Rengan is an assistant professor at IIT Hyderabad. From being a
medical doctor to becoming a nanoscientist, he took a rather
circuitous route to becoming a researcher. In an interesting and
entertaining talk today at YIM 2017, Aravind talked about his
research. Below are excerpts from an subsequent interview with IndiaBioscience.
In your talk today you mentioned Brachistochrone — a concept from
physics-is a metaphor for your life and research. Can you please
elaborate on that?
is a problem in physics put forward by Bernoulli in the 17th
century where he asked what is the fastest route to travel from point
A to B? Intuitively one would think that the shortest path would be
the fastest. But it is not so. Here gravity plays a role and it is
the longer route which is fastest. This fastest path is shaped
somewhat like a curve and is called the Brachistochrone path.
in my career I took a longer route. After finishing my MBBS I decided
to do an M.Tech and I was the oldest in my class. A PhD followed and
eventually I was able to get a faculty position in IIT, Hyderabad.
Surprisingly, I am one of the younger ones in the lot. So I took a
longer path and yet was fast. That’s the analogy I was trying to draw on.
us a bit about what do you work on in your lab?
is a good analogy for how I approached work in my lab too. Usually
people start with a nanomaterial, look at its applications and
publish. However, in my lab we are going that extra mile to see if
our nanomaterial can qualify for clinical validation too. We are
taking the longer route and yet hoping to get there faster.
work with silica gold — a nanomaterial used in photothermal therapy to
treat cancer. It is a nonbiodegradable material, and it stays in the
body for a long time. It is too big to be excreted out of the body
through the renal route. It needs to be in the range of 5-8 nm to be
excreted that way. However, this size range is not acceptable for
photothermal therapy; it is too small.
come up with a novel way of synthesising these particles that help
them meet both criteria — effective renal clearance and optimal
phototherapy. What we have done is replace the silica in silica-gold
with liposomes. Our gold-coated liposomes are big enough to respond
to phototherapy. Additionally, during the process of phototherapy,
they are degraded into very small particles that can be effectively
cleaned out of the body through the renal route.
you doing something to make your research more relevant in the Indian context?
liposomes we use are very expensive, which makes any drug modeled on
our nanomaterial very expensive too. We are now working to replace it
with things that cost less and can make drugs more affordable.
in nanotechnology has exploded in India in the recent past. Every
week we have a paper that either talks about a more efficient way of
synthesising a nanomaterial or about a new magical nanomaterial.
However, hardly anything gets translated into a real product. What do
you have to say about that?
as a researcher one always thinks of doing something novel. Currently
the novelty lies in making more fancy nanomaterial. It is also
important for getting our publications.
translating all this research into a commercially or a clinically
viable product takes some time. For example Doxil and Abraxane are
two nanodrugs available for breast cancer. Technology for these was
developed long ago. So all the new research coming out now, might or
might not get translated into something worthwhile. But we won’t know
until some time.