Speaks On His Motivation For Developing Drugs For Sickle Cell Patients, Old People

Reveals Why Geriatrics Are Needed In Nigerian Hospitals

Explains The Consequences of Over Reliance On Imported Drugs

Dr. Sabo is a medical practitioner, an academic and a researcher in medical biotechnology who specialized in cell physiology and biotherapy. In this exclusive interview with Health Monitor’s  Managing Editor, GARBA M. MUHAMMAD, he talks about how the medicinal agents he developed are helping Sickle cell patients and the Seniors live a normal life, funding and how reliance on imported pharmaceutical products will lead to the catasthropic death of many patients should the country be slammed with sanctions. Excerpt:

Health Monitor: Good evening, Dr. Our readers would like to know who is Dr. Ahmed Sabo.

Dr Sabo: I am mostly known as Dr. Sabo Ahmed Mohammed. But I preferred being addressed as Dr Sabo. I am a medical doctor. I am also known as an academic. I have been a lecturer in the College of Health Sciences, University of Jos in the Department of Human Physiology for the last 23 years and my area of research is medical biotechnology. I have extensively researched into biotherapy, meaning the use of biological agents in the identification and treatment of diseases such as insect’s larvae (maggots) for cleaning wounds, Stem Cell Therapy etc.

I have an MBBS degree and also a master’s degree in Human Physiology. I also have a postgraduate diploma in education and a master’s degree in biomedical education. I obtained a PhD in Human Physiology in 2003.

Health Monitor: You recently developed some drugs or medicinal agents for people living with Sickle cell anemia. What is the motivation behind that discovery?

Dr Sabo: Well, the motivation is primarily the research work I did for my PhD. I studied how some larvae (certain species of insect fly) of Lucilia sericata  help in a biosurgical method called Maggot Debridement Therapy (MDT) to infected, necrotic and non-healing wound of the body of human and animals body. An example of such wound occurs in especially Sickle Cell Disease (SCD), a chronic infection and dead of the bone called osteomyelitis. Osteomyelitis is common among children suffering from SCD. I didn’t start that but I did more scientific work to advance the frontier of the knowledge. So, I further polished how this type of larvae are grown in the laboratory. Study further the enzymes produced by these maggots, the larvae of Lucilia sericata that clean up dead soft tissue in the wound and even dead bone etc.

And, we know that sickle cell patients are more prone than other people to develop osteomyelitis. Osteomyelitis is the infection of the bone.  Microorganisms can attack bone and cause problems and once they attack, they kill that part of the bone and the bone will never heal and closes unless that dead part is removed. Usually, it involves a surgical procedure called sequestrectomy. But, this surgical intervention is expensive for a large portion of the population of people and by the way, the cost is prohibitive.

I wanted to grow this larvae so that they can clean dead soft tissue and also bone tissue that is dead. Wound do not heal in an ocean of necrosis of the body and  need to be removed before healing can take place. That is where I started, I did my study on the maggot, the enzymology, explore the possibility of developing tropical friendly and a better method of growing the maggots in a clean control laboratory environment. Instead of using sawdust and honey as it is used in the University of California Irvine, I used a different cheap and available material that is abundant in Africa and that yielded a high level of performance and efficiency of the culture. We did that and it has become a model.

Later I developed a solution for the damaging and reoccurring crises of SCD. This solution is formulated as medicinal food blend from natural source in the form of powder and we called it Floziks. Floziks flour supply the building blocks and vascular growth factor sourced from food required for repair of damages, promotion of circulatory adequacy and the complimentary component Osteomina strengthens the bone.

The whole of the phenomenon of sickling and sickle cell crises is predicated on inadequate flow of blood and shortage in supply of Oxygen that causes severe ischaemic pain. Meaning within the body parts of the sickle cell patient, are vulnerable areas especially those vessels going to the bone called nutrient arteries that can be easily blocked and the reason for the blockage is the bending of the red blood cells of the patient in response to stress.

I was also studying some formulae that were deduced to help with our understanding of haemodynamics in sickle cell. We tried in marrying different equations previously established by other researchers in the field of physics and biophysics. For example, the Pouseulle-Hagen equation and some other mathematical equations were used to find ways of estimating other variables. After establishing that formulae, we published it. The mathematical equations we derived tell of a situation where obstruction of nutrient arteries is not desirable in the circulation within the blood vessels of a sickle cell patient. The argument requires that blood vessel be bigger in diameter. On another dimension, stiffening bending (sickling) of the red blood cells of the patient must be avoided by preventing red cell dehydration. Two terms were eventually coined in the paper we published viz ‘Vasooclusity’ and ‘Vasopatency.’  That gave me an idea that if you can get a growth factor for blood vessels of a sickle cell patient, you are going to take care of the problem permanently.

That idea was adopted and so we decided to search for food material that can help provide the vascular factor which can help in the physiological growth and physiological adaptation of the blood vessels. And all these factors are naturally from the food we eat. That was the major breakthrough. For more on the new equation we discovered, one may check International Journal of Medicine Physiology and Biophysics under IISTE Journal group. If you google it along with ‘Sabo’ you are likely to see it there. There are many other journals under the IISTE. So, that is the way the whole idea for the search for the solution started.

There wouldn’t be any obstruction that will cause crisis, because in using Floziks flour. All the crises that we know of sickle cell are due to the blockade or due to the obstruction of the blood vessels, especially the ones that go into the bone. That is the one we anatomically call nutrient arteries.

That is the breakthrough we have and it has helped a lot of patients. All interventions are through the use of medicinal food. They are all produced from the usual food Africans eat. Toxicity doesn’t arise. They are not processed with any chemicals. They are natural and organic. We don’t even extract the active ingredient we just allow it to go 100% as food.

Health Monitor: Geriatrics is a field that deserves so much attention, unfortunately it  is getting less. Can you briefly tell us how your drugs for the seniors work and the reason for the development?

Dr Sabo: One of the concerns that motivated me to introduce a program for the seniors (what you may like to call the Geriatric age group), is the fact that if you check most of our hospitals in Nigeria, they may have all the other departments that address different categories of people. We have the Obstetrics and Gynecology departments that take care of the issues of women and the issues of childbirth. So, there is an O & G department in virtually every General and Teaching hospital. And we have Paediatrics department (probably because we have a lot of concern for our children health, with specialists that take care of the children). We have Psychiatry for the mentally ill, we have Ophthalmology for the eyes of the people. But, the question is; why do we have pediatrics for the children and we don’t have geriatric department for the seniors (old people)?

Pediatrics was argued to address the problems of children, because some problems are peculiar to children. Today’s old people were previously young people. They were children before and if you live long enough, you will experience the problems of old age.

I think those who were shouldered with the responsibility of establishing these different specialties of Medicine to cater for the problems of peculiar group of people have done disservice to themselves, because they shall become old and pass through the same process. Aging is not something good. Aging is depreciation in function, reduction in strength. If you are shown a picture of a group of people some of whom have walking sticks and without the picture showing you their faces, if you ask anyone to point to pick out the old people, they can easily say which ones amongst them are old. Why pick those with walking stick as the old ones? Why do we associate walking stick with old age? Because mobility is impaired.

To be continued 

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