Photo courtesy of: Office of Research
Apr 9, 2013
By Jessica Salerno
It's common for drugs for neurological disorders such as depression and Parkinson's disease to have serious side effects. Reetobrata Basu, a doctoral student in biological sciences, is determined to find information that could be important for designing a safer and more specific drug for individuals with these disorders.
To get a better idea of how these diseases work, Basu studies the neurotransmitters in worms called C.elegans, which are very simple organisms. They have about 300 neurons, while other organisms may have a billion.
A neurotransmitter is a chemical that allows one nerve cell to communicate with another nerve cell or muscle. Basu is looking at specific types, such as dopamine and serotonin.
The student is seeking to discover how certain drugs could better target neurotransmitters, in order to create more precise treatments with fewer side effects. Current prescription drugs have various adverse side effects such as sexual dysfunction, weight gain or diarrhea. Basu is seeking to identify the origin of these issues.
Academic research in neuroscience will play a crucial role in drug discovery, Basu says. There has been a sharp decline in this area of research at most major pharmaceutical companies, he notes, due to high costs, complexity of the field and the lower probability of creating products.
"I think more research should go into this field to understand it rather than avoid it, because if we avoid it then we are left with whatever medicines we have, which are half effective," he says.
Basu became interested in neuroscience after reading a news article in high school explaining that once neurons inside the brain are gone, they never come back. It also discussed ways to grow neurons inside the brain and how to help cure neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's. Basu read more articles and books on the subject and says he was "hooked."
Basu came to Athens in 2010 after receiving his undergraduate and master's degrees in India. He also worked as a research assistant in infection drug discovery at Astra Zeneca Pharma for three years. He chose Ohio University to work with professors he admired, such as Janet Duerr, an associate professor of biological sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences.
The student is currently in the middle of his five-year program. In 2012, he received an Ohio University Student Enhancement Award to support his research. He says that the award wouldn't have been possible without an "eye-opening" class on grant writing he took with faculty member Sarah Wyatt.
The doctoral student is debating whether to pursue a career in industry or academia. In addition to research, he enjoys teaching an Introduction to Biology course at the university.
Basu will give a public talk about his research as part of the Graduate Research @ Alden Series at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, April 17 in the Friends of the Library Room, 319 Alden Library. For more information about this series, visit http://www.library.ohiou.edu/category/grs/.