For the seventh time, the International conference Cannabis and Science will be held on Tuesday, 24 May at 9:00 a.m. at the Brno Observatory and Planetarium. The conference is held under the auspices of the Director of St. Anne’s University Hospital in Brno Ing. Vlastimil Vajdák and with the support of the Director of the International Clinical Research Centre of FNUSA Prof. Irena Rektorova.

Cannabis – a topic that still arouses emotions, especially due to the lack of information. Comprehensive information on research, cultivation, legislation or use in medical practice will be the main focus of the conference. Prominent foreign and Czech experts will present the results of their work, for example Prof. Mechoulam from Israel, who is now literally one of the legends of this field, not only thanks to the discovery of the THC molecule (tetra hydrocannabinol). “I am glad that after a break caused by the coronavirus pandemic we will meet again with doc. Lumír Hanuš, who has been researching cannabis for more than thirty years in Israel,” added Dr. Radovan Hřib, a pioneer of cannabis treatment from St. Anne’s University Hospital in Brno.

Prof. Šulcová, a recent winner of the Brno City Prize, as well as experts from Italy, Ireland and Germany will also speak at the conference. Probably the most important topic from a practical point of view will again be the legislative changes related to the cultivation of medical cannabis. “The paradox is precisely the legislative situation, where we have an amendment to the law, valid from 1 January 2022, but so far without an implementing decree. For this reason, even the hospital is waiting for rules on how to apply for a license that would allow commercial cultivation of medical cannabis. And thus also to use the experience that we are gaining in the field of research on cannabis cultivation so far in our experimental cultivation of medical cannabis, which opened last year,” added Dr. Václav Trojan, Head of the Cannabis Research Center FNUSA-ICRC.

The conference is also intended for university students and teachers and this year’s event will also remind us that J. G. Mendel, whose bicentenary we are celebrating this year, also worked with cannabis. The conference website can be found here:

Cannabis conference

On Tuesday, 24 May, the Kraví hora park in Brno will become a centre of awareness of the fight against stroke. In the Czech Republic, 6 thousand people die of stroke every year, regardless of age. Yet with early diagnosis and early first aid, the consequences of a stroke may not be so fatal. Awareness of stroke is generally low in our population, especially among children and teenagers. Therefore, the public health group, led by the International Clinical Research Centre of St. Anne’s University Hospital in Brno (FNUSA-ICRC), has for the fourth time relied on the FAST run as part of its awareness campaign and this year also on the presentation of a single by the well-known rapper Jakub Rafael alias MC Gey. The Brno-based artist composed and filmed the video “Corner of the mouth”, which introduces the issue of CMP to young people in a way that is understandable and close to them.

The fun programme for the public and schools will take place on Kraví hora from 10 am to 3 pm. First, the FAST run, an event for primary school pupils, will start. The name FAST run is derived from the so-called FAST method, which helps lay people to remember the symptoms of CMP. (F-face/face, drooping of one corner and eyelid, A-arm/arm, unable to keep both arms at the same height in the forearm, S-speech/speech, confused, incomprehensible answers to simple questions or difficulty in understanding them, T-time/time, if even one symptom is noticed, the emergency services should be called immediately, number 155).

Children demonstrate this knowledge during the race. “This is a completely unique opportunity to learn how to respond to an acute illness in the field. Racers will pass through five stations on the track where they must help a person with a specific health problem, such as a stroke, in simulated situations. This is the fourth time we have organised the event and the children agree in their feedback that it is an experience of a lifetime,” says Hana Maršálková, the organiser of the event and head of the Public Health Group at FNUSA-ICRC.

The partners of the FAST run are the Záchranka App and the Brno Observatory and Planetarium. Musically, the event, which is held under the auspices of the Mayor of the Statutory City of Brno Markéta Vaňková and the Municipal District of Brno-Centre, will be accompanied by the band Čohanas and the main star, Brno rapper MC Gey, who will present the theme song of the whole day called Corner of the mouth, in which he raps about the symptoms of CMP. “The brain can’t go in a clogged artery, it’s good to know what, when the stroke knocks, three main symptoms, so let’s check them out,” are the opening words of the song, whose title is derived from the droopy corner of the mouth that is one of the symptoms of CMP. “When we were thinking about how to raise awareness about stroke in our Saste Roma project, which is aimed at preventing serious illnesses in excluded localities, we decided on a rap song to bring the subject to young people. The younger generation is often the one who calls their parents and grandparents to the ambulance when they have a stroke,” adds Hana Maršálková, head of the Public Health Group at FNUSA-ICRC.

