Click here for my recent interview that was featured on CaribPress
Dr. Sanjay Kapur is a scientist with extensive experience in biomedical research. He has strong interest in health and wellness with an emphasis on heart disease, diabetes and obesity. As Scientific Director of ZRT Laboratory, Dr. Kapur has been instrumental in developing a technology called dried blood spot testing that is being utilized for early detection of major indicators associated with heart health.
CaribPress chatted with the scientist about dried blood spot testing, cardiometabolic syndrome and his journey from India to Canada and to the United States.
CPress: Why biomedical research and when did you decide to venture into the research field?
Dr. Kapur: I have spent almost twenty-five years in the research field, but research in the area of biomedicine was something that I wanted to do at an early age. My grandparents died of heart failure and diabetes. Genetically I am very likely to develop these conditions and pass them on to my next generation. I do not have symptoms of such diseases right now.
CaribPress: What is dried blood spot testing and does this testing have the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approval?
Dr. Kapur: Blood spot testing is a minimally-invasive form of hormone and wellness testing. With a simple finger prick, samples of blood are dropped onto a card which is dried and mailed back to the laboratory. Dried blood spot testing has been used for several decades. Sometimes the FDA approves the sample collection method, sometimes they approve the methods which are used for testing different biochemical markers. Our methods for testing the biochemical markers are FDA approved and the lab supplies that we use as part of our procedures to test these biochemical markers are also FDA approved.
CaribPress: Define and discuss cardiometabolic risk.
Dr. Kapur: This is my favorite subject. Cardiometabolic is a fairly new term. It involves all the factors that define the overall risks of developing cardiovascular disease. Like age, race, gender, genetics, diet, physical inactivity, obesity, smoking, all these things are responsible for increasing the risk for cardiovascular disease that play a part as much as 10-15 years before you start to see the symptoms. All these things together are what we call Cardiometabolic Risk.
CaribPress: Can you talk about the estimated cost to a patient for dried blood spot testing?
Dr. Kapur: ZRT Laboratory offers many tests. All of the tests have different prices and depends on the test that is being done. The prices vary depending if someone has insurance or not. For someone who does not have insurance, it is much cheaper to have the tests done in dried blood than the more conventional serum testing. It is more cost effective to test using dried blood spot testing because you don’t have the added cost of going to a phlebotomist or a doctor’s office for a blood draw.
CaribPress: Is dried blood spot testing suited for middle-income or third-world countries?
Dr. Kapur: Absolutely, actually it is more convenient and suited for those countries. Especially for those people living in remote areas and those people who have absolutely no access to labs with the latest technologies. Because of this dried blood spot testing, they can collect their own samples by a simple finger prick and mail them back to the lab in the regular mail. This method of testing is ideal for people who do not have access to a lab but need to monitor risk factors such as cardiometabolic risk markers.
CaribPress: Can you share something memorable in your journey from India, Canada and to the US?
Dr. Sanjay Kapur: I received a post-doctoral fellowship and went to French speaking Quebec, where they did not speak English and I did not speak French. I was in India at the time, so the interview was conducted over the phone and I was hired. The fellowship was with Laval University, Chul Research Center and I was there for three years.
When I think back, this journey has been, I would say, tough — a lot of struggles. At the same time, I would say, it was a great learning experience for me. Traveling from India to French speaking Canada (Quebec City), without knowing anyone there; adapting to this new culture, including the weather; working at the hospital, doing research, then moving to California for a very exciting research project that involved designing anti-cancer drugs.
CaribPress: Can dried blood spot testing be used for Sickle Cell and HIV testing?
Dr. Kapur: ZRT Laboratory does not do HIV or Sickle Cell testing. ZRT testing primarily involves steroid hormone tests, other tests relating to hormone balance, and cardiometabolic risk testing. Other labs are using dried blood spot testing for HIV. For sickle cell, I saw a study that came out in 2006 that screened for sickle cell and the blood spot method they have developed works for that type of screening process.
CaribPress: Talk about the accuracy of dried blood spot testing vs. conventional testing.
Dr. Kapur: Dried blood spot testing is as accurate as the conventional serum testing. The instruments such as auto analyzers that we use, and the methods that are used to test serum are all the same. The only difference is that the dried blood spot samples are absorbed onto a filter card, so those blood samples have to be first rehydrated and extracted for analysis. So, once they are reconstituted back into liquid form in the lab, we can test them the same way as a conventional test.
CaribPress: Discuss universal testing using saliva and dried blood spot testing.
Dr. Kapur: At ZRT Laboratory, we have tested more than one million patients using saliva and dried blood spot testing. It is getting very popular. This is coming up as the future of blood testing. There is always going to be a role for conventional serum tests, especially in hospitals where the lab is on hand and where some tests require immediate results, but many risk markers, hormones, and other substances can be tested in dried blood spot or saliva that can be collected at home. People are looking for convenience and lower costs when it comes to taking care of their long-term health.
CPress: What was the impetus for you to be a part of ZRT Laboratory?
Dr. Kapur: I have been a research scientist with ZRT Laboratory since July 2005. I was back in California and read about Dr. David Zava, the President and founder of ZRT. Dr. Zava had done a lot of research on breast cancer and hormone imbalance. He published articles and books, so I got very interested in hormone imbalance. At the time I was not very much aware of how hormone imbalance can lead to all these diseases and health conditions. So with my background in science I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to join this research team.
Most of the research that I was involved with before coming to ZRT was biochemical research. I thought it would be a great opportunity to join hands and I wanted to help ZRT to conduct research. I wanted people to benefit directly from this research. Most of the research that I had been involved with was mainly biomedical and more academic and it was not research that would directly go to benefit the public. So, after spending so many years in research, I wanted to do something that would directly go on to help people improve their health.
ZRT started this lab by developing a simple and almost non-invasive saliva testing. Later on we developed the dried blood spot technology. We developed this technology to make it easier for testing and convenience to allow everyone to take control of their own health and knowledge — and in particular to be proactive in terms of prevention.