Biomechanics aiming for global level

Few young scientists are lucky enough to immediately prepare a paper worthy of being presented at an international conference. Yelizaveta Drozd is a research officer at the Belarusian National Academy of Sciences’ Heat and Mass Transfer Institute. However, her four years of hands on experience do not fully reflect her research skills.

By Denis Timofeev

The would-be bio-physicist became interested in scientific studies as a student at the Belarusian State University’s Physical Department. She was transferred to the famous university’s laboratory of nano-processes and technologies as an innovative and capable specialist rather than as a shy graduate simply assisting more experienced colleagues. Moreover, Yelizaveta was awarded a Presidential grant for post-graduate students and another from the World Federation of Scientists (which encourages young researchers preparing intriguing projects).

At present, she is awaiting approval for her PhD thesis, from the Higher Attestation Commission (the first paper countrywide on bio-mechanics, prepared as part of the Innovative Bio-technologies sci-tech programme). Her thesis is named ‘Developing a Miniature Bio-reactor for Optical and Contact-Probe Analysis of Living Cells in Vitro’. It means little to non-specialists, so the young bio-physicist explains the significance to us. “At present, both optical and atomic-powered microscopes are used in medical-biological and genetic studies, to computer monitor living cells. The former make it possible to observe live objects for a long period of time — which is truly valuably for science. However, the definition of such images not always satisfactory. An atomic-powered microscope ensures a more detailed 3D picture, though leaving little time for cells to live. We’ve united both instruments by, firstly, researching the ‘elastic modulus’ of biological cells (using atomic-powered microscopy); this can provide additional data in early diagnostics. Secondly, we’ve developed a special cage where, using a life support system, cells can more easily endure external influence and be studied for longer,” she tells us.

The probe of this atomic-powered microscope ‘touches’ a cell and, judging by its reaction, calculates its elasticity; the latter carries valuable diagnostic information. For example, jointly with colleagues from the Cardiology Republican Scientific-Practical Centre, Ms. Drozd has found that erythrocytes are more rigid in people suffering from Type Two Diabetes. In turn, cells’ elasticity softens where lung cancer is present. According to scientists, it’s important that not only the effect is detected but its degree.

Similar information is valuable for the early diagnosis of diseases and, pleasingly, Belarusian scientists are pioneers in this sphere. Ms. Drozd believes that it’s vital to use this new knowledge wisely — to develop practical applications, establish production and ensure efficient work for the benefit of medicine, bio-technologies and science.

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