Dedication

On Wednesday, 11 May, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports announced the results of the public competition of the EXCELES programme. This is a call launched within the framework of the National Recovery Plan (NPO) with the aim of creating a National Institute for Neurological Research (NINR). The project will be launched in July, will run for three and a half years and involves the collaboration of eleven institutions from across the country. The main beneficiary and coordinator is St. Anne’s University Hospital in Brno. The total subsidy received is almost CZK 590 million.

The public competition in the Programme for Supporting Excellent Research in Priority Areas of Public Interest in Health Care – EXCELES was one of the first calls announced under the National Recovery Plan. These were announced in several areas, for example, focusing on oncology, metabolic-cardiology, virology, etc. “FNUSA and the Faculty of Medicine of Masaryk University entered the project together, based on their close cooperation. The fact that we are the coordinator of the project is a prestigious matter,” said Professor Milan Brázdil, Head of the First Neurological Clinic of FNUSA and the Medical Faculty of Masaryk University. In addition to the Brno platform, the other main institutions are the first and second Faculty of Medicine of Charles University, and other institutions are also involved, including the Academy of Sciences or the Czech Technical University and the University of Technology.

The central aim of the project is to connect excellent research teams with similar focuses, especially across universities and academies of science, to make the most of their unique expertise, to support the efficient use of existing cohorts and already acquired data, and to enable specialised research laboratories to carry out data evaluation so that work is concentrated in these central laboratories and not carried out in multiple locations at once.

This goal requires the establishment of a new national authority, the National Institute for Neurological Research (NINR), whose primary mission will be to systematically seek out breakthroughs in brain and nervous system knowledge with the goal of using them programmatically to reduce the burden of neurological disease and improve the quality of life of the affected population. The research will mainly focus on neurodegenerative diseases, i.e. for example Parkinson’s disease and dementia, and partly on COVID-19 and its impact on neurodegeneration.

The tasks of the NINR within this project will rest on three pillars of research looking at the issue of neurodegeneration from three different aspects – movement control disorders, cognitive disorders and neurodevelopmental disorders. “And it is not only about closer cooperation between the participating institutions, the project also includes student mobility, establishing greater cooperation with foreign countries, attracting foreign students and internationalising our scientific institutions,” emphasised FNUSA-ICRC Director Prof. Irena Rektorová.

NPO

 

On Tuesday, 26 April 2022, in the presence of the Director of St. Anne’s University Hospital in Brno Ing. Vlastimil Vajdák, Dean of the Faculty of Science of MU prof. Mgr. Tomáš Kašparovský, Ph.D. and the Director of the International Clinical Research Centre of the St. Anne’s University Hospital in Brno (FNUSA-ICRC) prof. MUDr. Irena Rektorová, Ph.D. signed the Agreement on Cooperation between the Faculty of Science of MU and FNUSA-ICRC.

After the signing of the agreement with the Medical Faculty of MU, this is another step towards strengthening the cooperation between St. Anne’s University Hospital in Brno and Masaryk University in the field of research. “Cooperation with Masaryk University has long been one of my priorities. It is not just about formalizing mutual relations, but actually making long-term cooperation more effective,” said Vlastimil Vajdák, director of the hospital.

The subject of the agreement is to regulate the conditions of cooperation in the implementation of scientific research activities by joint research groups of FNUSA and the Faculty of Medicine of Masaryk University, as well as research groups that will be established in the future. “I am very pleased that after long but constructive negotiations we have managed to reach an agreement that is beneficial for both parties,” said the Dean of the Faculty of Science, Tomáš Kašparovský. “Among other things, we have agreed with the director that our graduates of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and Genetics could obtain interesting job offers within the framework of cooperation with the hospital.”

