FNUSA-ICRC Chair Dr. Gorazd Bernard Stokin delivered a speech in Hong Kong to 2000-guest-audience on “Axons, Transport, Alzheimer’s Disease and Beyond”. In his talk he addressed various topics regarding the most common neurodegenerative disorder.

Clinically, Alzheimer’s disease consists in acquired progressive behavioral changes and cognitive decline, while pathologically it is characterized by synaptic and neuronal loss. Dr. Stokin is dedicated to the research of Alzheimer’s disease and welcomes every opportunity to convey his wide knowledge in order to raise the awareness of this widespread and serious disease.

In the middle of September, a delegation from FNUSA-ICRC visited Japan and engaged in various activities during its stay in the Land of the Rising Sun.
Scientists from the Center for Translational Medicine (CTM) of FNUSA-ICRC presented their research at TERMIS World Congress 2018 in Kyoto. The conference was a premier event for the dissemination of cutting-edge research in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. Ana Rubina Perestrelo successfully introduced her research on combined approach to investigate ECM nanostructure remodeling in heart failure, while Jorge Oliver De La Cruz delivered a speech on his recent discoveries regarding the impact of mechanical cues coming from ECM in cell function. Fabiana Martino presented a poster on a novel mechanosensor acting during cardiac pathologies. The CTM leader Giancarlo Forte was invited keynote speaker with a talk on cardiac mechanobiology who also organized and chaired a Symposium within the conference named “Mechanobiology and Force Sensing in Regenerative Medicine”.

CTM also organized a joint seminar with TWIns Institute in Tokyo focused on human cardiac tissue engineering. TWIns integrates two traditional and very progressive Japanese universities (Tokyo Women´s Medical University and Waseda University) and thus creates a great potential for collaboration with FNUSA-ICRC. At this occasion, the FNUSA-ICRC delegation also welcomed the opportunity to visit the TWIns labs to identify further areas of the collaboration established in 2017 by a Memorandum of Understanding. The delegation also met the representatives of the Embassy of the Czech Republic in Tokyo. The Czech Consulate Diplomatic Service has been recently very supportive in promoting FNUSA-ICRC abroad and in fostering the internalization of our research center. The mission to Tokyo represents an outstanding example of such attitude. FNUSA-ICRC got the opportunity to open up the first contact with the Tokyo Metropolitan Geriatric Hospital and Institute of Gerontology and to also discuss the specific research framework and financial tools for a potential Czech-Japanese collaboration at the EU Delegation to Japan, Section for Science and Technology. 

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In the middle of September, the 46th traditional Czech and Slovak Cerebrovascular Congress was held in MikulovThis year, Stroke research team was also actively involved in the program of one of the Europe’s oldest scientific and educational events in Europe in the cerebrovascular field. Assoc. Prof. Robert Mikulík, the Head of the research team, presented the results of the thrombolytic treatment in the Czech Republic in the opening section of the conference. The quality of stroke care in the country is in some aspects the best in the world and is constantly improving. Thanks to the well-managed logistics, it is possible to treat more and more patients, as the number of those who are in the so-called therapeutic time window, when they are still curable, is rising. Together with his colleague, Dr. Petra Cimflova, they also organized a brain imaging workshop. They trained around a hundred participants on how to better understand the images of patients suspected of stroke and how to use the new reading programs.

FNUSA-ICRC Mikulov 2018

Valentina Lacovich

Valentina Lacovich is a scientist from International Clinical Research Center of St. Anne’s University Hospital Brno and a member of Translational Neuroscience and Aging Program. Last year, she was awarded by The Alzheimer’s Association International Society to Advance Alzheimer’s Research and Treatment for her research regarding the origins of degenerative brain diseases. She discovered a connection between brain injury and development of neurodegenerative diseases. “The women surrounding me from my mother, grandmother, and the teacher brought me to become who I am today,” claims the young researcher.

