By Ken Severson
Curing or abating a disease has long been a main goal of doctors and scientists around the world to help mankind.
Dr. Ankit A. Desai is one who has been up to the challenge.
The Carmel resident is one of the driving forces behind a recently awarded $3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense for a cardiovascular study to evaluate the use of beta blockers in the treatment of sickle cell disease.
Sickle cell disease is a genetic disorder that affects red blood cell shape. They become C-shaped, or curved like a sickle, instead of round. The curved cells can die early or get stuck and block small blood vessels, preventing blood from flowing normally, which can lead to pain, organ damage and in some cases, death.
Desai said he and his team applied for the grant with the goal of further understanding in how beta blockers could treat cardiovascular complications, such as cardiomyopathy, often associated with sickle cell disease. Beta blockers are a class of medications that are used to manage abnormal heart functions and rhythms.
“This grant will allow us to study heart injury as well as rhythm disturbance impact in preclinical models of sickle cell disease,” he said. “The study funds a disease that is underrecognized and underrepresented and supports a broader goal at closing health care gaps.”
Desai will work on the research with Dr. Bum-Rak Choi, associate professor of medicine at Rhode Island Hospital and Brown University. They will study data related to the development of fatal arrhythmias or an irregular heartbeat in sickle cell disease.
Desai, who has been practicing for more than 15 years, is an associate professor at the Krannert Cardiovascular Research Center at the Indiana University School of Medicine. He is not only a physician, but also a scientist involved in research.
He maintains his practice as a cardiologist but does his research at Krannert.
Desai came to Indiana from Tucson, Ariz., and the University of Arizona, where he practiced medicine.
He lives with his wife, who is also a doctor, and two children in Carmel.