Tenacious Indian Student Compelled to Learn About His Rare Disease

Sixteen-year-old Ashrai Kumar has endured many nights of tossing and turning in pain due to ulcers caused from Behcet’s disease.
This chronic condition is seen prominently in Japan, Asia, and the Middle East, affecting more men than women. It causes inflammation in the form of ulcers, also known as canker sores, which appear in the mouth and genitals. To learn more, click here.

Ashrai has had plenty to keep his mind off the pain, however, as his exciting project was accepted into the IRIS National Science Fair, which is in collaboration with the Department of Science & Technology (DST), and the Indo-US Science & Technology Forum (IUSSTF). His project studies the diversity of a “Wolbachia” bacteria located within insects.

The unique “Wolbachia” bacteria takes part in manipulating the sex of infected insects. This technique is being harnessed by World Mosquito Program to remove vector-borne illnesses. If the project wins, he’ll move on over to the Intel International Science and Engineer Fair.

Ashrai is a budding young scientist that deserves to have a movie made about his life. The kind of inspiring scientist who is destined for greatness. The gritty researcher has been known to skip school to spend time at the Department of Genomics in the Central University of Kerala with reams of papers, ready to fire away questions at his idols, before they demand he go back to class.

When he was just 9, he was already researching cancer at Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences (AIMS) which led to his Adishankara Young Scientist Award, instituted by Adi Shankara Institute of Engineering Technology.

The prodigy was driven to medical science because he wanted to deeply understand what he was suffering from, after his incredibly painful childhood of ulcers.

Though resources are limited for his rare condition, he is going above and beyond, fueled by his thirst for knowledge, to learn more. Ashrai would question teachers until it became unbearable. Only then did a teacher bring him to Central University where he was introduced to his mentor, Dr. Grace. The doctor is very pleased by Ashrai’s knowledge.

“He has read up so much of research papers that he is well versed in the scientific language,” Dr. Grace said to the New Indian Express.

Ashrai’s dream is to become one of India’s top researchers and help people like him, but he says he will only help those that have the self-motivation and courage to help themselves.

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