Development of transgenic wheat for increased iron and zinc bioavailability
A Competitive Research Grant of Rs. 27 Million has been awarded by PARB to FCC to work on this project in collaboration with NIBGE, Faislabad. According to the recent National Nutrition Survey, acute deficiencies of iron and zinc exist in our diet resulting in increased incidence of anemia, retarded growth and other abnormalities. Reduced bioavilabilty of these micronutrients is due to the presence of phytase which are known to be antinutrients. The strategy being adapted is to introduce a phytase gene in wheat which should be expressed in the seed endosperm resulting in degradation of phytate thus increasing bioavailability of the micronutrients.
Genetically modified biomass for biofuel production
Development of lignocellulosic biomass with reduced lignin content through genetic engineering for bioconversion to ethanol. The aim of this research is to develop biomass which may not need any pretreatment for saccharification. This genetically modified biomass may also be used in paper industry as it will have less lignin thus avoiding the use of noxious chemicals.
Biofertillizers for sustainable agriculture
Molecular biology of plant microbe interaction, elucidation of signal transduction pathways, metagenomic studies on the rhizosphere of plants growing in extreme environments – such studies are aimed as developing better biofertilizers for sustainable agriculture.
Algae are the most efficient converters of solar radiation to chemical energy. These are known to have high oil content. Research is underway to optimize the protocols for growing algae ion a large scale for oil extraction.
Plant transformation systems for introducing foreign genes are being established for the benefit of industry to undertake contract assignments.
Increasing phosphorus use efficiency in wheat
Phosphorus is a macronutrient and also a limiting factor for plant growth and development. Most soils contain significant amounts of total soil P but plants are unable to utilize it because the major component of soil organic phosphorus occurs as phytates. Phytase is an enzyme capable to hydrolyze the phytates into inorganice phosphorus (Pi) and myo-inositol. The project is aimed to express foreign phytase gene in plant roots to enhance phosphorous uptake.
Micropropagation of Jatropha
Tissue culture facilites are being used for micro propagation of Jatropha and other energy crops and for selection of higher oil producing varieties based on somaclonal variations.
Molecular diagnostics for livestock-based food pathogens (photograph)
Livestock-based food pathogens are responsible for infliction severe diseases and economic losses to the agriculture based economy of Pakistan. The project has been initiated to incorporate molecular approaches for rapid detection of common food-borne pathogens from raw and ready-to-eat meat and milk.
Facilities Available in Research Labs
The research laboratories at the department of biological sciences are equipped with state-of the art equipment. Following equipment is available in research laboratories facilitating research in the fields of microbiology, molecular biology, genetics, agriculture, genomics and many more.
- Gel Documentations System
- Gel Electrophoresis Systems (Protein and Nucleic Acid)
- Real Time PCR
- Conventional PCR (thermal cyclers)
- Gradient PCR
- Spectrophotometers – Single and Dual Beam
- Bead Beater
- Refrigerated Centrifuges (15 ml-1L)
- Autoclaves – Automated and Semiautomated
- Lab-Scale Fermenter – Automated
- Ultra-low Temperature Freezer (-80C)
- Orbital Shaker – Temperature and Microprocessor Controlled
- Temperature Controlled Shaker
- Gas Chromatograph (GC)
- Freeze Dryer
- Microscopes with Camera
- Hybridization Oven
- Rotary Evaporator with Chiller
- Fume Hood
- Biosafety Cabinets
- Microplate Reader (ELISA Reader)
- Microplate Washer (ELISA Washer)
- Ultra Pure Water Purification System
- UV Transilluminator
- DO Meter
- Conductivity Meter
- Ovens & Incubators
- Refrigerated Incubators
- Cold Cabinets (4C)
- Freezers (-20)
- Ice Machine
- Climate Room
- Tissue Culture Room
- Green House
- Botanic Garden
- Natural History Museum
Dr Samina Mehnaz (HEC-approved supervisor)
Research Interest: Plant Microbes Interactions, Characterization of Secondary Metabolites of Rhizobacteria
In an effort to minimize the use of chemicals in agriculture, my group is in pursuit of developing more efficacious bio-fertilizers and bio-pesticides.
