Students conduct research to aid spinal cord patients

Published: September 30, 2013
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The future of medical science can be found at Southeast Missouri State University.

Dr. Santaneel Ghosh of the Physics and Engineering Physics Department is conducting cellular research with a variety of Southeast students. The students are developing nano-particles that could aid victims of spinal cord injuries.

While the primary focus of their research is geared toward people who have sustained severe spinal cord injuries, Ghosh said their research also will benefit stroke victims who have lost mobility function. The nano-structures also may be useful for treating certain cancers, such as bladder and prostate, by killing the cancer cells. As of now, that isn’t their focus.

“Right now we are using those particles for spinal cord injuries like after a motor vehicle accident or a gunshot wound,” Ghosh said. “A lot of neurons and nerve cells are destroyed. These cells are not like skin cells; once they are destroyed, they are destroyed.”

Ghosh and his students are optimistic about their research. Based on their findings, it is possible that in the near future the nano-structures could be manipulated to reverse the adverse effects of neurological damage so injured individuals may continue to live without the struggles associated with neurological stressors. Through trial and error, the students are seeing positive results.

“We have very interesting results,” Ghosh said. “We have seen very promising results, on which we are conducting our next set of experiments. We have presented our results at many national and international conferences.”

Once in the body, the nano-structures may be remotely controlled by external stimulation. The structures are manipulated by adding the correct amount of heat, light or magnetism.

According to Ghosh, living cells will remain untouched by the nano-structures. While these structures cannot completely replace the dead or damaged cells in the body, they may help fill the gap as natural cells would.

It can be explained like this: When a road is broken, cars cannot pass, but nano-structures act as a bridge, so traffic may flow like normal. It’s not the original road, but it may act as a replacement.

The next step in their research, according to Ghosh, is a preclinical stage or rodent testing.

Rahul Atmaramani is a sophomore at Southeast studying biomedical science. Atmaramani has worked on this project since the spring of 2012 and will continue to be involved until he graduates. He explained what has to happen in order for the research team to move forward.

“In order to take it forward to the preclinical stage, we must be sure to find optimum conditions where neurite growth occurs,” Atmaramani said. “The conditions involve complex magnetic exposures, light activation and neurite growth factors. Once we are assured of a set of optimum conditions that produce the best neurite growth, we will be ready for the preclinical stage.”

Atmaramani said he and his fellow team members’ goal is to discover and explain certain conditions that best suit neurite growth. He said it is essential to understand, diagnose and treat damages that have occurred during a traumatic injury to the spinal cord or a stroke.

“Our influence on these cells is extremely important to treat neurological diseases,” Atmaramani said.

According to Ghosh, the students working on the cellular research are broken up into three groups and each have different objectives. Atmaramani’s group is focused on optical magnetic stimulation of cells.

“Our group is working on conditions that have not yet been done by any research team,” Atmaramani said. “We are concentrating our efforts to study neurite growth when neurons are activated simultaneously by magnetism as well as optics.”

One of the more important components of the program, according to Ghosh, is the students’ diversity and participation. Each student from different fields of study brings different knowledge that can be applied to their research.

Ghosh said it’s absolutely necessary to have students from different fields of study so there is a variety of perspectives and approaches to a problem.

“The graduate and undergraduate students are both participating,” Ghosh said. “It’s very much like teamwork. It’s a very diverse student group. We have national and international students working in groups so they get better exposure to each others’ culture, which will help them when they go forth in graduate school or their future job prospects.”

Within the next few years, both Ghosh and Atmaramani are certain their research will be useful. Neither is worried about needing a backup plan, and they already are receiving international recognition for their efforts.

By Bailey McCormick ~ The Arrow
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