In India when it comes to health, we like to confine our discussions to weight problems, diet issues, blood pressure, diabetes and other lifestyle diseases. Very rarely, do we delve into the part of our body that does all the heavy duty work – our brain. You can understand this better if you consider that there is only one institute that focusses entirely on brain – the National Brain Research Centre (NBRC) in Gurgaon. However, the good news is that outstanding and word class research is going on at NBRC.
Dr. Pravat Mandal, professor at NBRC and adjunct associate professor at John Hopkins, is one such scientist whose ground-breaking research in Alzheimer’s has opened up new avenues for early detection of the disease. Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is one of the most common brain disorders, with an estimated 35 million people affected worldwide. Diagnosis continues to rely primarily on neuropsychological tests which can only detect the disease after clinical symptoms begin.
It is for this reason why the early AD detection technique found out by Dr. Mandal is of immense importance.He conducts a non-invasive magnetic resonance spectroscopy on patients to detect neurochemicals as well as brain pH mapping.Before any manifestation of brain disorder, certain chemical changes occur in the specific regions of the brain. Thus by studying them, Alzheimers can be diagnosed at a much earlier stage and suitable medications can be given. His research points out that the pH of brain is related to Alzheimer’s – alkalinity of the hippocampus region of the brain indicates Alzheimer’s.The 13-minute-long non-invasive test developed by Mandal and his team is being performed in collaboration with Manjari Tripathi of the AIIMS’ neurology department.
Dr. Mandal has also discovered a biomarker for early detection of AD. His team used a new technique to quantify oxidative stress in human brain by employing non-invasive imaging .They successfully tracked Glutathione (GSH), which serves as an important anti-oxidant in the brain, in young people as well as patients with Alzheimer’s Disease using the technique.The GSH content was found to be higher in healthy individuals as compared to patients suffering from AD.
The test is available free of charge for the first time in India at the NBRC. More than 300 people, mostly referred by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), have benefited from the test, introduced about a year and half ago.
Dr. Pravat Mandal is a graduate from IIT,Madras. He did his Postdoctoral Fellowship at University of California. He served as an Assistant Professor in Dept. of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh Medical School. Apart from professoriate, he serves as a senior editor in Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and as a guest editor in the American Journal of Neuroradiology.
There is one thing that he said when I met him which I will never forget – “I do what I do because I love people. I want my research to improve the lives of people.” India is really fortunate to have such scientists and I was lucky to have got the chance to meet him.
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