Faculty Impact: Dr. Narendra Kumar

Even with the advancements in health care treatments, it appears that some of the major problems people face with chronic inflammation begin in the gut.

For years, Americans mostly ate healthy foods and cooked in their homes, but now the consumption of fast food and pre-processed food are on the rise. Today, Americans tend to rely on a diet high in fats, cholesterol and salt; these all are factors that tend to wreak havoc on the stomach and intestines, said Narendra Kumar, Ph.D., associate professor of pharmaceutical sciences at the Texas A&M Rangel College of Pharmacy. Not only does a poor diet contribute to inflammation problems, he said, some medications such as antibiotics have the potential to cause breaches in the protective layers of the stomach and intestinal wall.

kumar“Our research shows that the break down in the intestinal walls is more of the problem than the immune system itself in patients with chronic inflammation,” said Kumar, whose research has been supported by the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation of America and the National Institutes of Health.

“We think that most of the diseases stem from chronic inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract culminating into diabetes, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease and different cancers,” Kumar said. “We want to first determine the mechanism of the regulation of chronic inflammation and then work on a way for the pharmaceutical industry to make potent drugs that can enhance the therapeutic treatment of multiple diseases that originate from chronic inflammation and compromise the immune system.”

Kumar and his team found a pattern of inflammation that helped them to develop tests for clinicians which can be used to promote repairs in the intestinal wall that speeds up recovery from chronic inflammation.

Kumar invented a technology to find new drugs that can attack diseased cells and – at the same time – protect the normal, healthy cells fighting infections and inflammation caused by various factors including medical treatments. “Medications that a patient receives to fight infection often kill the good bacteria that are inside our bodies,” he said.

“Anything we can do to repair the protective layer in gut and maintain a healthy microbiota is helpful,” said Jayshree Mishra, Ph.D., research assistant professor. By doing this, the immune system remains strong to fight only the diseased cells, sparing the healthy cells that could fight infections and increase the acceptance of the transplanted organ. The technology can also increase the potency of the drug and reduce the health care cost for the treatment of diseases that originate from chronic inflammation including different types of cancer.

Supported by funding from the National Institutes of Health-Small Business Innovation Research, Kumar and his team of scientists in collaboration with Michigan-based 21st Century Therapeutic Inc., are working toward turning that idea into a reality.

Kumar and his research team are also involved in the development of technology to measure the effectiveness of novel drugs used in prevention of transplant rejections or cancer treatments. Their findings could create more effective drugs for inflammation related complications that will reduce the overall health care cost to the patient and aid doctors by providing tools to treat diseases.