Science Day at UzhNU - we celebrate our achievements

Science Day at UzhNU - we celebrate our achievements

On the third Saturday of May in Ukraine is celebrated the professional holiday of scientific workers, which honors the scientific traditions and achievements of scientists, without which the development of society is impossible. Undoubtedly, Uzhhorod National University is the center of scientific activity in the region, which is primarily indicated by the annual achievements of the university's employees. In particular, in 2020, university scientists carried out 19 scientific projects. During 2020, scientific and pedagogical workers carried out 104 initiative topics - the results of which were published in monographs (77), scientific articles (1583), training manuals (60) and textbooks (16). In 2020, Uzhhorod National University held 51 scientific events, including international and all-Ukrainian conferences, symposia, round tables, and competitions. Also, today we would like to dwell on two scientific divisions of UzhNU, whose activities and work results are unique - the Scientific Research and Educational Center for Molecular Microbiology and Immunology of Mucous Membranes and the Center for Collective Use of Scientific Equipment "Laboratory of Experimental and Applied Physics".

Research and educational center of molecular microbiology and immunology of mucous membranes

In 2009, a laboratory of molecular microbiology and immunology of mucous membranes was opened at the Faculty of Medicine of UzNU, on the basis of which, on December 30, 2013, the Research and Educational Center for Molecular Microbiology and Immunology of Mucous Membranes was established. Doctor of biological sciences, professor of the department of microbiology, immunology and virology with a course in infectious diseases, Nadia Boyko, was appointed as a director of the center, with whom we talked about the activities of the center, the scientific equipment used by employees, their participation in the fight against disease outbreaks during the coronavirus pandemic, etc.

Please tell us about the main vectors of the Center's research activities nowadays.

Now we are working the most in several directions. First of all, it is the implementation and promotion of 4-P (preventive, personalized, predictive and patient-oriented) diagnostics in real medical practice. It is not so easy to implement. Everyone is used to classic laboratory diagnostics: analyzes of biochemical indicators, blood formulas, etc. However, there are always turning points in history, which is happening now - modern, molecular methods of diagnosis are replaced by classical (routine) methods. And it is far from only PCR (polymerase chain reaction), which we are used to referring to as the last word of science and technology. Our center is changing the approaches themselves and moving to individualized medicine. We understand that each organism is a system, and in order to develop the right approaches in treatment and prevention, we must act individually. We depart from the classical system of treatment, where each component of the body was considered separately, some treatment was prescribed and we waited for the result. We are now adding biomarkers to this chain, which must be evidence-based, individualized, and predictive. That is, if we adjust the immunity or the microbiome, we at the same time clearly represent the future state of the individual. In this case, the treatment result is strictly predictable. It is quite difficult if we talk about real medicine, especially in Ukraine, considering the fact that there are many centers, including private ones, for which the main thing is business, financial benefit, unfortunately, and not the health of a specific person. Our center has a different purpose, and it should have the functions of a referee, since we have not only the necessary and sufficient equipment to carry out such accurate diagnostics, but also the relevant professional staff (candidates of sciences, virologists, immunologists) and the experience, which we have gained during the last 15 years is from this direction of research. The diagnosis, treatment and prevention of covid do not fall out of our priorities at all, because now we have especially acutely felt how individual and diverse reactions can be: easy passage, complex or asymptomatic carriage, etc. The same applies to treatment - the same approaches do not produce the same results. Being involved in the expert group at the Ministry of Health on post-covid rehabilitation, we, together with candidate of biological sciences, virologist Lesya Yusko, proposed our innovative approaches for implementation, which we had previously tested in the regional rehabilitation center - Doctor of Medicine. I.S. Lemko.

We also place great emphasis on epigenetics. What exactly is meant? To simplify, let's imagine that twins who have a common genetic origin, depending on where they live, how they eat, differ significantly from each other in terms of their phenotypes. In other words, it is this "already expressed" phenotypic profile that we are investigating and making the basis of modern diagnostics.

In this direction, we are currently cooperating with the Ministry of Health as members of an expert scientific group, and we are trying to create a certain refereed center with the transition from evidence-based medicine to 4P medicine. This is an evolutionary-revolutionary transition. Evolutionary - because we do not reject what has been developed in evidence-based medicine, but a revolutionary approach, because a large number of markers appear, which, in order to prove their effectiveness, require conducting cohort studies. Ukraine has already started to do this, and I am pleased to note that it has started to be done at our university, and these studies were initiated by our center with the support (financing) of the Ministry of Education and Culture - "DB 901 Personalized Approaches to Diagnosis, Prevention and Treatment of Vascular Diseases with Prognostic Modeling of Individual development of atherosclerosis - 2020-2022".

