ул. А.Невского, д.14
On January 30, 2017 the Immanuel Kant Baltic Federal University welcomed participants of a conference on mitochondrial medicine. Prominent Russian and international scientists take part in the work of the conference, including IKBFU partners from the University of Lausanne (Switzerland), Endocrinology Research Centre (Moscow, Russia), the Institute of Physics and Applied Mathematics of the Ural Federal University (Ekaterinburg).
Dr Ilya Mazunin, head of the Laboratory of Molecular Genetic Technologies, the Institute of Living Systems, IKBFU
Mitochondrial diseases are numerous; they vary in their clinical picture. Primarily, they are neuromuscular and neurodegenerative ones, since muscles and nerves are most badly affected.
Mitochondrial medicine is a relatively new branch of medicine. The first mutations in mitochondrial DNA associated with certain clinical manifestations were discovered in 1988. This year is considered the beginning of the era of molecular mitochondrial medicine. Since then, hundreds of mutations have been identified in the genome of mitochondria or in nuclear genes encoding proteins imported into mitochondria. All these mutations lead to mitochondrial diseases, the clinical picture of which can be extremely diverse.
We decided to hold this conference, because we have been developing protocols of editing the genome of mitochondria for several years. In fact, these are the protocols of gene therapy of mitochondrial diseases. This is gene editing, a rather narrow field of science. However, the treatment of mitochondrial diseases requires joined efforts of researchers and medical doctors, for only doctors can assess the whole complicated clinical picture.
To intervene in the mitochondrial genome, we must understand how it works in humans and in animals. The lecture on this topic - evolutionary biology - will be given by one of the world's leading experts in the field who is also engaged in mitochondria research.
Mutations often occur at the cellular level, and mitochondria change. It results in a completely different clinical picture. This is the topic of another lecture on the structure of mitochondria. In general, four key lectures of the conference give us a fairly complete picture of various aspects of mitochondrial medicine.
We hope that more students will get interested in this topic. There are students in my lab who are planning complex experiments on the development of treatment protocols of mitochondrial diseases. Some of them work with a professor from Switzerland. They have Skype conferences every week, discussing the current and future projects.
The theme of mitochondrial medicine, though very specific and narrow, is of globally importance. It involves genetics and mutagenesis, evolution and pathomorphology. Working on gene therapy, we consider various approaches to DNA cloning. This works enables students to understand how all the knowledge they get at the university can be used in real science.