Comets of Professor Bekish
[b]Scientific approach helps Belarusian scientist defend his PhD thesis[/b]Vladislav Bekish heads the Chair of Medical Biology and General Genetics at Vitebsk’s State Medical University. Under the age of 40, he comes from a dynasty of doctors. Vladislav continues the traditions of the scientific school, which is well-known far beyond Belarus. He is the author of numerous monographs and textbooks and helps organise an annual international conference of parasitologists, gathering leading specialist from Russia, Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia and China, in Vitebsk.
Vladislav Bekish heads the Chair of Medical Biology and General Genetics at Vitebsk’s State Medical University. Under the age of 40, he comes from a dynasty of doctors. Vladislav continues the traditions of the scientific school, which is well-known far beyond Belarus. He is the author of numerous monographs and textbooks and helps organise an annual international conference of parasitologists, gathering leading specialist from Russia, Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia and China, in Vitebsk.
Prof. Bekish’s office is filled with diplomas; one awards corresponding membership of Belarus’ National Academy of Sciences. “It belonged to my father, Yan Bekish,” explains Vladislav. “The Cambridge Bibliographic Centre ranked him among the 20th century’s top thousand outstanding scientists; I keep his medal in honour of the award.”
The Chair headed by Vladislav was previously headed by his father, while his mother and senior brother are also doctors; he must have been destined for the profession since early childhood. Mr. Bekish tells us, “In truth, I knew that I wanted to become a scientist by the age of six, after watching the wonderful Soviet film An Open Book. My father was invited to head the Chair in Vitebsk while I was a baby, so we moved here from Minsk. I used to watch him working and would look at his textbooks, microscopes and seminar notes. His colleagues and pupils from Russia, Ukraine and the Baltic States often visited us for dinner. I always loved to be surrounded by educated people so my entry to Vitebsk University was natural.
In 2012, you were granted a Presidential scholarship for scientific research. Can you explain the value and significance of your work for ordinary doctors and patients?
For many years, my father and I were studying how parasitic worms influence the human organism. After my father died, two years ago, I continued. The commonly held view is that worms can be treated with a few tablets but these drugs are highly toxic to our body. Worms in our blood have an aggravating influence while porkworms (which live in our muscles) can cause acute anaphylaxis; in fact, 8 percent of those contracting this parasite die. Moreover, when these worms die, our DNA is adversely affected; it can result in birth abnormalities or miscarriage in pregnant women. Our task is to find a combination of medicines to reduce these harmful effects, while aiding quicker recovery and protecting our human genes from damage. We have the health of future generations in mind.
Are you inventing a new drug?
No. Inventing new medicines is a complicated and expensive process. Rather, we’re combining existing drugs and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines with vitamin-antioxidants. Six of our developments have been put into practice, halving treatment related expenses.
How did your experience at Sweden’s Uppsala University help you?
We’ve seen that genes remain undamaged after our treatment; damaged cells resemble a comet when viewed under a microscope (using electrophoresis). The ‘tail’ is leaking DNA (which should be absent if the cell is healthy). It’s an expensive and unique method of checking DNA, which required us to buy $10,000 of equipment for the Vitebsk State Medical University after my trip to Sweden. The original funding was allocated to my father, as he was an authoritative scientist. Due to its costliness, the DNA-comet method is only used to visually confirm scientific conclusions.
Your daughter Anya is 8. Will she continue your family dynasty?
It’s too early to say but I won’t deter her from choosing medicine. I’d be happy for her to take up any profession.
You’ve achieved so much in science. Are there any summits you’d yet love to reach?
Parasitologists worldwide dream of eradicating every parasite [laughing] but, of course, this is impossible. Parasites have always co-existed with people and animals and are unlikely to die out. However, scientists and doctors can reduce the number of deaths and help us to make a complete recovery.
By Sergey Golesnik