7. 5. 2020 |

St. Anne's University Hospital Brno was selected as one of two hospitals in the Czech Republic for the care of patients with severe COVID-19. This is also related to a number of measures that had to be implemented in the hospital. From closing several entrances to a special regime in individual departments.

The International Clinical Research Center of FNUSA came up with a method that could help return to normal and calm future hospital visitors. This involves testing various surfaces for the presence of coronavirus. "From the information we know so far, the coronavirus can last for different times on different surfaces. We want to verify this in practice, we plan to test the exposed areas in the hospital once and find out their possible contamination, " said Giancarlo Forte, head of Center for Translational Medicine and Vice Chair of FNUSA-ICRC.

The data obtained from this research should be decisive for further safety recommendations. Among the selected surfaces are, for example, handles or buttons in elevators, ie places whose potential danger is not even realized. "Given the Czech Republic's approach to the COVID-19 pandemic, I do not anticipate any infestations. However, even in that case, we will get a clear answer that could reassure the hospital's patients, "added Giancarlo Forte.


5. 5. 2020 |

The International Clinical Research Center of St. Anne's University Hospital Brno actively participated in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic also by testing face masks. Due to the situation in Italy, where it was difficult to find free capacity for tests for certification, the face masks of the Italian manufacturer were tested in Brno.

Until recently, MODA Impresa s.r.l. sewed accessories for world brands Dolce Gabbana, Versace, Ferré and others. After the beginning of the pandemic, company quickly reorganized production and began producing face masks for paramedics. But the problem was with their certification for use in hospitals. Laboratories in Italy were fully occupied to test patients, and it was not possible to carry out certification tests at universities either. Thanks to good contacts in Italy, specifically at the University of Florence, face masks soon reached Brno.

Our laboratories at Biopark proved to be the most suitable, so testing could begin. "We mainly performed microscopic analyzes of the surface structure and the filter, as well as integrity tests, which helped with the certification itself. Now they can also be used by doctors in Italian hospitals, "said Giancarlo Forte, head of Center for Translational Medicine and Vice Chair of FNUSA-ICRC.

Even after successful certification, the work does not end, researchers would still be interested in the behavior of viruses when passing through the filter. "We will monitor fluorescent nanoparticles that are even smaller than droplets with virus and analyze whether and how much they pass through the filter. This could help to further improve the material for the filters, "added Giancarlo Forte.


4. 5. 2020 |

Pavel Iványi, LL.M., MBA, is the successor of Gorazd Bernard Stokin MD, Ph.D. as the new director of the International Clinical Research Center of St. Anne's University Hospital in Brno as of May 4th, 2020.

Gorazd B. Stokin chaired FNUSA-ICRC from its infancy to become internationally renowned and a leading clinical research institution in the Czech Republic. "I’m pleased that under my seven years of leadership FNUSA-ICRC turned out to be so successful and that I could promote Czech research abroad. In this time the center obtained over 100 grants, published over 1000 publications, some in the best journals in the world, got several utility models and 3 patents approved and several others filed and created a global network of collaborations. Importantly, FNUSA-ICRC coordinated numerous clinical trials, which significantly helped patients in Brno," said Gorazd B. Stokin, who is both a neuroscientist and a neurologist. He added that he will continue as the research group leader of his neuroscience team in the FNUSA-ICRC until the end of this year prior to joining his family in England.

"I would like to thank Dr. Stokin for the great work that he’s done. This year, the National Sustainability Grant (NPU) is coming to an end, and it is now clear that funding will not be as high for the next five-year period as before," said the director of FNUSA, Ing. Vlastimil Vajdák. He added: “With regards to this fact, for the function of the new director of the ICRC I have employed a manager, lawyer and economist, Pavel Iványi. He does not have an easy task in front of him. At his disposal he has the results of an external personnel audit, which was performed at the ICRC, and a proposal for restructuring. He will have to design and set up the functioning of the center in the next funding period in such a way to make its activities utmost efficient,” Vlastimil Vajdák stated.

