Scientists from several research teams at the International Clinical Research Centre (ICRC), a joint facility of the Masaryk University Faculty of Medicine and St. Anne’s University Hospital in Brno, focused on microbial infections and Alzheimer’s disease. The link between the two has been demonstrated in many studies, and the research focused on the frequency of the most common viral and bacterial pathogens in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients.

The paper, entitled “Increased occurrence of Treponema spp. and double-species infections in patients with Alzheimer’s disease,” was published in the scientific journal Science of The Total Environment (IF – 10.75).

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is an irreversible, progressive neurodegenerative pathology. It accounts for 60-80% of cases of dementia. Dementia is a general term encompassing memory loss and the gradual decline of other cognitive abilities, often severe enough to interfere with an individual’s daily life and independence. The origin of Alzheimer’s disease is not yet fully understood. The disease is characterised by a pathological cascade of protein clotting. One of these is amyloid, whose function is to protect the brain from infectious agents, i.e. viruses or bacteria. There are theories that the action of a particular virus or pathogen may cause this protein to clot more than is permissible and thus trigger the pathological cascade.

For the detection of five bacterial and five viral pathogens, a multiplex PCR assay kit has been developed in collaboration with BioVendor, where all of the aforementioned pathogens can be detected simultaneously. “Although the link between microbial infections and Alzheimer’s disease has been demonstrated in many studies, the contribution of pathogens to the onset of Alzheimer’s disease remains unclear,” said the first author of the paper, Dr Michal Nemergut from the Loschmidt Laboratories of the MU Faculty of Science and the ICRC. “Therefore, we investigated the frequency of the ten most frequently reported viral (HSV-1, EBV, HHV-6, HHV-7, CMV) and bacterial (Chlamydia pneumoniae, Helicobacter pylori, Borrelia burgdorferi, Porphyromonas gingivalis, Treponema spp.) pathogens in serum, cerebrospinal fluid and brain tissue of Alzheimer’s disease patients.”

Serum and liquor samples from 50 patients with Alzheimer’s disease and 53 control subjects without cognitive deficits were used. The samples and data were provided by the Czech Brain Aging study – a national aging study led by Kateřina Sheardová, MD, and Prof. Jakub Hort, MD. A significantly higher frequency of patients with Alzheimer’s disease who were positive for Treponema spp. was observed compared to controls (62.2% vs 30.3%). Furthermore, a significantly higher incidence of cases with two or more concurrent infections was confirmed in patients with Alzheimer’s disease compared to controls (24% vs 7.5%). The studied pathogens were detected with comparable frequency in serum and cerebrospinal fluid. In contrast, Borrelia burgdorferi, human herpesvirus 7 and human cytomegalovirus were not detected in any of the studied samples.

This study provides further evidence of an association between microbial infections and Alzheimer’s disease. “The results show that parallel analysis of multiple pathogens and detection of their occurrence from multiple different biological samples provides interesting additional information, and this methodology should be considered for future studies working with this hypothesis in the context of Alzheimer’s disease.” said Katerina Sheardová, MD.

Dr_Sheardova

Scientists from the Noninvasive cardiac imaging – CMR team at the International Clinical Research Centre of St. Anne’s University Hospital in Brno have published a study entitled “Stress pulmonary circulation parameters assessed by a cardiovascular magnetic resonance in patients after a heart transplant”. It was published in Scientific Reports (IF 4,996) and deals with the use of cardiovascular magnetic resonance in the assessment of selected parameters of pulmonary function.

“The aim of this study was to investigate novel pulmonary circulation stress parameters in patients after heart transplantation.  These patients were hypothesized to have mild diastolic dysfunction, which is more pronounced under stress conditions. The results of comparison of the obtained parameters with the control group of patients confirm this assumption. We were also the first to use “ratio” parameters, which work with the ratio of stress and rest parameters” said the first author of the paper, Lukáš Opatřil, MD.

The pulmonary circulation parameters obtained by non-invasive methods are not completely new. Resting forms in different forms and obtained by different methods have been studied for years. However, the most recent method is cardiac magnetic resonance, which offers significant advantages over other methods and is the only one that can determine stress parameters. From the analysis of data obtained in this way, parameters such as pulmonary transit time (PTT), pulmonary transit beats (PTB) and pulmonary blood volume index (PBVI) can be obtained. Similarly, their variations during exercise can be obtained.

