Q. Being an engineer, how did you get interested in the core medical issues of respiratory disorders?
A. Though Covid-19 is now almost gone, its actual reason is not yet endorsed, even by the WHO. The entire health industry was focused on creating vaccines which was good because it was the need of the hour then. During the lockdown, I started thinking about what caused the first point outbreak of the virus. I studied some physiology and applied my engineering acumen. I studied the already published research papers and tried to deliver an explanation based on two points. First is the ‘Basics of thermodynamics involved in human respiration’ and second is the ‘Scientific phenomenon of surface tension and dielectrics.’
Q. How can this research be beneficial to the community at large?
A. My research explains how the virus reaches RNA and DNA, how it becomes ‘intelligent ligand’ and then results into pandemic. I studied the micro mechanism of gas exchange in lungs and role of ‘pulmonary surfactant’ which is till date not decoded anywhere else. Ultimately, the research states that if we treat ‘pulmonary surfactant’ in our lungs as first point of medical intervention, we can prevent progression of any future respiratory viral diseases. My research is available in open domain. We are into a process of developing a model to explain it further. Medical experts may find out a new mode of preventive treatment not only for Covid-19 but any respiratory viral disease of future, if we collaborate and further extend this idea.
Q. Can you explain your research from a layman’s perspective?
A. It is really difficult to explain it in layman’s language. In simple terms, this research talks about micro mechanism of exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide when we breathe. We all know that during breathing oxygen diffuses in the blood, where as carbon dioxide diffuses out. There are millions of spherical bubble-like structures in lungs. These are known as alveoli. The pulmonary surfactant
I am talking about is a first physical barrier; like any fencing across a border. This barrier issues only two tickets. One for oxygen to go inside and other for the carbon dioxide to go out. Think of surfactant like a super thin layer of a paint inside of lungs. It has two sides. The top side helps entry of oxygen and the lower face acts like a defender and helps to protect your lungs.
As researchers, we are trying to figure out exactly how this surfactant works, especially when our bodies are under attack from viruses like SARS-CoV-2 (the one that causes Covid-19). In the surfactant there is a special component called SP-C, which tries to prevent the virus from reaching RNA and DNA. The SP-C is dielectric in nature, like an insulating material. By understanding how all of this works, we hope scientists can find new ways to fight off respiratory diseases of future. Besides vaccines, it might help in production of better drugs and devising new treatments.
Q. How is engineering linked with the surfactants?
A. Basically, the surfactant according to my analysis acts like an escort for gases throughout the process of gas exchange. The surfactant forms like a bubble over oxygen or carbon dioxide molecules. Phenomenon like surface tension and Young Laplace Law can explain the process of bubble formation. And finally during viral attack, the dielectric property of the surfactant probably prevents the virus from attacking RNA and DNA. But not beyond certain limit.
Q. How was this research received by the scientific community in Japan?
A. It was the international conference on chemical thermodynamics. The Japan Society of Calorimetry and thermal Analysis and the Science Council of Japan were the hosts. The theme itself was to share new cutting-age research results and discuss their scientific meaning in chemical thermodynamics which is fundamental science among global researchers. My presentation was selected for a session dedicated to bio-thermodynamics. Scientific community welcomed it and they asked me to create a model explaining the mechanism of surfactants for further research.
Q. What are the future steps for this research?
A. Imagine climate change as something that makes the air around us hotter and more humid. This change can mess up how our bodies naturally breathe and protect us from viruses. To prevent new diseases from spreading in the future, we need to pay attention to these changes in places where it is getting hotter and stickier. One important thing in our body’s defense is pulmonary surfactant. It is like a shield for our lungs. We should make sure it can still work well by keeping its special properties intact. To do this, we are going to create models that show how too much humidity can be a problem and how we can use surfactants to help. We are also teaming up with organizations that know a lot about health to make progress in this important area.