What influenced you to become a scientist and drew you to your field?
It has always been my dream to become someone who helps people. At first, it was more about becoming a medical doctor but growing up I started to develop curiosity and interest in experiments and testing stuff. My parents introduced me to natural sciences and I have been in love with biology ever since. I fell for Neuroscience quite early, too. I remember watching an interview with Nobel Prize winner Rita Levi-Montalcini as a kid, and it truly made a great impact on me. She was talking about brain and how she dedicated her entire life to understanding how it functions. It inspired me so much that I gained the desire to contribute in my little way. However, it was probably my biology teacher in elementary school who inspired me the most and who died of cancer at a very young age. I was highly motivated to become a scientist myself. Furthermore, my grandmother always said she loved genetics and that I should study this kind of science. The women surrounding me from my mother, grandmother, and the teacher brought me to become who I am today and to pursue the career of a scientist.

What do you want to achieve in your research?
I believe the main reason that drives all the scientists in any field is the willingness to help and to truly contribute to the people surrounding us, to the generations that comes after and to understand this wonderful machine that the human body is. Uncovering how we function and in particular how the brain functions and to contribute to the solution for devastating illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease would be the greatest achievement for me. To give my little piece of the puzzle and help get closer to the answers.
You received an award for young scientists from The Alzheimer’s Association International Society to Advance Alzheimer’s Research and Treatment. What was the aim of the research?
It is basically what we study on our daily bases, specifically the project we are working on with our team. We are interested in understanding the mechanisms that connect injury to the development of neurodegenerative diseases, as it has been shown by several studies that traumatic brain injury (TBI) presents a high risk for developing Alzheimer’s later in life. Because of that and because of the interest the group has in understanding axonal transport it all fit together.

What excites you about your work?
The thing I love the most is the experimental part. I find myself enjoying the most just being in a lab and getting to actually see the cells during experiments. It takes a lot of failures to reach a result. Sometimes it is extremely frustrating because usually 90% of things do not work but the 10% makes it all worth it. When you discover something, that is the best award you can get.

Why did you decide to come from your homeland Slovenia to the Czech Republic?
It was a bit of serendipity. It was some time after I finished my PhD at the University of Ljubljana, Slovenia. My mom encountered by chance one of doctor’s Stokin collaborators at an event in Slovenia. She suggested to send my CV. After some time, I got a response that my CV was well accepted. Shortly after a Skype interview followed. After some time, I was notified that they were satisfied with my performance during the interview and I was offered a postdoctoral research position. The first time I travelled to Brno and the Czech Republic was to sign the actual contract.

So, you did not know Brno at all. What is your opinion on Brno?
I love it. I was pleasantly surprised, I love the city. I come from the coast, I grew up by the sea and did my Ph.D. in Ljubljana which is architecturally very similar to Brno. It has a castle on the hill and a river flowing through the city. That was the reason why I immediately felt at home when I first came to the city. It is a place where I feel safe, I can go around the city, there are not too many people. I am not a fan of big cities like Prague, I prefer smaller and quieter places that still have the great city vibes and where the life is active all year long. I love December in Brno the most when there are Christmas markets and it gets romantic. I also appreciate its cultural life, especially the theaters because I like opera and ballet very much.

What is the difference between the scientific work in the Czech Republic and Slovenia?
In my point of view, the biggest difference is the capability of gaining funding and grants. It is one of the things I appreciate the most. Slovenia is falling behind in this aspect, the standards that are set in the Czech Republic are extremely high and I think that is very good. It pushes everybody to work extremely hard. It is always good to have ambition, it motivates you to go on. The Czech Republic is bigger and more successful in getting international funding, especially from the European Union. This is extremely important because science is very expensive, and basic science in particular requires a lot of funds. Nevertheless, the ground in both countries is comparable. Both have extremely good universities and produce really good scientists that are able to achieve incredible careers outside. It is a pity that sometimes it takes to leave your home in order to progress.

Many people still believe the stereotype that women are not as good as men in science. Have you noticed it during your studies and science career?
It is hard to achieve great things when you are not given the chance to do so and throughout history women had to struggle and fight hard for their right to study and work in fields which used to be off limit for women, science being one of them. I did experience some “gender-related discrimination” throughout my career, but luckily this has changed now. What I find interesting is that there are a lot of female scientists but very few on top management or PI positions. Therefore, the world of science is still very much driven by men. I do believe it is harder for women to juggle between career and family, which leads a lot of women to give up on their scientific career altogether. However, if you work hard and have reasonable and understanding mentors who support women on their way to progress, things will eventually change for better. Female scientists must keep pushing through and fight hard to show they are just as capable of achieving greatness as their male counterpart. We do have to sometimes work harder to achieve the same results and position as men, but there are some great examples which help us staying motivated and show us everything is possible – I mentioned Rita Levi-Montalcini already. Then there was Marie Skłodowska Curie who was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, the first person and only woman to win twice and the only person to win a Nobel Prize in two different sciences.

