Our scientists with NCN grants to research pikeperch, keto diet and food additives [update]

Blood circulating small non-coding RNAs as biomarkers of the reproductive status and gamete quality in pikeperch, the effect of a ketogenic diet on the metabolism and reproductive processes, and the effect of phosphorus-containing food additives on gut and metabolic health. – these are the three research topics to be investigated by our scientists under the recently awarded OPUS 26, SONATA 19 and OPUS 25 grants by the National Science Centre.

OPUS 26 is a competition intended for researchers at all stages of their research career. This time, the NCN Life Sciences panel received 631 applications, of which 91 received funding, giving a success rate of 14.4%.

Funding was received for a project entitled: „Blood circulating small non-coding RNAs (c-sncRNAs) as non-lethal biomarkers of reproductive status and gamete quality in pikeperch (Akronym: sAnDeRNA)„.

The project leader is Dr. Joanna J. Nynca from the Gamete and Embryo Biology Team. – The main objective of the project is to investigate in detail the changes in the profile of circulating sncRNAs in pikeperch blood during two successive reproductive cycles (cycle I – virgin fish and cycle II – reproductively experienced fish) and their potential use to monitor reproductive status and link to gamete quality, both in females and males – explains Dr. Joanna J. Nynca.

Budget: PLN 3 023 579.

The SONATA 19 competition is addressed to researchers with a PhD and aims to support those embarking on a scientific career to conduct innovative research. In this edition, 392 applications were submitted to the Life Sciences panel, of which 61 received funding (a success rate of 15.5%).

Funding was awarded to a project entitled: „The effect of a ketogenic diet on DNA methylation in rat oocytes and metabolic profile of its offspring„, led by Dr. Piotr Kaczyński from the Hormonal Action Mechanisms Team.

The way we eat affects our metabolism, but also regulates our reproductive processes. This raises the question – can a ketogenic diet, through changes in the metabolism, affect reproductive processes and the dynamics of epigenetic processes in oocytes; and does this have consequences for the offspring? To answer this question, we have planned scientific experiments with animals that will undergo a ketogenic diet. The effects of this diet on the metabolism and reproductive processes of female rats will be investigated. We will determine whether the ketogenic diet affects the quality of egg cells and whether the epigenetic changes it can induce in these cells may be passed on to the offspring and affect their health – points out Dr. Piotr Kaczyński.

Budget: PLN 1 844 780.

How Phosphorus-Containing Food Additives Affect the Gut and Metabolic Health of the Body: Having the Guts to Tackle Phosphates” is the title of the third project awarded by NCN under the OPUS 25 competition. The project is led by Dr. Adam Jurgoński from the Biological Function of Food Team.

The realization of this project will help in determining what is the role of the most frequently used phosphorus-containing food additives in health and disease and in verifying their safe dietary levels and hazards resulting from their regular consumption. The planned research will also help explain the complicated mechanisms by which phosphorus-containing food additives affect the gut and metabolic health of the body – says Dr. Adam Jurgoński.

Budget: PLN 1 983 717.

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New protein a new important player in fish immunology

On a macro scale, animal bodies are already well known to humans. However, when we descend to a lower level – to the micro scale – it becomes clear how many puzzles there still are. Dr Anna Majewska from the Institute of Animal Reproduction and Food Research of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Olsztyn has contributed to the completion of this knowledge. She characterised a protein discovered a few years ago called SNAD1, which turned out to be a new important player in fish immunology.

– A new protein called SNAD1 from the AID/APOBEC group of proteins may revolutionise our knowledge of fish immunity, shedding new light on all previously known mechanisms that fish use to fight pathogens and adapt to their environment. It is also a potential tool for the rapid detection of diseases in fish and for monitoring their welfare – emphasises Dr Anna Majewska from the Department of Gamete and Embryo Biology of the IARFR PAS in Olsztyn.

The SNAD1 protein was discovered in 2018 (initially under a different name) by Dr Mariola Dietrich, also from the IARFR PAS. This discovery resulted in further research, led by Dr Anna Majewska, in collaboration with scientists from the Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Poznań, and the University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, Germany.

