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

For the seventh time, the role of women in research is commemorated with the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. We would like to commemorate several colleagues for whom science research is not only a job but also a mission. And that there were many to choose from, at the International Clinical Research Center at St. Anne’s University Hospital in Brno (FNUSA-ICRC) more than half of the researchers are women (52%).

The new director of the FNUSA-ICRC from the new year is Prof. MUDr. Irena Rektorová, Ph.D. She is an internationally recognized and respected neurologist and scientist with expertise in movement disorders, cognitive neurology, non-invasive brain stimulation and structural and functional imaging. Currently, she also works as a research group leader at the Central European Institute of Technology CEITEC of Masaryk University and as a neurologist and head of the Centre for Abnormal Movements and Parkinsonism at the First Neurological Clinic of FNUSA and LF MU. Last year, she received the MU Rector’s Award for long-term excellence in research and the MUNI Scientist 2021 Award.Irena-Rektorova

What advice would you give to female students who are thinking about their future and one of the options for them is science and research?
I would advise them to try joining a good research team as early as possible, preferably while they are still in school, so that they get a feel for what research entails. And I would stress to them that the most important thing is to have a good mentor and, of course, an internship abroad. Young people are like sponges, they soak up new things well, they are full of energy and drive and they are flexible and enthusiastic. That’s how it should be. They don’t have to be shy at all to ask a lot of questions and try to do things they’ve never thought about before. And being women? Is there something specific to them? They’ll have to combine research with family if they want it. And that’s certainly possible if they want to.

What’s the biggest challenge you want to tackle this year?
I had to grapple with some major things in January – we managed to get a contract signed with the Faculty of Medicine of MU to create a joint workplace of the International Clinical Research Center of FNUSA and LF MU, it was signed between the director of FNUSA ing. The contract has added value for both parties and will bring stability to the ICRC and will be valid from 1 July this year. Furthermore, we were able to submit the NPO-NEURO-D Excels project, which establishes a broad inter-institutional consortium as a cornerstone for the National Institute for Neurological Research. The project was coordinated by FNUSA with its grants department, Professor Milan Brázdil was the scientific coordinator, and I coordinated one of the three pillars of the project, which cross-institutionally focused on neurodegeneration with cognitive impairment. We submitted the project on 7 February. We will now keep our fingers crossed that the project will be funded, there is a nice interdisciplinary and inter-institutional collaboration set up, research at the FNUSA ICRC plays an important role in it.
Otherwise, I have many other plans for this year, mainly I will have to learn to effectively combine the management of the FNUSA-ICRC with clinical work with patients at the First Neurological Clinic of FNUSA and LF MU, with teaching and mentoring undergraduate and PhD students and with leading my excellent research group at CEITEC MU. This will be very challenging and I hope I will succeed, for now I am still looking forward to it!

Last year, Dr. Petra Šedová received the Danubius Young Scientist Award for her outstanding work in the field of neuroepidemiology. The award is given to only one researcher in a country and is competed between different scientific disciplines. (The award is given by the Austrian Federal Ministry for Education, Science and Research (BMBFW) and the Institute for the Danube Region and Central Europe (IDM). Dr. Seda has other awards to her credit, and in 2018 she received the Martina Roessel Memorial Grant (awarded by the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry) supporting women scientists who care for preschool children while developing their scientific careers.Petra_Sedova

What advice would you give to female students who are thinking about their future and one of their options is science and research?
Don’t be afraid! If you are inwardly considering the adventurous challenging path of science and research, take a few steps along it and you may find that it is your path that you find fun, motivating, personally fulfilling, and meaningful to devote your time to expanding human knowledge. Start today, the sooner the better, ideally in high school. Above all, find a good mentor, a supervisor, because he/she shapes your first steps, shows you the direction to go, how to ask questions, how to seek answers. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, making mistakes is inevitable in the learning process, only those who do nothing – do nothing wrong. Go abroad for an experience, broaden your horizons and make new contacts and collaborations. And if you find a loving partner with whom you are thinking of starting a family, discuss together how you imagine combining your work and childcare, how you will support each other.

What is the biggest challenge you want to tackle this year?
I have already partially mentioned the biggest challenge for me in my last answer, clearly the question of how to appropriately combine the care of three young preschool children, research projects and clinical work as a doctor…

The list of achievements of our female scientists is of course longer, let us mention at least the Strmisek Prize for Dr. Sheardová, the Paul Dudley White International Scholar Award for Dr. Kunzová or the Brno City Prize in the field of “medical science and pharmacy” for Prof. Šulcová.

We wish all our colleagues every success in 2022.

The experimental cannabis cultivation facility of the St. Anne’s University Hospital in Brno and its International Clinical Research Center is attracting attention in its second year of existence. It is no wonder, it is a unique connection of its own research cultivation to the teams of the research centre, i.e. a guarantee of standardised material for research on active substances contained in cannabis.