Pavel Iványi, LL.M., MBA, was born and raised in the Czech Republic. He then lived in the Netherlands for 27 years, where he studied law at the University of Amsterdam (LL.M.) and MBA at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam. Since his return to the Czech Republic in 2003 he has worked as a manager in several companies. In 2008 he established the International School of Brno, where he now works as a non-executive director. He is also the President of the Netherlands-Czech Chamber of Commerce.


30. 4. 2020 |

Marco Cassani Ph.D., postdoctoral researcher in the Cardiovascular System Mechanobiology (CSM) Research Team achieved significant success. With his project "Mechanobiology-mediated nanoparticles-cells interactions to develop immunotherapy against breast cancer" he received the iCARE-2 fellowship, co-financed by the Italian AIRC Foundation for Cancer Research and the European Union within the Marie Skłodowska-Curie event (H2020 - MSCA-COFUND-2017, grant agreement No 800924).

What exactly will Marco Cassani research at the International Clinical Research Center of St. Anne's University Hospital Brno (FNUSA-ICRC)? We asked him in a short interview.

How did you come to Brno?

Around 1 and a half year ago I participated at international workshop for an European exchange project RISE, which aims to promote the mobility of researchers from different countries. There I met Giancarlo Forte – my present chief, of which, of course, I had no idea at the time. After completing my PhD in Italy I was looking for a Post Doc position, because I wanted to face new scientific challenges and to enlarge my research network. I remembered RISE and I realised that Giancarlo, together with Francesca Cavalieri (the project coordinator from Melbourne) was looking for researchers willing to join this exchange network. That was exactly the opportunity that I was looking for and allowed me to find much more than a job. A part from the excellent facilities that I found in the CTM’s laboratories, I found Brno a pleasant city, safe, friendly and relaxed. I also had the chance to discover the beauties of the country, from Adršpach to Český Krumlov and to meet its genuine and sincere people.

What exactly will be your research?

The title: “Mechanobiology-mediated nanoparticles-cells interactions to develop immunotherapy against breast cancer” may appear complicated, but the main goal of my project is simple and straightforward. Cancer cells use different strategies to survive the attack of our immune system, deceiving and evading its response. In this phenomenon, the mechanobiological processes of cancer cells play an important role. Briefly, mechanobiology is the discipline that studies the way in which cells adapt their behavior to the external environment and experimental tests highlight its role in communication between cancer cells and immune cells. My project has the dual purpose of tackle both the mechanobiological pathways at the basis of the immune system inhibition and to restore the activity of immune cells against cancer. To do this, smart nanoparticles specific for the tumor niche and able to carry compounds for inhibiting the mechanobiological responses and stimulating the immune system at the same time, will be used. The synergistic approach of the project is expected to improve the effectiveness of therapeutic treatment.

What does this success mean to you?
From a professional point of view, it represents immense satisfaction because it is achieved in the field where I decided to devote my efforts, the research on cancer. From a personal perspective, this success crowns a dream began many years ago. Briefly, it’s a fundamental step for the success of my research and I have always considered winning a research project, such as the one from AIRC. Certainly, I also hope to contribute significantly to the scientific impact and research outcomes of FNUSA-ICRC, thus confirming the excellent and productive work environment that CTM was able to build up in few years. Being part of this research excellence on the European landscape is extremely motivating.

What are your other goals?
First, I would like to establish an unprecedented point of contact between nanomedicine, immunology and mechanobiology. To do this, the primary objective is to develop a procedure as simple, fast and cheap as possible for the synthesis of nanomaterial that can be made available to laboratories with different backgrounds. This could also favor the translational success of this nanomaterial. The use of complex in vitro systems will be the other fundamental point that will guarantee a deep understanding of the interactions between nanoparticles and cells before more advanced experimentation. I also want to established new collaborations with national and international research groups and reinforce the already existing ones. Indeed, the cooperation between scientists and groups from different background and skills is the key for the effective implementation of research outcomes to meet society needs and build up a trustable and reliable scientific system.


21. 4. 2020 |

The CZECRIN research infrastructure, which is part of the pan-European ECRIN-ERIC network, offers its support, services and expertise to all research-oriented doctors in order to engage their forces with quick access to initiate national and especially transnational clinical studies.

St. Anne's University Hospital Brno and her International Clinical Research Center together with Masaryk University are the founding member and the main coordinator of this Czech national infrastructure.