Professor Rektorová adds: “I am very happy for the formalisation of the relationship, and the agreement also declares the joint entry of both institutions into major strategic projects. Another common interest is the participation of motivated FNUSA-ICRC scientists in undergraduate or postgraduate teaching at the MU Faculty of Science; teaching positions are competed through a selection procedure.”

There are several joint teams of MU Faculty of Science and FNUSA-ICRC. These include Prof. Jiří Damborský’s Protein Engineering research group, which operates within the Loschmidt Laboratories of Faculty of Science MU, RECETOX and FNUSA-ICRC. Furthermore, the Medicinal Chemistry group of doc. Kamil Paruch and the Laboratory Oncology Translational Research group of RNDr. Jan Škoda.

 

Agreement signature

Agreement signature

A consortium of sixteen scientific institutions, which also includes our center, has been successful with the DataTools4Heart grant. This means more than seven million crowns for FNUSA-ICRC and also further opportunities to participate in other projects with these partners, including the European Society of Cardiology.

The aim of the project is to develop a computer tool to help patients with heart failure and coronary heart disease. The aim is to create computer software that will use machine learning and artificial intelligence methods to help decide the best course of action for treating a particular patient with a particular problem. “The whole project is divided into several work areas, and ICRC researchers will mainly participate in two sequential goals, namely to provide sufficient data for “machine learning” and the subsequent validation of the forthcoming product,” said Assoc. Roman Panovský, M.D., Ph.D., head of the Noninvasive Cardiac Imaging – CMR research team.

In practice, this will mean that the algorithms for determining the ideal timing and sequence of individual steps in diagnosing patients’ diseases will be learned from samples of clinical-research data from patients at St. Anne’s University Hospital in Brno. Machine learning methods will then be used to find optimizations in the patient diagnostic process. “The advantage of the project is clearly the fact that no data will leave our workplace. The result will be algorithms and procedures that can be used for the final tool so that the treatment procedure of a new patient is as fast as possible based on these facts,” added Associate Professor Panovský.

The entire project will run for four years and will be worked on by four FNUSA-ICRC research teams as well as colleagues from the First Internal Cardioangiology Clinic of FNUSA.

horizon

Czechia, Slovakia, Poland and Hungary have all participated in the V4 HOBIT project: Saving lives in V4 through medical education in schools. Through e-learning activities, pupils from almost 30 primary and secondary schools have learnt to recognise symptoms of stroke and heart attack, and how to provide first aid to those affected. Due to this project, we have managed to expand this successful educational programme abroad.

The programme HOBIT has been operating in Czech schools since 2014. However, it is a novelty for teachers and pupils from the other three countries of the Visegrad Group. Ľubica Fidesová from the GrapePR agency commented on the project: “We are delighted about the high participation rate of Slovakian pupils who have taken part in this international educational programme. Almost 750 pupils have learnt to recognise the symptoms of stroke and heart attack, and how to act appropriately when encountering a person displaying these symptoms.” Out of the V4 countries, Slovakia has been recognised as the country with the highest rate of pupils that have participated in the V4 HOBIT project.

The largest number of Slovakian schools that have participated in the project came from the town of Košice. However, other schools from Bratislava, Povážská Bystrica and Trstené have also joined in. In Poland, most of the schools that took part were from the city of Krakow, whereas in Hungary, the base of participating schools was wider, for example Szeged, Nyírbátor, Zalaegerszeg or Szigetszentmiklós, just to name a few.

HOBIT educates through the use of simulation scenarios

The HOBIT e-learning programme consists of three parts. Firstly, students go through a short section of a few questions that test them on how much they already know about stroke and heart attack. Then, pupils watch the educational videos of simulation scenarios before they are tested again on how much they have learnt. “The children really enjoyed the project. They found the videos very stimulating and they were able to learn how to react in critical and life-threatening situations,” said the biology teacher Jana Hájková.

In the school year 2021/2022, approximately 1700 pupils from the V4 countries have completed the first round of testing. The students will repeat the e-learning programme and testing again in the coming weeks. As a result, the researchers from the Cerebrovascular team at the International Clinical Research Centre at St. Ann´s University Hospital in Brno will be able to evaluate the overall effectiveness of this international educational V4 programme named HOBIT.