These parameters could be used in the future to determine diastolic dysfunction. Thus, a study conducted on a group of 48 heart transplant patients provided further evidence of pulmonary circulation parameters obtained by cardiac MRI. It investigated stress parameters in this group as a potential marker of diastolic dysfunction and introduced ratio parameters as potential new biomarkers.

Dr Opatril

More than 1,700 primary school pupils from the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland and Hungary have received special training on stroke and heart attack through e-learning. A total of 152 classes from 29 primary schools and 56 teachers from the Visegrad Four countries participated in the project “V4 HOBIT: Saving Lives in the V4 through Health Education in Schools”.

The V4 HOBIT project was launched in March 2021 and its main coordinator is the Public Health Group of the Cerebrovascular Team of the International Clinical Research Centre of St. Anne’s University Hospital in Brno. The project partners are Semmelweis University (HU), Jagiellonian University in Krakow (PL) and University Hospital of L. Pasteur (SK).

The HOBIT programme has been running in Czech schools since 2014. However, it is new for teachers and pupils from the other three countries. In Slovakia, pupils from 68 classes in 10 schools learned how to recognise the symptoms of a stroke or heart attack and what to do in that moment. Most of them were from Košice, but there were also schools from Bratislava, Považská Bystrica and Trstená. In Poland, most of the schools from one city, Krakow, participated. In total, there were 24 classes from 5 schools. In Hungary, schoolchildren from different schools and towns participated in the project. The 28 classes from 9 schools came from cities such as Szeged, Nyírbátor, Zalaegerszeg or Szigetszentmiklós. The Czech Republic was represented by 32 classes from 5 schools coming from Ostrava, Brno, Ústí nad Orlicí, Domažlice and Štětí.

HOBIT educates through simulation scenes

The e-learning of the HOBIT educational programme consists of three parts. First, pupils go through a short section of several test questions to find out how much they already know about stroke and heart attack. Then they watch a video and finally go through the test again.

In each of the participating countries, pupils’ knowledge of the selected diseases increased by at least 10% after completing the full test. The biggest jump was in Slovakia, where the numbers jumped from an average of 44.8% (pupils’ success rate on the first questions) to 59.5% (pupils’ success rate on the final test). The smallest difference between the first and second tests was in Hungary. While Hungarian pupils passed the first test with an average pass rate of 53.5%, they achieved a pass rate of 57% in the second test.

One test is not the end of the project

Around 1,700 pupils from the V4 countries took the e-learning and tests in two rounds. The results allowed the research team to compare what the pupils remembered from the previous testing and thus evaluate the effectiveness of the international HOBIT learning platform.

“The result of the overall testing of the pupils’ success rate in the second round is very similar to that of the first round, ranging from 55% to 60%. For us and for the teachers, this means that the HOBIT education programme makes sense. These diseases (note: stroke and heart attack) are part of our everyday lives. Pupils are enthusiastic about the programme and learn something they can really use in their lives. They are not so helpless in crisis situations,” says Renata Hejnová, the coordinator of the HOBIT programme in the Czech Republic.

The e-learning of the HOBIT training programme is still active on the website https://projecthobit.eu/ in all four languages. If you are interested in taking part in the training programme, you can contact the coordinators and get the necessary information by e-mail: projekthobit@fnusa.cz.

The implementation of the training programme in schools was carried out by GrapePR in Slovakia, Agencja Pretty Good in Poland and Diamond Agency in Hungary. In the Czech Republic, schools that had already been involved in the HOBIT programme in previous years were contacted.

The International Clinical Research Centre of St. Anne’s University Hospital in Brno was visited by Mgr. Helena Langšádlová, Minister of Science, Research and Innovation. During her visit, she learned not only about the history and current activities of the Centre, but also about future plans and visited the workplaces of several research teams.

At the FNUSA-ICRC she was welcomed by the director of the hospital Ing. Vlastimil Vajdák and the director of the centre, prof. MUDr. Irena Rektorová, Ph.D. In a short presentation, the Minister was presented, among other things, the NPO EXCELES project focused on research on neurodegenerative brain diseases, which also aims to create a national authority, the National Institute for Neurological Research (NINR). Eleven institutions from all over the country are cooperating in the project and the main beneficiary of the grant and coordinator is the St. Anne’s University Hospital in Brno.

