BHU’s Human DNA Bank: A Make In India Initiative

BHU, or Banaras Hindu University, is one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in India. It is also home to a pioneering project that aims to create North India’s first human DNA bank. This DNA bank will store the genetic information of thousands of people from different regions and communities, and will help in advancing personalised medicine and genetic research.

What is a human DNA bank?

A human DNA bank is a repository of biological samples and data that contain the genetic information of individuals or populations. A human DNA bank can be used for various purposes, such as:

  • Studying the genetic diversity and ancestry of different groups of people
  • Identifying the genetic factors that influence health and disease
  • Developing new drugs and therapies that are tailored to the individual’s genetic profile
  • Solving forensic cases and paternity disputes
  • Preserving the genetic heritage of endangered or extinct populations

How is BHU creating a human DNA bank?

BHU has installed an automated DNA extractor machine in the Gnyaneshwar Lab of the Zoology Department on January 30 2024 . This machine is completely indigenous and made under the Make in India initiative. It can extract DNA from any biological material, such as blood, saliva, hair or tissue, in just 30 minutes. It can process up to 32 samples at a time, and uses minimal plastic to reduce environmental impact.

The machine was inaugurated by Professor Gyaneshwar Chaubey, who is leading the project of creating a human DNA bank at BHU. He said that the machine will help in collecting and analysing the DNA samples of 50,000 people from North India over the next five years . He also said that the project will follow the ethical guidelines and consent protocols of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).

The project was inspired by a conference on personalised medicine that was organised by BHU and Adnet Society, Hyderabad, in March 2023. The conference was attended by 21 famous scientists from 15 countries, who suggested that BHU should create a genome bank like the one in Estonia.

What is the Estonian model of genome banking?

Estonia is a small European country that has created a national genome bank that contains the samples and data of 20 percent of its population. The genome bank was established in 2000, and has been used for various purposes, such as:

  • Providing personalised health reports and risk assessments to the participants
  • Improving the diagnosis and treatment of rare diseases
  • Enhancing the drug development and clinical trials
  • Supporting the public health policies and research
  • Promoting the biotechnology and innovation sector

The Estonian model of genome banking is considered to be one of the most successful and advanced examples of integrating genomics into healthcare and society.

What are the benefits of creating a human DNA bank at BHU?

Creating a human DNA bank at BHU will have several benefits for India, such as:

  • Improving the understanding of the genetic diversity and history of North India
  • Identifying the genetic variants that are associated with common diseases and traits
  • Developing new drugs and therapies that are suitable for the Indian population
  • Providing personalised medicine and preventive care to the participants
  • Enhancing the scientific research and education in genomics
  • Boosting the biotechnology and innovation sector in India

Professor Chaubey said that creating a human DNA bank at BHU will bring about a big change in the field of health, and will also help in preserving the genetic heritage of North India.

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