“The implementation of this project led to the collection of data on how the young generation is able to recognise symptoms of these medical conditions and react in an appropriate manner. We have also recognised how much our programme contributes to increasing children’s knowledge regarding health,” said the Programm HOBIT Coordinator Renata Hejnová.

In each of the participating countries, the pupils´ knowledge of the individual medical conditions have increased. The highest improvement was detected in Slovakia where the figures rose from an average 44.8 % (success rate in the first round of questions) to 59.5 % (success rate in the second round of questions). The most insignificant difference between the first and second round of testing questions was observed in Poland. While Polish pupils passed the first test with an average success rate of 53.5 %, they achieved a result of 57 % in the final round of questions.

Some teachers have already expressed that the programme is very reasonable. “These medical conditions (stroke and heart attack) are part of our everyday lives. We can encounter a person displaying these symptoms at any time. Pupils embrace the programme with an enthusiasm of learning something new that they can use in real life. They no longer feel helpless in critical situations,” said the teacher Gabriela Milsinerová.

The V4 HOBIT project was launched in March 2021. The programme is coordinated by the Cerebrovascular Team from the International Clinical Research Centre at Saint Anne´s University Hospital in Brno and it works in partnership with Semmelweis University, Jagiellonian University a Univerzitná nemocnica L. Pasteura.

The implementation of the project was led by the GrapePR agency in Slovakia, Agencja Pretty Good in Poland and Diamond Agency in Hungary. Within the Czech Republic, we have approached the same schools that have participated in the HOBIT programme in previous years.

The project is co-financed by the Governments of Czechia, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia through the Visegrad Grants from the International Visegrad Fund. The main aim of the fund is to advance ideas for a sustainable regional cooperation in the Central Europe.visegrad_logo

Prof. MUDr. Alexandra Šulcová, CSc, FCMA, ECNP, FCINP dedicated her professional life to pharmacology at the Faculty of Medicine of Masaryk University, where she joined after graduation in 1970. From 1990 to 2011 she was the head of the Institute of Pharmacology at the Medical Faculty of Masaryk University. She then became the head of the Experimental and Applied Neuropsychopharmacology research group of the Central European Institute of Technology CEITEC at Masaryk University. Currently she is working at the Cannabis Research Center of the International Clinical Research Centre of St. Anne’s University Hospital in Brno. The focus of her professional interest is the neuropsychological effects of substances contained in cannabis and in general research on the neurobiology of drug addiction and the effects of drugs on motor skills, emotionality and cognition.

Her pedagogical contribution is also significant. She has introduced progressive teaching and testing methods and supported the career development of her postgraduate students, who have always strived to compete in a challenging domestic and international environment. In 2013, she received the Milada Paulová Award for her scientific work in the field of experimental and clinical pharmacology and toxicology, an award given by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports of the Czech Republic in cooperation with the National Contact Centre – Gender and Science of the Institute of Sociology of the CAS to female scientists in recognition of their research work. She has served as a member of the committees of several national and international scientific societies. She is an Honorary Member of the “Czech Society for Experimental and Clinical Pharmacology and Toxicology”, Honorary Member of the “Czech Neuropsychopharmacological Society”, for which she worked for many years as a committee member and as President (1999-2000). Her professional experience is also confirmed by her membership in the executive committees of international professional societies: the ECNP (European College of Neuropsychopharmacology), CINP (Collegium Internationale Neuropsychopharmacologicum). She was elected vice-president of CINP in 2010-2014. In 2014 she was elected a member of the Czech Medical Academy (FCMA).

The awarding of the Brno City Prize is an expression of respect for a personality who has been active in Brno all her life and has built its high reputation through her scientific and pedagogical activities.

First of all, let me congratulate you on the award of the Brno Prize in Medical Science and Pharmacy. What does this award mean to you?

