A laboratory of biobanking and genomic medicine has opened at St Petersburg University. A team from the new subdivision is planning to create a diagnostic test to identify the genetic markers of type 2 diabetes mellitus. This is the most common endocrine disease in the world.

A few years ago, the University won a grant from the Russian Science Foundation (RSF) «Implementing Comprehensive Research Programmes of Organisations» for developing translational biomedicine at St Petersburg University. The University created a unique Biobank. This is a specialised cryorepository of biological samples, and clinical, laboratory, and personal information. The collected samples are now also being used for work under the grant — for a comprehensive biomedical study of the basics of human health and lifespan under the guidance of SPbU Professor Yury Chernoff. However, an independent direction of research in the field of biobanking and genomic medicine was gradually formed, which led to the creation of the new laboratory.

«The crystallisation of a new biobanking and genomic medicine laboratory will make it possible to use the scientific potential of researchers working in this direction more effectively. We maintain an active interaction between the new laboratory and other research groups working under the grant from the Russian Science Foundation,» said Yury Chernoff, Head of the Laboratory of Genomic and Proteomic Research at the Institute of Translational Biomedicine, St Petersburg University.

At present, our specialists are carrying out joint experiments. These include combining genomic and proteomic approaches to study the role of protein misfolding in diseases associated with both aging and the human reproductive cycle.

Yury Chernoff, Head of the Laboratory of Genomic and Proteomic Research at the Institute of Translational Biomedicine, St Petersburg University

However, in addition to the work under the grant from the Russian Science Foundation, the laboratory team will conduct other studies. One of the first large-scale projects in which the new research centre will take part is the EU-Russia Cross-border Cooperation Programme, its Estonia-Russia part. An international team of scientists will conduct mass genetic studies on the diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. The project, where St Petersburg University will act as the head organisation, will engage geneticists of one of the most famous Genomic Centres of the European Union — the University of Tartu (Estonia).

In Russia, 2.8 million people suffer from type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM), which is more than 90% of all diabetic patients. This disease is extremely common in developed countries and is caused not only by lifestyle, but also by genetics.

Andrei Glotov, Director of the Laboratory of Biobanking and Genomic Medicine

Scientists of St Petersburg University have already conducted a pilot study on this topic under the grant from the Russian Science Foundation. The results were published in the journal Genes.

At present, obesity is believed to be an integral part of type 2 diabetes. To study this issue, geneticists have carried out exome sequencing of patients with T2DM, with obesity (but without T2DM), and the control group. As a result, scientists have identified new markers of T2DM and obesity: mutations in the genes TMC8, PCDHA1, PLEKHA5, HBQ1, VAV3, and ADAMTS13. They have also identified markers of nondiabetic obesity — variants in the DBH, QSER1, PCDHA1, RAD51B, and PLEKHA5 genes.

Research into genetic markers of type 2 diabetes will be continued under the Russian-Estonian project. The main result of the international cooperation will be the development of a diagnostic test. The plan is that it tested at the premises of specialised Russian and Estonian small medical enterprises.