From metal engineering to ovarian tumor analysis | MIT News


Ashutosh Kumar is a classically skilled supplies engineer. Having grown up with a ardour for making issues, he has explored metal design and studied stress fractures in alloys.

Throughout Kumar’s schooling, nevertheless, he was additionally drawn to biology and drugs. When he was accepted into an undergraduate metallurgical engineering and supplies science program at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Bombay, the native of Jamshedpur was very excited — and “a little dissatisfied, since I couldn’t do biology anymore.”

Now a PhD candidate and a MathWorks Fellow in MIT’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering, Kumar can merge his wide-ranging pursuits. He research the impact of sure micro organism which have been noticed encouraging the unfold of ovarian most cancers and presumably lowering the effectiveness of chemotherapy and immunotherapy.

“Some microbes have an affinity toward infecting ovarian cancer cells, which can lead to changes in the cellular structure and reprogramming cells to survive in stressful conditions,” Kumar says. “This means that cells can migrate to different sites and may have a mechanism to develop chemoresistance. This opens an avenue to develop therapies to see if we can start to undo some of these changes.”

Kumar’s analysis combines microbiology, bioengineering, synthetic intelligence, huge knowledge, and supplies science. Using microbiome sequencing and AI, he goals to outline microbiome modifications that will correlate with poor affected person outcomes. Ultimately, his aim is to engineer bacteriophage viruses to reprogram micro organism to work therapeutically.

Kumar began inching towards work within the well being sciences simply months into incomes his bachelor’s diploma at IIT Bombay.

“I realized engineering is so flexible that its applications extend to any field,” he says, including that he began working with biomaterials “to respect both my degree program and my interests.”

“I loved it so much that I decided to go to graduate school,” he provides.

Starting his PhD program at MIT, he says, “was a fantastic opportunity to switch gears and work on more interdisciplinary or ‘MIT-type’ work.”

Kumar says he and Angela Belcher, the James Mason Crafts Professor of organic engineering and supplies science, started discussing the impression of the microbiome on ovarian most cancers when he first arrived at MIT.

“I shared my enthusiasm about human health and biology, and we started brainstorming,” he says. “We realized that there’s an unmet need to understand a lot of gynecological cancers. Ovarian cancer is an aggressive cancer, which is usually diagnosed when it’s too late and has already spread.”

In 2022, Kumar was awarded a MathWorks Fellowship. The fellowships are awarded to School of Engineering graduate college students, ideally those that use MATLAB or Simulink — which have been developed by the mathematical pc software program firm MathWorks — of their analysis. The philanthropic help fueled Kumar’s full transition into well being science analysis.

“The work we are doing now was initially not funded by traditional sources, and the MathWorks Fellowship gave us the flexibility to pursue this field,” Kumar says. “It provided me with opportunities to learn new skills and ask questions about this topic. MathWorks gave me a chance to explore my interests and helped me navigate from being a steel engineer to a cancer scientist.”

Kumar’s work on the connection between micro organism and ovarian most cancers began with finding out which micro organism are included into tumors in mouse fashions.

“We started looking closely at changes in cell structure and how those changes impact cancer progression,” he says, including that MATLAB picture processing helps him and his collaborators monitor tumor metastasis.

The analysis workforce additionally makes use of RNA sequencing and MATLAB algorithms to assemble a taxonomy of the micro organism.

“Once we have identified the microbiome composition,” Kumar says, “we want to see how the microbiome changes as cancer progresses and identify changes in, let’s say, patients who develop chemoresistance.”

He says current findings that ovarian most cancers could originate within the fallopian tubes are promising as a result of detecting cancer-related biomarkers or lesions earlier than most cancers spreads to the ovaries may result in higher prognoses.

As he pursues his analysis, Kumar says he’s extraordinarily grateful to Belcher “for believing in me to work on this project.

“She trusted me and my passion for making an impact on human health — even though I come from a materials engineering background — and supported me throughout. It was her passion to take on new challenges that made it possible for me to work on this idea. She has been an amazing mentor and motivated me to continue moving forward.”

For her half, Belcher is equally enthralled.

“It has been amazing to work with Ashutosh on this ovarian cancer microbiome project,” she says. “He has been so passionate and dedicated to looking for less-conventional approaches to solve this debilitating disease. His innovations around looking for very early changes in the microenvironment of this disease could be critical in interception and prevention of ovarian cancer. We started this project with very little preliminary data, so his MathWorks fellowship was critical in the initiation of the project.”

Kumar, who has been very lively in pupil authorities and community-building actions, believes it is extremely vital for college students to really feel included and at dwelling at their establishments to allow them to develop in methods exterior of lecturers. He says that his personal involvement helps him take day without work from work.

“Science can never stop, and there will always be something to do,” he says, explaining that he intentionally schedules day without work and that social engagement helps him to expertise downtime. “Engaging with community members through events on campus or at the dorm helps set a mental boundary with work.”

Regarding his uncommon route via supplies science to most cancers analysis, Kumar regards it as one thing that occurred organically.

“I have observed that life is very dynamic,” he says. “What we think we might do versus what we end up doing is never consistent. Five years back, I had no idea I would be at MIT working with such excellent scientific mentors around me.”


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