The research plan involves the isolation of plant growth promoting rhizobacteria (PGPR) from roots, shoots and rhizosphere of plants belonging to diverse environmental backgrounds with divergent physiological attributes. We use microbiological and molecular biology tools and biochemical tests for the identification of bacterial isolates. These isolates are then screened for plant growth promoting abilities including nitrogen fixation, phosphate and zinc solubilizations, phytohormone productions, etc. The attained bacterial strains are tested for their effectiveness by inoculating them with a diverse range of plant species.The microflora attained is screened for its anti-pathogenic activity against bacterial and fungal pathogens for the development of bio-pesticides. The secondary metabolites are extracted, identified and characterized by using, TLC, HPLC, MS and NMR. Currently, we have a grant from HEC to work on bacteria which can be used as biocontrol (biopesticides) agents.
Dr Mian Wajahat Hussain (HEC-approved supervisor)
Research Interest: Plant Biochemistry, Enzymes Kinetics
We are interested in long-term effects of rising CO2 levels in the atmosphere on crop plants and interactive role of high temperature and CO2 on enzymes of carbohydrate metabolism. Moreover we are concerned with biochemical transformation during early stage of seedling development in cereal crops and the effects of heavy metal pollution on soil and plants.
Dr Hamid Saeed
Research Interest: Paleopalynology, Air Pollution, Sustainable Development, Solid Waste Management, Occupational Health and Safety
Dr Kauser Abdulla Malik (HEC-approved supervisor)
Research Interest: Molecular Biology of Plant Microbes Interactions, Osmo-Regulation and Bioenergy Production
Plants specifically crops are foremost in the initiation of the biotechnological boom as they cannot only be used to produce a diverse range of products but also generate ample amounts of food for the ever increasing population of Pakistan. My group is interested in elucidating the fundamental mechanisms and genetics targeted at improving plant productivity. These projects are aimed at building genetically engineered transgenic wheat varieties with enhanced bioavailability for iron and zinc and enriched fertilizer use efficiencies. We are also developing bio-fertilizers for boosting crop productivity and diagnostic strips for detection of Bt (Cry1ac and Cry2ab) genes in cotton. We are improving, upgrading and designing molecular biology based tools to detect food spoilage and are in the process of producing genetically modified biomass for biofuel production. We as a research group are adamant on discovering new and novel knowledge and technologies for the improvement of crops. Our long term vision in this regard is to contribute to alleviation of poverty and hunger, development of sustainable agricultural systems and the reduction of the negative impact that agriculture has on our environment. We believe that agricultural biotechnology can effectively suffice for these pressing needs and is the best tool to generate a positive influence on the grander scale.
Dr Muhammad Arslan (HEC-approved supervisor)
Research Interest: Endocrinology and Metabolism, Genetic and Endocrine Aspects of Obesity in Children, Reproductive Dysfunction Associated with Familial Metabolic Diseases. Obesity has emerged as a major global health burden with a number of associated chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, amongst others. During the last two decades, prevalence of obesity at an early age has markedly increased not only in the West but also in South Asian countries including Pakistan. Heritability studies indicate that genetic factors play a significant role in a predisposition to obesity leading to metabolic changes and altering the energy balance of the body. Our current research focuses on identifying known and novel genetic variants associated with early onset of severe obesity by screening key genes involved in the maintenance of body weight and energy balance. In addition, physiological changes in severely obese subjects are assessed by measuring circulating metabolites and hormones. It is expected that the present study will help in coupling genetic screening with metabolic profile, as a novel and more efficient diagnosis of severe obesity in the medical practice, leading to appropriate patient management.
Dr M Rehan Siddiqi
Research Interest: Integrative Plant Anatomy
Our group is interested in projects related to Botany, Comparative Anatomy, Physiological Anatomy, Ecological Anatomy, Taxonomy, and General Biology
Dr Aftab Bashir (HEC-approved supervisor)
Research Interest: Development of Transgenic Plants for Specific Traits including cotton fiber improvement, disease resistance, drought and salt tolerance and utilization of sweet proteins
My research areas mainly focus on the development of transgenic plants with improved nutritional quality and tolerance to abiotic stresses in wheat and improved quality of the cotton fiber traits. The key genes of interest include hormone homeostasis and water/ion transporter genes for wheat and cotton transformation. Regulation of these genes is crucial in plant vigor and fiber/fruit quality, prevention of premature apoptosis, ion homeostasis against abiotic stresses, cotton fiber elongation and regulation of isopentenyltransferase (IPT) which is vital to counteract drought and salt stress conditions. The modulation of hormone and ion homeostasis at the whole plant and specific tissue level to improve plant vitality and productivity is one of our goals. We are also interested in utilization of sweet proteins for improving the sweetness of fruits including citrus and Cucumis melo. At present the sweet protein genes including the Brazzien and Miraculin have been synthesized and the establishment of tissue culture system for Cucumis melo is underway. In addition, the transgene based identification of transgenic plants by developing the dipsticks against the expressed proteins is another area of focus. The technology for the development of dipsticks has been developed and tested against the Cry1Ac and Cry2ab (Bt) proteins. We are continuing our efforts for the commercial scale production of Bt testing dipsticks and also developing dipsticks for each of the genes that is used in our labs for development of transgenic plants.