Another vector of our interests is the verification and prioritization of biomarkers. Because there are a lot of them today, and without mathematical approaches, without bioinformatics, without the construction of relative modern databases with elements of machine learning - it is impossible to give a final conclusion about which of the biomarkers are decisive. Our multidisciplinary group is also working on this issue, so in addition to microbiologists and virologists, we have bioinformatics specialists - Roman Rukavchuk, clinical and cohort studies - Tamara Meleshko, Oleksandra Pallag and Svitlana Tymoshchuk. Of course, we cooperate with dentists, since the recently created department of clinical and laboratory diagnostics and pharmacology is located at the Faculty of Dentistry. And together we launched a number of initiatives to support the oral health of the population. We also cooperate with other universities and companies, for example, together with Odesa National Medical University - prof. V. V. Artyomenko - we are developing the concept of early health programming (neonatal formation of a child's health), we are discussing cooperation with the Euroderm clinic on the practical use of skin microbiome research, etc. In fact, we are a new unique center that distributes and offers new knowledge and services to the aforementioned and other partners. Also, we were the first not only in Ukraine to start producing personalized probiotics, which are based on an algorithm of individual selection based on microbiome analysis. Based on your biomarkers, we can individually prescribe and manufacture capsules for the patient, aimed at fixing the problem, which may be caused by poor nutrition, insomnia, stress, depression or post-covid conditions. All of the above is the basis of our activity.

What scientific instruments do the Center's employees use to perform their work?

It is clear that the field of our activity is impossible without unique equipment. Today, we have everything we need to do DNA isolation, to determine the purity of the isolated DNA. Even official clinical units cannot boast of such equipment. We have an amplifier, we can perform sequencing of certain sequences. And now we are aiming to buy equipment for complete microbiome and genome sequencing. Now there are several centers in Ukraine that already have it, but our advantage is that we have our own database of primers, biomarkers, already measured and sequenced microbiomes of certain cohorts (population groups with diseases of the cardiovascular system, atherosclerosis). We have a fully automated ELISA system, boxes, and access to sequencing on a system (contractual) basis with a domestic Center and a clinical diagnostic center in Germany. Not only equipment is important, but also trained specialists. All our specialists have undergone the necessary trainings, they are certified by "Biolabtech", which is a company that is the exclusive representative of "Illumina" in Ukraine.

UzhNU is the first higher education institution in Ukraine that purchased additional equipment to the one already available in the Center, necessary not only for immunological research, but also for genetic research. It is routine at the Center to determine the presence of IgM/IgG antibodies to the coronavirus in the blood serum of individuals by the ELISA method. How many similar studies has the Center conducted over the past year?

We mainly did testing for UzhNU employees. During the disease outbreak, in accordance with the signed contract, we conducted testing for employees of the Pension Fund of Ukraine in Uzhhorod. We also cooperated with the "Prevention" medical center, provided that promotional packages were also announced on the basis of a cooperation agreement. In general, these are about 6,000 examinations, which we did not take a long time, but very quickly - just when there was an urgent need for it. As we know that the pandemic has certain peaks and troughs.

Vaccination is a very positive step, we understand that it will give us free movement, a chance to develop the so-called "collective immunity" and help to get out of this difficult situation. However, when it comes to vaccination, individualization is more important than ever. And that's why we provide consultation help to everyone who wants it. It happens that a person has fallen ill, but does not know whether he has antibodies. We investigate "acute" IgM and IgG antibodies - which are present in those respondents who have already fallen ill before. The only thing we don't do is blood sampling. However, we are currently cooperating with Yulia Dovganych's "Dbayu" medical center, in which a blood sample will be taken from anyone who wishes and sent to us. And we will easily establish the tension of the person's immunity at this moment in relation to this nosology.

An equally important niche is the rehabilitation of post-covid patients. In cooperation with Ivan Stepanovich Lemko, we provided personalized pharmabiotics absolutely free of charge, at the expense of our Center - these are preparations from lactobacilli, which have proven effectiveness because they are selected individually for each post-covid patient. The entire block: individual selection, diagnostics, release of the pharmaceuticals themselves, packaging and dispensing - we carried out this for free. The scope of our interests included the expansion of knowledge about the microbiota and local immunity of such patients, which will allow us to approach the immune rehabilitation of post-covid patients more professionally in the future.

​​What plans and goals does the scientific research and educational center of molecular microbiology and immunology of mucous membranes set for itself?

The main goal for today is to create a "square structure". Why "square"? The first corner is our center - which will provide prognostic markers, verified, cohort studies, the emphasis will remain on what we are currently perfect at - microbiome, immunology of mucous membranes, personalized and individual correction of certain nosologies, conducting cohort studies. Another angle is "genetics", which is being tackled by a group at the Faculty of Biology of UzhNU under the leadership of candidate of biological sciences, dean Yaroslava Hasynets. The third corner should be "clinical medicine" - a university-wide clinic is currently being created at the university - with the participation of candidate of medical sciences, doctor of family medicine Pavlo Kolesnyk in addition to already existing clinical departments, and the fourth - "education", training of quality specialists. We, having such a base, will be able to develop a different approach for training specialists - with the participation of the management of the Faculty of Dentistry - Professor Yevhen Kostenko and the management of the university - now I mean all the vice-rectors and the rector, who contribute to the realization of this ambitious idea. We will not, of course, reject classical knowledge and approaches, however, realizing that education is moving forward, we strive to be on its cutting edge and implement new approaches to learning right now, making it as interactive and pragmatic and practical as possible. It seems that if we can implement our ideas, we will be the first or one of the first structures in Ukraine that would be able to provide a system and coherence to education, science and public-private partnership, becoming a pilot infrastructure of a new type. Wish us success!

