Body Explorer

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Raised in a modest Eidgah family, when a bookish boy and a compulsive writer, got opportunity to prove his capacities, he started challenging the myths about the human body, reports Saima Bhat

Perhaps for the first time, a young Kashmiri doctor got praise from a British philosopher, editor and reviewer, Martin Cohen. It was Dr Muneeb A Faiq, a medical researcher whom Cohen described as “a contemporary scientist with interesting philosophical insights.”

Dr Faiq was in news in 2017 summer for helping half a millennium old story, the of Da Vinci’s depictions, to rest. Unlike Da Vinci Code, this one is about the anatomy of the human abdomen.

The Kashmiri doctor was leading a groundbreaking discovery from All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, and JIPMER, Pondicherry, about the human body with a focus on mesentery. A peculiar part of the human abdomen, the mesentery was considered to be just a few fragmented structure in the digestive system but the study established it is an entity in itself. The finding was published in a highly reputed journal Colorectal Disease with a descriptive video of human mesentery dissected from a cadaver. With this, now the human body has a total of 79 organs.

Faiq is a distinct researcher. Bookish since his childhood, would find solace in staying indoors and study, unlike his peers. A science lover, he was always fascinated by dreams, experiments and discoveries.

In his eighth class, he said, he developed a mathematical algorithm, which would predict the position of earth around the sun at any given moment. Later, he developed an electrical infinite calendar based on this algorithm.

At 14, he started contributing his writings in two Kashmiri newspapers (1997 to 2001). At 20, he authored his first book Science Under Sunlight and Shade.

In class 10th (1999) he says he proposed a hypothesis about wave-particle duality which caught some attention from renowned experts in physics.

Born in old city’s SafaKadal and later shifted to Eidgah,  Faiq was born in a humble family. His father Nazir Ahmad Faiq, was a technician in USIC department, at the University of Kashmir and mother was a homemaker. He is eldest among his three siblings.

An alumnus of Allama Iqbal Institute of Education, Zoonimar, Faiq’s takes pride in being a student at SP College. This was the space that saw him moving out of his books.

“It was in college where I learnt to socialise otherwise restricting myself to books only has done harm to me as  a  person,” Faiq said. There, he graduated in biochemistry and then did his post graduation in clinical biochemistry.

He was enthusiastic about understanding how the human body works in health and in disease. This curiosity landed him in AIIMS, Delhi, where he went for a short-term training, as a research fellow on stem cell therapy in severe heart diseases like dilated cardiomyopathy and myocardial infarction.

Faiq’s work on stem cell therapy couldn’t see much success, prompting him to leave the subject. For some time his passion for being a research scientist looked bleak and even most of his friends and relatives insisted him to return home and do something humble in Srinagar. “Most of my friends and near one’s starting thinking of me as a failure,” Faiq remembers.

But his stubborn attitude decided against quitting. In that dilemma, he met another supervisor, in the department of ophthalmology at AIIMS and started working on glaucoma, world’s most prevalent cause of irreversible blindness. After two years of hardship, he continued with his experiments ceaselessly, which paid off in terms of the ‘fascinating’ findings that helped him in subsequent years.

Dr Faiq is more passionate for theoretical physics, but continue his researches in different fields. He has started writing an easy-to-read book about health and wellbeing, which he thinks will be a guide for people on the human body and its maladies. After authoring around three hundred articles about natural sciences, Faiq says art, particularly the literature relevant to non-fiction prose fascinate him more.

At AIIMS, in 2013, he took a lead in a research study in which he discovered that diabetes is a peculiar human disease and has a special relationship to the brain. This theory was well appreciated and helped Dr Faiq to make friends who were experts in this field. He got a chance to interact with and learn from the renowned experts.

In 2014, he along with his team describe glaucoma as a brain disease of the diabetic sort. This theory was well received by the scientific community and now glaucoma may soon be classified as diabetes type 4. “Our brain diabetes theory of glaucoma is likely to provide a deeper understanding of the disease and pave way for the development of novel and effective treatments,” Faiq said. This research got him Best Doctoral Student Award as well.

In 2016, Faiq and his group described how Zika virus infection causes developmental brain defects in newborns but the theory had one major problem as it couldn’t explain how RNA virus enters the human genome. But later the mystery got solved and the research is under expert review.

Dr Faiq has travelled extensively around the world for his researches. “I have been fortunate to be part of multinational research projects. Besides, I participated in training, workshops, conferences, and symposia in topmost universities of the world including University of Cambridge and Korea Brain Research Institute.”

Impressed by the ‘excellent work’ that Kashmiris have put in the rest of the world, Faiq sees Kashmir’ scientific research is modest. “The problem lies in basics because over the years parents preferred their children to be in professional fields only and that was at the cost of other spheres of life,” Faiq said. “The government didn’t bother to develop infrastructure and opportunities in other departments and that visible deficit is creating hurdles for scientists to return their homeland.”

Now he is dreaming about a research institute of global repute in Kashmir.

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