelia calandulaceae.

  • The Microbiology Laboratory started in 2011, is engaged in the following activities:

  • Serving as Regional Reference Laboratory of National Rotavirus Surveillance Network with two Clinical Recruitment sites at Belagavi (Karnataka) and Karad (Maharashtra).
  • Provides Referral services in Identification and Characterization of Infectious agents to Government Medical College & Hospitals, and the District and State Surveillance Units of the Karnataka State.
  • Undertakes Outbreak Investigations of various Infectious Diseases in the Region.
  • Maintains Repository of various Bacterial strains and DNA Bank of Pathogens.
  • Monitors Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) of common Bacterial Pathogens in the region.
  • Studies to evaluate potential Traditional Medicines as complementary Antimicrobials.

  • Some of the important contributions are:

  • Data on Rotavirus surveillance has been used as baseline and justification for introduction of Rotavirus Vaccine in the National Universal Immunization Programme by the Govt of India.
  • Various Outbreaks of cholera including the first outbreaks from Belgaum (2010), Bijapur (2012) and Bagalkot (2013) were established by this laboratory.
  • The Haitian variant of V. cholerae and El Tor strains with classical variant of cholera toxin was reported for the first time from South India by this laboratory.
  • Rapidly widening Antibiotic Resistance in Vibrio cholerae.
  • Diphtheria was found to be reemerging in North Karnataka stressing the importance of strengthening the Universal Immunization Programme.
  • Viral etiology was established in about 80% of admissions due to diarrhoea in children below 5 years of age.
  • First demonstration of circulating HPV in India, both from rural and urban hospitals in two Western locations.
  • Demonstration of circulation of known types of SalV (SalV A1, A2) in western India for the first time.
  • Establishment of Shewanella algae as a cause of diarrhoea in children.
  • Provide Service for Identification and Characterization of Cholera, Shigellosis, E. coli and Rota virus, Salmonellosis, Diphtheria, Viral hepatitis Candidasis, Staphylococcus aureus infections and NDM-1 producing organisms.
  • Neglected Tropical Diseases

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    World Health Organization has identified several diseases as 'Neglected Tropical Disaeses (NTD)', among which vector borne diseases (Dengue, Chikungunya, Leishmaniasis, Lymphatic filariasis), Leprosy, Rabies, foodborne trematodiases, Soil-transmitted helminth infections and Taeniasis/ Cysticercosis are of major concern to India. Dengue, Chikungunya, lymphatic filariasis have become major problems in many parts of Karnataka and neighbouring states. Japanese encepahaliitis (JE) has been causing epidemics in several parts of Karnataka and more recently Kysaniur forest disease (KFD) has invaded the villages of Goa-Karnataka border areas. Moreover, Rickettsial infections are re-emerging in many parts of Karnataka as a result of environmental changes, and Malaria is endemic to many districts of the State. In view of this, the Centre has conducting and planned to take up epidemiological studies on some of these diseases viz., malaria, lymhatic filariasis, dengue and JE. Different diagnostic facilities for these diseases have been established at the Centre and is providing these services to State Health Departments, Medical Institutions and Hospitals, regularly. The Centre is also working on developing diagnostics for some of these diseases. The Centre participated in the 'Transmission Assessment Survey (TAS)' for Lymaphtic Filariasis under the National Elimination Programme, conducted by the NVBDCP in Udupi Dist. A study on the antifilarial immune status of the endemic communities in Bijapur dist., in collaboration with Medical School, Illinois University, Illinois, USA was undertaken. The Centre also conducted a study to investigate the occurrence of strains/genotypes of Lymaphtic Filarial parasite, Wuchereria bancrofti in two endemic dists of Nepal, in collaboration with Institute of Medicine, Tribhuvan University, Nepal.

    Experimental Pharmacology & Toxicology Division

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    The division of Pharmacology & Toxicology is engaged in Preclinical Evaluation of Safety and Efficacy of Traditional Medicine/Herbal Formulation. Studies have been initiated to bridge the gap between the Conventional and Modern Medicines, using modern tools and technologies to validate the Traditional Claims. In addition to in-vitro and in-vivo evaluation of conventional and novel Animal Models we include the use of in-silico tools, Network pharmacology etc. The division is also engaged in development and validation of suitable alternative Bioassay system to compliment conventional, with an aim to bring down the cost, time and ethical concerns involved. In addition, This Division are providing research training for students of various disciplines as a part of human resource development. Moreover, this Institute have a CPCSEA approved Animal House facility, under this Division (Reg.No.1388/GO/Re/2010/CPCSEA) along with the Zebra Fish research facility. A project on "Optimization and assessment of predictive utility of Zebra fish Embryo Genotoxicity test as a promising alternative" is in progress, under Human Resource Development for Health Research (Start-up grant) of the Department of Health Research Govt. of India.