Within the clinical research, the CZECRIN team responded flexibly to the current situation and established the COVID 19 web section, which summarizes all ongoing and planned activities leading to clinical research and upcoming clinical studies for patients with COVID-19. “One of the key parts of VVI CZECRIN is also CZECRIN NATIONAL CTUs NETWORK, which consists of representatives of the clinical studies departments of individual healthcare facilities. In this network, the interest of healthcare facilities in engaging in clinical trials with a focus on the treatment of patients with COVID-19 was mapped, ”said Ing. Jakub Johaník, Project Manager.

An overview of the information can be found on the website or on Facebook


14. 4. 2020 |

My message to the students? The main thing: Not to be afraid!

Mgr. Sandra Thalerová is a fresh holder of the prestigious prize Brno Ph.D. Talent, awarded by the South Moravian Center for International Mobility, for a project entitled “Models on a Chip for Determining the Mechanisms by Limitation of by Alteplasa Induced Thrombolysis”. Currently she works at the Institute of Biophysics of the Czech Academy of Sciences under the guidance of her supervisor Mgr. Jan Víteček, Ph.D. and at the same time she participates in the activities of the Stroke Research Team led by prof. MUDr. Robert Mikulík, Ph.D., as her part-time work at the International Clinical Research Center of St. Anne's University Hospital. (FNUSA-ICRC). We have met both of them and asked for a short interview.

First congratulation on the award. Let's start from the very beginning - how did you get to the research?

I came to my scientific activities during the bachelor's study at Masaryk University in Brno. When choosing themes my choice was thrombolysis, which I was interested in due working with blood. I have always been interested in studying the physiology of blood, and the project also offered an outreach to clinical stroke research. I have devoted my whole bachelor study to this issue, and I continued on this work also at my master's degree, under the leadership of Dr. Andrea Vítečková Wünschová, I have worked out my bachelor and master thesis on this topic and now I continue in my doctoral studies under guidance of Dr. Jan Víteček. And I hope I will continue further in research of stroke therapy.

How would you introduce your project to the general public, is it unique in something?

Sandra Thalerová: In our research, we focus on investigating processes during enzymatic thrombolysis, that is, dissolution a blood clot, thrombus, using a medicine called alteplasa. For this purposes we use in vitro models. We try to imitate as much as possible the vasculature (capillary bed) in the patients´brain. Such an experimental model allows us to monitor the efficiency of thrombolytic medicine, that is, the dissolution a blood clot in a real time. Furthermore, we use various miniaturizations, so-called “on-chip laboratories”, with their help we study interactions of medicine with thrombs. The uniqueness of these tools consist in fact that we are able to look at what often cannot be monitored in a patient. In short, it is very complicated to observe thrombolysis by a patient in a real time, whereas by using our models it is possible.

Jan Víteček: As mentioned, these are models, specifically silicone chips. However, the unique element is, that we use human blood and thrombs prepared from it. This has one huge and essential advantage: experiments are close to human physiological conditions. For example, animal models - rat, mouse or rabbit - are not quite ideal in the case of thrombolysis by reason of large interspecies differences in the structure and efficiency of thrombolytic enzymes, differences in vascular dimensions or blood flow in the brain. That is why we have taken these models to reflect human physiology as well as can be, though only on a chip in the in vitro system.

Brno Ph.D. Talent Award is definitely a great motivation for you. What direction do you want to move your research?

Sandra Thalerová: That is a difficult question…. I would like to optimize the models I work with, so that their parameters correspond as much as possible to human physiology. There are many options, such as lining the inside of artificial vessels with human cells and other improvements. I would like to build on what we already have and develop it further. It is a really unique project, not only in the Czech Republic.

Jan Víteček: The main goal of this project is improving the therapy. The currently used thrombolytic alteplasa has limited efficiency still, many patients do not respond to this therapy and it is not known why. So this is our visionary goal - to see where has this thrombolytic its deficiencies at the biophysical or biochemical level, and based on this data, thrombolytics can be designed to be more efficient and effective.

