CSIR-National Institute of Oceanography (CSIR-NIO), Goa, set sail on RV Sindhu Sadhana flagged off from the Visakhapatnam coast in Andhra Pradesh on 14 March 2021, on a three-month-long quest to map the genomic and proteomic diversity of the Indian Ocean. Peering into the biochemical processes in ocean life, the scientists also hope to come back with a deeper understanding of how the ocean responds to climate change, nutrient stress and pollution.
The cruise will be completed in two legs starting from the east coast of India, travelling to the Southern hemisphere up to 30oS, and ending at Goa.RV Sindhu Sadhana will cover a distance of nearly 10,000 nautical miles trying to identify and characterise genes and proteins from marine life.
Scientists from CSIR-NIO plan to utilise the emerging biomedical techniques, such as proteomics, genomics, trace metals along macro and micro-nutrients to reveal the internal working of the vast body of the ocean at the cellular level. The main aim is to identify and characterise the genes and proteins in the ocean to understand the cellular level operations of organisms in the ocean.
Proteins act as catalyst for the biogeochemical reactions in the organisms in the ocean. By studying proteomics one can identify the biogeochemistry of the organisms under varying ocean conditions. These studies will permit an understanding of the cellular biochemistry and the response of the ocean to climate change, nutrient stress, and increasing pollution. This study will enable scientists to identify the factors controlling the changes in RNA and DNA in the oceans and various stressors impacting them.
Further, they will be used as tracers to track the causative factors and suggest possible solutions for their mitigation impacting society. Besides, the large pools of RNA and DNA library of the oceans will be used for future bio-prospecting in the Indian Ocean for human benefit. Rapid advances in sequencing technologies and bioinformatics have enabled the exploration of the ocean genome.
Exploring the ocean genome will help to expand the growing number of commercial biotechnology applications, extending from multiple anti-cancer treatments to cosmetics and industrial enzymes to anti-viral molecules. As marine genomics increasingly enters the big data realm, the challenges to access it are increasingly loaded towards computational and bioinformatics capacity, a trend that will continue in the future. Exploration of the ocean at a genetic level will result in new insights into the taxonomy and adaptive capacity that can help optimise conservation efforts under SDG14.