Perhaps you cannot imagine how much… It has brought me many joys, the biggest of which is that the city of Brno has appreciated and thus recognized the importance of my scientific field, i.e. Preclinical and Clinical Pharmacology. This is significant for us in that the field is introduced to the general public and is not confused directly with the field of pharmacy (i.e. the medical branch that serves to provide medicines for patients, which of course includes their research, production, distribution. A health professional involved in pharmacy is called a pharmacist; the related academic degrees are Master of Pharmacy and Doctor of Pharmacy. Postgraduate education and successful defence of dissertation research in pharmacology are associated with the award of the degree of Ph.D. (formerly known as CSc. in the Czech Republic). I have also learned that the proposal for my award with this prestigious Brno City Prize was submitted to the Brno City Council by younger members of my former team of the Institute of Pharmacology, where I worked as its head for a number of years and they successfully defended their habilitation as associate professors. This in itself is a great honour for me and emotionally I owe them my great thanks. Last but not least, my father would certainly share my joy: Major General Otmar Kučera, DFC (Distinguished Flying Cross); during the war Commander of the 313th Fighter Squadron of the Royal Air Force, Honorary Citizen of the City of Brno. It’s like hearing what he would say about winning the City of Brno Award: “Daughter, so we both, against all odds, worked at home and abroad as: ‘proper Brnoers’.

When you think back to your beginnings, did you want to pursue pharmacology on purpose or was it more of a coincidence?

In truth? Well, it was like this: at the Faculty of Medicine of MUNI I successfully graduated with my two-year-old daughter and my husband, who moved from Prague to Brno for us. I was keen to get a place in the field of gynaecology, which I was very interested in during my undergraduate studies. However, somehow a place could not be found in Brno, but there was a position as an assistant in Pharmacology. Well, I took it (thinking that it would not last forever). And you see how it turned out – scientific pharmacology = my destiny and then my goal.

What do you consider your greatest career achievement?

I think it is difficult to praise myself, but in any case I am very happy that I have kept a clear conscience of direct and as responsible as possible in all my professional positions, whether it was in the leadership of the Institute of Pharmacology of the Faculty of Pharmacology of MUNI, or in the position of vice-dean or candidate for dean of the Faculty of Pharmacology of MUNI, or head of the Pharmacology Research Group of CEITEC MUNI, or in carrying out activities in the committees of prestigious national and international professional societies, as well as state institutions (e.g. NIDA (USA: National Institute on Drug Abuse), where for many years I cooperated in organizing international events (including those organized in the Czech Republic) within the “NIDA International Program”.

Are your former students following in your footsteps or are they pursuing other fields?