    Plant Biotechnology and Tissue Culture Division

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    Plant Biotechnology and Tissue Culture Division was established in 2010.. The laboratory has harboured several PDF's, Doctoral and PG students to work. The division has successfully completed and conducting several projects funded by ICMR; Department of Science and Technology (DST); Karnataka Forest Division, Belagavi and others. The division is engaged in developing protocols for rapid multiplication of medicinal plants used by local community, traditional practioners and traders; along with the different aspects of medicinal plants such as: re-introduction program, analysis of important phytoconstituent, variations in levels of secondary metabolites, role of mutation for higher production and elicitation of secondary metabolites, Agrobacterium-mediated transformation etc. This division is also providing expertise for quality control in medicinal plants. Presently we are working on different species including Achyranthes coynei, A. aspera, Saraca asoca, Piper nigrum, Nothapodytes nimmoniana, Ancistrocladus heyneanus, Clerodendrum, Sida, Ocimum, Curcuma and many others.

    Facilities available with this division include: well equipped plant tissue culture laboratory and greenhouse, along with Laminar fume hood, Balance, pH meters, steam less Autoclaves, Orbital shakers, Centrifuges, Ultra Flow Liquid Chromatography, Cryostats, Deep freezers (-20C) etc.

    Animal Cell Culture Laboratory

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    Animal tissue culture facility has been established recently at the centre. The facility is being used to test the anti-cancer properties of the natural products available in Western Ghats. Further, novel studies are being conducted in sensitization and modulation of multidrug resistant ABCB1 overexpressing oral carcinoma KB cells to paclitaxel by glaucarubinone from Simarouba glauca DC. Studies on natural product (Resveratrol) loaded gelatin nanoparticles induces apoptosis and inhibits cell cycle in lung cancer cell lines are also being carried out. Further, screening of antimicrobial effects of herbal formulation on highly virulent bacteria isolated from clinical cases by using In vitro studies (in Hep-2 cell lines using MTT assay).

    Operational Research Cell

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    Operational Research Cell is working since the establishment of NITM (Formerly RMRC), Belagavi. Its main focus is to work on establishing a model to integrate the Traditional Medicine practices with modern medicine through scientific research and validation. To achieve this goal, the cell is working together with all the departments/ divisions of NITM (Formerly RMRC), Belagavi and also in collaborations with neighboring institutes and Public Health authorities. The cell has started its activity with the study entitled "Disease survey based on hospital records in Belgaum region" to know the disease prevalence in this region. The study provided the basic data on the prevalence of the diseases of local health importance. Simultaneously to know the availability of cost effective solutions in traditional medicine for local health conditions, the cell has under taken following study, "Survey on usage, availability and utility of traditional medicines/ formulations in Belagavi region". The aim of the study was to understand the status of codified/ herbal /traditional practice like Ayurvedic systems as well as compile information on traditional practitioners (Non-codified system) of Belgaum district for treatment of various diseases. The study indicated the existence of traditional medicine in the district. Based on the results of the study "Demography of patients visiting traditional healers in Belgaum region" was recorded. Traditional healers were selected based on their OPD attendance giving preference to all kinds of diseases. This study created a baseline data on the demography of the patients who are visiting the traditional practitioners/ folklore healers and assessed the level of satisfaction of the healer's service. It is interesting to note 78% of patients have tried allopathy before they visited traditional practitioners. Further the "Knowledge, attitude and utilization of traditional medicine by patients visiting allopathic hospitals in Belgaum region" was undertaken to find out knowledge and attitude towards traditional medicines and also to assess the willingness of the patients visiting allopathic hospitals to change treatment from allopathic to traditional medicine if offered. The results showed that the patients were aware of traditional medicine and ready to take the traditional medicine if good practitioners are available.

