Regional Medical Research Centre, Belgaum

 

History

During the Sixth Five Year Plan Period (1980-85), the concept of Regional Medical Research Centres (RMRCs) was evolved in the ICMR, under which it was proposed to establish six new Centres in different regions of the country to undertake research regarding the health problems of the respective regions.  The RMRCs would address a variety of issues of local/regional relevance, as the health problems of one region may differ from those of another on account of several factors such as demographic characteristics, geographical, climatic and other environmental influences, literacy levels, status of socio-economic development etc. 

      The Governing Body of the ICMR approved in principle the establishment of RMRC at Bangalore (later shifted to Belgaum ) at its 50th meeting held on 2nd May 1980.  However, due to resource constraints and other logistic problems, development of RMRC, Belgaum could not take place, though 20 acres of land located on the Pune-Bangalore National Highway , was allotted to ICMR by the Govt. of Karnataka.  This proposal is intended for the purpose of fully establishing and making RMRC, Belgaum operational with main emphasis on research on herbal and traditional medicines practiced in this region due to close proximity of Belgaum to Western Ghats . In mid 2003, a Deputy Director and a Research Assistant were posted to RMRC to establish basic infrastructure.  Support staff was provided in 2004 on contract basis. During last five years, in spite of limited resources and manpower, necessary infrastructure like electricity, water connections, telecommunications, internet, LAN facilities, internal roads and laboratory facilities etc have been established.  A fully furnished Guest House is also set up.

      The Centre was officially inaugurated on 20th May 2006.

 

Thrust Areas of Research:

         Scientific validation of Herbal Medicine (phytochemistry, efficacy, safety, mode of action and clinical trials)

         Prevalence of diseases at regional level and the role of Herbal Medicine in treating these diseases

         Database for ethnomedicinal plants of Western Ghats

         Improve infra-structural facilities and strengthen human resources in the area of Herbal and Traditional Medicine

         Working in close collaboration with traditional and herbal medicine practitioners in the region  to

        Create general awareness

        Promote scientific temperament and

        Collect, collate and disseminate relevant scientific information in the area of herbal medicine  

Laboratory facilities-Highlighting sophisticated and modern facilities:

A core laboratory with basic equipments like analytical balances, autoclaves, sterilizers, centrifuges, water bath/ shakers, hot air ovens etc. has already been set up. A Phytochemistry laboratory with necessary facilities for extraction of herbal drugs, identification of phytoconstituents and quality control has been developed and different laboratory processes are being standardized. A Microbiology and Molecular Biology/Biotechnology is being set up and expected to be fully functional very soon. The instrumentation facility includes:

Binocular Microscopes

                             pH Meters

Cyclomixers

Analytical Micro balances

Vortex mixers

Multiblock heaters with digital display

Heating mantles with temp controllers

Magnetic stirrers with hot plate

Autoclaves

BOD Incubator

Hot air oven

Water bath circulators

Vaccum dessicators

Orbital shakers

Medico centrifuges

Microtome with all accessories and razors

Deep freezer (vertical) -20C

Digital thermometers -50 to 200C

Biosafety cabinets

Rocking platforms

Tissue Homogenizers

Water Distillation Units

Laminar Flows

Spectrophotometers

Elisa Plate Reader

Ultrasonic Processors

Rotary Evaporators

CO2 Incubator

Freeze Dryer

Fraction Collector

Bacteriological Incubators

GPS Mapper

Submarine Gel Electrophoresis Units

Digital Dry Baths

Titrator

Liquid Nitrogen Storage Facility

Stereo Trinocular Microscope

Dissecting Microscope

Antibiotic Zone Reader

Colony Counter

Water Proof Pocket TDS Tester

Refrigerated High Speed Centrifuge

Refrigerated Mircro Centrifuge

PCR thermal cycler with Gradient Facility

Shaking Incubator

Trinocular Fluorescence microscope

Gel Documentation System

Bio Medical Freezer (4ºC)

Bio Medical Freezer (-86ºC)

CRYO-Freezer Conqueror -150ºC

Table Top Sterilizer

Fume hood

Refractometer

Flame Photometer

Digital Colorimeter

Thin Layer Chromatography apparatus

Ultra Sonicator

Dehumidifier

Rotary  Evaporator

Polarimeter

Vaccum System

Pathological Monoculer Microscope

Refrigerated and Heating Bath Circulator

Gas chromatography

Flash chromatography

 

·                    Computer facility for all labs and scientific/technical staff

·                    Generator facility

·                    UPS facility for sensitive and sophisticated instruments.