This protein belongs to an interesting group of proteins that mutate the genetic code. – During evolution, a whole range of different mechanisms have evolved that could repair errors (mutations) in our DNA or RNA. And this group of proteins does the opposite: it causes these mutations! But it alters the genetic information in the nucleic acids in such a way as to give rise to specific antibodies that are capable of attacking or inactivating viruses or bacteria – explains the researcher.

This occurs in the biochemical process of deamination of cytidine to uridine catalysed by SNAD1. Deaminases are enzymes, and cytidine and uridine are biological active substances involved in cellular metabolism. Everything takes place within the nucleic acids, which store the organism’s genetic information and mediate protein production.

This protein is found in a variety of fish species. Thirteen of its variants have been demonstrated in carp, indicating its multifunctional role.

– In our study, we found that the SNAD1 protein is sensitive to a change in temperature to cooler temperatures – in which case its expression increases by up to a thousand-fold. This also happens in response to exposure to a virus or bacteria. This indicates that the protein plays an important role in immune processes. Thus, if a fish becomes infected with a bacterium or virus, the protein is involved in the host defence process by encoding genes in the RNA in such way that they produce an antibody to the specific pathogen – says the researcher.

In a paper recently published in the journal Frontiers in Immunology, the researcher showed that the SNAD1 protein is involved in immune processes. However, it is necessary to understand it in more detail, among other biochemical aspects. Further research steps in this direction are already planned.

Once the SNAD1 protein has been further characterised, it could in future be used as a marker of fish welfare.
– If we know that the expression level of this protein increases in specific situations, we will be able to react immediately and stop the disease at an early stage. This could contribute to more efficient fish breeding and be a potential tool for treating various types of diseases through genetic engineering,” points out Anna Majewska.

The research was conducted as part of a project from the NCN OPUS 22 competition entitled „In search of the role of carp cold acclimation protein 31 (Cap31) – a new player in fish immunity against microbes?”, led by Prof. Andrzej Ciereszko – head of the Department of Gamete and Embryo Biology of IARFR PAS in Olsztyn.

Dr Lucyna Budźko and Prof. Marek Figlerowicz from the Institute of Bioorganic Chemistry of the Polish Academy of Sciences and Dr Mikołaj Adamek from the University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover (Germany) participated in the described research on the SNAD1 protein.

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Vitamin D – an ally of our immunity (interview)

Vitamin D regulates the work of hundreds of genes and dozens of physiological functions in the human body, including those responsible for the efficiency of the immune system. The latest research has shown that each of us reacts differently to vitamin D (has a different level of responsiveness), which translates into, among others: to a faster or slower pace of the aging process of our body.

An expert in this field – Prof. Carsten Carlberg, world-famous biochemist and head of the Nutrigenomics Laboratory at the Institute of Animal Reproduction and Food Research of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Olsztyn, talks about the current scientific knowledge about vitamin D.

The best-known effect of vitamin D is maintaining the appropriate level of calcium in the body to maintain proper bone structure. But that’s not its only function, right?

Prof. Carsten Carlberg: Yes. Vitamin D regulates not only calcium homeostasis, but also our immunity. It is important for „training” our immune system so that it works effectively against microbial infections, but does not overreact against possible autoimmune reactions. Its long-term deficiency may lead not only to bone diseases (rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults), but also causes malfunction of the immune system, leading, among others to increased susceptibility to infectious diseases or autoimmune diseases.

How does vitamin D regulate our immunity?

Vitamin D regulates the work of hundreds of genes and dozens of physiological functions in the human body, including those responsible for the activity of the immune system. The vitamin D receptor (VDR) plays a significant role here, which is responsible for transmitting the appropriate signal and then modulating the expression of hundreds of target genes. Analysis of this process at the molecular level in vivo, i.e. in humans, is the main challenge for future studies of vitamin D target genes.

What have the results of your research so far shown?

The research is still ongoing, but based on the results so far, we have proposed dividing the population into three groups, according to the level of the body’s response to vitamin D: high responders, medium responders and low responders. A high level of responsiveness means that the body is able to make a maximum use of the effects of vitamin D (it has a high molecular response to vitamin D) and that in this group of people the need for supplementation is lower than in people from the low responsive group. This division was and still is the starting point for my subsequent research.

