Prasad Bichu

Prasad BichuPrasad Bichu, a Sigma Xi member from the University of Missouri Chapter, researches aspects of kidney dysfunction and disease. He is also a medical doctor, treating patients with kidney issues, sometimes printing research papers to educate patients. As director of the Pediatric Dialysis Division of Nephrology at the University of Missouri’s Children’s Hospital, he is looking for research collaborators to move the science forward. 

Heather Thorstensen, manager of Sigma Xi communications, spoke with Prasad during a telephone interview.

Listen to the interview with Prasad Bichu.

Excerpts from the interview:

What are the research projects that you’re doing?

My research projects are related with some of the most common risk factors that cause kidney dysfunction. And the most important one that we are seeing nowadays is obesity. Obesity seems to cause a lot of things including high blood pressure, insulin resistance, as well as progressive kidney dysfunction. Conventionally, we have been looking for protein in the urine and worsening kidney function in the form of a rise in creatinine, a protein that goes up whenever kidneys fail. But we are trying to find new modalities in our test to early detect this dysfunction due to obesity. We are hoping that with this early detection we will be able to intervene at an earlier stage so that we can take care of the problem better. 

One of the other research projects that I’m doing is related with one of the most dreadful diseases in childhood of less than five years of age, which is hemolytic uremic syndrome. So far we haven’t had any luck in terms of a medication which will cure this disease but recently we’ve got a drug which may be used in certain situations [to reverse the disease process]. And we’re trying to figure out which kids can use this drug with the least complications. 

How does hemolytic uremic syndrome affect kids?

Hemolytic uremic syndrome is a disease which is [the most common cause of kidney failure] in the age group of zero to five years of age. It is usually caused by a bug called E. coli 0157:H7, which is usually spread through contaminated food or raw food—unpasteurized milk … This disease can affect the patient’s brain, the heart, liver, pancreas, and lastly the kidneys. It is a very serious disorder. What it really means is that it causes a lot of small clots in the body which can obstruct the blood flow to various parts of our organs. 

What are some of the challenges that you’re having with this research project?

Some of the challenges that we have with this research project is, number one: the actual cost of this medicine to begin with because this medicine is extremely expensive, it is very difficult to obtain, and not covered by insurance companies. Number two: We are fighting against the unknowns. We are not aware of the long term complications of this medicine. This medicine is actually called Eculizumab, it is a complement C5b inhibitor … And number three: … Inhibiting the complement [a part of the immune system] seems to help to decrease the clot formation in this situation. The hurdle is trying to connect the two sites and figuring out why exactly this happens. 

Is this something that would have a lot of potential for collaboration with other researchers?

Yes, absolutely. Hemolytic uremic syndrome is more kind of a sporadic disease where you tend to get about 15 to 20 cases in a year in a center so it’s really difficult to get the numbers needed to do a large study. It would definitely help to have different centers collaborate. Number two: It would definitely help to collaborate with somebody who does research in complements and complement inhibition. 

We are also looking at novel ideas for research in terms of obesity associated with renal dysfunction. So just like cystatin C, we are also looking at other proteins which we could test in these kids to early detect the dysfunction. So we would like to collaborate with anybody who is doing a similar project.  

Prasad Bichu can be reached by potential collaborators at