Sandra Thalerová: I would like to add, that enzymatic thrombolysis has a great future by stroke. As with myocardial infarction, ischemic stroke can be treated with a catheter. But that is much more difficult. However, the application of enzymatic thrombolysis is basically very simple - the patient is given a thrombolytic within one hour by infusion into a vein, and therefore, this procedure can be implemented anywhere in the world, even in developing countries. On the other hand, the mechanical thrombectomy can be used more or less only in technologically advanced areas. As long as, if the efficiency of enzymatic thrombolysis would be improved more or less in any way, then this could be a huge step forward in stroke therapy.

How difficult is your research? After all, the problem is that every blood clot is different…

Sandra Thalerová: Yes, thrombs are very different in their composition and structure both within individual patients and within the thrombs themselves. There is really a great variability, so we work with different thrombs´types, so we could contain their complex range as well as can be. We prepare them ourselves, the gateway is the blood collection from healthy donors, and from it are already prepared different types of thrombs, blood plasma, in short, all the material for our experiments.

Jan Víteček: Yes, this is a complicated research, but by using models we can relatively easily answer the questions that cannot be answered based on clinical data. In the clinic you actually have a clinical outcome of the patient, by using imaging methods can be found that after some time the vessel has loosened up, but how quickly the thromb degrades, I mean by biochemical markers, is not possible to detect at the patient yet. While we can look at these details using our models, we can also register the processes that cannot be detected in patients. When I return to that uniqueness, as far as I know, we are the only ones in the Czech Republic. There are other teams in the world working on similar research, we are talking about tens, but our advantage, which puts us to a certain foreground, is that we primarily work with human material and we try to reflect the real geometry of the vascular system in an appropriate way and use flow models. The classical access to thrombs studies is “in a test tube”, then under static conditions. While these systems allow monitor, for example, the amount of loosened red blood cells or the degradation products of fibrin from the thrombs, they miss its essential and it is the flow. The flow has, of course, an essential influence on the thrombolysis process. The pressure gradient mechanically deforms the blood clot and helps the thrombolytic to penetrate into the thromb. This is the essential advantage of our models.

Sandra Thalerová: At the same time, we are also able to measure the process of volume degradation or shrinking of thrombs in a real time. At certain time intervals, the thrombs in the thrombolysis process are scanned, and then, the size of the tromb in time is evaluated by using the image analysis. For example, we obtain information about the time phase of the hourly thrombolytic process that leads to the most rapid thromb loss. That would be in patients very complicated, of course.

You are working at Institute of Biophysics of the Czech Academy of Sciences and also at FNUSA-ICRC, how does it work together?

Sandra Thalerová: Thanks to the Stroke Research Program led by Professor Robert Mikulík in Brno, there is a close cooperation between the particular workplaces and the joint research is going one way - to improve the therapy of stroke. Both the Institute of Biophysics and the FNUSA-ICRC are members of this initiative, so there is no problem with coordinating the activities.

Jan Víteček: I have it similarly, I work primarily at the Institute of Biophysics and at the same time I am a member of the research team of FNUSA-ICRC - Inflammatory diseases - led by Doc. Lukáš Kubala, Ph.D. Except our institutions, there are several Brno institutions involved in this initiative, primarily FNUSA, our team on behalf of the Institute of Biophysics of the Czech Academy of Sciences, Loschmidt Laboratories of the Masaryk University, Veterinary Research Institute, BioVendor company, University Of Veterinary and Pharmaceutical Sciences Brno and Institute of Scientific Instruments of the Czech Academy of Science. Each of these institutions provides its expertise for solution of the common goal, which is the stroke therapy research. FNUSA provides clinical documents and where to point the research with regard to the patients. We are able to practise biophysical measurements in in vitro models and correlate these results with clinical ones. Professor´s Damborský team (Loschmidt Laboratories) has a world-class expertise in protein engineering. In short, a group of people gathered, each working on its puzzle piece, which, if put together, there is a great expectation to progress in the stroke therapy.

Is there anything you would like to say to students, researchers in the beginning?

Sandra Thalerová: Certainly not to be afraid of the research - I say that to my colleagues, students who are very clever. Let them follow what they are interested in, let them attend conferences or competitions, where they can learn something new and meet interesting people… No one has to be worried about working in the lab. So, not to be afraid, not be ashamed and just try everything.

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