Drug-resistant M.tuberculosis strains are studied at NLA

Drug-resistant M.tuberculosis strains are studied at NLA

April 18, 2019

According to WHO data, every day about 4 500 people die from tuberculosis (TB) and 30 000 become sick with TB. Over the last decade, the medical community has faced difficulties in fighting tuberculosis due to the emergence of strains that are either extensively resistant to drugs or multidrug resistant.

Currently, Nazarbayev University scientists are conducting studies on tuberculosis, specifically examining how genetic level factors of tuberculosis may influence resistance to basic anti-tuberculosis drugs.   After genotyping the clinical isolates to identify M. tuberculosis genetic families, scientists at the Center for Life Sciences, PI ‘National Laboratory Astana’, identified seven main genotypes of tuberculosis strains distributed in Kazakhstan. 

W-Beijing family strains are the most commonly distributed kind in Asia and are associated with anti-tuberculosis drug resistance. We identified that this genotype prevails among cases of tuberculosis in Kazakhstan showing up in 60% of new cases and in 83% of recurrent cases.   – reported Ulan Kozhamkulov, a leading researcher of the Laboratory of Genomic and Personalized Medicine, PI ‘National Laboratory Astana’.

Beijing family strains spread frequently in Asian countries, although today strains of this family can be found globally and prevail among young people. Strains of Beijing family were first identified during the 1990s in New York (USA) during an outbreak of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis. The strains in this family were named in  1995, when discovery of M. tuberculosis isolates with the same characteristics were found in ‘Beijing’ China, where 92% of all isolates belonged to this family. Among European countries, W-Beijing strains are mostly distributed in Eastern Europe and former USSR countries.  

NLA researchers compared the genomes of clinical isolates of M. tuberculosis susceptible to anti-tuberculosis drugs with those of strains that are multidrug resistant and extensively drug-resistant.  During the comparative bioinformatics analysis comparing the different strains, they found in the drug-resistant strains four common genetic loci (PE_PPE family genes) that were absent in the susceptible strains.  Nazarbayev University scientists assume that these genes contribute to the extension of drug-resistant TB strains and may worsen disease symptoms of TB.  

Now the scientists are planning to compare the results on drug-resistant Kazakhstani strains with data available in international databases. This analysis will help in understanding the mechanisms of tuberculosis resistance to anti-TB drugs and contribute to the development of improved tuberculosis diagnostics, vaccines and new anti-tuberculosis drugs.

Thermo Fisher Scientific Demo Day  at NLA

Thermo Fisher Scientific Demo Day  at NLA

April 12, 2019

National Laboratory Astana and ZALMA Ltd. company organized  Thermo Fisher Scientific Demo Day, which  took place at Nazarbayev University yesterday.

During the seminar Thermo Fisher Scientific company representatives from Moscow delivered reports about new instruments, equipment, software, services to solve for complex analytical challenges in pharmaceutical, biotechnology, academic research, as well as the clinical laboratory.  Also in the framework of the Demo Day Equipment exhibition was hold. In the exhibition there was an opportunity to test  samples on the Thermo Fisher Scientific equipment.

It is known that Thermo Fisher Scientific is the world leader in serving science, with revenues of more than $24 billion and approximately 70,000 employees globally. The company helps customers accelerate life sciences research, solve complex analytical challenges, improve patient diagnostics, deliver medicines to market and increase laboratory productivity. Through their premier brands – Thermo Scientific, Applied Biosystems, Invitrogen, Fisher Scientific and Unity Lab Services – they offer an unmatched combination of innovative technologies, purchasing convenience and comprehensive services.

International conference dedicated to 10th anniversary of Center for Life Sciences to be held in Nur-Sultan

International conference dedicated to 10th anniversary of Center for Life Sciences to be held in Nur-Sultan

April 10, 2019

On May 20, 2020 NLA will host  the International Conference dedicated to 10th anniversary of Center for Life Sciences entitled "Modern challenges for biomedical sciences: from bench to bedside".  The three-day conference will gather together researchers from leading universities of neighboring countries and far abroad from the United Kingdom, Russia, China,  the U.S.A, South Korea, and Germany, senior management of research organizations, educational institutions, healthcare industry representatives, officials and representatives of government of Kazakhstan attend next year’s conference.

The purpose of the conference is to constitute a forum for many national and foreign research groups to integrate, dialogue, and discuss advanced achievements in gerontology, bioengineering and regenerative medicine, bioinformatics and systems biology, microbiome and metabolome. 


Sudden cardiac death: New genetic mutations discovered

Sudden cardiac death: New genetic mutations discovered

April 2, 2019

 NLA researchers have discovered new genetic factors associated with heart failure and sudden cardiac death.  Studying these genetic markers will help scientists to better understand heart disease, which could be used in the future to screen individuals for potential risks related to developing heart conditions. The results of this unique genetic research are published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Plos One.

