By Jordan Moss/College of Engineering
Amit Kumar Saha is far from your average Ph.D. student. Saha’s research on his path to earning his doctorate could lead to life saving advances in the world of cholesterol related diseases.
“I work on understanding the effect of cholesterol on the biophysical response of monocytes (one of the white blood cells),” Saha said. “My work is interdisciplinary covering biology, biomedical engineering, materials science, and computational analysis. The role of cholesterol on monocyte biomechanics remains understudied despite the well-established links between monocyte and cholesterol in diseases like atherosclerosis.”
Saha performs experiments with human blood and investigates changes at a single cell level. A large portion of the research consists of development and utilization of microfluidic platforms. Saha is able to manipulate individual cells at the micron scale (one millimeter equals 1,000 microns). The research also employs a variety of other biological and engineering techniques like multiple types of microscopy, flow cytometry, and rheology, among others.
The end goal of Saha’s research is to understand the biophysical mechanisms that lead up to atherosclerosis.
“This research introduces a new paradigm in our understanding of the changes in monocyte biomechanics due to cellular cholesterol levels, instead of the conventionally investigated blood cholesterol levels,” Saha said. “It addresses the possible biomechanical links between some of the common physiological phenomena observed during the onset and progression of atherosclerosis, especially in context of infection and inflammation.”
The research also opens up the possibility of new therapeutic inventions that can interfere with the mechanotransductive signaling in the disease process. Saha’s work blends immunology with engineering, using single cell biomechanics to better understand an unexplored aspect of monocyte biophysical response.
“Monocyte interactions with vasculature is critical in inflammation,” Saha said. “While most previous studies have focused on the biochemical regulation of this process, our work highlights the importance of biophysical regulation.”
Saha’s research provides a better understanding of cholesterol influenced biomechanical changes in monocytes and paves the path into better understanding of the mechanistic aspects of diseases like atherosclerosis and hypercholesterolemia, among others.
“Atherosclerosis leads to heart attack, which is a leading cause of death in the Western world and is on a rapid rise elsewhere too,” Saha said. “Important discoveries are highly needed. My work has the potential to pave the path for novel therapeutic approaches.”
Saha came to UTSA in 2011 by way of Kolkata, India. Having earned his Bachelor’s of Technology in Biotechnology from West Bengal University of Technology in Kolkata, Saha researched different doctoral programs before settling on UTSA.
“I did research on the different programs available and found out about the impressive research being done at UTSA,” Saha said. “I also considered the fact that San Antonio had great potential for the healthcare industry. I took my GRE in the junior year of my undergraduate education and came to San Antonio immediately upon completion of my B.Tech degree.”
Saha graduated in August of 2016 and the journey to get to his Ph.D. is certainly one Saha won’t forget.
“The path to a Ph.D. has been very challenging as well as immensely exciting for me,” Saha said. “I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to be a part of such a dynamic research community. The advanced facilities that I have had access to both at UTSA and outside were absolutely phenomenal.”