 

Clinical facilities:

Clinical research facilities specially for herbal medicine research have been developed in collaboration with BMK College of Ayurveda and J.N. Medical College , Belgaum .

 

Communication and computational facilities:

The Centre has well developed computational facilities, both intra and inter network system with a 24 node server.

 

Education and training program:

Training & Human Resource Development

Capacity building and human resource development especially in the north western Karnataka is one of the objectives of establishing the Centre.

This objective is achieved by:

DOCTORAL (Ph.D) PROGRAMMES:

The Scientists of this Centre are recognized as supervisors in various disciplines by different Universities for the award of Doctoral degree.

The following Scientists are the recognized guides:

Dr. Sanjiva D Kholkute, M.Sc., Ph.D   - Speciality: Reproductive biology and Ethnomedicine

Dr. Subarna Roy, M.Sc., Ph.D            - Speciality: Microbiology & Molecular Biology

Dr. Rajesh K Joshi, M.Sc., Ph.D         - Speciality: Chemistry & Phytochemistry

Dr. Harsha V Hegde, M.Sc., Ph.D      - Speciality: Botany & Ethnomedicine

Training Programmes:

Training programmes/workshops are conducted by the Centre which are advertised on ICMR and Centre’s website.

Scientists of the Centre are also serving as visiting faculty/resource persons in various training programmes /workshops/CMEs/Orientation courses organized by the neighboring institutes/hospitals.

Training of UG &  PG Students:

The Centre imparts training to students undergoing Undergraduate and Post Graduate courses in Botany, Pharmacology, Phytochemistry, Dravyaguna, Microbiology, Biotechnology and Molecular Biology, Biostatistics and Bioethics. Usually applications received from the candidates are scrutinized and short listed in April (for training in May-Jul) and October (for training in Dec-May).

Training on Demand:

A limited number of deserving candidates are provided training depending on case to case basis on formal application.

 

Epidemiological studies undertaken by the Institute/Centre:

A hospital based retrospective study was carried out in collaboration with KLES Hospital and District Civil Hospital , Belgaum .  Hospital records were evaluated from 2001 to 2004 and diseases recorded were classified into various codes as per the International Statistical Classification.  Data from KLES Hospital indicated that diseases of the circulatory system was maximum (20%) while for District Civil Hospital, code for certain infectious/parasitic diseases was maximum (11.1%).

This study was extended further to evaluate the burden of infectious diseases on hospital services at District Civil Hospital, Belgaum based on hospital discharge records from 2001-2004.  The results indicated that 5 sub-classification under infectious diseases contribute 93% of disease burden on hospital bed.  Intestinal infectious diseases (44%) followed by TB (35%) were leading.  Among intestinal infectious diseases, diarrhea and gastroenteritis contributed 83%.  Further, intestinal infections were leading cause of hospital admission for 0-4 years children.  Study suggests that proper sanitary measures, supply of proper drinking water and proper awareness about DOTS can considerably reduce burden on hospitals. 

It is decided to extend these studies in nearby region to determine the pattern of diseases in neighboring areas.

 

Products Developed:

Several leads are obtained from the data collected from the traditional practitioners, especially in herbal formulations for various ailments. The toxicological, preclinical and clinical evaluation of selected leads are in progress. The biological screening of isolated pytoconstituents from the medicinal plants is also underway.