According to US cardiologists, sudden cardiac death is the cause of every fourth natural death worldwide. Sudden cardiac death is often due to the heart having problems pumping blood (ventricular  fibrillation), or to sudden spikes in pulse with over 150-300 heart beats per minute (paroxysmal ventricular tachycardia of the heart)[1]. 

Analysis of electrocardiograms from patients who died of sudden cardiac death shows that in 83.5% of cases the deceased had either ventricular arrhythmias, or less frequently bradycardia resulting in a cardiac asystole.  In about 5 to 12% of cases, sudden cardiac death occurred in previously asymptomatic and seemingly healthy people.  Based on these data, scientists are convinced that ventricular arrhythmias are associated with a high probability of developing fatal arrhythmias or the so-called “sudden arrhythmic death” – where the reason for heart failure is not always apparent.  

“Genetically determined diseases or channelopathies are associated with impaired flow of potassium or calcium ions in the muscle cells of the heart. They are also a major cause of heart failure and sudden cardiac death worldwide,” - says Ainur Akilzhanova, MD, PhD, Head of the Laboratory of Genomic and Personalized Medicine at National Laboratory Astana.

How do genetic factors and non-genetic factors such as environment and lifestyle affect the likelihood of developing heart disease?   Might certain genetic mutations predispose people to sudden cardiac death?  NLA genetic scientists attempted to answer these questions in a recent study of mutations of the ryanodine receptor-2 gene (RYR2).  The RYR2 gene is one of the key players tightly regulating calcium ions (Ca2 +) efflux from the sarcoplasmic reticulum (a part of cardiac myocyte where calcium ions are stored) to the cytosol.   Maintaining correct amounts of calcium ions throughout the body is important for heart muscle health and normal heart beating, and people with certain RYR2 mutations might have issues with proper calcium ion regulation.  Mutations in this gene have been linked to an inherited disorder that could result in life-threatening irregular heartbeats called catecholaminergic polymorphic ventricular tachycardia type 1 (CPVT1).

In the framework of the project, scientists studied the DNA of 70 Kazakhstanis looking for genetic mutations of the RYR2 gene.  Specifically, they examined the genes of 35 patients who had been diagnosed with different types of ventricular tachycardia and their family members.  Nazarbayev University scientists have discovered two novel and previously unknown genetic variants that can influence the development of ventricular tachycardia. In addition we identified a known variant previously associated with arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia type2 (ARVD2).

Moreover, researchers evaluated the clinical significance of novel and rare genetic variants in the development of arrhythmias in Kazakhstani patients with diagnosed ventricular tachycardia and their healthy family members. These results will assess the risks of developing cardiac disease and sudden cardiac death in Kazakhstan and help doctors to develop measures for their prevention.

Dr. Akilzhanova noted that using genetic information to help treat CPVT is a fairly new approach that was not widely used until 2000.  In 2001, the role of mutations of the RYR2 gene in the development of CPVT1 was first proved. Heart Rhythm Society and the European Heart Rhythm Association recommend early genetic testing of family members because CPVT may present as SCD or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome as the first manifestation.  Nazarbayev University researchers emphasize that the clinical observation of patients carrying genetic factors will contribute to the understanding of further risk factors and their impact on the development of heart disease.

[1] The human heart consists of four separate chambers – the heart has a right and a left side, with upper (atria) and lower (ventricle) chambers.  All four chambers play an important role in pumping blood.  

From garbage to alternative fuels: how to organize waste recycling in Astana?

From garbage to alternative fuels: how to organize waste recycling in Astana?

February 27, 2019

Scientists at NLA say that 30% of municipal solid waste in Astana could be recyclable, and another 10% of municipal solid waste potentially could be sorted to derived solid fuel for the city’s energy needs. These figures were obtained by a research group studying landfills in Astana for opportunities to obtain energy fuel from solid domestic waste.  

“A lot of solid waste is disposed of on a daily basis, we wanted to explore if some of this waste could be processed as fuel to meet the municipal needs of the city, specifically, we were interested in the production of  heat during the winter season,”- said the  senior project manager, PhD Yerbol Sarbassov.

In the course of the experimental process, samples of the treated fuel were co-fired in a fluidized bed unit to study the combustion parameters with and without coal.

The researchers of the Laboratory of Green Energy and the Environment, National Laboratory Astana and the School of Engineering, NU concluded that the dry combustible residue from solid waste can be disposed of in two ways: by pyrolysis to produce syngas or co-firing in fluidized beds. The second option would be more effective for use in the small district boiler houses of Astana.

