Shiv Nadar Institution of Eminence and the Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology, Delhi Host India | EMBO Lecture Course on Ageing

Rangoli made by Shreyasi Mitra from the Shiv Nadar Institution of Eminence

Ageing is a multifaceted process that manifests at various levels, from single cells to entire organisms. However, despite extensive research, much remains to be discovered about ageing and its associated conditions such as neurodegenerative disorders and cancer. Understanding ageing has become critical not only to counter such diseases and improve the quality of life of the elderly, but also to be able to implement appropriate national policies. 

In light of this, EMBO and the DBT/Wellcome Trust India Alliance recently held a lecture course on post-transcriptional regulation in ageing and age-related diseases at two reputed institutions in India—the Shiv Nadar Institution of Eminence (SNIoE) and the Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology, Delhi (IIITD)—from 10th to 15th June 2024. This event was part of the annual lecture series jointly funded by EMBO and the India Alliance, aimed at educating participants on contemporary understandings of various scientific topics. Additional sponsors for this course were the Hevolution Foundation and the American Federation for Aging Research

The lead organiser for the event was Dr. Geetanjali Chawla, SNIoE. Other organisers included Prof. Pankaj Kapahi, Buck Institute for Research on Aging, USA; Dr. Arnab Mukhopadhyay, National Institute of Immunology, India; Dr. Gaurav Ahuja, IIITD; and Dr. Ina Huppertz, Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing, Germany.

The course was divided into four sessions, each covering a different theme under ageing and age-related diseases: Proteostasis; Non-coding RNAs and RNA modifications; RNA-binding proteins, RNA granules, nonsense‐mediated mRNA decay, and mRNA localization; and Omics, AI, and systems biology approaches. The first two sessions were held at SNIoE, while the rest were held at IIITD. Together, these sessions collectively provided a comprehensive view of the current research frontiers in the field. 

In his welcome address, Prof. Sanjeev Galande, Dean of the School of Natural Sciences at SNIoE, emphasised the institution’s interdisciplinary approach to education, which is crucial for fields like molecular biology. He explained, “Interdisciplinarity is the major hallmark of our university. We are committed to providing a globalised experience in a localised setting.” This commitment is reflected in SNIoE’s Centre for Excellence in Epigenetics, the Center for Integrative and Translational Research (CITRES), and the upcoming Centre for Metabolism and Ageing—underscoring the institution's dedication to advancing research and education in critical areas related to ageing.

A group photo of the participants of the India|EMBO Lecture Course at SNIoE

Amongst the organisers, Dr. Mukhopadhyay and Prof. Kapahi chaired Session 1, with Prof. Kapahi discussing the role of glycation stress in ageing-related diseases. Dr. Chawla initiated Session 2, discussing her group's research on dietary restriction modulated microRNAs. Dr. Huppertz chaired Sessions 2 and 3, and delivered a talk on RNA-binding proteins as metabolic regulators in ageing. Dr. Ahuja chaired Session 4 and spoke about mechanistic artificial intelligence for decrypting anti-aging interventions.

The lecture course attracted several other eminent speakers from around the world as well, contributing to the richness of the discussions. Dr. Arjumand Ghazi from the University of Pittsburgh, USA, spoke about the role of mRNA splicing in ageing, which was uncovered while working with the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. Prof. Daniel Promislow, University of Washington, USA, spoke about the genetic variations occurring during ageing, uncovered using a systems biology approach. Dr. Gaurav Chopra, Purdue University, USA, spoke about his work on understanding the role of lipid accumulation and dysfunction of glial immune cells in neurodegenerative disorders. Dr. Koyeli Mapa, SNIoE, discussed how aggregated proteins affect mitochondria, focusing on mitochondria as a cellular hotspot for proteotoxicity. Dr. Kausik Chakraborty, CSIR-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology, explored the complexities of protein folding and the role of chemical molecules like arginine. Dr. John LaCava from the University of Groningen, NL, spoke about the role of retrotransposons in ageing and neurodegeneration. 


Talks by some of the speakers at the event

Each session also included a theme-specific poster presentation. True to the spirit of such meetings, the students and trainees presenting the posters actively engaged with their audience to explain their work. The poster sessions and other sessions such as “Meet the Speakers” provided ample networking opportunities for students as well as senior researchers. “The poster sessions were terrific. I had some great conversations with the trainees presenting the posters. I also had conversations with some colleagues which I think might lead to collaborations,” said Prof. Promislow. Dr. Kausik Chakraborty expressed excitement about engaging with young students, saying, "We all look forward to meeting the young students and telling them why we are excited about our work." Dr. Gaurav Chopra added, "It’s wonderful to have such meetings where the diversity is across the globe."

The lecture course concluded with an award ceremony where five outstanding posters received $200 each, sponsored by the Hevolution Foundation—these posters were by Swarang Sachin Pundlik, Talat Zahra, Omkar Koppaka, Yasir Hosen, and Shreyasi Mitra. Apostolos Mourtzinos received the EMBO prize for the best poster and Mansi Srivastava bagged the EMBO best speaker award. The award ceremony celebrated the achievements and contributions of participants to the field of ageing research.

Owing to better healthcare systems and standards of living, the global life expectancy has more than doubled. Consequently, every country is experiencing population ageing. India is no exception. As highlighted by Dr. Colin Jamora, Head, Department of Life Sciences, SNIoE, about 20% of India's population will be over 60 years old in 2030, and the number of elderly is projected to reach ~347 million by 2050. According to Dr. Mukhopadhyay, "Society in general is aging faster due to metabolic diseases. It’s about time we start focusing on really understanding the basic mechanisms of ageing. The aspiration should be to live healthily rather than just longer."

The importance of initiatives like this India-EMBO lecture course cannot be overstated. They push forward the research frontiers related to ageing, enabling science to inform practices and policies involving the elderly. As Dr. Chawla noted, “Such a meeting around the topic of ageing is happening probably after 10 years and we hope to continue to organise such events to bring people together and bring in new collaboration opportunities to institutions in India.”

As India’s demographic shifts, data-backed policies informed by cutting-edge research will be essential to meet the nation’s vision for ‘Viksit Bharat’ by 2047. This event marks a significant step towards achieving that goal, paving the way for more such dialogues and collaborations in the future.