10/21/2015

New center brings together 6 MIPT laboratories for aging-related research

For the first time in Russia a cluster of university laboratories is combining into a single research center with a specific goal in mind: improving the quality of life in old age and combating age-related diseases.

The center will bring together three existing and three new Phystech laboratories involved in the study of membrane proteins. The center’s management along with its supervisory board will include representatives from the international community of scientists studying aging mechanisms, including the founder of optogenetics, Ernst Bamberg, and biophysicists Ray Stevens, George Byuldt, Valentin Gordeliy, Vadim Cherezov and many others.

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Raymond Stevens, director and co-founder of the iHuman Institute (Shanghai, China), discussing the establishment of the center stated, "I already have experience in creating an international research institute in China. And although Russia and China are very similar - not only in economics, but also in a love of science that is instilled at an early age - the aging center created at MIPT will nevertheless be unique in all the world. The best minds will come together here to bridge the study of cell membrane proteins with an understanding of the mechanisms of aging and, in the future, with the treatment of serious diseases such as Alzheimer's, epilepsy and blindness. Now is the right time for creating a center like this: biophysics is on the rise, and Phystech, one of the world’s leading universities in physics, is perhaps the best place to do so."

The new research center will include six laboratories, three of which are already up and running at the institute. One of those already in existence is Professor Vladimir Chupin’s Laboratory of the Chemistry and Physics of Lipids, created by the Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation. The other two existing laboratories were created by support of the 5-100 program: the Laboratory for Advanced Studies of Membrane Proteins under the direction of Professor George Buldt, and Vadim Cherezov’s Laboratory of the Structural Biology of G–protein Coupled Receptors. Among the membrane proteins already studied at MIPT is the KR2 protein, a new tool for the study of neural processes in the brain. In addition, a new approach was presented that will speed up and simplify the study of membrane proteins that play an important role in the aging process.

Two of the three new laboratories will be led by foreign scientists who are world-class experts in their field. One will be headed by Professor Norbert Dencher from the Institute of Biophysics at the Technical University in Darmstadt, and the other by Professor Villbold Dieter, director of the Institute of Complex Systems (ICS-6) at the Jülich Research Center. A third new laboratory for optogenetics will be led by MIPT Professor Valentin Gordeliy.

Research at the center will focus on the study of the most important and difficult fundamental problems in molecular and cell biology. Solving theses problems will help in understanding the nature of aging and associated diseases such as neurodegenerative diseases (especially Alzheimer's and Parkinson's) and cardiovascular disease and cancer. These diseases are among the leading causes of death in developed countries, but to date, significant breakthroughs in understanding the precise mechanisms guiding their development have not yet occurred. Understanding the molecular mechanisms of aging is an important step towards increasing overall health in humans.

The center also plans to set up three research groups to be led by young scientists: Valentine Borshevsky, Ivan Gushin and Vitaly Shevchenko.

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