Note. While the text was being written, Oleksandr Pallag and Tamara Meleshko successfully defended their dissertations, with which we sincerely congratulate them!

Center for collective use of scientific equipment "Laboratory of experimental and applied physics"

The Center for Collective Use of Scientific Equipment (CCUSE) "Laboratory of Experimental and Applied Physics" of the the State University “Uzhhorod National University”  was created in compliance with the order of the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine dated May 2, 2018 № 444 "On the establishment of centers for collective use of scientific equipment" . As part of the pilot project, only 8 universities were involved in it, including UzhNU. The official opening of the center, with already installed equipment, in thoroughly renovated premises, took place on May 15, 2019. 

The main goal of the creation of the National Institute of Scientific Research and Development is the modernization and renewal of the laboratory base and the most rational use of unique and expensive scientific instruments and equipment of domestic and imported production, which is impossible or impractical to purchase for each scientific institution from centralized funds and other sources of funding of the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine.

At present, the Center has concentrated a significant amount of unique experimental equipment of the world's leading manufacturers, including Shimadzu, Horiba and a number of others. This listing includes the Smart SE Spectral Ellipsometer, UV-1700 Dual Beam Scanning Spectrophotometer, UV-2600 Dual Beam Spectrophotometer, SL40-2-1024USB Dual Channel Astigmatism Compensated Spectrometer, XploRA PLUS Raman Spectrometer, PQ-N04 Planetary Ball Mill, Precision Digital multimeter SIGLENT SDM3065X, IR-Fourier spectrometer IRTracer-100 and many other devices. The given equipment makes it possible to carry out complex studies of various properties of materials of different aggregate state with high accuracy and reliability. The total cost of the equipment is more than 8 million uah.

 The Center's employees carry out a wide range of experimental research related to optical, electrophysical, mechanical, ultrasonic, structural properties of crystalline, amorphous materials, powdered materials, superionic conductors, nanomaterials, ceramics, composite materials," says the Center's director, doctor of physical and mathematical sciences, professor Leonid Suslikov.

The center was created to provide access to this equipment to all those interested in conducting scientific research. The Center maintains contacts with scientists from other universities of Ukraine, in the future they plan to establish ties with scientific institutions of other countries that are interested in conducting experiments on the Center's equipment. Also, the Center's laboratories provide services related to conducting scientific research to third-party organizations, already on a paid basis.

Currently, the Center's services are mostly used by specialists of the Physics and Chemistry Faculties, the Institute of Electronic Physics of the National Academy of Sciences, and there are proposals for conducting research from the Faculty of Biology of the Ukrainian National Academy of Sciences. The Center is also working on establishing cooperation with industrial enterprises of Transcarpathia, which for various reasons are interested in the properties of certain materials. Representatives of large enterprises, in particular Yadzaki, are interested in conducting joint developments.

The research carried out at the Center has significant practical significance in the future. In particular, their results can be used in the development of highly sensitive electrochemical sensors, large-capacity capacitors, selective sensors and information converters, small-sized and efficient energy sources that would ensure long-term and uninterrupted operation of portable electronic equipment, in particular smartphones, narrow-band optical filters. Materials researched at the center can be used in a variety of quantum electronics and optoelectronics devices.

"Currently, nanomaterials and nanotechnologies are a relevant and promising area of materials science development. Any substance crushed to nano-sized particles acquires new physical and chemical properties. High values of mechanical properties, wear resistance, heat resistance of nanomaterials provide the possibility of creating new classes of tool materials based on them - free abrasives based on nanopowders, including diamond ones; diamond abrasive tool; high-hard materials based on fullerenes and nanotubes for the production of precision tools for various materials testing methods; nanostructured wear-resistant coatings for cutting and stamping tools, etc. Moreover, broad prospects for the use of nanostructured materials in medicine are opening up, namely: administration of drugs in nanoform without the use of a syringe, targeted delivery of drugs to the affected organ or tissue," Leonid Suslikov notes.

During the short period of its existence, the Center for collective use of scientific equipment has significantly expanded, major repairs have been carried out in the laboratories, currently 4 laboratory rooms have been repaired and they are being equipped with equipment. The Center also plans to open a technological laboratory, purchase vacuum stations for sputtering films, and start production of certain nano-coatings, composites, and ceramics. Practical use is also obvious, for example, ceramics can be used in dentistry, in medicine - to replace metal joints.

Hanna Feltsan, Oleksiy Shafranyosh

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