The presentation was followed by a tour of the selected departments. Minister Langšádlová visited the laboratory of the Centre for Cell and Tissue Engineering, where she learned about the production of cell-based medicines, as well as the workplace and operating rooms of the Interventional Cardiac Electrophysiology team. “I was very pleased with the Minister’s visit and her keen interest in our research and the NPO’s neurology project,” said Director Rektorová.

Minister Langšádlová visited the researchers of the Centre for Translational Medicine in Biological Park Brno. The head of the CTM, researcher Giancarlo Forte, introduced her to the work of the teams dedicated to basic research using, for example, organoids, both theoretically and practically directly in the laboratories. “For me, visiting the Centre of Excellence is a confirmation that we are really competitive in science and research. My ambition is to support excellent research, cooperation between the individual science centres, but also their internationalisation,” added Minister Langšádlová.

Minister visit Minister visit

Neuroblastoma is one of the most common malignant tumors in children. It typically affects very young children and sometimes occurs before birth. Neuroblastoma arises from immature cells that commonly form peripheral nerve tissue, including the adrenal medulla, where this tumour is most commonly diagnosed. The causes of the tumour are not fully understood, although it is known that tumour growth is associated with mutations that prevent proper cell development and maturation.

In the Czech Republic, neuroblastoma is diagnosed in approximately 20-30 children per year. The biggest challenge in the treatment of this tumour is its variability. While in some patients the tumour disappears spontaneously, neuroblastomas of so-called high risk often do not respond to treatment at all or the disease returns. Only about half of these patients are successfully cured.

The causes of tumour formation, treatment failure and the reasons for recurrence are therefore the focus of attention of scientists from all over the world. At the International Clinical Research Centre of St. Anne’s University Hospital in Brno, Jan Škoda, Ph.D., head of the Laboratory Oncology Translational Research team, is researching neuroblastoma. “During my internship at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, I worked in the lab with Dr. Michael Hogarty, a leading expert in neuroblastoma research and treatment. We established a long-term collaboration, the results of which we are gradually publishing,” described Dr. Škoda.

One of the results of their collaboration is the paper “Reduced ER-mitochondria connectivity promotes neuroblastoma multidrug resistanceR”, which was published this year in the prestigious scientific journal EMBO Journal (IF 11.6) and which Dr. Škoda co-authored.

In the publication, the researchers focused on mitochondria in cancer cells and their role in therapy. Mitochondria are cellular organelles, i.e. microscopic formations in cells that perform specific functions, similar to organs in the human body, for example. They are fascinating components of our cells, which probably originated from bacteria sometime over two billion years ago. Mitochondria provide unique functions for the cell. They act as a kind of cellular powerhouse and are involved in, among other things, cell differentiation or cell death.

It is programmed cell death, so-called apoptosis, that is an important process in the human body. It is often more beneficial to the organism than spontaneous cell death, because during apoptosis the cell breaks down into smaller vesicles in a controlled manner and there is no risk of it bursting and spilling its harmful contents into the environment. It is also the activation of apoptosis that is the target of most anticancer drugs. The research team, which included Dr. Skoda, described a new mechanism by which neuroblastoma cells can escape available treatments. “Essentially, we found that therapy-resistant cancer cells lose the tight contacts between mitochondria and the endoplasmic reticulum, another very important cellular organelle. This leads to a change in the composition of the mitochondria and they become less sensitive to cell death signals. This leads to a general resistance of the tumour cells, which are therefore very difficult to destroy even with otherwise perfectly effective drugs. Simply put, the changes that anticancer drugs induce in the cell are not perceived by these mitochondria and apoptosis is not triggered,” explained Dr Škoda.

Describing this new mechanism opens a new avenue for developing strategies to treat these resistant tumours.

Jan Skoda

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.

 

 

 

Supported by Project No. LX22NPO5107 from the National Recovery Plan (MEYS).

The indispensable role of physical activity in maintaining the health of the population is well known, but time spent on sedentary activities – such as watching TV, playing computer games, sitting at the computer, reading, travelling (by bus, tram, car, etc.) – is not usually given the attention it should be. Between 2005 and 2017, time spent sitting in the Czech Republic increased from 58 % to 62 %. The most common activity that families spend their free time on is watching TV, which still exceeds time spent on the computer. More than 80 % of Czech families watch TV every day or almost every day.

Dr. Geraldo Maranhano Neto Ph.D, Senior Resercher in Cardiovascular Medicine at the International Clinical Research Centre (FNUSA-ICRC) of St. Anne’s University Hospital in Brno, published an article in the “Journal of Clinical Medicine”  in January 2022 on the impact of television viewing and physical activity on various health risks.

