The Scientist of the Future 2021 Award for Professor Konrad Ocalewicz from the University of Gdańsk

Dr hab. inż. Konrad Ocalewicz, prof. UG, from the Department of Marine Biology and Ecology of the Institute of Oceanography at the Faculty of Oceanography and Geography UG, was awarded the Scientist of the Future 2021 prize in the category: Science for a Better Future Life for his research project entitled Telomerase and Telomeric DNA Dynamics in Rainbow Trout with Growth Disorders and Disrupted Gonadal Development.

The award is granted by the Centre for Intelligent Development (CIR) to scientists with a vision for the future, carrying out research (both at the basic and application stage) and projects serving people, open to informing the public about the research being carried out and showing a proactive attitude towards business cooperation.

- 'It is a distinction for Polish and foreign scientists carrying out innovative scientific projects, which in the future may change our lives. We award authors of research who want to give the results of their work a chance to influence intelligent development and a better future. Our mission is to popularise research results so that they are useful and socially exploited,' we read on the CIR website.

As the organisers emphasise, the attitude of the scientist himself is also important, as he does not allow his knowledge to be enclosed in the space of academia, where only high-scoring journals and the number of conference presentations count. It is awarded to people for whom the promotion of their research results in the national media and at economic events is the key to business relations.

- 'Telomeres are structural elements of chromosomes, located at their ends and, i. a. protect chromosomes against loss of genetic information during cell replication. - In humans and other mammals, telomeres shorten with the age of the organism, and excessive shortening of telomeric DNA is a signal to stop cell division, induction of the ageing process and apoptosis,' - explains dr hab. inż. Konrad Ocalewicz, prof. UG

According to the scientist, under certain conditions, some cells can counteract the shortening of telomeres and produce telomerase, which is responsible for the synthesis of telomeric DNA. - 'In fish, in contrast to mammals, telomerase is active in cells of all tissues also in adults. Moreover, while in the mammalian species telomeres shorten gradually throughout life, fish telomeres lengthen or shorten during individual development,' he explains.

- 'In cells of model fish species, telomere DNA shortening occurs rapidly at the beginning of development during periods of intensive growth, then telomere length stabilises or even increases. Telomerase activity is high in cells of young and fast-growing individuals, in fish gonads and in regenerating tissues and decreases in adult animals,' the scientist adds.

The important role of telomerase and telomeric DNA in growth, ageing and regeneration processes calls for a closer look at these matters in fish, among which a significant percentage of individuals with growth disorders (dwarfism) is observed and regeneration processes occur naturally in gonads before and after spawning.

- 'To realise the scientific objective of the project, telomere DNA length and telomerase activity will be measured in somatic and germline cells of growth-deficient and triploid rainbow trout that grow continuously throughout the year. In addition, telomerase activity will be measured in cells of abnormally developed gonads of triploid fish and fully developed gonads in fertile fish,' the researcher reports.

The results regarding changes in telomerase activity and telomere DNA length in fish of different sexes, characterised by different growth rates, in cells of normal and abnormal gonads will allow for a better understanding of molecular mechanisms regulating growth rate, ageing, sexual maturation and regeneration of the vertebrate reproductive system.

Dr hab. inż.Konrad Ocalewiecz prof. UG deals with cytogenetics, genomics and genome engineering of fish, genetic determination and sex differentiation and evolution of the vertebrate genome, telomeric DNA dynamics and telomerase activity in fish cells. He is a leader and contractor in many scientific projects and author of numerous articles published in national and international scientific journals.

He is also a member of the editorial committee of Journal of Fish Biology and Oceanological and Hydrobiological Studies, a fellow of the programme: Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions Individual Fellowships (MSCA IF) at the European Commission, a fellow of the Foundation for Polish Science, the Warsaw Scientific Society, the Foundation of Members of the Faculty of Agricultural, Forestry and Veterinary Sciences of the Polish Academy of Sciences 'Pro Scientia et Vita'.

Let us remind that the winner of the award was recently dr Ilia Serdiuk from the Department of Biomaterials and Medical Physics, Institute of Experimental Physics UG in the category Science and Technology for an Innovative Future.


Ewa K.Cichocka / Press Office UG