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InStem develops novel topical gel for skin to prevent pesticide-induced toxicity and lethality for farming community

Nandita Vijay, Bengaluru
Thursday, November 22, 2018, 08:00 Hrs  [IST]

Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine (inStem) has developed a nucleophilic polymer formulated into a topical gel to be applied on the skin before spraying of pesticides by the farming community. The gel deactivates pesticides on the skin through nucleophilic mediated hydrolysis, thereby preventing pesticide-induced toxicity and lethality.

The nucleophilic catalytic gel is active against a range of pesticides, insecticides, and fungicides in India. For instance, in the total pesticide-insecticide market, approximately 70, 20 and 10 per cent of them are organophosphates, carbamates, and pyrethrins, respectively. The new gel can neutralize all of these.

These findings are reported in the journal Science Advances, where Dr Praveen Kumar Vemula is a senior author, research Investigator, inStem and Ketan Thorat, the lead author of the work and graduate student, inStem.

The research is a joint effort by authors: Ketan Thorat, Subhashini Pandey, Sandeep Chandrashekharappa, Nikitha Vavilthota, Ankita A. Hiwale, Purna Shah, Sneha Sreekumar, Shubhangi Upadhyay, Tenzin Phuntsok, Manohar Mahato, Kiran K. Mudnakudu-Nagaraju, Omprakash Sunnapu and Dr Praveen Kumar Vemula. It was supported with core funding from Department of Biotechnology to inStem, Centre for Cellular and Molecular Platforms (C-CAMP) and Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC) through Biotechnology Ignition Grant (BIG).

“We identified skin pesticide toxicity as a severe clinical gap with a massive impact on the health of 263 million farmers in India. An active nucleophile in this skin-compatible gel attacks the pesticide molecule and breaks it into non-toxic products,” said Dr Vemula.

In pre-clinical studies, a one-time, topical application of the gel prevented a lethal dose of pesticide-induced toxicity such as loss of neuronal communication, muscle control endurance, and fatality. The gel showed a broad-spectrum activity, and it could detoxify the majority of commonly used pesticides in India.

Proof of concept studies done on animal models and comprehensive safety studies are complete. There next step would be pilot studies in humans to prove the efficacy. Plans are underway to set-up a start-up in Bengaluru to undertake human studies and subsequently commercialise the technology. However, we will have continuous support from Centre for Cellular and Molecular Platforms (CCAMP) and inStem to develop complementary technologies further, Dr Vemula, told Pharmabiz.

It took approximately four years to develop the product. Right now no similar technologies exist. Therefore, this is truly first-in-class. So far, only personal protective equipment (PPE) such as plastic gowns, gloves and masks are available. However, these work as physical barriers, due to severe discomfort when worn. Our gel not only acts as a physical barrier, but they chemically deactivate pesticides which is the differentiating factor and making the invention unique, he said.

“Lack of reliable animal model to validate pesticide-induced toxicity gave us an opportunity to develop a series assays in preclinical models to quantitatively measure the pesticide-induced toxicity and lethality which are reminiscent to the clinical scenario,” stated Thorat.

“The real challenge was to design an ideal nucleophile which can rapidly hydrolyze organophosphates and regenerate to elicit catalytic activity, which does not cause skin irritation,” said Sandeep Chandrashekharappa, post doctoral fellow, inStem and co-author of the paper.


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Prajith Nov 22, 2018 8:22 AM
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