Dr Khalid Zamir Rasib (HEC-approved supervisor)
Research Interest: Biology of Termites, Integrated Pest Management Strategies, Biological Control of Pests
Subterranean termites are one of the world’s most destructive, xylophagous pests of human structures and economically important plants. Nationwide costs for prevention, control, and repair attributable to subterranean termites is estimated to be in excess of $11 billion annually. Despite their economic impact, relatively little is known about these social insects.
Termite baiting systems are used as a pest management tool for the control of termites. These require information about their biology; specifically population ecology, optimum placement of bait-stations and discovery and consumption of active ingredients by termites for efficient pest control. Environmental concerns over the use of potent chemical termiticides have renewed interest in using pathogens for control of termites. The termite habitats are humid and of a relatively constant temperature. These are ideal for microbial growth, while crowded conditions and social interaction in termite nests encourage transmission of the pathogens.
Dr Natasha Anwar (HEC-approved supervisor)
Research Interest: Molecular Diagnostics of Infectious Diseases, Molecular Biology of Cancers
The aim of our research group is to translate information from basic science studies into applications for diagnostics medicine. As we have gained a better understanding of the molecular basis of these diseases we can use the information to improve diagnosis and management. We are currently working in the lab to develop and optimize assays for the detection of Dengue Fever Virus (DFV) – detection and genotyping of DFV RNA from human serum samples and adult mosquitoes. We are also assaying Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia (CML) – screening for the T315I mutation in patients treated with on tyrosine kinase inhibitors to distinguish and quantify wild type or T315I mutant ABL transcripts that render patient resistant to treatment. High specificity as few as 5 copies of the T315I mutant transcript or 0.025% (2.5×10(-4)) T315I mutant transcripts could be detected by this method. Additionally we are interested in developing improved assays for Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) – identification of rs12979860 polymorphisms in patients with HCV genotype 1 and 3 infections. A single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) rs12979860, upstream of the IL28b gene (interferon lambda 3) on chromosome 19 (C – T polymorphism) is a major predictor of natural viral clearance and response to antiviral therapy. Screening for SNP and also measuring IFN-gamma release from dendritic cells isolated and cultured from patients with genotype 3 infections will be correlated with viral clearance. Lastly we are studying and assaying Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTb) – development and commercialization of a blood based tuberculosis diagnostic in collaboration with UC Davis, USA through a US-PAK technology transfer grant UC Davis. We are also working with School of Biological Sciences and Ghulab Devi Chest Hospital for recruiting TB patients for the study.
Dr Aisha Saleem Khan (HEC-approved supervisor)
Research Interest: Plant Anatomy, Electron microscopy, Heavy Metal Toxicity
We are interested in using Hydrophytes (Waterlily and Lotus) as phytoremediators for treating industrial wastewater in constructed wetlands. The project aims at screening hyper-accumulators by studying how plants react to contaminated environment. Main objectives of this project are i) To access the efficacy of treated hydrophytes in overcoming issues related to water pollution through Atomic absorption spectroscopy, ii) To determine the mechanisms of heavy metals uptake and their accumulation in cellular compartments through morpho-anatomical tools, iii) To utilize hydrophytes to overcome issues of water pollution. This project is aimed at exploring the potential of hydrophytes as hyperaccumulators and to resolve issues related to water pollution.
Dr Saba Butt
Research Interest: Animal and Human Physiology, Endocrinology, Medical Microbiology, Protozoology
Antibacterial soaps, hand washes and detergents are common paraphernalia used in every household globally. These commodities are encumbered with a broad spectrum of antibacterial agents. These agents are not only extremely potent at hindering the growth of bacteria present on the skin, clothes and other surfaces but they can also impede and disturb the normal flora of the skin. This naturally occurring flora of the skin is indispensable and essential for health and natural cleansing of the skin. The goal of this project is to investigate the in vitro effects of various antibacterial soaps and detergents on the growth of naturally occurring and essential flora of the skin.