What kind of research?

Among other, I looked at the relationship between this responsiveness division and the processes occurring at the molecular level in cells sensitive to changes in vitamin D – in the context of the aging process.

Aging is a natural and inevitable process of accumulation of molecular and cellular damage. This leads to defective functions of cells, tissues and organs that weaken the entire human body, also in terms of immunocompetence, which is the ability of the human body to respond appropriately to exposure to an antigen. As overall immunocompetence declines during aging, the relative number of immune cells also declines.

However, our research has shown that there is a difference between people, i.e. some people have a higher percentage of immune cells than average, and some have a lower percentage. Therefore, it can be assumed that in the first group, the rate of aging is slower and the incidence of disease is lower, while in the second group, accelerated aging and a higher rate of disease should be observed. Going further, on this basis it can also be assumed that linking the level of the body’s individual response to vitamin D with its immunocompetence plays a significant role in the aging process.

Moreover, I am conducting research as part of a project financed by the National Science Center entitled “Investigating the mechanisms of epigenetic memory at the example of the responsiveness of human immune cells to vitamin D”.

The research entails intervention studies with selected residents of the city of Olsztyn. We hope this study will help us answer the question of whether the things we do or experience throughout our lives can be stored in the epigenome of our cells. In other words, does the epigenome (i.e. the set of chemical modifications of DNA that regulate the functions of the genome) function as a memory of our lifestyle, using the example of vitamin D.

You have been working at the Institute of Animal Reproduction and Food Research of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Olsztyn for over two years now. You are the founder of the Nutrigenomics Laboratory that you manage. What is nutrigenomics?

Nutrition is an essential element of life because it consists of molecules that meet our body’s needs for macro- and microelements. Moreover, some of these molecules directly communicate with the human genome (genetic material) and epigenome. And it is this complex relationship that is the essence of nutrigenomics.

Does this mean that diet affects the human body more than we think?

Definitely. Daily communication between diet and the (epi)genome modulates gene expression in metabolic organs such as adipose tissue, skeletal muscle, liver and pancreas, as well as in the brain and immune system. The cellular and molecular biology behind these gene regulatory processes maintains the homeostasis of the human body that prevents the development of non-communicable diseases such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer.

I conducted research that showed that the (epi)genome cannot keep up with adapting to the modern diet. Over the last 50 years, human life, including its diet, has changed so radically that the general population has not yet had time to adapt and cannot cope with problems related to lifestyle diseases, such as overweight and obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure.

For example, most of the time humans ate products with a low salt content, therefore our body has developed an efficient system for absorbing this salt from our diet, which was necessary in ancient times, but today creates many problems. Today’s diet is high in salt, and excess salt causes high blood pressure, which kills 10 million people worldwide each year.

Can this be prevented?

Of course. Our fate is in our hands – epigenetics largely depends on what (good or bad) we do to our body. The occurrence of these diseases mentioned earlier is influenced by many environmental factors, including our diet, so if we take care of our health, we can minimize the risk.

Finally, let’s talk about the latest recommendations regarding vitamin D supplementation. What are the experts’ guidelines?

The main source of vitamin D for the body is skin synthesis in contact with UV radiation. That’s why it’s worth exposing our skin to the sun – of course, remembering about proper protection against sunburn. Changing the style and mode of our lives, including: Spending a lot of time indoors translates into numerous vitamin D deficiencies, especially in the autumn and winter. A diet can help us, but even a balanced and varied one is not enough. Therefore, everyone should supplement vitamin D in the fall and winter, and people who do not spend enough time outdoors, even in summer, should supplement vitamin D throughout the year.

More information about the Nutrigenomics Laboratory of the Institute of Animal Reproduction and Food Research PAS in Olsztyn and the latest research of the ERA Chair WELCOME2 team can be found at: https://welcome2.pan.olsztyn.pl/

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Extracellular vesicles – a key to the success of early stages of pregnancy

Correct communication between the embryo and the mother determines the success of the pregnancy. Scientists from the Molecular Biology Laboratory of IARFR PAS have shown that extracellular vesicles play an essential role in this process.

