News Item

Stories from InSDB24: Interview with Nikhil Kumar

Added on: 30-April, 2024

Nikhil is a graduate student in the lab of Dr. Dasaradhi Palakodeti. He works at the interface of regeneration and stem cell biology. 

Can you tell us a little bit about the research presented in your winning poster at InSDB24? 

Planaria, a remarkable organism known for its extraordinary regenerative abilities, has been the focus of our research. Pluripotent stem cells known as neoblast play a pivotal role in this regenerative process. I am interested in studying mechanisms that regulate pluripotency in the stem cell populations of planaria. Utilizing single-cell transcriptome sequencing, we meticulously analyzed the previously uncharacterized (rare population) stem cells in the G1 phase (nonproliferative phase) of the cell cycle that are non-committed and essential for regeneration.

What did you find from your sequencing data??

Our study identified a group of 11 genes that are enriched in the G1 non-committed neoblast and are critical for the maintenance of pluripotency and regulation of the cell cycle in these rare populations. Knockdown experiments targeting these genes revealed profound effects on various aspects of stem cell behavior, including migration, distribution, survival, and proliferation. Our findings shed light on the intricate molecular processes governing stem cell maintenance, cell cycle regulation, and regeneration in planaria, offering valuable insights into the fundamental mechanisms of tissue regeneration. 

Great! Why did you pursue this particular topic for your research? What’s the one thing about your project that keeps you excited? 

From a young age, my fascination with Marvel characters like Wolverine and Hulk, particularly their extraordinary regenerative abilities, ignited my interest in science. During my master’s studies, I was looking for laboratories specializing in regeneration for my dissertation research. It was during this search that I discovered the Palakodeti lab and promptly reached out to Dr. Palakodeti for my dissertation work. During my dissertation work, I became increasingly drawn to the field of regeneration and realized that it was where my passion truly lies. What keeps me most excited about my project is two-fold: First, the remarkable organism at the center of our research: planaria. Their endearing eyes and remarkable regenerative abilities never fail to captivate me. Working with them reminds me of the incredible diversity and complexity of life on Earth. Second, planaria serve as a unique model system due to their status as a “bag of stem cells.” The unparalleled rate at which these stem cells divide and differentiate to facilitate growth and regeneration, with minimal error, is nothing short of astounding. I often find myself pondering why humans are prone to cancer, while planaria exhibit such remarkable efficiency in regeneration. Our project seeks to unravel the intricacies of stem cell regulation in planaria, aiming to shed light on this enigmatic phenomenon. 

You are definitely passionate about what you do. Coming to the conference, among the many posters that were presented at InSDB24, which one intrigued you the most, and why? 

At InSDB24, I found Nikhil Mishra’s poster, “Cell Cycle Synchronization in Zebrafish Early Embryo,” really interesting. Nikhil’s research looks at how zebrafish embryos change from being perfectly synchronized to not synchronized during their development which is a result of uncoupled internal clocks but not cell-cell coupling. The work shows that the cell size could be influencing these cycling periods. By examining patterns of cell cycle lengthening, cell size variations, and the distributions of mitotic regulators across the embryo, we can better understand the mechanisms governing early embryonic development. Overall, his research helps us learn more about how animals grow from tiny embryos. His work is a big step forward in understanding how life begins. 

What was the most exciting part of participating in the conference? What are some learnings and takeaways you gained from InSDB24? 

Participating in InSDB24 was truly enriching. One highlight was the engaging “developmental dance,” a unique event seamlessly combining knowledge, creativity, and enjoyment. It provided a refreshing and entertaining way to absorb new information, which was truly phenomenal. Among the memorable moments were the enlightening talks delivered by esteemed researchers. Dr. Deepak Srivastava’s presentation on “Cellular reprogramming approaches to heart disease” was particularly intriguing, showcasing transformative insights into disease modeling and therapeutic strategies. Similarly, Dr. Hiroshi Hamada’s discussion on the “Diversity of left-right asymmetry among animals” underscored the breadth and depth of developmental biology inquiry. Furthermore, the conference provided valuable insights into the diverse socio-economic factors influencing developmental biology research in India and abroad. This increased understanding reaffirmed the importance of contextual relevance and societal impact in scientific exploration. My participation in InSDB24 not only deepened my appreciation for the interdisciplinary nature of developmental biology but also highlighted its potential to address pressing societal needs and foster inclusive growth. I am grateful to the organizers for providing such an enriching platform and the opportunity to directly engage with leading scientists, further fueling my passion for scientific inquiry. 

What are your future plans? 

Right now, I am focusing on my research project, and hope to gain a deeper understanding of stem cells. Post-PhD, I would like to pursue a postdoctoral position in this field.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Free & Available to all. Subscribe to stay up to date with event, resources and other updates in the field of Development Biology.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.