Scientists said that the composition of garbage varies, depending on the area of ​​export.  Thus they are extremely optimistic, emphasizing that the disposal of solid waste in Astana will have a positive impact on the ecological situation in the city, as well it will help to increase the service life of sanitary landfills for the disposal of solid waste.

NLA researchers are investigating the influence of the quality of the human microbiome on the development of age-related dementia

NLA researchers are investigating the influence of the quality of the human microbiome on the development of age-related dementia

February 18, 2019

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a chronic neurodegenerative disorder characterized by progressive memory loss, drastic changes in personality and behavior, and in the latter stages the patients are unable to carry even simple daily activities. There is evidence that AD might be associated with bacteria residing in our intestine. In this regards, researchers from Nazarbayev University have begun studying the composition of the intestinal microbiome of patients diagnosed with AD. Similar studies are being conducted in the United States and in China.

As part of our study, samples of intestinal flora were collected from elderly people diagnosed with AD and mentally healthy individuals. ‘We are looking for a correlation between the composition of intestinal microflora and AD, as a potential marker for early diagnosis of this disease’ – reports Sholpan Askarova, a Leading researcher and the Head of the Laboratory of Bioengineering and Regenerative Medicine, National Laboratory Astana.

Until recently, it was believed that intestinal microbiome is involved in processes such as fermentation of carbohydrates, synthesis of vitamins, xenobiotic metabolism occurring exclusively in the intestines, and acts as a barrier to pathological bacteria. However, over the past 15 years, the functions of the intestinal microbiome have been revised. A direct relationship has been established between density and the composition of intestinal microflora with the development of a number of pathologies such as diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular diseases, which, in turn, are known risk factors for the development of AD.

It has been established that age, lifestyle, diet as well as place of residence play a big role in intestinal microfloral composition – comments Almagul Kushugulova, Leading researcher and the Head of the Laboratory of Human Microbiome and Longevity, National Laboratory Astana.

Data obtained from the study of laboratory animals suggest that bacteria that colonize the intestine can negatively impact the function of nerve cells and contribute to the development of AD. Clinical studies conducted at Chongqing Medical University (China) and the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center (Wisconsin Alzheimer’s disease Research Center, USA) confirm these findings.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that the incidence of age-related dementia worsens every year and projects that by the year 2050 there will be a three-fold increase in the number of AD patients. AD affects approximately 10% of people aged between 65-75 years and 32% of the elderly aged 80 years and above. There is currently no accurate data in Kazakhstan on the number of elderly people suffering from dementia. However, based on the world statistical data and considering the population of Kazakhstan, it can be stipulated that not less than 200 000 elderly people could suffer from age-related dementia.

NLA launched a new system for genomic research and bioinformatics problem solving

NLA launched a new system for genomic research and bioinformatics problem solving

February 12, 2019

Scientists of  NLA  launched the first high-performance bioinformatics computing platform in Kazakhstan for dealing with “big genomic data” and solving problems in the field of bioinformatics.

– This platform uses “Qazaq symphony of bioinformatics” or Q-Symphony and other optimized bioinformatics methods to analyze large-scale human genomics data, to detect specific structural genomic variants, and to conduct complex comparative and population analysis. Previously it took up to two months to process one computational task, but now with Q-Symphony, it takes about seven days to complete this process! – commented Ulykbek Kairov, Leading researcher, Head of the Laboratory of Bioinformatics and Systems Biology, Center for Life Sciences, National Laboratory Astana.

For scientists and the research community of Kazakhstan, the data obtained using Q-Symphony will serve as the foundation for creating a reference database of genomic variants of Kazakh individuals and will have further applications in analyses of comparative population genomic variants described in the scientific literature. This computing platform makes it possible to more effectively apply the reference database of genomic variants in biomedical practice in order to evaluate new genetic variants in healthy individuals and patients with different pathologies within the Kazakh population.

In addition, this data can be used in medicine to improve the identification of diseases and select appropriate treatments.   It is essential for medical professionals to understand all that they can about the genomic characteristics of the population because the presentation of diseases and the efficacy of different drugs can be related to genetics.  This work can clarify the diagnosis of a patient with unclear etiology associated with human genetics, and can also be used in personalized medicine to identify genetic predispositions and prevent possible risks of developing pathologies, as well as to assess the effectiveness of different drugs depending on the patient’s genetic features.

The Q-Symphony system consists of four main nodes: an input or control node, a memory node, a network of computing nodes combined into one, and a storage node. All nodes are connected by a high-speed data exchange network Infiniband with a capacity of 100 Gb/s. The total capacity of computational nodes is 172 cores, 3072 GB of RAM and 198 TB of data storage.

Q-Symphony uses a special data caching system, with a volume of 3.2TB, which increases the  computational speed of  input-output data for individual tasks. The data is automatically transferred to regular disk drives. Moreover, the monitoring system provides convenient transparent display of resource loading and task execution in 3D visualization mode.