– Our research shows that the exchange of a unique population of extracellular vesicles and their molecular cargo between the embryo and the mother is the key to the successful implantation of the embryo and the further course of pregnancy. We have shown that the early stages of embryo implantation are regulated by the exchange of extracellular vesicles between the embryo and the endometrium (the mucous membrane lining the uterine cavity) – emphasizes Prof. Monika Kaczmarek, who heads the Molecular Biology Laboratory at the Institute of Animal Reproduction and Food Research of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Olsztyn.

What are these extracellular vesicles (EVs)? These are membrane-covered nanostructures secreted by all types of cells in living organisms. – Recently, they have gained recognition as an important element of intercellular communication. Moreover, over the last decade, their role has become particularly important in the area of mammalian reproductive biology, attracting the attention of many scientific teams and researchers around the world – describes the researcher.

Scientists from her team have shown that during early pregnancy, the uterine lumen is rich in extracellular vesicles that carry microRNA molecules capable of regulating the expression of genes involved in the development of the embryo and the body (gene expression is a process during which specific genetic information is decoded and transferred to „production proteins”).

– Once delivered to primary trophoblast cells, the vesicles regulate genes responsible for development as well as signaling and interactions between cells, consequently influencing the proliferation (ability of cells to multiply), migration and invasive abilities of trophoblast cells. Therefore, their role in the success of pregnancy in its early stages is crucial – explains Prof. Monika Kaczmarek.

An article on this topic by a team of scientists led by prof. Monika Kaczmarek, which was published in the prestigious experimental biology journal „The FASEB Journal”, was among the most frequently read articles in the first 12 months after publication.

We wrote more about this research here.

Link to publication.

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Partially defatted poppy seeds better than native ones

Partially defatted poppy seeds, a by-product of poppyseed oil cold pressing, are a source of health-promoting dietary components, indicates a scientist from the Institute of Animal Reproduction and Food Research of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Olsztyn. Consuming them in the form of a dietary supplement (approximately 5.5 tablespoons per day) can beneficially alter lipid metabolism and support the treatment of obesity and its complications.

– In our research, we wanted to check to what extent this by-product of poppyseed oil pressing can still be useful for consumption and act as a valuable dietary component in the context of diet-related diseases. Such a form of poppy seeds is less calorific and may even be richer in some health-promoting compounds than native seeds – says dr. Adam Jurgoński, professor of IAR&FR PAS in Olsztyn.

A paper addressing this topic has been published in the prestigious journal Scientific Reports.

LIKE TWO PEAS IN A POD

Poppy seeds are a popular ingredient in Polish cuisine, especially added to bread, cakes and festive dishes. They are rich in nutrients – almost half of them consist of fatty acids present in the oil fraction (including polyunsaturated fatty acids, which are important components of our diet). They also contain dietary fibre, protein and various antioxidant compounds. 

Poppyseed oil is usually cold-pressed. This process involves mechanically separating the oil from the seeds at a low temperature, allowing for additional protection of the nutritionally valuable components. Poppyseed oil is high in linoleic acid (omega-6 acid), which is essential for the proper functioning of our body, although its intake is usually excessive in relation to other essential fatty acids present in our diet (i.e. omega-3 acids).

A by-product of the cold-pressed oil is partially defatted poppy seeds, also known as oilcakes. – It turns out that reducing this dominant oil fraction increases the proportion of dietary fibre, protein and some biologically active compounds. Thus, these seeds remain a product that is still valuable from a nutritional point of view – points out Adam Jurgoński.

POPPY VERSUS BODY LIPIDS

Researchers investigated the effect of dietary supplementation with partially defatted poppy seeds on the development of obesity.

The study was conducted on a laboratory animal model characterised by increased body weight. Overweight and obesity cause disturbances in the metabolism of lipids and glucose, and this in turn can lead to diet-related diseases such as certain cardiovascular diseases, steatohepatitis or type 2 diabetes.

