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11:12 AM  August 9, 2019

From Titan to cancer cell: what discoveries prepare TSU biophotonics

© предоставил Виктор ЧерепановFrom Titan to cancer cell: what discoveries prepare TSU biophotonics

TOMSK, Aug 9 – RIA Tomsk, Elena Tailasheva. The first specialists in biophotonics graduated from Tomsk State University (TSU), perhaps they will participate in the main scientific discoveries. It is in biophysics they are predicted to be numerous. What is connection between Saturn's moon and Alzheimer's disease and how Tomsk citizens learn to diagnose cancer "from the first cell" - in the material of RIA Tomsk.

Prediction of properties

Scientists have been searching for a "new Earth" in space for a long time. One of the objects to which their attention is riveted - is the satellite of Saturn Titan. Like the Earth, it has a dense atmosphere, weather cycles, although methane-ethane rivers and lakes are on the surface, and methane clouds are instead of clouds of water vapor.

"Despite the low temperature, Titan is compared with the Earth at the early stages of development, and it cannot be ruled out that on the satellite the existence of simple life forms is possible, in particular in underground water bodies, where conditions can be much more comfortable than on the surface", - says Victor Cherepanov, Doctor of Physics and Mathematics, the head of the department of optics and spectroscopy of the TSU Faculty of Physics.

The environments of such planets are poorly studied, and various scientific groups are now engaged in their modeling, for example, France has a long-term research program on the atmosphere of Titan. In 2007, within the framework of the joint graduate school of TSU and University of Burgundy of graduates of the TSU Faculty of Physics Yulia Kalugina, Tomsk physicists joined this program, since then a new direction has begun to actively develop at TSU:

© РИА Томск. Павел Стефанский
“One of the research tools for such environments - is quantum chemistry, which allows to determine by calculation way the properties of molecules (organic, complex, any!), needed to model any environments, including alien, formed by these molecules. Yulya was given the task to master non-empirical methods of quantum chemistry.

Almost at the same time the second graduate student (Rashid Valiev) went to the University of Helsinki, where he was able to master, develop and apply ab initio methods of quantum chemistry to study the photophysics and magnetically-induced properties of complex organic and metalloorganic molecular compounds", - tells Cherepanov.

It became a logical continuation of the long ago established vector: at the Siberian Physical-Technical Institute (SPTI) of Tomsk State University (TSU), at the Department of Photonics of Molecules, in the group of Georgiy V. Mayer and Victor Artyukhov, semiempirical methods of quantum chemistry were previously developed for calculating the photophysical processes of organic molecules to create active laser environments, as well as photochemical processes.

© РИА Томск. Елена Тайлашева
"The fundamental experimental and theoretical knowledge has always been laid in the studies of the Siberian Physical-Technical Institute (SPTI), but scientists have always thought about their practical application - where it can be applied to solve some problem", - tells Victor Cherepanov.

Stars came together

Around the same time, when graduate students mastered new methods of quantum chemistry abroad, a supercomputer appeared at TSU, and scientists had at their disposal powerful computing resources, as well as modern quantum-chemical software packages.

On the other hand, a biophotonics laboratory appeared, where, under the guidance of Yury Kistenev methods for visualizing of biological tissues and spectral methods for diagnosing diseases (for example, according to the spectra of exhaled air and fumes from the skin) were studied. In this laboratory unique methods of mathematical processing of measurements of images and spectra of molecules of biological objects were created.

“Considering all these factors - the development of visualization methods and quantum chemistry, access to computational resources, the presence in Tomsk of schools in photonics of molecules, molecular spectroscopy, we decided to open a biophotonics training module at the Faculty of Physics within the framework of the master's degree programme. Market research showed that biophotonics specialists now are in great demand, their salaries are on the upper bar, the demand for them is growing rapidly”, - recalls Victor Cherepanov.

However, it quickly became clear that the tasks to be solved by graduate students in the direction of “biophotonics” go beyond the framework of the faculty. Therefore, it was decided to open an autonomous master's program (AMP) in biophotonics within the framework of the TSU Institute of Biomedicine Strategic academic unit.

“The opening of a separate program made it possible to more clearly orient students on the tasks of biomedicine. Plus, there appeared opportunities for closer cooperation with other AMPs of this Strategic academic unit”, - says Cherepanov, who became the head of the program.

© предоставил Виктор Черепанов
Autonomous master's program (AMP) "Biophotonics" opened in 2017 became the first English-language program in Russia in this direction. In 2019 four graduates received diplomas. Three of them entered graduate school of the Faculty of Physics of TSU, one went to continue research to St. Petersburg.

Catch me

All the major discoveries in the world are made in cross-disciplinary fields, but it is in biophysics that we should expect great discoveries in the coming years. These will be studies which will take medicine to a new level. In particular, in biophotonics, according to Victor Cherepanov, the first task - is to diagnose dangerous diseases at an early stages:

“When a cell has just organized (for example, a cancer cell), it is necessary to detect it by physical methods (we are more interested in optical or spectral methods as the most sensitive, although there are others) and take measures. Now it is often too late, when the process can no longer be stopped - only suspended".

He explains that now their team is solving two aspects of this problem. On the one hand, this is visualization - it is necessary to see what is happening in the body.

© пресс-служба Томского госуниверситета
“In this regard, upconverse nanoparticles developed by Rashid Valiev together with colleagues from Stockholm University are of interest. Under the influence of infrared radiation, such particles begin to “glow” in the visible range, which causes the fluorescence of the studied molecules in the tissue near these nanoparticles.

This allows to use them for bio-visualization: to enter deep into the biological tissue and study its structure and composition from the inside by optical methods. On the other hand, using the methods of spectroscopy, including means of quantum chemistry, it is possible to study the molecular composition and from this point of view to understand how to influence", - says Cherepanov.

He emphasizes: now one of the most promising directions - is not just biophysics, but brain biophysics.

“Two years ago, the academician Mikhail Ugryumov (N.K. Koltsov Institute of Developmental Biology of RAS) came to TSU and made a report on neurodegenerative diseases. According to him, so far no one has been cured of neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson or Alzheimer.

If we can get visual information from the deep layers of the brain, we will understand what happens at the molecular level during the development of these diseases, then I hope we will be able to approach treatment methods together with physicians”, - concludes the scientist.

© предоставил Виктор Черепанов
The international seminar in Tomsk on biophotonics with the participation of colleagues from Houston.


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