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Breaking new ground


A RARE achievement of Kochi's own scientist. Dr. T. K. Thankappan, the principal scientist of Central Institute of Fisheries Technology has successfully developed a life saving drug, Squalene. It has already reached the markets in the form of `Squal' capsules which will be a great relief for those who suffer from cancer, cholesterol, diabetes and skin diseases.

The method developed by Dr. Thankappan for isolation and purification of Squalene, an unsaturated hydrocarbon from the liver of a variety of deep-sea sharks breaks new ground. Interestingly, this is the first time the drugs department of Government of India approved a product developed by the Central Institute of Fisheries Technology.

Dr. Thankappan says, this achievement was possible only because of the support of his senior scientists and colleagues of CIFT. Aasha Biochem established a Squalene processing plant at Badagara, the first of its kind in India, based on Dr. Thankappan's research. But the approval of the Drugs Controller of the Government is a remarkable recognition for him. The medicine Squalene, a highly unsaturated hydrocarbon is widely distributed in nature. It is present in low concentrations in vegetable oils like Olive oil and also in very low levels in human serum. Squalene is abundantly present in the liver oil of two of the 340 species of sharks named Centrophorus and Squalidae. These live between four hundred and thousand meters below sea level, of Andaman seas and contain very high concentration of squalene in its liver. On entering the human body, Squalene, in order to stabilise itself, extracts oxygen from water and acids present in the body and liberates oxygen to the cells, a vital ingredient for their function. It revitalises weakened body cells, helps to revive cell generation and act as an intermediate in biosynthesis of cholesterol.

The recent studies show that Squalene has protective effect on cancer or prevents formation of cancer cells. Squalene can also prevent the growth of tumor cells and prevent chemically induced cancer. Squalene protects the skin against bacterial and fungal attacks and stimulates functions of liver, kidney, heart etc. It is useful for patients with heart ailments, diabetes, arthritis and hepatitis. Squalene can normalise blood cholesterol levels of those who consume fatty foods and endanger their life. The skin creams with Squalene protects skin from the radiation effect on human body. The drugs department of Government of India has already approved Squalene as a pharmaceutical product. Born in a humble family of Thottur village in Edakattuvayal in Ernakulam District, Dr. Thankappan had a very tough childhood. But he was always very enthusiastic in studies. He graduated in Chemistry from Sacred Heart College, Thevara and post-graduated in the subject from Maharaja's College. His career started as a Senior Research Assistant in CIFT and he was very much involved in various research activities of the institute, since then.

T.K.SADASIVAN

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