MSU President's Column for Traill County Tribune

June 20, 2020 

Research project at Mayville State has potential to make a big health care impact

“Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.” Hippocrates

Mayville State University Professor of Biology Dr. Khwaja Hossain and his team of Mayville State student researchers are working to deliver the active ingredient of medicines through a nutritious food, chickpeas. According to Professor Hossain, “This will have added value for our society.”

Nearly half of all Americans suffer from at least one chronic condition and 75% of the health care budget is spent on managing chronic conditions. The success of treating these conditions using prescription drugs depends on the consistent use of the medicines.

The rising costs of health care and pricing of drugs are major problems for our society. Cost of medicine is rising for new medicines, as well as those that have been on the market for a long time. Because of costs, more than 75% of people who have been prescribed medicines may not be taking them in the dosages prescribed, or in some cases not at all. Hossain feels that loading the medicines into a healthy food could help to alleviate this problem.

A few years ago, Dr. Hossain and his researchers began investigating the uptake and translocation of a drug used to treat Type 2 diabetes, Metformin, into chickpeas. Chickpeas are legumes that are a good source of carbohydrates, protein, and important vitamins. They have several potential health benefits related to controlling human diseases including cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes, digestive diseases, and some cancers. Chickpeas grow quickly and are a low input crop. They can easily be grown in nursery trays.

Dr. Hossain and his team have been studying how Metforman can be deposited into chickpea seed. In their initial investigation, they proved that the drug can be taken up by the chickpea plant and deposited into seed. In their work, they have also shown that the amount of Metformin deposited into the seed can be increased to accommodate an increase of the recommended treatment dosage. There is no other such research related to depositing active ingredients of medicine into the seed of crop plants.

The research team is now working on the simultaneous depositation of Metformin and a cholesterol-lowering drug, Pravastatin, into chickpea seeds. Dr. Hossain says, “Natural is good, and the rising cost of pharmaceuticals, along with their negative secondary effect on health make this a valuable project.”

More than ¼ of all Americans suffer from multiple chronic conditions (MCC) and one chronic condition can cause a person to be more vulnerable for developing others. A person with diabetes may also suffer from high blood pressure and high blood pressure is also linked to a higher cholesterol level. One or more of five chronic diseases, heart disease, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and diabetes, cause more than 2/3 of deaths.

If successful, the research of Professor Hossain and his group will provide an alternative and sustainable way of delivering the active ingredients of more than one drug that will prevent and treat two important chronic health issues, diabetes and high cholesterol.

Dr. Hossain feels that the ever-increasing problem of health care management should be addressed in a number of ways, including lifestyle, healthy food, food habits, drug manufacturing procedure and pricing, as well as alternative, inexpensive, and sustainable sources of multiple drugs. He has been conducting his research with funding support from North Dakota INBRE (IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence). We applaud Dr. Hossain and his students for the very important work they are doing to improve the health of our citizens.