– We have shown that relatively small dietary supplementation with defatted poppy seeds (for humans, this is about 5.5 tablespoons of these seeds per day) improves lipid metabolism in the body by reducing triglycerides in the blood and liver, and preventing increased visceral fat accumulation. We have also tentatively identified the molecular mechanism underlying these beneficial changes – reports Adam Jurgoński.

Elevated triglyceride levels and excess visceral fat are associated with an increased risk of the previously mentioned diet-related diseases.

According to the researcher, the new knowledge may be useful to nutritionists as well as food and supplement manufacturers, as it points to new possibilities for the use of the by-product in question, e.g. in the form of a pro-health 'filling’ to poppy seed cake (the seeds are already ground and do not require additional milling, like the regular ones).

– Therefore, poppy seeds in their partially defatted form can be an interesting ingredient in our diet, which turns out to be beneficial for the functioning of the body affected by metabolic disorders related to obesity – concludes Adam Jurgoński.

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World Water Day: Scientific strategies to protect and restore coral reefs

Cross-breeding, cryopreservation (freezing) of semen and creating a bank of reproductive cells and coral larvae are all examples of scientific strategies to enhance the resilience of coral reefs and protect these invaluable ecosystems from the negative effects of climate change.

– Due to climate change and other anthropological factors, we have already lost more than half of all coral reefs. Although corals have remarkable mechanisms of resilience, the rate of climate change (increasing water temperature and decreasing pH level) exceeds their natural ability to adapt – emphasises dr. Radosław Kowalski from the Department of Gamete and Embryo Biology of the Institute of Animal Reproduction and Food Research of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Olsztyn.

The scientist investigates reefs near the Japanese island of Okinawa. He has been studying coral reproduction for more than a decade. – Back then, the topic of coral reef conservation was niche. Today, after a growing number of publications and projects, it is becoming clear that the problem is severe, and the need to find a strategy to protect these invaluable ecosystems supporting the diversity of marine life is indeed urgent – he adds.

The researcher points out that besides an increase in water temperature, a significant negative impact on coral reefs is also caused by a decrease in the ocean’s pH, i.e. its acidification. This is linked to an increase in carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere, which then dissolves in the oceans. – This is why, in recent decades, the natural pH level of the oceans has dropped from 8.2 to 8.1. However, this inconspicuous one-tenth means a one-third increase in ocean acidification! Corals build their skeletons from calcium carbonate, which is 'taken up’ from the water, but this mechanism stops at a pH of 7.9. In addition, water acidification reduces the reproductive capacity of corals – says Radosław Kowalski.

And although corals look more like plants, they are animals (invertebrates). They are found in equatorial regions.

INTERSPECIES BREEDING

Modern coral reefs, including the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, formed about 8-10,000 years ago. As the reefs are mainly found around the equator, where the annual temperature changes were not very pronounced, their biological cycle synchronised with the phases of the moon – depending on the species, they approach spawning on a specific full or new moon counting from the beginning of the year.

– This synchronisation allows these non-migratory animals to ensure contact with gametes (reproductive cells) of the same species by releasing them en masse into the ocean, usually during a single night. However, climate warming has resulted in temperatures during the coral spawning season that their physiology has not previously encountered. And while thermals did not previously play a major regulatory role in coral reproduction, we are now seeing a significant modulating effect. For this reason, unsynchronised coral spawning is now occurring annually on the reef – the researcher points out.

This is resulting in a noticeable increase in interspecies hybrids. An example is the crossing of species from deeper parts of the ocean, where there is cooler water, with those from shallower parts with warmer water. The result is a hybrid with mediated characteristics that is able to inhabit larger spaces. – This fascinating mechanism shows how corals try to adapt to change –  explains Radosław Kowalski.

Interspecies breeding also has considerable potential as a tool for scientifically assisted evolution, as combining the gametes of different coral species offers the possibility of obtaining a hybrid, e.g. with increased thermal tolerance (to changes in water temperature) or with specific desirable adaptive traits to changing environmental conditions.

