A landmark study, the first of its kind in the world, finds links between Prakriti, a fundamental principle of personalized medicine of Ayurveda, and modern genomics for development of predictive and personalized medicine. The study reveals that it is possible to identify groups within normal individuals of the populations, which could be predisposed to certain kind of diseases, and also might respond differently to drugs. Such integration of the principles of Ayurveda with genomics, appropriately termed as Ayurgenomics by the authors, holds great potential and promise for future predictive and personalized medicine at an affordable cost.
For the first time it has been demonstrated that normal individuals within the same ethnic population, clustered on the basis of clinical criteria described in Ayurveda, show variations in the basal levels of blood parameters used in routine for diagnostic purposes, as well as in basal levels of expression of genes.
Human genome sequencing and subsequent mapping of genetic variability has allowed us to identify genetic variations and patterns of variability across diverse global populations. India has also put systematic and concerted efforts to identify relatedness amongst the diverse Indian populations at genetic level. The first step in this regard was the CSIR led Indian Genome Variation Consortium project which provided the first genetic landscape of India. In this project, 55 distinct populations of India, classified on the basis of linguistic lineage and ethnicity from different geographical zones of the country, were found to cluster into five major groups of relatedness.
However, despite greater genetic similarity there was high inter-individual variability within each cluster. This inter-individual variability confers differential susceptibility to common diseases like diabetes, asthma, cardiovascular disease and differential drug responsiveness. Therefore, the next logical step was to identify groups within these related populations that are likely to be similarly predisposed or protected from the disease. According to Ayurveda, an individual’s basic constitution, Prakriti, to a large extent, determines predisposition and prognosis to diseases as well as suitability of preventive and curative regimen for the same. This study explored whether this ancient and documented system of Prakriti analysis could be correlated in modern biology terms.
For this purpose, more than 1000 individuals were screened, out of which 120 individuals of predominant prakriti were identified, and subsequently 96 unrelated ethnically matched healthy individuals with predominance of either Vata (39 individuals), Pitta (29) or Kapha (28) prakriti, belonging to an age group of 18 – 40 years with equal numbers of both genders (n=48 in each case) were recruited for further analysis. Blood sampling was carried out from these individuals following all ethical guidelines. DNA, RNA and serum were isolated and whole genome expression profiling, using H19Kv8 cDNA microarray as well as biochemical testing for 33 parameters used in routine testing was carried out to study whether these groups exhibit any differences. These subjects were all from North India and of Indo-European origin. The genetic background of the subjects was reconfirmed through analysis of genetic similarity with this group and populations of the Indian genome variation project. The subjects shared genetic affinity with the Indo-European populations of North India.
In this study, normal individuals of the three most contrasting Prakriti types, namely, Vata, Pitta and Kapha, were identified following clinical criteria described in Ayurveda in Indian population of Indo-European origin. It was observed that these Prakriti types exhibited differences at biochemical profiles like liver function tests and lipid profiles and hematological parameters like haemoglobin level etc. Differential gene expression was found in significant number of housekeeping and disease related genes. A significant variation in expression of genes related to metabolism, transport, immune response and regulation of blood coagulation etc. was also observed.
The results of the study conceptualized by Prof Samir Brahmachari, Director General, CSIR and led by Dr. Mitali Mukerji at the Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology have been reported in the Journal of Translational Medicine recently (September 2008). There was intense involvement of Dr. Bhavana Prasher an Ayurveda expert and Dr. Sapna Negi a senior molecular biologist (senior authors of paper) along with a team of trans-disciplinary people that included Ayurveda doctors, molecular biologists, biochemists, bioinformaticians and statisticians.