Ensuring the pharmaceutical quality of the cannabis grown requires, in addition to very strict hygiene measures, precise rules for plant nutrition. “We have chosen a basalt wool cultivation system with drip irrigation control with precise monitoring and control of all external factors – light, heat or humidity,” described MVDr. Václav Trojan, Ph.D. from the Cannabis Research Center of the International Clinical Research Center of FNUSA.

It is with the management and control of all these external factors that Canna company helps our growers. The company cooperates with Pieter Klaassen, a legend in the field of growing plants in artificial conditions, and the Dutch expert also came to Brno. “His experience is really unique, we introduced him to our irrigation system and light regime and then just listened to his advice on how to improve it all,” said Václav Trojan.

The next harvest of medicinal cannabis is planned for this spring, so we will see if it will be better than the first one.

klaassen

On Friday, 28 January 2022, in the presence of the Minister of Health of the Czech Republic, Prof. MUDr. Vlastimil Válek, CSc., MBA, EBIR, the Rector of Masaryk University, Prof. MUDr. Martin Bareš, Ph.D., the Director of St. Anne’s University Hospital in Brno, Ing. Vlastimil Vajdák, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine of MU prof. Ing. MUDr. Martin Repko, 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 the establishment of a joint workplace called the International Clinical Research Centre.

It is the result of more than a year of negotiations between the representatives of St. Anne’s University Hospital in Brno and the Faculty of Medicine of Masaryk University. “This close connection will guarantee the achievement of better quality results and enable the concentration of biomedical research in Brno. For example, in the area of grants, it will be possible to jointly pursue large strategic projects and thus further promote the prestige of Brno as a leading Czech centre of science and research,” said Martin Bareš, Rector of MU.

The joint workplace will be within the St. Anne’s University Hospital in Brno and the Faculty of Medicine of Masaryk University at the level of an institute. “I have always declared that cooperation with Masaryk University is one of my priorities. The establishment of the joint workplace is a logical outcome of the connection between FNUSA and MU. It will be a relatively independent entity, including the internal structure and financing – all this will be managed by the head,” said Vlastimil Vajdák. The current director of FNUSA-ICRC, Prof. Irena Rektorová, M.D., Ph.D., will become the head of the FNUSA-ICRC.

The contract has also been approved by the Ministry of Health of the Czech Republic and will now be submitted to the Academic Senate of Faculty of Medicine and then to Academic Senate of Masaryk University. “I consider the establishment of another joint workplace of MU Faculty of Medicine and FNUSA to be a great step towards the optimization of scientific and research cooperation between both institutions and towards ensuring personnel stabilization of the existing joint staff. The joint institute will also be newly dedicated to teaching activities of young scientists,” said Martin Repko, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine of MU.

Creating a strategic plan and managing the joint ICRC institute will be the tasks of the head of the centre, Prof. Irena Rektorová, M.D., Ph.D. “I like new challenges, this will be one of the most challenging. My priorities will be excellence in research, transparency and financial sustainability of the ICRC. I believe that the joint workplace will contribute significantly to building a strong scientific platform in Brno,” added Prof. Rektorová.

Prof. Rektorová is an internationally renowned and respected neuroscientist, researcher and member of the committees of many European and international societies and scientific panels, with specialties in movement disorders, cognitive neurology, non-invasive brain stimulation and structural and functional imaging. She is also currently working as a research group leader at the Central European Institute of Technology CEITEC of Masaryk University and as a neurologist and head of the Centre for Abnormal Movements and Parkinsonism at the First Neurological Clinic of St. Anne’s University Hospital in Brno and the Faculty of Medicine of Masaryk University.

The signing of the contract was also attended by the Minister of Health of the Czech Republic Vlastimil Válek. “I very much appreciate that this unique project combines research in cooperation between medical and educational institutions, which will not only lead to quality results, but also involve experts from both fields and, last but not least, save the Ministry of Health funds. I wish my colleagues every success in their work,” Minister Válek thanked the participants.

FNUSA-ICRC becomes a joint workplace of FNUSA and LF MU

Dean of LF MU Martin Repko, Director of FNUSA-ICRC Irena Rektorová, Director of FNUSA Vlastimil Vajdák

Agreement press conferenceRector of MU Martin Bareš, Minister of Health of the Czech Republic Vlastimil Válek, Director of FNUSA Vlastimil Vajdák, Director of FNUSA-ICRC Irena Rektorová

Thanks to the CANTAS (Computer Assisted Non-Thermal Ablation System) project, the main beneficiary of which is the International Clinical Research Centre of St. Anne’s University Hospital in Brno (FNUSA-ICRC), a successful contact between St. Anne’s University Hospital in Brno and the French Ecole Centrale de Nantes has been established. Exchanges, mutual training and technical training of the analytical systems were carried out.

Dr. Guido Caluori from FNUSA-ICRC presented the long-term goal of integrating the predictive digital twin model into 3D EAM systems and making it a tool of common use for physicians in dealing with cardiac arrhythmia ablation. This integration would provide surgeons with increased confidence when combining radiofrequency ablation with thermal energy or pulsed electric field (PEF).