Dr. Radoslaw Kowalski is conducting such research with a team of Japanese scientists from the University of the Ryukyus in Okinawa.

Recently, the researcher has been focusing on the cross-breeding possibilities of aquarium-reared species.
– From my observations, I have noticed that corals bred in aquaria are subject to enormous environmental pressure, so that there is a lot of natural selection, and only the strongest individuals survive. We want to cross naturally occurring species with those bred in aquaria and see if their hybrid will be more adaptable – he says.

GENETIC INSURANCE POLICY

Another strategy to protect coral reefs is the cryopreservation of coral sperm, i.e. their storage at ultra-low temperatures. This method enables the preservation of genetic material, acting as a genetic insurance policy that can be used in the future to restore and rebuild coral reefs.

– Creating a bank of gametes and coral larvae is one of the biggest challenges for scientists working on this topic. We are already able to cryopreserve sperm, but after thawing, the eggs are still needed for fertilisation. With larvae, there would not be such a problem, but here we still need to improve the method of freezing them – Radosław Kowalski points out.

The semen cryopreservation method can also be helpful in the process of crossbreeding between species, for example, by allowing semen taken from resistant individuals to be transported from aquaria to coral reefs, where it can be used to create more resistant individuals of a particular species.

ACTION NEEDED

– The state of coral reefs around the world is critical; these ecosystems are on the brink of collapse. Research into strategies to protect reefs is therefore needed as never before. However, I always stress that even the most cutting-edge scientific solutions are no substitute for our everyday actions, such as saving energy or water, which can make a real difference in protecting our planet – Radosław Kowalski concludes.

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Gender differences in skin scarring

The composition and structure of scars vary depending on gender, scientists from the Institute of Animal Reproduction and Food Research of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Olsztyn have shown. Tissues in men are characterised by a higher content of type 1 collagen and elastin. Women, on the other hand, showed a higher accumulation of type 3 collagen, characteristic of scarless wound healing.

– Our work is the first publication to demonstrate differences between men and women over 50 in the structure of cutaneous scars. The obtained results may contribute to the development of research on new pharmaceuticals taking into account gender differences in patients – emphasises Professor Barbara Gawrońska-Kozak, leader of the Regenerative Biology Team at the Institute of Animal Reproduction and Food Research of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Olsztyn.

Her team’s research focuses on understanding the molecular basis of the repair mechanisms controlling the healing process of skin wounds with scar formation (reparative healing), but also in terms of regenerative (scarless), healing.

SCARS ARE NECESSARY

Scars are 'mementos’ left on the skin after various types of injury, such as cuts (e.g. post-operative wounds), lacerations, or burns. The rate of wound healing can be affected by many factors including age, gender, body area, and wound size.

– Scar healing is beneficial for the organism, as it restores, relatively quickly, the protective function of the skin, preventing the penetration of pathogenic microorganisms into the injured area. Unfortunately, disorders in the healing process may result in numerous complications, such as non-healing wounds or hypertrophic scars, explains Prof. Barbara Gawrońska-Kozak.

In the animal world, there is also scarless wound healing, called regenerative or ideal wound healing. – This is the process of regaining the appearance and functionality of uninjured skin. This type of wound healing rarely occurs in mammals. One example of regeneration observed in humans is the healing of skin wounds during the first two trimesters of fetal life. When an injury occurs during this time (e.g. during surgery in the womb), the skin heals scarlessly, with no trace of the injury. Interestingly, research by scientists from the UK has shown that in elderly people, healing of skin injuries lasts longer, but with the formation of a smaller, more delicate scar, with a macroscopic and microscopic appearance resembling uninjured skin – says Dr. Marta Kopcewicz of the Regenerative Biology Team at the IAR&FR PAS.

COLLAGEN TYPE MAKES A DIFFERENCE

To better understand the molecular basis of scar formation and to see what is the role of gender in this process, researchers from Prof. Barbara Gawrońska-Kozak’s team decided to analyse samples of uninjured and scarred skin, collected from men and women over 50. The tissues were taken from the patient’s abdominal areas (with their written consent and under the supervision of the local ethics committee). Doctors from the Voivodal Specialistic Hospital in Olsztyn were involved in the research.

