Times of India
09 February 2011
Researchers at the NRS Medical College and Hospital have developed a drug for psoriasis – an auto–immune disease that leads to skin inflammation and rashes and has no definite cure – that could lead to a complete recovery.
After an intensive five–year research and a series of experiments, including human clinical trials, the researchers claim to have arrived at a drug – a plant extract – which is non–toxic and infinitely more effective than existing drugs. Even though trials are over, no drug manufacturing company has so far shown interest.
Developed from an oil extract of pongamiapinata (koronjo), the drug prevents accumulation of tissues between dermis and epidermis layers of the skin that causes the disease. It occurs when the immune system sends out faulty signals that speed up the growth of skin cells. In plaque psoriasis, which is the most common of the five kinds of the disease, the skin rapidly accumulates at these sites giving it a silverywhite scale–like appearance. Drugs tend to have a short–term effect and are hepato–toxic, affecting liver and the kidneys.
It was while studying pongamiapinata that legendary chemist Asima Chatterjee had chanced upon its medicinal qualities. On her advice, Monoj Kar – biochemist at NRS – started exploring its qualities. After Chatterjee’s death, Kar was joined by her daughter, scientist Julie Banerjee, and Shubhra Mondol. Together with a group of students, they launched the research which soon produced encouraging results.
A human trial was conducted on 100 patients with a 90% success rate. Barring 10, the rest had a complete cure within 3 to 4 months. Periodic examinations showed that they didn’t suffer a relapse either. "We were initially guided by Asima Chatterjee who first saw the plant’s medicinal possibilities. As we went along, we found that the oil extract indeed worked wonders for psoriasis. It not only reversed the process of accelerated cell growth, it also prevented arthritis which is a common fall–out of psoriasis," explained Kar.
While the cause of the disease is yet not known, it is believed to be genetic. Injury to the skin could also lead to the disease while stress, withdrawal of certain drugs and environmental factors have also been found to have a statistical significance. Plaque psoriasis occurs most frequently on the knees, elbows, scalp, palms and the hands.
Despite being successful, the research paper remains unpublished. The drug, too, has not had any takers till now. "It’s expensive and needs to be taken up by some private pharmaceutical company. We can’t approach them and must wait for them to take the initiative," said Kar.
The research team is trying to publish the paper to draw attention to their work. It couldn’t be done so far due to lack of manpower. Members of the team are either working abroad or have got involved in other projects. "We are short on researchers to start immediately. It would be a pity if we can’t publish the paper soon," said Kar.