I wouldn’t call it that, some of my younger colleagues are following in my footsteps. My joy, however, is the fact that many of them have been successfully employed in pharmacological positions not only at MUNI, but some of them also abroad, mostly at highly reputable either pharmacological or pharmaceutical institutions. Directly at the Department of Pharmacology of MUNI, which I had the honour to lead for many years, a number of teachers have defended their PhD degrees and 4 of my colleagues have defended their scientific and teaching activities and the title of Associate Professor of Pharmacology, which of course I evaluate very positively and I am very happy about it.
You are considered a co-founder of Ethopharmacology in Central Europe, how would you describe this field to the readers?
The name “ethopharmacology” itself is meant to suggest that it is a combination of the approaches of ethology (i.e. the biological science that deals with the study of animal behaviour, including humans) and pharmacology, which studies the neurobiological processes involved in the regulation of behaviour.
When I was allowed to pursue a postgraduate degree in pharmacology, I was allowed to choose the laboratory in which I wanted to be active after a successful admission procedure at the Institute of Pharmacology of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences in Prague. After familiarizing myself with the institute’s possibilities at that time, I immediately chose the newly developing “Ethopharmacological” department, which, after getting acquainted with the methods used and the content of the published results, immediately impressed me. My enthusiasm lasted not only during my postgraduate studies and the successful defence of my dissertation. I presented the results at several professional conferences and also at the international “International Conference on Ethopharmacology”, then held in Athens. I was recognized after my presentation and during an interesting discussion I met a number of eminent ethopharmacologists from different countries from all over the world. (At that time, ethopharmacology was most developed in the USA and in Europe in England). This is how disciplinary friendships are formed! It is perhaps understandable that my ethopharmacological approach to research was reflected in the choice of topics for PhD students accepted at our Pharmacology Institute, where I was their supervisor. Gradually, with the help of defended applications for research grants, the appropriate preclinical technical laboratory equipment of our institute was improved and thus we had more and more plausible and accepted for publication ethopharmacological experimental studies also by our PhD students and also their presentation at international scientific conferences. We started to successfully organize such international conferences in our country. I was elected to the committee of the European Behavioural Pharmacology Society (“EBPS” = European Behavioural Pharmacology Society). The professional pharmacological societies communicate with each other, of course, even the international ones. They are interested in each other’s activities. I gradually became a member of several international pharmacological professional societies and was elected to their committees for my professional activity. These societies then award the honorary title of “Fellow” for services rendered. Thus, I gradually received the honorary titles, which I greatly appreciate: FECNP (Fellow – European College of Neuropsychopharmacology); FCINP (Fellow – International College of NeuropsychopharmacologyC); and FCMA (Fellow Czech Medical Academy).
The pharmacological approach was also used at the Institute of Pharmacology of the Faculty of Pharmacology of MUNI to investigate the pharmacological relationships of methamphetamine (methamphetamine) addiction, which is the most widely used drug in the Czech Republic. The pharmacological mechanisms of action of this drug are described. Ways to help in getting rid of addiction to it or other substances are sought.
An important direction of such research is the investigation of the relationship of the so-called human endocannabionoid system, which produces substances with similar regulatory effects to those of the cannabinoids contained in cannabis. This system exists essentially throughout the vertebrate body, including in humans, and can cause a variety of diseases if it does not function properly. For example, its deregulation in the brain can lead to schizophrenic disorders, depression and anxiety. We are trying to understand the functioning of this system and, more importantly, how it can be influenced therapeutically in various indications, including addictions. This is one of the interests of the FNUSA-ICRC Cannabis Research Center, of which I have the honour of being a member.

So you are currently working in our Cannabis Research Center. What led you to this decision?

I was very happy to accept the opportunity to be a member of this centre, even at my age, whose activities and activities I appreciate very much. I try to be a valid member in the professional discussions of the team to address the working activities of the Center, the publication of the results achieved through professional lectures or publications, I think it is also important to establish the widest possible international working contacts and cooperation with experts in the field of cannabinoid research and its practical use. I have long-standing “work-community” personal friendships with experts in this field, which are also certainly an important supporting component in achieving cannabinoid research and treatment success. I believe they would not mind if I took the liberty of quoting them here, as they are not reluctant to work with our center. Among the most important is certainly Professor Raphael Mechoulam from Israel, who was the first to carry out the total synthesis of the main plant cannabinoids Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol, cannabidiol, cannabigerol and various others. Another major research project initiated by him was the isolation of the first described endocannabinoid in the vertebrate body (including man) – anandamide, in which two of his postdoctoral fellows, namely the Englishman William Devane and our Czech colleague Lumír Ondřej Hanuš, who was awarded the 12th Faculty of Medicine of Masaryk University upon my proposal. On April 4, 2007, on my proposal to the Masaryk University, I was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor honoris causa in the field of chemical sciences. I have had the honour of being able to collaborate with these scientists in research and to publish some of their results together. We continue to be in active contact, one of the proofs of which is also their willingness to be in personal working relations with us, e.g. also at professional international conferences and those organized by our center at FNUSA-ICRC.

What would you say to students who are thinking about working in science and research?
GO FOR IT!
Prepare for all kinds of pitfalls, after all, as in any work activity; take advantage of all possible (nowadays available) professional and international collaborations that will bring progress.
I wish you much joy in your work, and in the results of your work being achieved and accepted. Good luck!

Sulcova_award

Lose ten kilos in a month without exercise. Prepare a twice-daily drink based on the latest scientific findings and the pounds will come off on their own. Smear yourself with a magic cream made from a secret blend of herbs and the fat cells will dissolve in your body. Such slogans are encountered by most of us today and every day. However, once people invest often considerable money in the products, they find that the result is always the same. The desired effect is simply not achieved without work.