– It has long been known that intact skin varies by gender: in men, among other things, it is thicker, with higher amounts of type 1 collagen, and with more sebaceous glands secreting  sebum. Our research indicates that there are also gender-dependent differences in scars – points out Prof. Barbara Gawrońska-Kozak.

Thus: men have more type 1 collagen and elastin in abdominal skin scars than women, which is in line with what is known about differences in uninjured skin. Women, on the other hand, showed higher expression levels of genes specific to the adipose tissue present in the skin.

Interestingly, we observed a higher accumulation of type 3 collagen in women’s scars – a type of collagen that is associated with regenerative wound healing. – These are only the first indications which require further research, but we have presented for the first time that women may have a greater potential for regenerative healing than men – says Dr. Marta Kopcewicz.

The researchers also histologically assessed the structure of scars. Their analyses showed that the arrangement of collagen fibres and their thickness also depended on gender: they are finer in women.

CHANCE FOR NEW MEDICINES

Earlier studies by Dr. Marta Kopcewicz, conducted on animals, showed that age and gender have the greatest impact on the wound healing process. – Our latest research, already conducted on human tissues, has confirmed this – emphasizes the researcher.

According to Prof. Barbara Gawrońska-Kozak, the results may contribute to further research into potential pharmacological products that take gender differences into account. – In addition, our study contributes to important knowledge about scarring in people over 50, when the skin is different from that of young people, who are usually the research group in studies in this area – concludes the scientist.

An article presenting the results of the described study was published in the journal Biomedicines and is available here.

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Vitamin D and the aging – a new concept explaining this relationship

Linking the body’s individual response to vitamin D with immunocompetence, or generally speaking: potent immunity, may be the key to explaining the mechanism of how vitamin D protects against the most common diseases and at the same time promotes healthy aging.

– The results of our research suggest that immunocompetence describes not only an individual’s ability to resist pathogens and parasites, but also to fight non-communicable diseases and the aging process itself – emphasizes Prof. Carsten Carlberg from the Institute of Animal Reproduction and Food Research of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Olsztyn, a world-famous biochemist specializing in research on vitamin D.

The publication with the research results was published in the journal „Nutrients” . The co-author of the article is Dr. Eunike Velleuer from the University of Düsseldorf (Germany).

AN IMPORTANT REGULATOR

Vitamin D affects the functioning of the entire body via its modulatory actions on the immune system. In contrast, vitamin D deficiency causes malfunctions of the immune system, leading to, among others increased susceptibility to infectious diseases or autoimmune diseases.

Based on the results of his previous research, prof. Carlberg proposed dividing the population into three groups according to the level of the body’s response to vitamin D: high, mid and low responders. A high level of responsiveness means that the body is able to make a maximum use of the effects of vitamin D (it has a high molecular response to vitamin D), and that in such group of people the need for supplementation is lower than in people from the low responder group.

This division is a starting point for understanding the scientist’s subsequent research. This time he looked at the relationship between the above-mentioned grouping and the processes occurring at the molecular level in cells sensitive to changes in vitamin D – in the context of the aging process.

VITAMIN D IN THE AGING PROCESS

Aging is a natural and inevitable process of accumulation of molecular and cellular damage, which leads to defective functions of cells, tissues and organs that weaken the entire human body. Some profound changes in the immune system at the molecular level contribute to a decline in immunocompetence, i.e. the ability of the human body to respond appropriately to an exposure to an antigen.

As overall immunocompetence declines during aging, the relative number of immune cells decreases.

– However, there are differences between people in this population group, i.e. some people have a higher percentage of immune cells than average, and some have a lower percentage. Therefore, in the same age group there are people with higher immunological resistance and others with lower ones. Therefore, it can be assumed that in the first group the rate of aging is slower and the incidence of diseases is lower, while in the second group accelerated aging and a higher rate of disease should be observed – explains Prof. Carlberg.

On this basis, it can be assumed that the relationship between the level of the body’s individual response to vitamin D and its immunocompetence plays a significant role in the aging process.

