Kashmir Virologist In Breakthrough American Research On Rift Valley Fever Virus

by Khalid Bashir Gura

SRINAGAR: In the latest breakthrough, researchers at Washington University in the United States have discovered how the deadly Rift Valley Fever virus infects human cells. Notably, one of the leading scientists involved in this discovery is a Kashmiri virologist based in the US, Dr Safder Ganaie.

Dr Safder Ganaie, Kashmir Virologist

The discovery by Dr Ganaie and his colleagues was recently published in the journal Cell. Dr Ganaie and his team found that the Rift Valley Fever virus, spread by mosquitoes, enters human cells through a protein normally involved in mopping up low-density lipoproteins – the carriers of so-called ‘bad cholesterol’ — from the blood.

The discovery is expected to lead to therapies that prevent Rift Valley Fever or reduce its severity. The World Health Organization lists Rift Valley Fever as a prioritised disease likely to cause epidemics in the near future. The virus is spread by mosquitos among domesticated animals, which then pass it on to people.

The study was conducted in collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh, University of Toronto, Harvard University, and Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard.

Dr Ganaie was the lead author of the study. To find out how the virus invades cells, Dr Ganaie and his team disrupted 20,000 normal genes by using CRISPR technology and found that the virus failed to infect cells that lacked the gene for LDL receptor-related protein 1, or LRP1.

Further experiments showed that the virus needs LRP1 to infect hamster, bovine, monkey, and human cells, indicating that it uses the same protein across distantly related species. “This discovery will help us to understand how Rift Valley Fever virus spreads not only throughout the human body but also how it is able to infect mosquitoes and different species of mammals,” said Dr Ganaie.

Dr Ganaie received his master’s degree from the University of Kashmir before moving to the United States for further studies. There, he got a doctorate in virology with honours from the University of Kansas. He is currently a research scientist at Washington University. For his achievements in research, he received the 2018 Remi Amelunxen Award from the University of Kansas. He has published several other studies in reputed journals of virology. His research focuses on viruses like Ebola, Oropouche, and SARS-CoV2.

Safder Ganaie was born at Zaloora, a small village about 15 km from Sopore. He did his early education in Sopore and completed his Bachelor’s degree in Science from the Degree College Sopore.

Safder joined Kashmir University for his Master’s degree in Biotechnology. After completing his master’s, he did qualify for fellowship exams like CSIR, UGC, ICMR-Junior Research Fellowship, and GATE exams to pursue research in the Bioscience field.
In 2012, he decided to pursue his PhD in the United States and joined the University of Kansas. He earned his PhD degree with honours. During his PhD Safder worked on viruses like Hanta and Parvoviruses and published his research in the top journals of virology and microbiology.
For his outstanding research accomplishments, he received the 2018-Micro Remi Amelunxen Award from the University of Kansas.
In 2018, he joined Washington University and continued working on BSL3 and BSL4 pathogens like Rift virus, Ebola, Oropouche and SARS-CoV2. He started his work on a collaborative, multi-lab project which led to the discovery of a receptor for Rift Valley Fever Virus. Safder is further expanding his work to other viruses of the same family including Oropouche, LaCrosse, SFTSV and CCHF. These all viruses are deadly and are investigated only in biocontainment laboratories of level-3 and 4. Most of these viruses don’t have any virus-specific treatment available. Safder is continuing his research and exploring how these lethal viruses enter cells and infect a wide range of organisms from mosquitoes to humans.
He has presented his work and received awards at different international conferences in the USA, and China. He also serves as a reviewer and editor on reputed international journals in the field of virology.

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