“The research showed that people who spent more than four hours a day watching TV had more total and abdominal fat, even if their physical activity fell into the medium or high category. For other risk factors, such as high blood pressure or triacylglycerol levels, TV viewing time was significantly higher in physically inactive individuals. This suggests that people who spend a lot of time in sedentary activities are more at risk for health risks, even if they are highly physically active,” says Dr. Neto.

“Unlike sedentary jobs, watching television is usually associated with the evening hours after eating dinner. During this time, we sit without breaks, and many of us associate watching TV with eating food, sugary drinks or smoking. It should be mentioned that time spent at home is steadily increasing, mainly due to the necessary isolation (caused by the COVID-19 pandemic) and the availability of streaming platforms. We must realise that sitting in front of the television for long periods of time is a habit that can be changed. Even those who exercise regularly should work on themselves in this regard,” said Dr Neto.

As an expert on physical activity, what recommendations would you give to Brno residents based on these results?

First, even if physical activity cannot prevent some of the health problems associated with sitting in front of the TV for long periods of time, it will always be beneficial to our health. It is good to constantly remind ourselves of this fact so that so-called inactivity is not an option for us.

It is also important to allow time between stopping watching TV and preparing for sleep. The key is to reduce the time spent in front of the TV to a maximum of 2 hours a day and replace it with other habits, such as reading, which helps very well with maintaining the quality of sleep. Eating food while watching TV should also be completely avoided. Remember that the time-honoured ‘everything in moderation’ applies to every habit, including watching TV.

The Henner Prize for the outstanding original publication of 2020, intended for young authors in the field of neurology under 35 years of age, was awarded to Ondřej Volný, MD, PhD, researcher at the International Clinical Research Centre of St. Anne’s University Hospital in Brno (FNUSA-ICRC) at a ceremony in Olomouc. The researcher of the STROKE team, led by Prof. Robert Mikulík, was awarded this prestigious prize by the Czech Neurological Society. The scientist and physician, who is involved in neurology, especially in research on the treatment of stroke patients, also became one of the youngest associate professors in the history of Czech neurology this month.

Due to the pandemic measures of the past years, Ondřej Volný could only receive the Henner Prize this year. In his work, he focused on a specific group of patients whose stroke resulted in the occlusion of a large cerebral artery, but contrary to the expectations of experts, the stroke resulted in a relatively mild neurological deficit, such as a drop in the corners of the eyes or a weakening of the hand. “In my work, among other things, I addressed whether it is better to provide surgical treatment to these patients in the future or to treat them only medically,” explained researcher Ondřej Volný. The original work, Thrombectomy vs. medical treatment in patients with stroke in the anterior cerebral circulation and low NIHSS scores (i.e. low neurological deficit), also resulted in substantial help to teams of fellow neurologists who will design protocols for new studies in future years. The publication, which was described as excellent and original by the committee of the Czech Neurological Society, was created by Ondřej Volný in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Calgary, where he worked for a year and a half not only as a clinical researcher, but also as a clinician (stroke fellow). “Currently, I am still in contact with the scientific team in Calgary and I will do everything I can to ensure that the Czech Republic continues to be involved in planned studies in stroke research,” adds Ondřej Volný.

At the moment when the clinical researcher of the Cerberovascular Team of the FNUSA-ICRC in Brno and also a physician and deputy head of the Neurological Clinic for Science and Research at the Ostrava University Hospital received the Henner Prize, he already knew that he had successfully defended his habilitation thesis. The appointment decree from the Rector of Masaryk University in Brno, Prof. Martin Bareš, is dated 1 May. Dr. Ondřej Volný thus became one of the youngest associate professors in the history of Czech neurology. He is only 35 years old. “The topic of my habilitation thesis was Diagnosis and recanalization treatment of strokes, an issue I have been working on for almost 10 years. I started the habilitation procedure at Masaryk University in Brno on 4 February last year and on 24 March this year I gave my last lecture before the Scientific Council of the Faculty of Medicine of Masaryk University in Brno, so the process took more than a year,” explained Associate Professor Ondřej Volný.

The team of colleagues from FNUSA-ICRC congratulates Associate Professor Ondřej Volný and wishes him many more successes in his clinical and research work.

Ondrej Volny

Volny Ceremony