Dr Asma Maqbool (HEC-approved supervisor)
Research Interest: Plant Molecular Biology, Stress Tolerance, Genomics
Our group is working on the identification, transformation and promoter analysis of drought responsive genes from Gossypium arboreum and Gossypium hirsutum. Our group is also interested in developing transgenic wheat for increased iron and zinc bioavailability; this research was funded by PARB. Recently we have funded projects on wheat aimed at enhancing phosphorous use efficiency (funded by PSF), nitrogen use efficiency (funded by ALP) and lastly on evaluation of risk assessment of transgenic wheat (funded by ILSI Research Foundation). We are also using Eucalyptus to produce genetically modified biomass for biofuel production. This research is supported by HEC.
Dr Deeba Noreen Baig (HEC-approved supervisor)
Research Interest: Molecular Biology of Cognitive Diseases, Isolation and Identification of Vip (Insecticidal Protein) Positive Bacillus thuringenesis Strains
Bacillus thuringiensis produces a novel family of insecticidal proteins called vegetative insecticidal proteins (Vip) namely Vip1, Vip2, and Vip3 during its vegetative stage. Vip3 toxins have lepidopteran specificity, whereas Vip1 and Vip2 are binary toxins that are specific to coleoptera class/order of insects. The aim of the project is to isolate and identify vip positive strains of Bacillus thuringiensis. On the basis of their toxicity profile, new strains can be used as effective bioinsecticides against Lepidopteran insects. We endeavor at evaluating and developing insecticidal role of Bacillus thuringiensis Vip Proteins.
Dr Muhammad Irfan (HEC-approved supervisor)
Research Interest: Plant Molecular Biology, Stress Tolerance, Genomics
Our group is multi faceted as we are tackling diverse projects. We are primarily interested in using molecular biology techniques, genomics and bioinformatics for the enhancement of iron and zinc bioavailability in cereals, stress tolerance and improvement of fertilizer use efficiency. We are also interested in bio-safety and risk assessment of transgenes and development of molecular diagnostics for food borne pathogens.
Dr Nadeem Asad
Research Interest: RNAi and Effects of Medicinally Important Products on Caenorabhditis elegans, Development of Caenorabhditis elegans models to study human diseases
It has been reported that 43% of the known human genes have an orthologue in C. elegans. The goal of the project is to select the orthologue of human disease genes most amenable for analysis and study in the model organism C. elegans. Consequently, we will tease apart the underlying molecular events that trigger these genes to cause disease. We are also interested in developing C. elegans as a tool for screening drugs, extracts and chemicals for the following purposes; 1) attenuation of pathogens 2) anthelmintics purposes 3) increase in life span 4) fecundity 5) protection against ROS 6) effects of fungal extracts and hydrolytic enzymes on C. elegans.
Dr Syed Farhat Ali
Research Interest: Protein Biochemistry, Production of Industrial Enzymes
Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is an important technique widely used in molecular biology; gene cloning and mutagenesis; DNA labeling and microbial characterization; detection and diagnosis. A thermostable DNA polymerase is required for this technique. Current research is designed to evaluate the accuracy and fidelity of DNA synthesis by using a DNA polymerase from a hyperthermophilic archaeon Pyrobaculum calidifontis.
Dr Muhammad Imran
Research Interest: Structural Biology, Membrane protein Electron Microscopy and X-Ray Crystallography, Rational Design of Insecticides. My group is interested to apply the protein production and structure biology techniques to explore different biotechnologically important protein targets. Current projects include a) Development of dip strip assay for phytase, to be used for transgenic wheat expressing fungal phytase. b) Characterization of beta-C1 protein of cotton leaf curl virus. Future Projects include a) Rational design of insecticides and herbicide target development using structural biology approaches. b) Structural studies of glutathione binding proteins.
Dr Ibatsam Khokhar
Research Interest: Mycology and Plant Pathology
We intend on doing fungal analysis using molecular biological tools for better classification and screening for species that are hyper producers of secondary metabolites. The goal of our project is to isolate economically important fugal species and subject them to a more stringent and rigorous classification system. Our project entails the isolation, purification and preservation of mycoflora. Identification of mycoflora on morphological and molecular basis. Preparing appropriate data recording system for future reference and isolation of fungal secondary metabolites for therapeutics and industrial use.