Metabiotic based on Saumal to put into production

Metabiotic based on Saumal to put into production

December 12, 2018

Today, the factory for the production of metabiotic based on Saumal will be opened in Karaganda region. The project is a unique development of scientists of National Laboratory Astana and is implemented in partnership with private business.

The metabiotic is made on the basis of the unique Kazakhstani strain of lactic acid bacteria Lactobacillus rhamnosus CLS 17. The complex metabiotic product corrects the microflora by stimulating the growth of its own beneficial symbiotic flora, the inclusion in the product of mare's milk (saumal) expands the range of its use, which provides products with a competitive advantage in comparison with analogues. Metabiotic will be an effective product for the treatment of metabolic disorders.

The project is being implemented in partnership between scientists from the Center for Life Sciences, National Laboratory Astana and the private company "Trading House SAUMAL" LLP. The project is implemented at the expense of the grant of "Science Foundation" JSC.

The project opening will be attended by Samat Kozhakhmetov, project manager, NLA senior researcher , Galymzhan Meirambekov, Director of Saumal BioTech LLP , Anuarbek Sultangazin, Chairman of the board of "Science Foundation," Aliya Kaziyeva, Executive Director of National Laboratory Astana  and Almagul Kushugulova, Director of the Center for Life Sciences, NLA. 

“University Medical Center” to hold the international conference on formation of an academic medical center

“University Medical Center” to hold the international conference on formation of an academic medical center

November 2, 2018

конференция UMC More than 200 leading domestic and foreign experts in the field of oncology, surgery, urology, radiology, nuclear medicine attended   this year’s conference.

Olzhas Abishev, Vice-Minister of Health of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Bruno Gridelli, Medical and Scientific Director of  University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC International), U.S.A, Ilesanmi Adesida, Provost, Nazarbayev University,  Massimo Pignatelli,  Vice President for Medicine - Dean of the School of Medicine, Nazarbayev University, Zhaxybay Zhumadilov, Chairman of the Board  of UMC  corporate fund and Director  General, NLA,  Zhaksylyk Doskaliev, Head of the Republican Coordination Center on Transplantation and others were among the invited speakers of the conference.  

During the conference, the large group of medical workers of UMC  corporate fund were conferred breastplates “Денсаулық сақтау ісінің үздігі” and “Денсаулық сақтау ісіне қосқан үлесі үшін” for their merits and significant contribution to the medical development of the country, as well as honorary diplomas and letters of thanks from Minister of Health of the Republic of Kazakhstan and  President of  NU.     

 The conference was moderated by renowned experts. Highlights included  sections on topical issues of surgery and organ transplantation, modern technologies in nuclear medicine, anesthesiology, intensive care and onco-hematology. Participants also exchanged views on the achievements in the diagnosis and treatment of severe allergic syndromes.

Following the results of the international conference, a resolution was adopted, which outlined  the prospects for the development of  UMC as an advanced academic medical center where high-level medical care will be provided, taking into account the synergy of research, educational and clinical activities.

NU and NLA to launch the high-current pulsed ion accelerator INURA

NU and NLA to launch the high-current pulsed ion accelerator INURA

November 2, 2018

INURAThe novel ion accelerator facility INURA (Innovative Nazarbayev University’s Research Accelerator) was recently installed at the 1st floor of S4 building at Nazarbayev University and produced the first ion beam. It was built as a result of 5 years effort, funded through the state target program “NU-Berkeley strategic initiative in warm-dense matter, advanced materials and energy sources”, funded by the Ministry of Education and Science of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

The accelerator was designed and fabricated in collaboration with a LBNL (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory) and TPU (Tomsk Polytechnic University). At NU side, the project was envisioned and generally directed by Dr. Kanat Baigarin, and executed by a team guided by SST Physics assistant professor Alexander Tikhonov and NLA Senior Researcher Dr. Marat Kaikanov.

Accelerator INURA is a pulsed high current ion accelerator. It provides a 10 000 Amperes ion current in 80 nanoseconds, with the ion energy of 400 keV. INURA is a multi-purpose ion accelerator, developed both for fundamental and applied research. It will be used to modify and fabricate new advanced materials, from the solid bulk to nano materials, as a high-current ion beam is able to modify materials structure and properties. It will be also used for plasma and charged particles beams studies. Future uses of INURA include developing of commercialized technologies, such as materials hardening/wear resistance improvement, fabricating nanopowders, bio-agricultural applications.

The INURA capabilities has already attracted large interest and collaboration activities from several research groups at NU, Kazakhstan and international research centers. Several research projects has already been started, among them: fabrication of transparent conductive coatings; ion beam transport and focusing in plasma; fabrication of nano-powders and modification of nano-structures.