Raj Shankar

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Raj Shankar
Raj Shankar for work on Alzeimer's Disease.jpg
Raj Shankar
Born (1947-04-02)2 April 1947
Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh , India
Died 22 August 2000(2000-08-22) (aged 53)
Varanasi, India
Cause of death
Myocardial infarction
Nationality Indian
Education Phd , University of British Columbia, Vancouver B.C , Canada
Known for his discovery that the cognitive defects in Alzheimer's disease are caused by a phosphorylation-related problem with protein folding.
Title Professor of Biochemistry , Banaras Hindu University , Varanasi India

Raj Shankar (2 April 1947, Gorakhpur, India-22 August 2000), was an Indian biochemist.[1] His main fields of specialisation were neurobiochemistry and clinical biochemistry. His contributions on neurochemistry are well recognised and he had been invited to deliver lectures in various prestigious conferences.

Shankar studied developmental neurobiology with special emphasis on malnutrition during the brain growth spurt. His work clearly established that undernutrition during brain development causes some irreversible changes. In 1991, work carried out in Texas and Yale with Magnetic Resonance Imaging by other workers confirmed some of the conclusions of Shankar's work. Work done during last few years of his life on developing brain show that signal transduction mechanisms are affected due to nutritional stress during brain development.

He also studied biochemical aspects of mode of action of drugs on the central nervous system. Apart from work on reserpine done earlier and published in Nature and Biochemical Pharmacology, in 1987 he established that the barbiturate pentobarbitone affects protein phosphorylation in the brain. This work is important for the mode of action of drugs like haloperidol and trifluoperazine. Shankar's work in clinical biochemistry was mainly concerned with lipoprotein metabolism. At the time of his death, he had over 80 publications in international and national academic journals.

Early career[edit]

In 1964 he obtained his BSc degree with major courses in Botany, Zoology, and Chemistry from Deen Dayal Upadhyay Gorakhpur University. In 1966 he received his MSc degree in Biochemistry from the Lucknow University. Shankar began his career studying lipid metabolism in mycobacteria at the University of Delhi. He then travelled to the University of British Columbia (UBC) to study for his PhD degree in Biochemistry under Professor Judah Hirsch Quastel,a British-Canadian biochemist who pioneered diverse research in neurochemistry, soil metabolism, cellular metabolism, and cancer. At UBC, Shankar studied cerebral metabolism during anoxia. This work showed that tetrodotoxin stimulates anaerobic glycolysis and these findings led to the conclusion that at the onset of anoxia,and in the absence of tetrodotoxin action potentials are generated.[1]

Upon graduation, he returned to India and joined the faculty of Banaras Hindu University ( Department of Biochemistry, IMS-BHU ), in Varanasi, India. Here he began his work on malnutrition and brain development. His work with malnourished rats demonstrated that Na+K+ ATPase (an essential neuronal enzyme) show decreased activity during malnutrition.He also chaired as the Head of the Department of Biochemistry at IMS-BHU.

Contributions to the field[edit]

He and his team later found that reserpine is a strong inhibitor of lipid peroxidation and protein phosphorylation in the brain. Shankar's work established that reserpine affects the cationic content of the rat brain and proposed that this may be related to release of monoamines at the synapse.[1]

In the early 1980s, Shankar demonstrated that there is a relationship between high density lipoprotein and premature atherosclerosis in patients with renal failure[1] published in The LANCET.


One of Shankar's most lasting contributions is his discovery that the cognitive defects in Alzheimer's disease are caused by a phosphorylation-related problem with protein folding.[1] This influenced Alzheimer's research for years to come.

In his last work he showed that sites in proteins damaged due to free radicals can be accurately determined by carbonylation studies and could have been developed as an accurate method to denote relation between chronological age and biological age after free radical induced damage.

Paying tribute to him, the Professor Raj Shankar Memorial Gold Medal is given to a top student in Biological Sciences every year at Deen Dayal Upadhyay Gorakhpur University (Gorakhpur, Uttar Pradesh).

Awards and Fellowships[edit]

  • 1960–62 Awarded Merit Scholarship under 2nd year plan in India.
  • 1964–66 Awarded Atomic Energy Scholarship by the Atomic Energy Commission (India).
  • 1966–67 Awarded CSIR Junior Research Fellowship at V.P Chest Institute,University of Delhi.
  • 1967–71 Awarded various scholarships including prestigious University of British Columbia Graduate Fellowship at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver B.C,Canada.
  • Elected member of International Brain Research Organization in 1979.
  • In 1999 elected as Executive member of Neuroscience Society of India.
  • Elected Lifetime Member of Association of Clinical Biochemists of India.

Sir Dr. James D Watson (Co-Discoverer of DNA) letter to Dr. Raj Shankar, regarding glycogen in the Textbook of Biochemistry. Documented Archives of Correspondences

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Shankar, Raj. "Professor Raj Shankar's Homepage". Retrieved 6 July 2007. 

External links[edit]