In 2006, the Amrita Centre for Nanosciences and Molecular Medicine started as a blank slate – just a group of focused and passionate researchers led by Dr. Shantikumar Nair. Dr.Nair had come to Amrita the previous year with a fair number of accomplishments already under his belt – a background in metallurgic engineering at IIT Bombay, postdoctoral work at Columbia University, almost twenty years at University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and a collection of distinguished awards to his name including the Presidential Young Investigator Award presented to him by the President of the United States. Today, as a professor, the Dean of Research, and Director of ACNS, Dr. Nair has not only glorified the name of Amrita, but raised the national standard of nanotechnology to new heights. Considered as one of the top thirty researchers in the country, his ongoing work has made him the recipient of the prestigious National Research Award from the Ministry of Science and Technology.

Understandably, having as celebrated a professional as Dr. Nair speak at ASBT this week as part of the Seminar Series was a real treat for both students and faculty alike.  Dr. Nair concentrated his talk on nanotechnology in medicine, specifically nanomedicines and tissue engineering/regenerative medicine.

the treatment of cancers, such as chronic myeloid leukemia, are being At ACNS, nanomedicines for synthesized to improve drug delivery in the body. The concept is that cancer cells often over-express certain surface molecules – for example CD33 in acute myeloid leukemia and transferrin receptors in chronic myeloid leukemia. By targeting these surface molecules, Dr. Nair and his team have synthesized nanomedicines that combine both therapeutics and diagnostics to specifically recognize cancer cells.To test the effectiveness of drug delivery, gold nanoparticle clusters associated with protein nanoparticles that are stable, non-toxic, and fluoresce a red color are used. These red indicators are useful from the diagnostic perspective – it makes it easy to detect if a patient has cancerous cells as the nanoparticles are engulfed by the cells making the cell appear to be red. A specific example of this method of drug delivery is seen inTf-nAlb-Soraf, a nanomedicine engineered at ACNS used to treat CML. Using transferrin receptors as targets for drug delivery may otherwise suffer through harsher treatments. The effectiveness of the drug shows positive results – the drug appears to have high retention within the cells and low release in the blood. , the drug consists of transferrin, an anticancer drug (sorafenib), and plasma protein (albumin).This method is advantageous because only infected cells in the body are affected, thus alleviating the pain cancer patients

Although focusing mainly on the research on nanomedicines at ACNS, Dr. Nair spent a few minutes discussing the Centre’s work on tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. He mentioned that the most important point to remember when dealing with these topics is the requirement of developing a suitable extracellular matrix for the regeneration of tissues. His labs are working on the production of cartilage, bone, cardiac, vascular, and liver tissue with the most success so far in bone regeneration using a nanostructure made of fibrin and alginate that closely resembles the structure of naturally occurring bone extracellular matrix.

Dr. Nair’s seminar at ASBT only mentioned the tip of the iceberg. We sincerely hope that Dr. Nair will visit ASBT in the near future to elaborate more on the many other ground-breaking projects he and his team are leading.

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