An American patent for a new technology that can determine the electrical activation of the heart chambers and measure their mutual delays with the accuracy of milliseconds was obtained by scientists of FNUSA-ICRC, the Institute of Scientific Instruments of the CAS and M&I Praha company. The technology that uses high-frequency components in the ECG signal was discovered primarily by scientists and physicians working in Brno. In practice, it can be used to determine a more effective treatment of patients with failing heart, thereby significantly prolonging the length of their lives. Additionally, the technology enables improved pacemaker settings for ongoing treatment to ensure the best possible performance of the heart as a pump. Its advantage is a simple and non-invasive procedure, also the diagnostics are cheap and easily accessible.

Pavel Leinveber FNUSA-ICRC

Nature Reviews Neurology Logo

The Principal Investigator of Dementia research team of FNUSA-ICRC Prof. Jakub Hort and the senior researcher of the team Assoc. Prof. Jan Laczó are co-authors of the manuscript that has been published in the prestigious international scientific journal Nature Reviews Neurology with an impact factor of 19,819. Congratulations! The review article entitled “Spatial navigation deficits – overlooked cognitive marker for preclinical Alzheimer’s disease?” describes new opportunities how to diagnose cognitive impairment in patients in very early stages of Alzheimer’s disease and focuses on a cognitive domain that has been neglected so far – spatial navigation, the worsening of which occurs already in the preclinical stage of the disease and may allow its early detection.

Pratiksha Bhat

Pratiksha Bhat

“FNUSA-ICRC is a very good place to learn and improve my knowledge professionally as there is a lot of opportunity to learn and grow in this institute.”

You come from India. What have you studied there?
I have studied Biotechnology and I am in the process of completing my PhD.

Why did you become a scientist?
Science has always fascinated me and I chose this field so I can try and bring some positive change with my work.

Why did you choose to work in Brno- in FNUSA-ICRC?
I found Brno to be a very pleasant city and I found FNUSA-ICRC to be a very good place to learn and improve my knowledge professionally as there is a lot of opportunity to learn and grow in this institute.

What´s your first impression of Brno?
It is a very quaint city with rich culture and inclination towards development of science (with Brno being Mendel’s work place and home).

What’s your research about?
My area of research in PhD is neurotoxicology and phytomedicine studies, I have worked on a fungal toxin which contaminates wide range of food and feed products and I have tried to find a phytomedicine (herbal extract) against its neurodegeneration. Briefly, what excites you about your work? For me it is the learning process and trying to find answers to all these puzzling questions is what makes working in this field so interesting.

What do you want to achieve with your research in the future?
Hopefully with my research I can find a least some answers that will help people in some small way. What would you do on the first day of the job? I would like to learn, observe and imbibe.

Tell me what you like to do when you aren’t working on research. What do you like to do in your free time?
I like to travel, I want to explore a place not as a tourist but as traveller. Meet new people, learn their ways of living, try the local food and wander around just enjoying being in that place.

Thank you very much for your time.

FAST FACTS
Hometown: Mysore
Age: 29 years
College, Major/Minor: Natural Sciences
Favorite Czech word or phrase: Smát se and Daleko (Ed.: it means to laugh and far away)
Favorite Quote:
“The biggest adventure you can ever take is to live the life of your dreams.”

What have you learnt about Czech republic/Czech people? Ans: They are very friendly, helpful and welcoming. 

Pratiksha Bhat

Allison Hansen

“FNUSA-ICRC people are extremely nice and friendly. They also are all really interesting people with unique backgrounds working on some really exciting projects. I certainly learned a lot from all of them.”

You come from USA. What have you studied there?
In the US my undergraduate degree was in Biomedical Engineering. I graduated from the George Washington University in May 2017. In July I’ll be starting medical school at the University of Arizona College of Medicine-Phoenix.

