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The Magnificent 7: Russia's Scientific Balance of Beauty and Brains (Part I)

It's a difficult balance to achieve, but Russia seems to be having more than its fair share of luck in striking the right balance

This post first appeared on Russia Insider

Instead of parading on a podium in bikinis, these girls spend their days and sometimes even their nights in the lab, doing scientific research with passion and success, for example to protect beauty-queens and lesser mortals from heart attacks and Alzheimer, thanks to cutting-edge technologies.

Pursuing these goals, many female researchers could pass for cover girls. Meet the magnificent seven, who hold our health in their hands. Here, they share some of their scientific successes, as well as their beauty secrets with the readers of KP (Komsomolskaya Pravda).

<figcaption>Marie-Curie’s ‘granddaughters’ are beautiful and smart.</figcaption>
Marie-Curie’s ‘granddaughters’ are beautiful and smart.

Yekaterina Proshkina Wants to Double our Life-times

This spring, this dark-haired beauty from the Komi Institute of biology became famous. Jekaterina Proshkina received the Presidential award for young scientists — the first time in the history of Russia that the prize went to a woman — for her breakthrough developments in life prolongation.


1. Education and background

“I graduated from the Syktyvkar State University as an ecologist and got my master's degree in “Gerontology and Geriatrics”. Now I'm working as a research scientist in the molecular radiobiology and gerontology lab of the Komi Institute of Biology. My research is headed by Alexey Moskalyov, a leading Russian gerontologist.

2. What's your specific area of study?

“I study cellular genes and processes that affect the rate of aging and the length of an organism’s life. I also test their sustainability under various environmental conditions, first of all, radiation.

Our tests are carried out mainly on medflies, since they reproduce rapidly and live 2 – 3 months. We can study many processes from birth to death in a short time, acquiring a lot of valuable data. We’ve managed to prolong a medfly’s life up to 70% in laboratory experiments for which we were awarded the presidential prize. To do this, we increased the activity of the genes responsible for the recovery of the DNA (editor’s note: this “damage” is accumulated in the organism of all living creatures and causes cancer and other dangerous maladies). This is a well-known method for prolonging life. Moreover, we search for geri-protectors – medications and biologically active substances that slow down aging and prevent age-related illness.

3. Your goals and their benefits to humanity?

“If we stimulate an organism’s protective system correctly and look for vulnerable areas in each human’s health, trying to strengthen them, it will be possible to double a lifetime, that is up to 200 years. And if people are not bedridden or dependent on wheelchairs, they will have a healthy, active life.

4. What's Your “scientific” beauty-secret?

“I use standard methods that have been scientifically proven: a healthy diet consisting of vegetables, fruits and fish with a minimum of sweet, fat and smoked food. I try to get to bed early and do sports at least twice a week. I also try not to acquire bad habits, and I believe a positive attitude and an optimistic world-view are important. I am doing the thing I love most, I work with nice people and spend time with my family. I try to enjoy life, allowing my soul to stay young.

Yelena Petersen: Creating “Body Parts” for Humans

There’s a rumor that when the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology was founded back in 1946, Stalin chose this university to be the alma-mater of future USSR Nobel-prize winners. Even today, entrance exams are the hardest here. They lead to eventually becoming a head of laboratory, like our heroine, blond, blue-eyed beauty Jelena Petersen.

1. What's Your education and occupation?

“I graduated from the Saratov State medical university, moved to Moscow and specialized in dermatology at the central dermato-venerologic institute. I got my master's degree in cell biology and pathophysiology. Now I head the cellular and molecular technologies lab of the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology.

2. What's your area of study?

“My lab is creating bio-artificial tissue, organs and celluloid constructions. In future they will be used for transplantations of damaged organs and tissues. They can also be used in drug testing, medical treatments and restoration, and we’re developing a panel of cellular aging biomarkers to assess a patient’s cell functioning. These markers allow us to detect pathologies in the early stages of development and can also be used to select individual methods for cell enhancement.

Not only medications, but also physical methods may have important qualities. For example, we discovered that low temperature plasma treatment has a rejuvenating effect on cells, increasing intercellular reparation.


3. Your goals and their benefits to humanity?

“The goal of my research is to work out an effective restoration technology for human organs, enabling them to perform all their tasks.

4. What's Your “scientific” beauty-secret?

“To look good, you have to maintain a positive mood and feel happy. To do this, you have to be doing something you like. To prevent the aging of skin I would recommend vitamin D and protection from over-exposure to sunlight. Vitamin D plays an important role in sustaining the health of skin and the entire organism. Even in summer, you need it. Various foods and drugs contain vitamin D.

(Editor’s note: Cod fish liver, herring, halibut and eggs are leading vitamin D sources among food products).

Polina Mamoshina: Saving the skin from aging with the help of a computer

This tall, slim blond Polina knows all the cutting-edge research on skin aging and rejuvenation. She lives like in the song of V. Vysotsky: “today she's here, tomorrow she's in Oslo”, visiting   international conferences, making presentations on recent research, negotiating and learning about new developments. “I barely get any time to sleep”, she says, while looking fresh and breathtakingly attractive.


1. What's Your education and occupation?

“I graduated from the genetics department of the biological faculty of the Lomonosov Moscow state university. Currently I’m a research scientist at the international science and medicine project In silica-medicine.

2. What's your area of study?

“Broadly speaking I study human aging and methods to slow it down or even prevent it. My main focus is skin aging, as well as the search and development of biomarkers and drugs using machine learning (artificial intelligence).

3. Your goals and benefits to humanity?

“I want to acquire, find and create substances that could heal injuries that worsen with age, and help slow down the aging of skin. I’m developing a discovery-system for these substances using deep neural networks, special computer programs built on the model of the human brain. We already have fragmented developments on effectiveness-prediction, toxicity and ability to penetrate human skin. Now we’re uniting them into one big “conveyer”, that would bring anti-aging medications to a new qualitative level.

By the way, I’m against unreasonable testing on animals – the data corresponds poorly to humans, in most cases and is a waste of resources and time. Bioinformatics and computer modeling do a better job. Unfortunately, many scientists are skeptical about this type of data, but I think that a few success stories could change that.

4. What's Your “scientific” beauty-secret?

“I try to keep my skin well moisturized, especially around the eyes. Many people neglect this, but it makes your face look fresher. Three times a week I apply hydrogel and cloth masks.

I had really bad skin back in school and during my first years at university, but with systematic care I got over it. I want to emphasize that systematic care is the main secret of perfect skin. It's the same with fitness – you don't go to the gym once a year if you want to have a perfect body.

Talking about specific substances, I choose those with hyaluronic acid, since it maintains  moisture without clogging the pores. I love acid masks and peelings, especially when my skin gets dull, dry, and red.

I also take vitamins for the skin and to sustain overall health. My work involves a lot of stress – I fly a lot, changing time zones. Sometimes I even have to work 12 – 14 hours a day. Sleep is a luxury for me, so skin care is important to make up for the negative effects of my lifestyle.

To be continued...


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