BRACU students visit BCSIR
Md. Riajul Hossain
A group of 10 MS biotechnology students of BRAC University visited BCSIR (Bangladesh Council of Scientific and Industrial Research) on 24 June. The team was led by Md. Riajul Hossain, Lecturer in Biotechnology. Dr. Shamima Begum, former Senior Scientific Officer of industrial microbiology section, IFST (Institute of Food Science and Technology) currently working as Assistant Professor of Jagannath University guided the whole team throughout the visit. Dr. Shamima herself demonstrated the production process of various products developed by BCSIR industrial microbiology lab, some of which have already been commercialized. The industrial microbiology lab has developed production processes for various fermented foods including citric acid , acetone butanol from molasses, dextran, fermented soy sauce, Miso soup, high protein rice flour, high quality vinegar etc. Also various microbial enzymes of industrial importance are produced as the metabolic by product of indigenous microorganisms and Baker's yeast is produced as biomass to serve a demanding market where most of this product is imported from foreign countries. The students were provided with the brief description of the production processes of a few products.
“The BCSIR worked for about nine years to optimize the production process of soy sauce in terms of aging and nourishing with salt loving microorganisms”-Dr. Shamima told the students.
The team was also taken to the Food Microbiology lab-1. One of the scientific officers of that lab described different research programmes of that lab. He informed the students that various basic and applied works are carried out by this food microbiology lab which covers work on probiotics with Lactobacillus as the desired microorganism, various microbiological assessments (the amount of microorganisms, pathogens present in a food whether made locally or mported).
They also perform the quality control of the different food products in this lab.
Then the students were taken to see the newly established Food Microbiology lab-2 which is being equipped with modern facilties to make it a standard food microbiology lab to apply latest molecular biology techniques for isolation and identification of microorganisms of interest in food and environment. Here food analysis, risk assessment, molecular characterization of various food related agents such as toxins some of which are extremely harmful for our poultry and veterinary industry are regularly analyzed. The lab is introducing the culture collection system for the first time in Bangladesh. The students were excited to see the latest molecular biology equipment, and to know the techniques applied by those equipment and how they function. Facilities included PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction), HPLC (High Performance Liquid Chromatography), agarose and SDS-PAGE gel electrophoresis, spectrophotometer, microscope etc.
The students found the newly added gel documentation system very attractive and they were curious about the Biosafety Level-3 (BSL-3) cabinet, which is yet to be installed. Biosafety Level-3 cabinet deals with highly pathogenic microorganisms, which are destroyed inside the cabinet after working with that to prevent unwanted release of a threatening microorganism which could be a potential biohazard for the environment.
Last but not the least the students visited the spirulina lab and the spirulina pilot plant under the Biological Research Division where spirulina is produced commercially by BCSIR. Our visiting team came to know about the history of spirulina production in Bangladesh and the nutrient composition, food value and the various health effects of spirulina in human. Spirulina is the staple food of Lake Chad located in central Africa. Dr. Flora Majid, ex-Chairman of BCSIR introduced the technology for culture of spirulina in 1988 and in 1989 production of spirulina was started in pilot plant scale before its commercialization. Presently, over six companies are producing spirulina commercially in our country. Spirulina has been approved as a human food for consumption by many governments, health agencies and associations of over 70 countries. In the lab of BCSIR, they continuously maintain the seed culture of spirulina in large conical flasks and then transfer to the pilot plant so that fresh seed culture can be provided in case contamination occurring in the pilot plant. Moreover, before transferring to the pilot plant, the growth and production parameters are optimized in a small tank.
Although the very first variety used in the spirulina production was imported from outside but now local varieties of spirulina developed by the BCSIR are used for commercial production. Among the positive health effects of spirulina are lowering of blood cholesterol, correcting iron anemia, recovering from malnutrition, weight lowering effects, treating external wounds, treating diabetes and arsenicosis. It is reported that 10 gm of spirulina intake per day can treat arsenicosis within 4 months time. With all these information from the spirulina lab and production plant, the BRACU Biotech team ended their BCSIR visit. Coordinator of the Dept. Of Biotechnology Professor Naiyyum Choudhury arranged the visit in consultation with Chairman, BCSIR and his former student, Dr. Shamima Begum. The team acknowledges his contribution for the commenced visit.