Prof. Zahid Ashraf of Jamia Milia Islamia will be conferred the Visitors’ Award 2020 by President Ram Nath Kovind for his landmark research on blood clotting in higher altitudes due to low oxygen.
Prof. Zahid Ashraf’s research is a great breakthrough in addressing the problem in the diagnosis and treatment of thrombosis in extreme weather conditions. He has experience of 20 years as a scientist and a teacher.
Before joining the University as head of the Biotechnology department, Prof Ashraf was head of the Genomics Division at the Defence Institute of Physiology and Allied Sciences (DIPAS) of the DRDO.
Prof. Ashraf is an elected fellow of the National Academy of Sciences and the Indian Academy of Sciences. He is also a member of the Guha Research Council.
Prof. Zahid Ashraf was drawn to research and creative ingenuity right from his early school days in Bihar where he was born. This trait led him into research in combating life-threatening ailments like venous thrombosis and work in the area of Cardiovascular Biology and functional genomics.
Speaking with Awaz-the voice, Prof Ashraf said “When I joined DRDO on my return from eight years of research at the Cleveland Clinic in the USA, where blood clotting disorders are extensively recognised, I found that localized research needs to be undertaken for the benefit of our soldiers deputed at high altitudes.”
He thereafter researched all causes and effects related to deficiency of oxygen in the blood affecting various organs of the body that leads to thrombosis.“We discovered that oxygen deficiency in the blood does not only affect our soldiers but also sportspersons, hikers, mountain climbers and others who are into adventure,” he said.
“We adopted a holistic approach with DRDO scientists and found that the growing presence of novel regulator ‘Calpain’ in the development of disease is one of the key factors that cause blood clots. The clots can cause a stroke or a sudden heart attack in people who live in the oxygen-depleted areas.”
His research has also identified the role of inflammation and cytokines in the development of thrombosis caused by low oxygen.
Prof Ashraf further said he had also experienced hypoxia at 15,000ft during his stay at the forward areas. “Indian Air Force airlifted me to a lower altitude and I was treated for swelling of brain due to low oxygen at RR Hospital.”
His research offers the scope of treatment of venous thrombosis and even for Covid-19 that too causes oxygen deficiency in the body.
JMI Vice-Chancellor, Prof Najma Akhtar has congratulated Prof Ashraf for the honour. In fact, JMI had recommended Prof Ashraf’s name for the Visitors Award for his contribution. This is the second time after 2015, that a JMI scientist will be bestowed with a Visitors Award.
Lt. Gen. (Dr.) Velu Nair, former Director-General Medical Services, said, “Prof Zahid Ashraf has also conducted research in molecular pathways behind the root causes of blood clotting which are extremely essential in understanding the adverse effects of thrombosis.”
Prof Ashraf was part of the research team of Dr Velu that studied the physiological changes amongst troops during their movement from Jammu to Siachin Glacier.
Brigadier Tathagata Chatterjee, former head of Pathology at the Army Hospital, Delhi, says Prof Ashraf’s work is significant on two fronts. “One is related to cause and effect theory on blood clotting which we have undertaken together at DRDO and secondly about his great initiative in unveiling the mystery behind genetic and molecular pathways .”