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Kamal Ranadive: 10 Amazing Facts About The Indian BioMedical Researcher 

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Kamal Ranadive (who was alive between November 8, 1917 – April 11, 2001) was an Indian biomedical researcher from Pune. She was well-regarded for her research on cancer and the links between cancers and viruses. A pioneer, she established India’s premier research laboratory for tissue culture at the Indian Cancer Research Center in Mumbai during the 1960s. 

Kamal Ranadive once said, “Indian students who go abroad for higher education after their Ph.D. should return to India and do more research at home and benefit the country”. That was her firm opinion. She deeply felt that scientists should work for the upliftment of the common people of the country, especially the women and children of the grassroots. So let’s learn more about the founding member of the Indian Women Scientists Association (IWSA): Kamal Ranadive!  

Kamal Ranadive: 10 Surprising Facts About India’s Legendary Bio-Med Researcher

1. Awards and recognitions:

  • Kamal received the Padma Bhushan (India’s third highest civilian award) for medicine, in 1982. 
  • She was awarded the first ever Silver Jubilee Research Award in 1964, which included a gold medal and a cash prize of ₹15,000. This award was given by the Medical Council of India.
  • She also received the GJ Watumull Foundation Prize in 1964 in microbiology.
  • She was an Emeritus Medical Scientist of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).
  • She was honored with a Google Doodle on November 8, 2021, on her 104th birthday. 

2. Kamal came into this world on November 8, 1917:

A typical Pune family saw the birth of a daughter except for one thing. Kamal wasn’t born to any typical family, her parents were Dinkar Dattatreya Samarath (a biologist who taught at Fergusson College in Pune) and Shantabai Dinkar Samarath. Her father and mother made sure that all their children had a good education out of which Kamal was a brilliant student. 

3. Kamal studied in the same college her father taught at:

She studied at Huzurpaga: HHCP High School. Dinkar Dattatreya Samarath who is the father of Kamal wanted her to study medicine and marry a doctor, but she decided otherwise. Kamal Ranadive began her undergraduate education at Fergusson College with botany and zoology as her major subjects. She then went on to obtain her Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.) with distinction in 1934.

Kamal Ranadive then transferred to the Agriculture College, Pune, where she did her Master’s (M.Sc.) in 1943 with Annonaceae Cytogenetics as a speciality. 

4. The man who gave her her famous last name: 

Kamal Samarth married JT Ranadive, a mathematician on May 13, 1939, and moved to Bombay. They had a son, named Anil Jaysingh. A great help in her postgraduate studies was her husband, Ranadive, who helped her major in cytology; a subject that had been chosen by Dinkar Dattatreya Samarath, her father.

In Bombay (now known as Mumbai), she worked at the Tata Memorial Hospital in addition to also working for her doctorate (Ph.D.) at the University of Bombay. Her guide was VR Khanolkar, a renowned pathologist and founder of the Indian Cancer Research Center (ICRC).

5. From Bombay to America:

After receiving her Ph.D. from Bombay University in 1949, Ktanolkar (her guide at the University of Bombay) encouraged her to seek a scholarship at an American university. Kamal Ranadive received a scholarship as a postdoctoral fellowship to learn tissue culture techniques. She was assigned to partner with George Gey (famous for his laboratory innovation, the HeLa cell line) in his laboratory at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

6. Inspired, Kamal landed back to her Indian roots: 

After returning to India in 1960, India’s first ‘Cell Research Centre’ was started at the Indian Cancer Research Centre as Kamal rejoined the ICRC and began her professional career as a Senior Investigative Officer.

With the help of doctoral students working in Zoology and Chemistry, the Cancer Research Center was transformed into an internationally renowned institute called the Indian Cancer Research Institute. Three new sub-disciplines were developed in this institute namely cancer causation, cancer cell life cycle and cancer prevention.

She was instrumental in establishing the Tissue Culture Laboratory and the Laboratory of Experimental Biology in Mumbai (previously known as Bombay). 

7. A trailblazer for women in science: 

She was a great inspiration for Indian women scientists to work in cancer research, particularly on the issue of cancer among women and children. One such project was on “Tribal Blood Immunohematology” related to the study of babies.

From 1966 to 1970 she had taken over as Director of the Indian Cancer Research Center. 

In the early 1960s, her assistants (whom she had brought into the ICRC) and Kamal herself decided to delve into the fields of chemistry and biology where together they developed tissue culture media and related reagents. 

She was also responsible for establishing new research units in carcinogenesis, cell biology, and immunology. Her professional achievements include research on the pathophysiology of cancer through animals, which led to a greater appreciation of the causes of diseases such as leukemia, breast cancer, and esophageal cancer. Another notable achievement was the establishment of a link between cancer susceptibility and the relationship between hormones and tumor viruses.

The evolution of the leprosy vaccine was the result of her basic research on bacteria related to leprosy.

8. She was instrumental in research for breast cancer and other forms of cancer:

When Kamal was working for the Tata Memorial Cancer Hospital in Bombay (which later became the Cancer Research Centre) in the pathology department, she reported on research studies on the “Comparative Morphology of Normal Mammary Glands of four strains of mice that vary in their susceptibility to breast cancer”. In February 1945, she reported on research on breast cancer that had attracted particular attention. 

Kamal tried to correlate the course of the disease with heredity, childbearing, histological structure, and other factors. Neoplasms of genetic origin in children and abnormal blood states, known as dyscrasias, received her special attention.

9. In the later 80s, she helped science reach rural India:

A major study that Kamal and her team from Satya Niketan (a voluntary organization) of Ahmednagar carried out in 1989 was the collection of data related to the nutritional status of tribal children in the Akola Taluka of Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra.

Kamal also provided advice to women in rural villages near Rajpur and Ahmednagar on health and medical care through government-sponsored projects under the auspices of the Indian Women’s Association.

10. Published work:

Kamal published more than 200 scientific research articles on cancer and leprosy, which include the following: 

  • Characterization of the mammary tumor virus of the ICRC strain in mice.
  • Betel quid chewing (also called “paan” in India) and oral cancer: experimental studies in hamsters;
  • Effect of urethane on nucleic acids;
  • Influence of splenectomy on the development of ICRC strains in male mice with leukemia. 

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