At the beginning of March, the fight against excess fat is also being launched by Kardiovize 2030 at the St. Anne’s University Hospital in Brno. Unlike miracle drugs, however, it does not promise miracles on the spot. “In the new Lifestyle Programme, we are trying to instil the principles of a healthy lifestyle in our clients, advising them on diet, exercise, but also on their psyche, which is an important part of any life change,” said Jiří Erlebach, spokesman for St Anne’s Hospital.

The annual Lifestyle Program will offer twenty-two one-hour group sessions with a coach to discuss all topics related to a healthy lifestyle. They will be supported by other participants with whom they will exchange knowledge during the groups. “I have to say that the group has motivated me a lot to lose weight. I knew I was not alone in this. And when I had a problem, not only the coach helped me with it, but also the other members who had solved a similar problem in the past,” said Jitka, who completed the pilot version of the programme last year.

Junk food won’t fly out of the fridge

Experts from Cardiovision 2030 also know that losing weight is not a matter of a short time. It’s all about creating long-term habits. That’s also why drastic diets don’t work, as people often go back to their old habits after they stop. “I’m certainly not going to throw food out of the fridge or ban people from eating. On the contrary, we will think together about which foods are better for us and look for healthier alternatives,” explained Martina Bruzlová, a coach and coordinator of the programme.

Nutritional therapist Monika Kunzová will also be available to the participants throughout the programme. “I will explain to clients the importance of all nutrients and their functions in the body. They will be able to contact me even if they are hesitant about whether a given food fits into their diet,” she informed.

The one-year course starts in March

Those interested in making a lifestyle change should not hesitate in signing up for the programme. It starts in March. Capacity is also limited. “Because we want to have enough time for everyone, there will be a maximum of twelve participants in each of the two groups,” Bruzlová pointed out. She added that in case people cannot attend all the lessons, there is an alternative in the form of a video. “Those who do not want to share their feelings with the group can then pay extra for private sessions,” she noted.

The cost of the programme starts at 950 CZK per month, with the price going up by 250 CZK per month in case of individual consultations. People can find more information on the project’s website.

Kardiovize_programme

Thanks to the contribution of the H2020, the EU’s research and innovation funding programme active from 2014-2020, the International Clinical Research Center (ICRC) has established a successful and long-term collaboration with colleagues from the University of Melbourne (UniMelb, Australia) and the University of Tor Vergata in Rome (Italy). The joint network was empowered by Marie Curie Research and Innovation Staff Exchange (RISE) grant NANOSUPREMI and coordinated by Dr. Giancarlo Forte at the Mechanobiology of Disease Group of FNUSA-ICRC, and Dr. Francesca Cavalieri who has a shared appointment at the University of Melbourne and at the University of Tor Vergata. By exploiting the possibility to exchange staff and transfer knowledge and by combining complementary expertise in the fields of nanomaterials and cellular biology, the collaboration has recently resulted in a number of outstanding peer-reviewed publications.

Earlier this year, the work entitled “Transforming the chemical structure and bio‐nano activity of doxorubicin by ultrasound for selective killing of cancer cells” has been published in the high impact factor journal Advanced Materials. In this study, Sukhvir Bhangu from UniMelb and Soraia Fernandes from FNUSA-ICRC aimed at increasing the specificity of cancer treatment. They adopted a simple and cost-effective methodology to reconfigure the structure of the chemotherapeutic drug doxorubicin to selectively kill cancer cells and avoid cardiotoxic effects.

Within the same collaboration and thanks also to the support of iCare2-AIRC funding scheme, Marco Cassani from FNUSA-ICRC and Alessia Amodio from UniMelb have described a new method based on DNA/LNA chimera sensor and expansion microscopy to identify virus-infected cells and their viral reservoir with unprecedented detection accuracy. Although this technique has been applied to HIV virus, it can be scaled up to identify cells infected by SARS-COV2 virus. The study, entitled “Nanoscale probing and imaging of HIV-1 RNA in cells with a chimeric LNA-DNA sensor” was published in the peer-reviewed journal Nanoscale.