Research activities and achievements:

i. Herbal Garden for Medicinal Plants from Western Ghats Region:

This is in collaboration with Kittur Rani Chennamma College of Horticulture, Arabhavi and funded by National Medicinal Plants Board, New Delhi . The objectives of the project are:

Ø      Cultivation and Ex situ conservation of rare, endangered, threatened, endemic and important medicinal plants of the Western Ghats region

Ø      Create awareness and educate public about importance of medicinal plants and their conservation

Ø      Establishment of sustainable medicinal plants resource base

Ø      Developing propagation protocol for important medicinal plants

The landscaping of the garden was done by consulting various experts. Within a short period, more than 175 species of medicinal plants were procured from various sources and as on date the total number of medicinal plant species in the garden is about 250. Of these, 79 are herbs, 58 are shrubs, 33 are climbers, 9 are scandents and 96 species are trees. Each plant is named with information board, which includes its scientific name, English name, Sanskrit name and vernacular names in Kannada, Hindi and Marathi. The local names are given in their respective script. The poly house and shade house are constructed for the propagation and acclimatization of medicinal plants. People belonging to various backgrounds (Ayurveda, traditional practice, pharmaceuticals, herbal research), professions (Teachers, Students, Researchers, Herbal healer) and age groups are visiting the garden. It is planned to expand the area of the garden with introducing more number of medicinal plants. It is also planned to set up an IEC centre on medicinal plants of the Western Ghats .

ii. Museum for Ethnomedicinal Plants of Western Ghats:

This is in collaboration with and funded by CCRAS (Department of AYUSH), New Delhi . The objectives are:

Ø      To provide scientific information on medicinal plants of Western Ghats and their usages.

Ø      To create awareness on the role of medicinal plants / ethnomedicobotany in health care and drug development.

Ø      To improve knowledge on importance of Western Ghats as a biodiversity hot spot and conservation of medicinal plants.

Ø      To disseminate scientific information on ethno-medicinal plants of Western Ghats .

 More than 100 laminated photographs, images of scanned herbarium sheets and herbaria of selected medicinal plants have been displayed in the museum. Posters are prepared on various aspects such as biodiversity of Western Ghats , importance of traditional and Indian systems of medicine, RET plants and their conservation etc and are displayed in the museum. The crude drug depository is being developed with both dry and wet preserved plant materials. More than 280 such samples are collected and processed so far and the further collection is in progress.

iii. Grant-in-aid for revitalization of Local Health Traditions:

The project is funded by Department of AYUSH, New Delhi for documentation, assessment and scientific evaluation (preclinical/pharmacological and clinical) of the local health traditions in Belgaum region.

The documentation of the practices was made Belgaum Integrated Rural Development Society (BIRDS), Tukkanatti by participatory rural appraisal and leads were identified for prioritized conditions like Ulcer, constipation, pain abdomen and arthritis.

       The toxicological and preclinical evaluation of these leads is being carried out at RMRC. The Anti arthritic activity was assessed by complete Freund’s Adjuvant induced arthritis in male Wistar rats; Skin sensitivity test by rabbit skin sensitization test (OECD 404-2002) and Anti inflammatory activity by Carrageenan induced paw edema in male/female Sprague Dawley rats. The laxative activity was evaluated by propulsive gut motility in mice. The Spasmolytic activity of the formulation was tested in isolated guinea pig ileum. The evaluation of the other formulations is in progress. The anti-arthritic activity of the selected lead is also under clinical evaluation in collaboration with BMK College of Ayurveda, Belgaum .

iv. Studies on infectious diseases in Belgaum

The following two pilot research projects on infectious diseases are proposed to be carried out. If successful, comprehensive projects will be formulated based on the experience with these pilot studies.

A. Hospital based bacteriological surveillance of childhood diarrhoeas in Belgaum .

Diarrhoea diseases in children is common in and around Belgaum . In a particular study carried out among 8506 inpatients in District Civil Hospital (DCH) Belgaum intestinal infections has been found responsible for as much as 44% of all infections and parasitic diseases, the most frequent cause of disease. Shigella, E.coli and Vibrio cholerae are associated with the highest morbidity and mortality. A study is proposed to find out the different causatiave against of childhood dioarrhoea in children in Belgaum and to monitor their antibiotic sensitivity patterns for formulating treatment strategies.

The objectives of the study are:

v     To measure the proportion of childhood diarrhea cases caused by different enteropathogenic bacteria.

v     To monitor the drug resistant patterns of the isolates in and around the area.

v     To describe the epidemiological characteristics of diarrhea cases.

