Finding the good side of ‘Lanka Pappu’

Lathyrus sativus (common name: Indian pea; Triputa or khanidka in Sanskrit; Khesari in Hindi; Khesari parippu in Tamil; Lanka pappu in Telugu; and Khesari bele in Kannada) is a drought- and pest-resistant legume commonly grown for human consumption and livestock feed.

As it happened, consumption of the lathyrus plant was banned by the Indian government because consumption of the seeds for a prolonged period as a primary protein source was found to be the cause of neurodegenerative diseases (popularly known as lathyrism) due to the presence of neurotoxins.

The phenomenon raised concerns and research institutions began work on finding solution and Osmania University was not an exception.

After 15 years of work, faculty at the Department of Biochemistry discovered that the toxin which causes lathyrism when consumed in high concentrations turns out to be good in low concentration for treating ischemic heart disease and for wound healing.

According to Prof. Surya Satyanarayana Singh, Head, Department of Biochemistry, the Department, together with the Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO), has now patented the molecule from the lathyrus plant that helps in diabetic wound healing at low concentrations.

“People who consume the lathyrus pulse are also seen to increase their stamina because the pulse has a component that induces nitric oxide synthase which is known to increase blood flow thereby having the potency to increase the performance of sportsmen,” said Prof. Singh.

People who work in higher altitudes are now given this pulse at required concentrations to avoid any health problems and loss of oxygen.

Prof. Singh stated that the thirty years’ work and other factors were enough reasons to convince the present government to lift the ban on the consumption of lathyrus which was done two years ago. “Thanks to my hardworking team,” he pointed out.

Founded by IISc-alumni
Giving a brief history about the department, Prof. Singh said it was established as a full-fledged department in 1971 by Prof. L.K. Ramachandran, a renowned biochemist. He was ably assisted by two senior faculty members, Prof. Shiva Rama Shastry and Prof. S.L.N. Rao who served as founding professors. All three were trained at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) Bangalore, he remarked.

The Department offers a Masters and Ph.D. programme. The Department prides itself on the fact most of their graduates are admitted into PhD programmes at Indian Institute of Science (IISc), the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS), Bangalore and other premier institutions of higher learning.

He also added that the department has produced thousands of Biochemistry graduates who are now into research, academia and others exploring opportunities that abound in the field of study as entrepreneurs both home and abroad.

On the issue of funding for research, Prof. Singh said funding has never been an impediment for the department as it has always had reliable partners in the Central Government, UGC, DRDO and other research agencies.

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