Finally, in another publication, Agata Glab, a PhD student from the UniMelb hosted at CTM lab within the MSCA-RISE NANOSUPREMI grant, proposed the application of glycogen-albumin nanoparticles for drug deliver to cancer cells in 2D and 3D disease models. This study, entitled “Triggering the nanophase separation of albumin through multivalent binding to glycogen for drug delivery in 2D and 3D multicellular constructs”, is a fruit of the collaboration with the groups of Giancarlo Forte and Jan Frič, from CTM, and has been published in the journal Nanoscale.

Mgr. Martin Toul from the Loschmidt Laboratories of the Faculty of Science MU, RECETOX and the International Clinical Research Centre at St. Anne’s University Hospital in Brno (FNUSA-ICRC) has discovered in his work a connection that increases the previously recognized effectiveness of staphylokinase in dissolving blood clots up to ten thousand times. This breakthrough discovery could help to find new and more effective drugs for acute stroke patients.

Two approaches are currently used to treat stroke. The first is mechanical, where the blood clot is removed using a catheter, while the second is biochemical, where the thrombus is dissolved using a drug. The first method is more demanding in terms of technical equipment and also in terms of thorough training of personnel, while the second is easier to apply, but it has its limits too, especially in terms of efficacy and the cost of the substance administered.

Currently, the most widely used drugs contain a protein called alteplase as the active substance. Although this has a relatively selective effect directly on the blood clot, it has limited efficacy and has a higher risk of thrombus recurrence or unwanted bleeding. Also for this reason, agents that dissolve the thrombus faster and without the risk of side effects are constantly being sought.

A protein produced by staphylococcus bacteria, staphylokinase, has been considered as one suitable candidate. Staphylococcus is found on the skin or mucous membranes of every person. However, if the body is weakened or the immune system is compromised, it can cause an infection that is difficult to treat. Although the immune system tries to isolate these bacteria by using a protective barrier similar in composition to that of a blood clot, staphylococcus can break it down with staphylokinase.

However, staphylokinase did not appear to be a suitable candidate for the treatment of stroke due to its low efficacy. But this could now change with the work of Martin Toul, who has shown that the efficacy reported so far is actually many times – up to 10 000 times – higher. “We are working on research and development of substances effective in stroke within the Stroke Brno project and our research has been supported by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports with a four-year INBIO grant of CZK 100 million,” said Toul.

The link that could change the perception of staphylokinase in treatment came about unplanned. “We were testing proteins similar to staphylokinase, and we needed to get baseline data to use as a basis for comparison. We didn’t just want to rely on data reported in the literature; we wanted to verify previous observations in the lab. We went more in depth and found that the staphylokinase activity was actually quite different,” Toul described.

The overall efficiency of staphylokinase, i.e. the efficiency of dissolving a blood clot, is indeed low. However, its mechanism is more complex and consists of two steps. The first is the binding of staphylokinase to its partner, which is very weak indeed. In contrast, the second step, the dissolution of the blood clot itself, is ten thousand times more efficient overall. This is due to the minimal binding of staphylokinase, because of which only a negligible fraction of staphylokinase molecules form an active bound form. Therefore, if the binding could be made more efficient, the overall efficiency of dissolving blood clots would increase many fold.

“Everyone was looking at the activity as a whole. But we looked at the individual steps of the mechanism and found the limiting one. As a result, we found that we don’t need to improve staphylokinase at all in terms of dissolution activity, but just focus on its binding efficiency, which is easier to do,” Toul emphasized. Thus, future research will aim to find proteins with improved binding properties so that the overall efficiency is as high as possible. “Using protein engineering methods, we plan to design thousands of variants, test them in our Loschmidt laboratories and send the most suitable candidates to our colleagues at the Institute of Biophysics of the CAS, with whom we also collaborate within the Stroke Brno platform,” outlined Martin Toul’s future plans.

The first author of the thesis Mgr. Martin Toul is a student of Masaryk University and a researcher of the Protein Engineering team (FNUSA-ICRC) in Loschmidt laboratories under the supervision of Prof. Zbyněk Prokop and Prof. Jiří Damborský. In 2020, he was awarded a Fulbright Postdoctoral Fellowship for PhD students, thanks to which he spent a semester at the University of Texas at Austin in the group of Prof. Kenneth A. Johnson.

Martin_Toul