Professor recognized for new approach to cancer treatment
Indian Parliament member Anantkumar Hegde: “Almost 15 years ago, I had recognized the tremendous scientific potential of Katti. I am not surprised that he has won awards of scientific excellence from almost every nation on this planet."
Feb. 04, 2016
As a fifth grader in the Indian state of Karnataka, radiology and physics professor Kattesh Katti borrowed chemicals from school and conducted his own experiments, such as testing the acidity of sulfuric fumes with litmus paper.
“I had an innate desire to do science,” Katti said.
Since then, Katti’s application of his lifelong curiosity in the field has repeatedly earned him recognition around the globe, from Singapore to Brazil. Most recently, Vijayavani, a publication in Karnataka with a readership base of about 75 million people, named him 2016 “Person of the Year for Science.”
This award recognizes Katti’s advances in curing disease with green nanotechnology.
Katti came to MU in 1990 for a faculty position that focused on using a knowledge of metals in medicine. He had previously conducted extensive research with various metals while he was an Alexander von Humboldt fellow at the University of Göttingen and later at the University of Alberta, Edmonton in Canada.
“I was looking for that because there have been some sad cases of people in my family dying from cancer,” Katti said. “My mother right now, she has an inoperable cancer.”
So Katti dedicated the “Person of the Year” award to his mother. He said his parents and maternal grandfather were major influences in his pursuit of science. He sees his grandfather, who earned two doctorates while the British still ruled India in the early 1900s, as “similar in stature, similar in thinking to Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King.”
“He lived 50 years ahead of his times,” Katti said.
While in high school, Katti would edit his grandfather’s work during school vacations. His grandfather wrote more than 150 books in history, Indology and Vedic literatures in in English, Sanskrit and Kannada languages.
“So for me, he is my hero,” Katti said. “And my second hero is my mother because, through him, through her, he used to relay all these messages.”
This recognition follows numerous international recognitions and prizes, including the highly coveted Hevesy International Medal, which the International Jury awarded him in 2015 for his lifetime achievements in nuclear sciences and their applications in medicine.
Katti’s work advances universally accepted scientific foundations for the traditional Indian Ayurvedic medicine through discoveries in green nanotechnology.
Ayurveda is a 5,000-year-old holistic medicine practice in which a concoction of metal and herbs is given to human patients.
Nanotechnology often focuses on manipulating nanoparticles — particles less than 100 nanometers. Radioactive gold nanoparticles can be used to detect and treat disease, but the production of such particles often requires the use of harmful chemicals.
“Everybody in the world produces nanoparticles using toxic chemicals,” Katti said. “Why? Because those are the kind of chemical reactions that are very effective when your objective is to produce nanoparticles.”
Katti, however, believed that since the nanoparticles were eventually going to be applied to humans, the process by which they were produced should either use minimal toxic chemicals or eliminate them completely.
“That sounded like a fairytale to lots of people, but I had a plan in mind,” Katti said.
Katti’s breakthrough came when he discovered that the phytochemicals in tea, soy, cinnamon, fruits and common herbs could be combined with a gold salt solution to create gold nanoparticles. If the same process is repeated using radioactive gold salt produced in a nuclear reactor, the resulting radiation from the nanoparticles can be used to detect or treat disease as well as or better than the nanoparticles created with toxic chemicals.
“Modern medicine, cancer medicine in particular, is toxic,” Katti said. “It kills human patients. Patients don’t necessarily die of disease. When it is in the body, it doesn’t discriminate between a good cell or a bad cell. It kills everything. Holistic medicine, even if it’s ineffective, does not kill the human patient. My green nanotechnology approach to Ayurvedic medicine is both nontoxic and highly effective in treating various forms of cancers.”
Katti’s research team has effectively treated disease in test tubes, mice and larger animals. The successful treatment of prostate cancer in dogs specifically is promising because this type of cancer acts similarly in humans.
“We have also recently decoded the secrets of Ayurvedic herbal-metal cocktails using scientifically proven green nanotechnology approaches,” Katti said. “Therefore, we can now produce what I call them as ‘Nano-Ayurvedic Medicines’ in reproducible forms and on large scales to help humanity across the globe.”
Traditional Indian Ayurveda Dr. C.M. Joshi, who is collaborating with Katti on his research, is currently going through the Indian equivalent of the FDA to get approval to move to a human trial phase. Katti expects those trials to begin within this year. Because the sources of the phytochemicals for the experiments are common foods, the experiments are not expensive.
A lifetime of work
While his accomplishment is receiving wider recognition now, Katti’s work with phytochemicals and nanotechnology dates back years.
“Almost 15 years ago, I had recognized the tremendous scientific potential of Katti,” Indian Parliament member Anantkumar Hegde said in an email. “I am not surprised that he has won (and continues to win) awards of scientific excellence from almost every nation on this planet.”
After Katti’s initial discovery in the mid-2000s, Norman Borlaug—one of seven people to win the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal—recognized this achievement and hailed Katti as the “Father of Green Nanotechnology” during a speech at an agricultural conference.
Despite having some success in treating diseases that do not technically have a cure, a lack of scientific specificity in Ayurvedic medicine limits its reach to only about 1 percent of the global population, Dr. Joshi said in an email.
“Katti’s ingenious approach of Green Nanotechnology provides universally acceptable scientific rationale to Ayurvedic Medicine—thus presents realistic prospects for its utility for treating various debilitating diseases including cancer, neurodegenerative disorders, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases,” Dr. Joshi said.
Ravi Shukla, of the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Melbourne, Australia, reiterated that sentiment, saying Katti’s “green nanotechnology discoveries have laid a scientifically acceptable foundation to connect the Indian holistic medicine: the Ayurveda modality with nanomedicine.”
He attributes his success to not only his hard work, but that of many others.
“Such recognitions are a culmination of a large body of work and knowledge base that has been made possible by my superbly intelligent scores of undergraduate/graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, staff scientists and interdisciplinary collaborators over the years,” Katti said in an email.
“I thank my loving wife, Kavita, who has been a great collaborator and partner in our scientific research and has supported me over the years giving me perpetual energy and drive in those numerous times of frustrations. I thank my father, our children, my sisters and brothers-in-laws, my maternal uncle, Professor V. R. Panchamukhi, who has been a great inspirer and scores of close relatives for their support over the years. Finally, I would like to thank the readers of Vijayavani for bestowing me with this huge honor.”
Because Katti figured out how to create nanoparticles with herbs and metals, he feels his work is “serendipitously connected” with Ayurvedic practices. The holistic aspect of Ayurveda is an especially important aspect of this approach to treating various debilitating diseases.
“If I get recognized, I feel myself to be lucky,” Katti said. “If I don’t get recognized, I don’t feel disappointed. There is always a greater satisfaction if my work can help save human lives across the globe. Our job as scientists is to help humanity. That’s what I’ve been doing; that’s what I will do.”
Edited by Taylor Blatchford | firstname.lastname@example.org