So what do you want to achieve with your work in the future?
My goal is to be a physician someday and research is extremely important to the medical field so I wanted to learn about it to better understand the entire process that goes into making these new discoveries regarding different diseases.

Why did you choose to spend a few weeks in Brno- Czech Republic?
I wanted to come to Brno in the Czech Republic specifically because I’ve done some clinical research on Mild Cognitive Impairment and Alzheimer’s disease which is related to the research Dr. Stokin’s lab is doing. Also I thought it would be a great opportunity to learn about different cultures and experience life in another country. So I was mostly here to learn about the research Dr. Stokin’s lab was doing and what wet lab research entails since I’ve mostly done clinical research before. I spent my time in Brno learning how to manipulate DNA and take care of cell cultures.

What´s your first impression of Brno?
I really enjoyed my time in Brno. It seemed to be a very exciting place with a lot going on in terms of science and academics. I really liked everyone I met in the lab. They were all extremely nice and friendly. They also were all really interesting people with unique backgrounds working on some really exciting projects. I certainly learned a lot from all of them.

What do you want to achieve with your research in the future?
As I said I was mostly there to learn different techniques and protocols to get a better sense of what research really is and where all of the advances in the medical field come from. I think what’s particularly exciting is to hear about the projects people are working on and what the different possible outcomes could mean clinically and how they could be used to help patients with Alzheimer’s disease or traumatic brain injuries in the future. I enjoyed the lab meetings where everyone was brainstorming about possible explanations for certain phenomena they were seeing and how those might cause some of the clinical symptoms. In the future I’d like to continue to be involved in clinical research as a physician.

Tell me what you like to do when you aren’t working on research. What do you like to do in your free time?
In my free time I like to do pretty much anything outdoors. I like hiking, running, and playing tennis. I played tennis for my university for four years.

Thank you very much for your time.

FAST FACTS
Hometown: Champaign, IL
Age: 22
College Major: Biomedical Engineering
Favorite Czech I like ahoj because it makes me feel like a pirate 🙂
Favorite Quote: “The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease forever to be able to do it.” – J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill

Medical University of Silesia in Katowice

A bilateral cooperation agreement with the Medical University of Silesia in Katowice has been signed, specifically between the FNUSA-ICRC research team Interventional Cardiac Electrophysiology Team and the Polish team of Clinical Cardiology and Structural Heart Diseases. The purpose of the agreement is to strengthen cooperation between the scientific communities, in particular through the exchange of scientists and students, joint research projects, the organization of conferences or workshops and short-term visits or lectures at the partner institution.

In the middle of June FNUSA-ICRC hosted the 8th FNUSA-ICRC Partnership Forum aimed at deepening cooperation with the private sector. The event was attended by forty representatives of companies and institutions involved in the development, production, clinical trials and registration of biological drugs. As part of this year’s presentations, experts focused on selected aspects of genetically modified food products for the production of biological drugs, their clinical testing and its legislative context.

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Our project entitled A Molecular, Cell and Clinical Approach to Healthy Aging (abbreviated ENOCH) was approved for a grant from the EU Structural Funds, specifically from the Operational Program Research, Development and Education, administered by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports of the Czech Republic. The main research objective of the project is to formulate a joint research program that is focused on research into aging and age-related diseases, namely cancer, chronic inflammation and degenerative diseases.

The project will be implemented between 2018 and 2023 and will involve approximately 220 researchers from FNUSA-ICRC, which is the main beneficiary of the project. The project partners are the Institute of Molecular and Translation Medicine at Palackého University in Olomouc (IMTM), the Regional Center of Applied Molecular Oncology of the Masaryk Oncological Institute (RECAMO), the Department of Neurology at the Faculty of Medicine, Olomouc University Hospital, and the Blood Cancer Research Group at Ostrava University (BCRG). Researchers will be divided into four main research programs according to their specialization. Thanks to the project, a unique platform for top scientists in Moravia will be created, within which researchers will communicate and link their knowledge and experience on aging issues and associated disorders. The head of the project will be FNUSA-ICRC Chair Gorazd B. Stokin, who has long been focusing on research into the causes of Alzheimer’s, one of the major problems of the older generation.

ENOCH Grant FNUSA-ICRC News