            Stool samples from acute cases of pediatric diarrhea will be collected from patients attending KLES Hospital , Belgaum . Microsocopically examined for presence of parasites and /or RBCs and pus cells and subsequently processed for isolation of bacterial entric pathogens following standard protocol on selective and differential media. Isolated organisms will be tested for different biochemical reactions and identified. Confirmation will be done based on serology with commercially available antisera.  PCR for presence of different virulence marker genes will also be done.  DNA finger prints of isolates will be generated to determine genetic diversity. Antibiotic sensitivity tests will be done following disc diffusion technique with a panel of 18 antibiotics.  Reports will be routinely sent to the attending physicians and recorded for the purpose of analyses. Comparative analysis will be done with all data generated and conclusions will be drawn.

Studies on leptospiral infections in Belgaum :

Leptospirosis is the most widespread and most emergent zoognosis.  It is common in tropical and subtropical countries and manifests in different sign and symptoms, often resembling other common infections and that makes it very difficult to diagnose. The disease is endemic in Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Tamil Nadu, Kerla, parts of Maharashtra and Gujarat . It is said to be emerging in newer areas. Emergence of leptospirosis in Maharashtra has now posed a major public health problem. Suspected cases are often seen in Belgaum region which is close to Mahrashtra, but in the absence of proper tests and awareness on the part of doctors, it has not been studied so far.  A project is therefore proposed to study the concurrence of leptospirosis in Belgaum region in association with the Department of Microbiology of the KLES Hospital , Belgaum and the National Leptospirosis Reference Centre, RMRC, Port Blair.

The Study is proposed:

v     To measure the occurrence of leptospirosis in Belgaum

v     To confirm laboratory diagnosis.

v     To study the serological and genotypic patterns.

Serum samples form suspected cases of leptospirosis from the KLES Hospital , Belgaum will be collected. Samples will be tested for leptospirosis using a rapid test kit. PCR will also be done of the samples. Attempts for isolation will not be made initially. If needed, samples may be sent to RMRC, Port Blair for isolation and determination of serogroup status of the infecting leptospires. The study is expected to generate knowledge on the prevalence of leptospirosis in this region and its clinical presentation, that in turn will help in raising awareness level of the people and physicians of this emerging zoonosis.

 Harnessing and use of new technologies:

The Centre has taken initiatives to exploit modern molecular biological techniques like PCR, DNA fingerprinting, RFLP patterns, immunoassays, etc., in the study, characterization, sustainable exploitation and conservation of medicinal plants of the Western Ghats . The following activities are being proposed:

v     Standardization and establishment of facilities for genetic characterization of plants of medicinal value.

v     A DNA bank and repository of genetic resources on the endemic and endangered medicinal plants.

v     Tissue culture facility to conserve and propagate germ plasma of rare and endangered species for sustainable exploitation is also planned.

v     Keeping in tune with the mandate of the Centre, studies have been initiated on locally prevalent infectious diseases in collaboration with the hospitals located in the region. Diseases like various intestinal infections and tuberculosis have been identified as major health problems. HIV has also been found to be a major cause of concern in the region. Use of the latest molecular biological tools in detection and characterization of these pathogens is being planned by this Centre.

 

(v) Pharmacognosy, phytochemistry and pharmacological screening of the endemic ethnomedicinal plants of the Western Ghats

Phytochemistry laboratory has been established for extraction, isolation, purification and characterization of the phytoconstituents.  Facilities are also developed for screening the in vitro antimicrobial and antioxidant activity of the essential oils, various extracts and fractions and isolated phytoconstituents of the medicinal plants. Pharmacological studies will be carried out of the aqueous lyophilized extracts of traditional medicinal plants used for antidiabetic and wound healing activities in collaboration with the Pharmacology Department, J. N. Medical College , KLE University , Belgaum . Isolation, purification and characterization of bioactive phytoconstituents from the various solvents extracts (non polar to polar) of medicinal plants of Western Ghats is in progress.

 

(vi) Operational research activities:

Since HIV is identified as one of the major public health issue in North Karnataka region our Centre is trying to address the research needs in this area by participating in multi-centric projects lead by National Aids Research Institute, Pune and Indian Council of Medical Research. Through this it is expected that not only quality data will be generated for use by policy makers, Human resources will be developed for qualitative and quantitative research methods.

