Our scientists are among the winners of the Small Research Grant Program from the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation Biotech Initiative

Recently, scientists of the Department of Biochemistry and Biotechnology, Professor Maria Bailyak and Olga Strilbytska, Ph.D., became the winners of the Small Research Grant Application (2021) program from the US-Ukraine Foundation Biotech Initiative.

The U.S.-Ukraine Foundation (USUF) is a non-governmental organization, headquartered in Washington, D.C. with a permanent presence working on the ground in Ukraine since 1991. Beginning from the inception, the Foundation has created and sustained numerous strategic programs and projects, having secured funding of nearly $50 million.

The Biotech Initiative is among the key activities of the Foundation and includes Small Research Grants, Publication Grants, and Travel Grants.

Thanks to the Small Research Grants grants (up to $ 2,000), our scientists receive a possibility to purchase the necessary equipment and materials to conduct their research.

Reserch project of Maria Bayliak is “Use of dietary supplements for prevention of obesity and other age-related metabolic disturbances in a mouse model”

Over the last decades, the shift in age distribution towards older ages and the progressive aging which is observed in most populations have been paralleled by a global epidemic of obesity and its related metabolic disorders, primarily, cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes. According to the World Health Organization, in Ukraine, 21.3% of people suffer from obesity, and 53.5% are overweight. At the same time, the number of people over 60 years will be more than 25% of the total Ukrainian population by 2025. To meet these challenges, many research groups are directed to the study of mechanisms of aging and its relationship to various diseases. Researchers are working to identify genetic and lifestyle-related causes of healthy longevity. They focus mainly on identification of key signaling pathways that control aging and finding ways to slow-down aging process. The anti-aging properties of different natural and synthetic compounds are in the area of our research interest. Recently we started to study anti-aging effects some individual compounds (ferulic acid, alpha-ketoglutarate, 2.4-dinitrophenol) and plant extracts from Rhodiola rosea rhizome and Chamomile flower. We choose these food supplements for study taking into account their chemical composition/structure and the potential effect on the specific targets in aging. The study includes substances and preparations that have been little studied as anti-aging drugs and the information on their mechanisms of action is scare. The molecular mechanisms of these substances will be revealed in more detail, which provides a basis for their further study as potential drugs in preventing the development of age-related diseases. We predict that the obtained results will give a possibility to predict the presence of anti-aging action in other plants that contain similar substances. The implemented project is partially funded by the National Research Foundation of Ukraine (project registration number 2020.0 /0118) under the theme “Intermediates of phenylpropanoid pathway as substances to prolong lifespan and healthspan”.

Since it is assumed that anti-aging drugs should be taken at young and mature ages to prevent aging, the effects of the substances and extracts selected will be tested on young and middle-aged model animals (mice). During the realization of the project, we face the problem of quality of food for mice. We have bought laboratory rodent food produced by manufacturers in Ukraine, but it seems that this food is not good quality, because mice gain weight poorly and reproduce poorly by consuming it. Therefore, we have to supply basic food with additional food components (cheese, carrots, porridge, beets, bread, vitamin mixtures, etc.). This does not allow to control clearly experiment conditions. Another problem is the addition and control of the amount of food additives consumed (ferulic acid, alpha-ketoglutarate, plant extracts). The method of gavage (forced feeding of mice) is not very suitable for long-term experiments, it is more convenient to add food additives to the basic food. The laboratory food is sold in solid pellets; therefore, further introducing in it additional components is impossible. To solve this problem, we apply for funding to purchase the equipment (feed granulator and mixer) that will allow us to prepare by yourself food for mice. This may not reduce the cost of food, but we will be able to prepare mouse food of higher quality and such composition that we need. Thanks to this new equipment, we will able to prepare various experimental diets, changing the content of macronutrients (carbohydrates and fats) and micronutrients. For grant funding, we also plan to purchase some individual ingredients for food preparation. In addition, we plan with using of the panned equipment and ingredients to prepare a special food for the reproduction of mice to obtain a sufficient population of mice for further experiments. Thus, thanks to the new equipment, the cost of food, time and human resources will be reduced and the planned experiments will be carried out better and faster.

Reserch project of Olha Strilbytska is “TOR and Insulin signaling pathways in intestinal stem and progenitor cells as important determinants of physiological and metabolic traits in Drosophila

The primary goal of the project is to determine TOR- and IIS-dependent changes in the number and activity of ISCs and EBs in Drosophila midgut. We are interested, how the fly gut cells react following TOR and IIS activation/inhibition, and it is not clear how ISCs division rate correlates with the investigated physiological and metabolic traits. We suggest, that the manipulation of signaling pathways in a small group of gut cells have a global impact on fly physiology, metabolism via effects localized to a single tissue. The regulation of ISCs proliferation and differentiation rate suggested maintaining stem cell pools following stem cell depletion or hyperactivation, such as happens following gut injury or chemotherapy in humans. We suggest the evaluation of ISC proliferation rate using immunofluorescent staining of phospho-H3 antibody. Phosphorylated-histone 3 (phospho-H3) is a highly specific marker for condensed chromosomes and thus can be used to assess the number of mitotic ISC. Obtained results should provide a platform for therapeutic applications to target hyperproliferative diseases that is an effective strategy to extend lifespan. This project will give the possibility to open a new direction of lifespan extension via gut homeostasis regulation.