Georgian scientist examining latest methods of cancer treatment in the U.S.
29 June, 2017
Georgian scientist examining latest methods of cancer treatment in the U.S.
A young Georgian scientist is working on the latest methods of cancer treatment in the University of Pennsylvania in the U.S. The project, in which 29-year-old Levan Zandarashvili is involved, is going to examine one of the proteins in repairing damaged DNA, named PARP1. These proteins are used for cancer therapy.

"Studying this protein is very important both in clinical and in the fundamental scientific perspective. Nowadays, there are several small molecules in use that inhibit PARP1, which can be
used to treat various types of cancer, such as breast cancer, prostate cancer, and many other cases. In this project I study PARP1 structure and dynamics, as well as its interaction with molecules used in cancer treatment.

My goal is to find out why these molecules are more efficient than other molecules. In case of successful completion of this project, we can develop more efficient molecules, with a lower toxic effect",- Levan Zandarashvili said.

Levan, who currently works at the University of Pennsylvania, began receiving higher education at the Faculty of Physics at Tbilisi State University.

"When studying for the Bachelor I was constantly trying not to be satisfied with just lectures but also to learn more about the different fields of physics. During my second year at the Tbilisi University, I began to study and work at the company called EMCoS where I gained significant experience that is helpful to me even nowadays.

During my 4th year at the university, I got interested in biophysics and started experimenting together with the Professor Tamaz Mdzinarashvili. At that time, I found out that there was a 1 year vacancy in the University of Texas, Galveston (UTMB) for the beginners in bio-physiology, where I started working for diploma.

A year later I decided to enroll to the same University’s doctoral program, in the laboratory of Professor Junji Iwahara, in Biophysics Program. I worked for Professor Ivahara's laboratory for 4 years for my doctoral degree. During this time I published 4 articles in the first authorship.

After upholding a thesis, I decided to stay for two and a half years more in the same laboratory to implement my projects. As a result I have published 11 more articles", - Zandarashvili says.

He thinks his biggest achievements are the two articles published in the PNAS magazine. PNAS is one of the world's top scientific journals.

After working at UTMB, Levan became interested in mass-spectrometry, and decided to move to a lab where he would get acquainted with this method.
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"I was very interested in the works published by Professor Ben Black from the University of Pennsylvania, and I contacted Professor Black and told him that I wanted to work in his laboratory. He invited me to the interview and so I have been working there since January", - Levan says.

Levan spends most of his time in laboratories because, as he says, "you cannot explain to an experiment that the working day is over and you want to go home and rest"..

Due to the specifics of the activity, he cannot return to Georgia yet.

‘Unfortunately, in our small country we do not have enough resources to carry out such scientific projects as I do here. Science requires a lot of financial and infrastructural resources, but that does not mean that we should give up and not support the science. In my opinion, for the development of science in Georgia, first of all, it is necessary to maintain a high level of education. When I came to America, I had very little experience working in the Laboratory of Biophysics, but I had a good theoretical knowledge and started practicing it soon.

The Internet is a great information / scientific resource and it is necessary that the teacher / professor, as well as the students, use this resource effectively. Also, I believe that it would be good to focus on the fields of science that require relatively little resources, or is more likely to be able to get the resources needed from abroad. A good example of this is the company EMCoS, where I worked as a student. This Georgian company is known throughout the world", - Levan says.

Despite being so successful, it was not easy for him to study and getting employed abroad. While studying at UTMB, there were only two Georgian students in the Doctoral Program, and Levan says that no Georgians have studied there before them.

"We've been working hard to be successful, but there was a language barrier and cultural shock at first, as well as other difficulties, despite the fact that there are programs in the US where many foreign students are financed, particularly in technological and scientific spheres, "- Zardiashvili noted.

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Author: Nana Mghebrishvili
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