About Fellow

All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi (1989-1995)

Baylor College of Medicine (1996-2007, Medicine Residency, Pulmonary and Critical Care Fellowship, Assistant Professor of Medicine)
VP Chest Institute, Delhi University (2004-2007, PhD) CSIR Institute of Genomics & Integrative Biology, Delhi, India

CSIR Institute of Genomics & Integrative Biology, Delhi, India

Graduating as a young physician from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Delhi, in 1995, I was sure that I wanted to work in the field of respiratory diseases, preferably in domains where my long standing interest in computers and programming would be useful. I felt an affinity to respiratory diseases, asthma running strongly in my family, and had enjoyed working in my father’s respiratory physiology lab over the summer, devising a novel technique for measuring lung volumes. The dilemma was whether to move towards a PhD or towards further clinical training. At Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, I was offered the best of both worlds, combining a classical clinical training in internal medicine, pulmonary disease, and critical care with protected lab time to do research. I had the benefit of excellent mentorship throughout; first by Joe Rodarte and then Burton Dickey. Dr. Rodarte, beyond his role as a physician and department head, was also an adjunct professor of biophysics and mechanical engineering at Rice University; leading at the forefront of mathematical modeling of lung function. I greatly enjoyed our discussions on this subject but his untimely affliction with pancreatic cancer nipped my progress along this path. With his encouragement, I shifted direction and joined Dr. Dickey’s lab that was focusing on a molecular understanding of regulated exocytosis in mast cells and airway mucous cells. Over the next few years, I gained a better understanding of molecular biology and was able to partly decipher the critical role of Munc18 proteins in airway mucus secretion. In 2003, I received my first NIH support and was thereafter appointed as a tenure-track Assistant Professor at Baylor.

 

For family reasons, I spent the next few years shuttling between India and US, working on the NIH grant and also completing a PhD in physiology at Delhi University. In search of high quality research facilities, I met Dr. Balaram Ghosh at CSIR-Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology (IGIB), who was leading an excellent respiratory disease biology research program. This was a great fit because Prof Samir Brahmachari, Director IGIB, was envisioning a larger translational mandate for IGIB and was interested in recruiting physician-scientists like me. In 2007, I joined IGIB full time.

 

My lab at IGIB straddles the divide between clinical and basic sciences. I believe that a continuing conversation between both sides is the key to rapid progress in respiratory health and we work at the level of populations, individuals, primary cells and model systems. In particular, I am intrigued by how respiratory disease may originate from nutritional and metabolic changes [1]. We have experimentally found that mitochondrial dysfunction in airway epithelial cells is part of the pathogenesis of asthma and that mitochondrial transfer from mesenchymal stem cells to airway epithelium strikingly reverses asthma features [2]. There is also emerging human evidence for a negative effect of  hyperinsulinemia, a marker of the metabolic syndrome, on lung function at various scales ranging from epidemiological studies to in vitro treatment of isolated human smooth muscle cells with insulin. My senior fellowship proposal seeks to understand these relationships on a larger systems scale encompassing perinatal and environmental influences. I expect that this will lead to a better understanding of why Indians have a high burden of respiratory disease [3], as well as the worst lung function worldwide, and what we can do about it.

1.      Singh S, Bodas M, Bhatraju NK, Pattnaik B, Gheware A, Parameswaran PK, Thompson M, Freeman M, Mabalirajan U, Gosens R, Pabelick C, Linneberg A, Prakash YS, Agrawal A. Hyperinsulinemia adversely affects lung structure and function. Am J Physiol Lung Cell Mol Physiol. 2016 May 1;310(9):L837-45

2.      Ahmad T, Mukherjee S, Pattnaik B, Kumar M, Singh S, Kumar M, Rehman R, Tiwari BK, Jha KA, Barhanpurkar AP, Wani MR, Roy SS, Mabalirajan U, Ghosh B, Agrawal A. Miro1 regulates intercellular mitochondrial transport & enhances mesenchymal stem cell rescue efficacy. EMBO J 2014; 33 (9), 994-1010

3.     Salvi S, Apte K, Madas S, Barne M, Chhowala S, Aggarwal K, Sethi T, Agrawal A, Gogtay J. What ails India? A one-day point prevalence study of symptoms and medical conditions in 204,912 patients visiting primary healthcare practitioners across 880 cities and towns in India. Results of the POSEIDON Study. Lancet Global Health. 2015 Dec 3 (12) e776–e784