    Later, the ORC is coordinating with THRU and other department of NITM (Formerly RMRC) to understand traditional approach of health seeking behavior of village population in different settings and also to develop sustainable model protocols for integrated approach to achieve overall health. Operational Research Cell has established "School of Traditional Medicine" to facilitate more meaningful scientific deliberation among different stake holders with focus on local experience and National perspective. To support this and create valid data, an Integrated Clinic is also established. It is proposed to undertake pragmatic, observational and case studies of prioritized traditional formulations/ practices duly recommended by empowered committee. Apart from these activities, ORC has also undertaken the studies on Understanding delivery, access and utilization of HIV services in Goa and Belgaum; An ICMR task force study. Understanding community and the health care provider's perspective on male controlled biological option in India; was successfully conducted in collaborations with NARI, Pune. Towards the development of human resource development and IEC activities, ORC has conducted trainings, workshops, brainstorming sessions to traditional practitioners with summer trainings programs for students of Master of Public health, etc.

    The division would invite suggestions and comments from public to device strategies, to understand, evaluate and integrate the Traditional Medicinal practices with health care delivery system in the larger interest of poor patients.

    Tribal Health Research Unit

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    Tribal Health Research Unit (THRU) was sanctioned under translational mode to NITM (Formerly RMRC), Belagavi in September 2013, but started functioning from 6th January 2015 and was officially inaugurated on 25th March 2015. The objectives of the THRU at this Centre are:

  • To establish a databank and knowledge Centre on tribal health in association with local and state government institutions
  • To conduct need based studies on following aspects among tribals of the region:
  • (i) Infectious diseases like malaria, diarrhea and TB

    (ii) Non-communicable diseases like haemoglobinopathies, fluorosis and CVDs

    (iii) Morbidity and mortality

    (iv) Nutritional deficiency disorders and their control

  • To conduct studies on ethnomedine to empower tribals, especially for their primary healthcare
  • To develop a model integrated approach for health in the selected tribal villages of Karnataka
  • IEC interventions among the tribals of the region for improving their overall health status
  • Biomedical Informatics Centre

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    The Biomedical Informatics Centre (BIC) was set up in April, 2013, as one of the 20 BICs of ICMR set up across the country to cater modern computational needs and support the ongoing Medical Research activities in the region.

    This BIC works mainly on Herbal Informatics with Traditional knowledge on Medicinal Plants, cutting edge informatics and big data biology into meaningful relationships to use in screening of plants for scientific validation.

    The BIC performs the following functions:
    (i) Provides Training to Researchers, Academia and Students as informatics tools for Medical research.
    (ii)Provides Informatics support to Researchers.
    (iii)In silico studies on Medicinal plants for validation of Traditional Medicines.

    The BIC has already provided informatics support to the Researchers across diverse areas of research. The Centre also designed and maintains the website of NITM (Formerly RMRC), and provides electronic/computing support to the administration in addition to its scientific activities.

    Model Rural Health Research Units (MRHRUs)

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    In June 2013, the Government of India approved the scheme for 'Establishment of Model Rural Health Research Units (MRHRUs) in the States' during 12th Plan period as a path- breaking initiative to develop/strengthen the Health Research infrastructure in the Country for Promotion, Coordination and Development of Basic, Applied and Clinical research in Remote Settings of India.

    1. To create peripheral infrastructure for transfer of technology to the Rural level with improved quality of Health Services to Rural population.

    2. To ensure an interface between new Technology developers (Researchers in the Medical Institutions; State or Centre), Health systems operators (Centre or State Health Services) and the Beneficiaries (Rural Communities).

    3. To ensure Geographical spread of Health Research Infrastructure in the Country

    4. To focus on disease profile of the area and strategies for transfer of Technologies to the end user.

    MRHRU has started functioning at Sirwar PHC, Raichur District to monitor Malnutrition, Anaemia, Preeclampsia and Diarrhoeal diseases, the major health problems in the area with a plan for several Interventional studies.

    List of Equipments Available:


    Library

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    The library as on today has acquired more than 750 books and is subscribing 20 subjects scientific journals. The books are on Medicinal plants, Ayurveda and Herbal Medicine, Pharmacology and Pharmacognosy, Phytochemistry, Molecular Biology and other related leading scientific journals in the field of herbal medicine such as Journal of Ethnopharmacology, Fitoterapia, Phytomedica, Journal of Natural Products, Natural Product Comunications, Planta Medica etc. are subscribed. The library is serving as the reference centre to the researchers from NITM (Formerly RMRC) as well as various other neighbouring institutes.