 

Services provided to outsiders:

One of the mandates of the Centre is to improve infra-structural facilities and to strengthen human resources by serving the needs of local scientific community. The scientific staff the Centre is helping the researchers and students of various neighboring institutes. The services rendered are:

·     Plant identification

·     Information on collection, cultivation and utility of medicinal plants

·     Authentication of medicinal plants/drugs

·        Preliminary screening of phytoconstituents

·    Determination of in vitro antimicrobial activity of aqueous lyophilized and organic

       solvent extracts

·    Determination of in vitro antioxidant activity of aqueous lyophilized and organic      

      solvent extracts

·    Consultation for experimental design and statistical analysis of their results

The library facility of the Centre, which is the best of its kind in this region, is extensively used by the researches and students of various other institutes. Similarly, laboratory facility of the Centre, especially sophisticated equipments, is used by the researchers of neighboring institutes. Apart from this, the museum for ethnomedicinal plants of Western Ghats and the medicinal plants garden is attracting visitors from various backgrounds (Ayurveda, traditional practice, pharmaceuticals, herbal research), professions (Teachers, Students, Researchers, Herbal healers) and age groups. Regional Medical Research Centre is also serving as IEC Centre for Medicinal plants/ traditional herbal medicine in the region.

 

Reports on Seminars/Symposia/Workshops conducted by the institute:

n      Workshop on “Research Methodology in Herbal Medicine” for PG students, Garden City College , Bangalore , 27.12.2007 to 29.12.2007.

A two-day workshop for the students of biotechnology of Garden City College, Bangalore was arranged as per their request. About 10 students and 2 faculty members have attended the workshop. Various aspects like medicinal plants and their diversity, collection, identifications, herbarium preparation, screening and basic phytochemistry were covered in the workshop. Both lectures and hands on training sessions were arranged in which professors and scientists from the Centre and neighboring institutes guided the students.   

 

n      Knowledge sharing interactive workshop with Traditional Practitioners, 8th January 2008.

In this interactive workshop, 12 invited traditional practitioners of the region have participated. The practitioners shared their knowledge and experience in the workshop. The traditional treatments for various ailments were discussed in the light of modern science as both Ayurvedic and allopathic practitioners have also participated in the workshop.  The workshop helped to understand the mode of diagnosis and treatment methodology in the traditional medicine.

n      Workshop  on  ‘Research  Methodology  and  Opportunities  in Traditional   Medicine  Research’,   10th  January 2007. (Co-organized   with   BMK   Ayurveda   Mahavidyalaya, Belgaum )

The workshop was for the teachers, students and faculty members of BMK College of Ayurveda. The lectures were arranged on various aspects like ethno medicine, taxonomy, survey methods and biostatistics. The opportunities in the field of traditional medicine were discussed in detail. The features and utility of advanced software for documentationc and assessment of Ayurvedic principles called AYUSOFT was presented by Dr. Girish Tillu, CIDAC, Mumbai. The workshop created awareness and motivated the students and faculty members to take up the research in traditional medicine. 

 

n      National workshop on survey of medicinal plants in Western Ghats.27th -28th  September, 2008. (Co-organized   with   KLE University , Belgaum )

The two-day workshop was attended by participants from 8 states. On first day, the informative lectures were arranged on various topics relevant to medicinal plants of Western Ghats . The second day, field visit was arranged to the nearest forest areas for hands on training on collection, identification and herbarium preparation of medicinal plants. The methodology was demonstrated by experts in the filed. The Ayrvedic counterpart of the medicinal plants was elaborated by the Ayurvedic physicians in the field.  

 

n      23rd Annual National Conference of the Indian Society for Medical Statistics (ISMS), 20th-22nd January, 2006. (Co-organized   with   KLE’s JN Medical College, Belgaum )

In this National Conference scientists and statisticians from all over India have participated and actively interacted. Technical and scientific sessions were arranged in which both invited talks and oral presentations were conducted. Preconference CME was also arranged on 19th January 2006.