Prof. Carlberg and his team use this relationship to develop a mechanism explaining how vitamin D affects the epigenetic programming of immune cells, in particular monocytes and their derived cells. Details can be found in the source publication.

– Our study results suggest that vitamin D is an important element of healthy aging, not only for maintaining bones and skeletal muscles in good condition, but also for the homeostasis of the immune system. We also believe that a sufficient amount of vitamin D, adapted to the individual needs of the body, should stabilize immune resistance, protect against many diseases and maintain a low rate of aging – concludes the scientist.

Prof. Carlberg is the leader of the scientific group dealing with nutrigenomics at the Institute of Animal Reproduction and Food Research of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Olsztyn.

More information about the Nutrigenomics Laboratory of IARFR PAS in Olsztyn and the latest research of the ERA Chair WELCOME2 team can be found here.

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Non-genetic inheritance in rainbow trout – research by a PASIFIC grantee

Inside the eggs there is encoded information that the mother wants to pass on to her offspring, which may relate, for example, to her past illnesses. This mechanism – called non-genetic inheritance – is known to scientists, but not yet fully understood. Dr. Taina Rocha de Almeida from the Institute of Animal Reproduction and Food Research of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Olsztyn explores it.

Dr. Taina Rocha de Almeida is a grantee of the PASIFIC – Marie Skłodowska-Curie COFUND programme. This is a scholarship competition managed by the Polish Academy of Sciences and co-funded by the H2020 Programme „Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions Co-funding of regional, national and international programmes” and the Polish Ministry of Education and Science.

Her research work focuses on determining to what extent non-genetic inheritance factors affect the adaptability of offspring (from embryo to juvenile stages) to breeding conditions. The researcher’s scientific supervisor is dr. Daniel Żarski from the Department of Gamete and Embryo Biology, IAR&FR PAS.

– This knowledge can be useful for improving fish farming, but also for gaining a deeper understanding of fish immunity, emphasises dr. Taina Rocha de Almeida.

The aim of her ongoing research is to investigate how the eggs transcriptome is linked to progeny performance – by examining embryos and juveniles of two varieties of rainbow trout bred in Poland.

Rainbow trout is one of the most popular farmed species in the world; the second most produced in Europe. As dr. Taina Rocha de Almeida points out, despite advances in knowledge, production is still not as efficient as it could be. – There are many issues hindering the growth of rainbow trout production, but in this research I have focused specifically on two: the productivity of the offspring and resistance to enteric redmouth disease (ERM) or yersiniosis, caused by the bacterium Yersinia ruckeri, which is one of the most serious diseases of salmonids, mainly affecting rainbow trout – she explains.

The transcriptome is a set of RNA molecules in cells that changes according to different factors, e.g. disease. To study the eggs transcriptome (i.e. the information encoded there – in this case for the mRNA-based disease yersiniosis) and its link to offspring performance, the scientist carried out the whole process – from incubation, through the hatching period and the growth of the fish. The fish were then divided into two groups – one was the control group and the other was infected with the aforementioned Yersinia ruckeri bacterium.

The disease causes changes in organs such as the liver, spleen and gills, among others. The scientists therefore took samples of these organs from the infected fish to study the expression of the genes responsible for the immune response there.

In a molecular study of the eggs, the scientist selected 10 genes that play a key role in the immune response of the immune system. She will now compare these with genes from the collected tissues. Dr. Taina Rocha de Almeida also plans to analyse microRNA molecules, the proteome (i.e. the set of proteins present in the cell at any given time) and to study a third variety of rainbow trout, which has also already undergone the entire research process.

The results will show to what extent the information in the eggs influences the performance of the offspring, should they contract a disease popular among rainbow trout. The new knowledge will not only contribute to the advancement of science on the topic of rainbow trout reproduction, but may also find real applications in breeding in the future.

The research was conducted in cooperation with the Dąbie Fish Hatchery and the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine of the University of Warmia and Mazury in Olsztyn.

The results of the grantee’s research to date were presented at the Leadership Seminar held on 2 February this year.

More about her research can be found here. More about the PASIFIC programme can be found on the PAS website.

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