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Sankara Nethralaya sets its sights high

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AN EYE ON PROGRESS: Researchers at University of Missouri, Kattesh V. Katti (right) and Raghuraman Kannan, addressing a press meet at Sankara Nethralaya on Friday.
AN EYE ON PROGRESS: Researchers at University of Missouri, Kattesh V. Katti (right) and Raghuraman Kannan, addressing a press meet at Sankara Nethralaya on Friday.

Staff Reporter

Nanotechnology research planned with support of Indian scientists from University of Missouri

CHENNAI: Research using nanotechnology will form part of the activities of National Institute for Research in Visual Sciences (NIRVO), a research arm of premier eye care institution Sankara Nethralaya. In its upcoming seven-storeyed building in the city, a floor will be dedicated to research activities in nanotechnology and it will be designed with technical support from United States scientists.

As part of this effort, the institution is planning to tie up with Radiology Department in University of Missouri - Cancer Nanotechnology Platform, said Lingam Gopal, chairman, Sankara Nethralaya, which is a unit of Medical Research Foundation. Initially, NIRVO will work in the field of nanotechnology to study cell cultures, image tissues and drug delivery. The technical support for its effort comes from two Indian scientists — Kattesh V. Katti and Raghuraman Kannan in University of Missouri. The visiting academics are still in “fact-finding stage aimed to benefit both Sankara Nethralaya and the United States,” according to Dr. Katti. Since most human disorders start at the cellular level, it is necessary to address the problem at this level. Nanomedicine involves using nanoparticles to identify a diseased cell and then using therapy to correct the defect. “Nanomedicine has a role in any disease. We just have to find the right application. Most of the human disorders start at the cellular level. To address a disease at the cellular level, we need man-made material. Nanoparticles can be designed to fit the size of a cell. If these nanoparticles can be attached to a cell then we can stop the onset of the disease,” explained Dr. Katti.

So far the experiments have been limited to cancerous cells. Scientists at University of Missouri are experimenting on pigs as their physiology is similar to that of humans. The investigation is carried out in three steps: i) injecting different types of proteins through gold nanoparticles and looking at behavioural changes, allergic reactions and antigen development; ii) trying to understand where these nanoparticles localise and how many nanoparticles each organ receives.

The standardised Neutron Activation Analysis test is used to assess the amount of nanoparticles; iii) this will help differentiate normal cell versus cancerous cells.

The researchers said the findings had showed that nanoparticles go to tumour cells, to a large extent. “In two-to-five years we will have a drug usable for humans as we already know what kind of nanoparticles to use and how we can address the cancerous cells,” he said.

Benefit for patients

At Sankara Nethralaya, the treatment modality could benefit people suffering from age-related macular degeneration. In this, people develop new blood vessels under the retina causing haemorrhage. The nanoparticles are fixated around the blood vessels.

The scientists would like Nethralaya to treat people suffering from a rare but debilitating disease, ‘Pseudoxanthoma elasticum’.

It is characterised by progressive calcification and fragmentation of elastic fibres in the retina. Nethralaya was chosen for its track record, Dr. Katti said.

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