10 December 2020
Megagrant to help reveal new regulatory mechanisms of muscle functioning

Associate Professor Oleg Gusev talks about the research.

The first project is titled ‘Regulatory genetic and epigenetic mechanisms of development and functioning of skeletal and cardiac muscles in humans and primates in normal and pathological states’; the team leader is Hayashizaki Yoshihide, Program Director at RIKEN. It’s set to receive 90 million rubles in the next three years, 2021–2023.

“The grant from was issued to assist in creating an atlas of the work of genes and transcribed regulatory elements in cardiac and skeletal muscles. The concept arose a long time ago, and we have already managed to carry out part of the research within the framework of the pilot project. There are over 600 different muscles in our body. Despite the fact that the DNA in all cells is the same, muscles differ in resistance to diseases, various influences, and proneness to fitness training. The main objective is to find out how the regulation of gene functioning determines the specificity of muscles,” says Gusev.

The Extreme Biology Lab (jointly run by KFU and Japan’s RIKEN), where Gusev is employed, has been at work since 2016. Many researchers have been trained and unique technologies streamlined in that time. The project is very pertinent for both countries, since they face the problem of aging population.

“The problem of aging is linked to cardiovascular, skeletal and muscle ailments. Muscle atrophy can also stem from immobility suffered by some patients; of course, it’s also important for sports research. Apart from that, we now have many gene therapy treatments in development. It’s imperative to guarantee that they are targeted, i. e. a liver medication only affects the liver, and not blood, kidneys, or brain. One of the ways to achieve that is to use promotor sequences in such medications, which provides for a very specific RNA expression,” continues the interviewee. “The National Bio Service Biobank in Saint-Petersburg will supply specimens of ‘normal muscles.’ A separate line of work is to collect specimens of ailments of the cardiac muscle system. We as a group will supply them back with genetic information. This forms a consortium where everyone makes a contribution to the common good.”

The objective is to use the upcoming three years and funding is to create a database of new information about parts of genome which work and are activated in one or another muscle.

“The multitude of regulatory elements controlling the work of various genes is very specific for tissues. If we make a selection of hundreds of muscle specimens, we can determine dozens of thousands of regulatory elements which work only in muscles. This will become a unique resource for fundamental science and for data mining, including biomedical applications and sports genetics. We are creating a resource not only for us, but also by the international research and healthcare community. I think it’s a very worthy goal,” concludes Gusev.


Source text: Larisa Busil

Photos: Alexander Kuznetsov

Translation: Yury Nurmeev

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