As the Children's Research Institute was breaking ground, MUSC's Dr. Inderjit Singh was breaking ground for the medical community around the world. His years of research recently culminated in a breakthrough discovery with the potential to impact millions of lives worldwide. The Children's Research Institute will make more discoveries like his possible, he says.
What brought you to MUSC?
Well, that was 20 years ago. I did my post doc at Mass General, and then went to Johns Hopkins. MUSC offered an ideal environment for a scientist like me. Dr. Darby was chair of pediatrics at the time, and gave me the freedom to be creative with my research. I liked the department he had created, and the school was strong in disease-based neuroscience research. MUSC is also smaller than some of the other top research facilities. I think that makes for a better research environment.
What drew you to the neurosciences?
The themes of my neuroscientific research are all connected through inflammatory disease associated processes. I am primarily investigating ALD (adrenoleukodystrophy), you may have heard about it in the movie "Lorenzo's Oil." The ALD research helps us understand disease processes for several conditions, like multiple sclerosis, stroke, spinal chord injury and epilepsy. My research can help many people with various neurological problems. That makes it exciting. You once said your research is 'high-risk, high-reward.'
What makes it risky?
People have invested their entire careers in research and not found solutions or therapies. There is so much to understand about the multiple components of disease before we can find answers. I could work my whole life and not find one answer, but I don't think that will happen. Any solutions I do discover could help many, people. Cutting edge research such as yours is already ongoing at MUSC.
Why is it necessary to build the CRI?
Science requires interaction and communication among scientists. Researchers need one place where they can meet and discuss new ideas; new ideas mature through communication. With the CRI, the researchers here will make more progress, faster. And they will be able train young scientists for the future.
What will the CRI bring to MUSC and its patients?
Knowledge. Real doctors learn new knowledge, teach new knowledge and practice new knowledge. Science should be hands-on. Because of the CRI, doctors at MUSC will have access to even more new knowledge. In turn, they will use it to care for their patients. Everyone benefits.
Your ALD research recently resulted in a ground breaking multiple sclerosis trial. Tell us about that.
Like ALD, conditions such as multiple sclerosis (MS), stroke, Alzheimer's disease and spinal cord injury are caused by inflammation of the brain or spinal cord. We discovered a class of drugs that blocks activation of inflammatory cells. MUSC recently directed a multi-center study on simvastatin as a treatment for the relapse/remitting form of MS. The initial results are very promising that could help many patients with MS and are published on May 15, 2004.
You admit that doing research can be quite tedious. What motivates you to continue?
Solutions. There are solutions to many of the diseases people have to today. If we look hard enough, we will find the solutions.
I received a seven-year grant in 2002 from the NIH to continue my ALD research. In addition, I am also the recipient of other NIH grants to study multiple sclerosis, stroke and epilepsy. I am also working with the MUSC Transplant Program using anti-inflammatory drugs to improve organ preservation.