In 2020, an experimental setup was implemented to measure the acute effects of irreversible electroporation in cardiac tissue. A voltage-dependent decrease in impedance was successfully observed without a significant change in temperature at the contact area, suggesting that the PEF ablation performed was not thermal and that impedance is indeed a potential marker of energy titration for sustained lesion formation. Immunohistochemistry showed several autolytic, necrotic, and staurosporine-induced apoptotic lesions labeled with the selected antibody for Caspase3.

Using cardiac magnetic resonance imaging, several geometry extraction protocols (manual and semi-automated) were developed, on which local biophysical features were applied according to the presence of fibrosis, in order to create a tailored “digital twin” of the patient for therapy testing. Dr. Caluori prepared, with French partners, a numerical simulation of specific twins from left atrial scans with simplified geometry; he implemented the model account using an existing anatomical atlas to personalize and parameterize the model, for tissue orientation and dishomogenicity.

In 2020-2021, joint face-to-face encounters were limited due to travel restrictions. However, the work has not stopped after the end of the project and a joint grant application to Horizon Europe is already in the pipeline this year.

Zdeněk Strmiska (1925-2009) was a prominent Czech sociologist. Since 1962 he lectured sociology at the University of 17 November in Prague to students from francophone countries. His dream came true with the founding of the Institute of Sociology in Prague in 1965, where he became the scientific director. In 1968 he went to France for a two-year study stay, where he stayed after the Sociological Institute in Prague was closed. For more than 15 years, he served as director of the Sociological Institute of the C.N.R.S. in Paris. He was also a visiting professor at the University of Caracas. His illness with Alzheimer’s disease led to the decision to financially support research and training of professionals in this field.

Thanks to the generous gift of Mrs. Eliska Strmiskova, the Alzheimer Foundation has been awarding the Eliska and Zdeněk Strmiskova Prize for Distinguished Contribution to Research and Treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Neurodegenerative Diseases since 2017.

The recipient of this prestigious award for the year 2021 is Kateřina Sheardová, M.D., Ph.D., neurologist at the First Neurological Clinic of the Faculty of Neurology and the Faculty of Medicine of the Medical University of Brno and head of the Brno section of the Dementia Research Team of the International Clinical Research Centre of St. Anne’s University Hospital in Brno. She specializes in neurodegenerative diseases and memory disorders. She is co-founder of the first aging study in the Czech Republic “Czech Brain Aging Study”. Her main research interests are preventive measures, healthy lifestyle and techniques that influence Brain maintenance and help prevent chronic stress such as yoga, meditation and mindfulness techniques.

Congratulations!

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In biology, cellular senescence is the name given to a condition in which cells stop their cell cycle but do not die; they continue to function in the body. Often, cells go into senescence to prevent problems from arising (e.g. in the case of liver damage or wound healing), but in larger numbers and at advanced ages, senescent cells are more likely to create problems.

Scientists from the Epigenetics, Metabolism and Aging team at the International Clinical Research Centre at St. Anne’s University Hospital in Brno (FNUSA-ICRC) have focused their research on new senolytics, popularly known as anti-aging drugs. “Senolytics hold great promise in the fight against age-related diseases,” said Manlio Vinciguerra, head of the Epigenetics, Metabolism and Aging research team. “Over time, senescent cells begin to accumulate in each of us, and as a result of this process, individuals become more susceptible to chronic diseases and experience a decline in cognitive function.”

With the help of senolytics, these senescent cells can be eliminated, thereby contributing to the improvement of chronic diseases that the older generation in particular faces. In their study “Nociceptin/orphanin FQ opioid receptor (NOP) selective ligand MCOPPB links anxiolytic and senolytic effects” for the peer-reviewed journal GeroScience (IF 7.7), the researchers used high-throughput automated screening (HTS) technology to test thousands of molecules, increasing the chance of finding new potential senolytics that could be used as drugs in the future. “We worked closely with colleagues from the Institute of Molecular and Translational Medicine at Palacký University in Olomouc, who identified this new senolytic (MCOPPB) in vitro,” added Manlio Vinciguerra.

MCOPPB (the selective FQ ligand of the opioid receptor nociceptin (NOP) 1-[1-(1-methylcyclooctyl)-4-piperidinyl]-2-[(3R)-3-piperidinyl]-1H-benzimidazole) was selected as the most suitable candidate, which is also being studied as a potential anxiolytic, i.e. a drug that relieves anxiety or psychological tension. However, experiments in the laboratory and in animal models have also revealed a senolytic function for this substance.

Over a period of two months, the test subjects were administered the active substance in several doses. After the experiment, they were subsequently examined. In animal models, the senolytic drugs were shown to delay several age-related disorders, improve physical and cognitive function, and extend lifespan. Despite demonstrating a positive senolytic effect, the drug showed side effects including weight gain. Future drug development will require further studies to clarify the coordination of central and peripheral effects and their impact on metabolism.

MCOPPB