Speaker: Alex Lyakhovich
Title: Mitochondrial Dysfunction: From DNA Repair to Cancer Predisposition... and Back
Date/Time: 7 May 2021 / 13:40 - 14:30
Zoom: Meeting ID: https://sabanciuniv.zoom.us/j/7260077994
Abstract: The most important story in everyone's life began over a billion years ago, when our distant single-celled ancestors had to sign a "marriage contract" with what we now call mitochondria. For a long time, these organelles were considered mainly as energy factories, producing ATP and contributing to cellular respiration. However, the development of many disciplines related to biology has revealed a number of new facts linking mitochondria with the processes of DNA damage & repair, senescence and even with cancer. If a mitochondrion becomes old, the cell can kill it in the process of mitophagy, and mitochondria, in turn, regulate the process of apoptosis in incapacitated old cells. It is no coincidence that when the process of mutual quality control is disrupted and mitochondrial dysfunction occurs, the mechanisms of aging are triggered. Finding ways to improve mitochondrial function can lead to favorable clinical outcomes. On the contrary, disabling mitochondrial functions in the mitochondria of resistant or cancer stem cells can have an effect on suppressing the growth of malignant tumors. Thus, the study of mitochondria makes it possible not only to engage in basic science, but also to obtain practical results demanded by medicine.
Bio: Dr. Lyakhovich professional work has been centered around cancer biology issues concerning development and progression of breast, prostate and colorectal cancers from several different angles. Soon after his doctoral training in Germany, he moved to the Michigan Cancer Foundation (MCF), where he worked on the postreplication repair protein Rad6 (Prof. Sam Brooks’ Institute). He then moved to the Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona (UAB, Prof. Surrales), where he studied Fanconi Anemia (FA) disease and cancer predisposition. Among other interesting findings was the role of FA and other DDR-related diseases in oxidative stress. This part, done both at UAB, Barcelona and in Vienna (Prof. Gasche, Medical University of Vienna), allowed him to identify a couple of dozen deregulated genes and proteins, half of which turned out to be associated with mitochondria. In between his work at UAB and MCF, Dr. Lyakhovich shared his fellowship between the University of Michigan Ann Arbor and Rutgers University-UMDNJ as a teaching research specialist. He was selected to attend the Okinawa Institute of Technology summit, where he met Prof. Sidney Brenner, who invited him to join the Duke University Graduate School of Medicine, affiliated with the National University of Singapore, as an assistant professor. There he developed his own line of research, focusing on mitochondrial dysfunction in pathological conditions. He continued his work on mitochondria at the newly established European center in Brno (awarded start-up FP7 grant as a group leader) and as a Marie Curie Senior Fellow in Barcelona (became principal investigator in 2017). He also has a joint appointment as a guest lecturer at the Novosibirsk Federal Center for Translational and Fundamental Medicine. His current research within Vall d´Hebron Hospital and Research Institute focuses on understanding the roles of mitochondria in proliferation and regulation of cancer resistance, as well as on the function of mitochondria in aging-related diseases. Dr. Lyakhovich was awarded the Pharmacia Award from the American Association for Cancer Research and Best Research Award by the Fanconi Anemia Research Foundation.