Wing Commander (Dr) V G Vasishta (retired) likes to find interesting answers to troubling questions. His only trouble though is not that there are no answers, but that there are too many. And he finds them in small things—human cells for one. His keen interest in cells and their significance led him to develop the device Aktis Soma that shaped a new chapter in treatment of osteoarthritis and cancer.
Having had a liking towards microscopic lives when tagging along with his father, a cell biologist, while he conducted research some 40 years ago in Nagpur, Dr Vasishta laid the spark to rest and opted to join the Indian Air Force (IAF). But the glimmer was rekindled when in 2002, he saw dramatic changes in patients undergoing Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) tests at the Institute of Aerospace Medicine of the IAF in Bengaluru, where he was the head of radio diagnosis department.
He started developing a device, which he later named Aktis Soma (aktis meaning ray or radiance and soma in Greek meaning body). “The device derives the technology from the MRI and has tremendous potential to treat other diseases, apart from arthritis, like diabetes mellitus and cancer. After trials, I presented the results of the treatment on patients suffering from arthritis and these have been published in international journals. This was done based on the clinical trials using the American Knee Society rating and MRI (a gold standard for measurement of cartilage) with great success,” he recollects.
After serving the IAF for two decades, he decided to move on and use his technology to help people all over the world. “The Air Force was kind enough to let me keep the intellectual property rights of my device. They believed that the treatment did not belong to them, but to humanity,” he says. Soon after he retired from the IAF, the 57-year-old established SBF Healthcare and Research Centre (SHRC) in Bengaluru in 2006.
On the Aktis Soma, Dr Vasishta says that the treatment is done using the device which produces Sequentially Programmed Magnetic Field (SPMF) therapy for treatment of osteoarthritis. “In case of osteoarthritis, exposure to SPMF therapy sensitises and re-creates the missing physiological piezoelectric stimulus necessary for cartilage regeneration. The patient after initial evaluation is taken up for therapy which lasts for an hour everyday for 21 days,” he says.
According to him, for cancer, the treatment is for one hour everyday for 28 days. “The cell membrane potential of cancer cells are about -15mV to -30mV. Exposure of cancer cells to SPMF therapy normalises this potential, thereby halting the process of cell proliferation. Our therapy induces apoptosis (programmed cell death),” he explains.
No wonder then that his satisfied patient list includes former President Pratibha Patil, former Union minister of state for women and child development Renuka Chowdhury, Congress Lok Sabha leader Mallikarjun Kharge and Air Chief Marshal (Retd.) I H Latif.
Having treated about 7,000 cases for osteoarthritis and about 250-300 cases for cancer since 2006, there is joy on his face, but the expression of helplessness is present when he says, “The acceptance of any new technology or new therapy is always slow; it is only over a period of time that change is accepted and adapted. A few surgeons feel that we are eating into their ‘business’. Although, today we find that specialists routinely refer patients to us for treatment of arthritis instead of advising them to undergo total knee replacement surgery which earlier was the only line of management for osteoarthritis.”
With four centres in Bengaluru and one in Mumbai, Dr Vasishta plans to open one in Pune soon. “By next year, we are hoping to have 20 centres in India and abroad,” he says.