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Tatjana Sjakste

Tatjana Sjakste

Tatjana Sjakste (20.02.1953, Kaunas, Lithuania - 19.10.2016, Riga, Latvia). – Doctor of Biology, leading researcher in the Institute of Biology of the University of Latvia.

Tatjana Sjakste (née Getoune, S’iakste in some PubMed records) was born on February 20 1953 in Kaunas, Lithuania in a family of a serviceman. The family moved to Tula, Russia, her mother’s homeland, some months after Tatjanas birth. Tatjana got her secondary education in Tula, at Secondary school No 21, in a class specialized in physics and mathematics. In 1970 she graduated from the school with a gold medal and entered Department of Biochemistry of the Medico-Biological Faculty of the 2nd Moscow State medical institute. In 1976 Tatjana Getoune defended her diploma thesis on the level of cyclic adenosine monophosphate in rabbit intestine during cholerogenic infection, supervised by V. Yurkiv, actually full member of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences. After graduation T. Getoune stayed for research training in the Institute of Human Morphology till 1978.

Being a student Tatjana made acquaintance with Nikolajs Sjakste, a student from Riga. This determined their following destiny and linked Tatjanas life to Latvia. Tatjana and Nikolajs married on March 25 1977. In 1978 Tatjana entered doctoral study course in the Institute of Medical Genetics of Academy of Medical Sciences in Moscow. Here she implemented her doctoral study project under supervision of V. Ivanov (later – corresponding member of the Academy of Medical Sciences). She worked under direct supervision by Y. Korogodina, a specialist in DNA repair and chromosomal lesions. Tatjana studied DNA lesions in 101/H strain mice, animals with unstable genome. T. Sjakste widened the research plan on her own initiative. For detection of DNA breaks she applied method of centrifugation of DNA fragments in gradient of alkaline sucrose, an up-to-date approach for that time. She also mastered technique of cultivating cells of mice embryos. In 1982 Tatjana defended her Candidate of Sciences (equal to PhD) thesis.

Since 1983 T. Sjakste lived and worked in Latvia. Up to 1987 Tatjana worked on problems of cell nucleus organization and DNA breaks in the Latvian Institute of Experimental and Clinical Medicine in laboratory guided by J. Erenpreiss. In 1987 she moved to Institute of Biology of the Academy of Sciences of Latvian SSR (actually - Institute of Biology of the University of Latvia) where she worked up to end of her life, almost 30 years. Working in the laboratory of Plant Genetics guided by I. Rashal Tatjana mastered the work with a novel object, performed several works on organization of DNA loops in barley shoots.

The nineties was a difficult period for Latvian science, like many of her colleagues Tatjana sought for temporary positions in foreign laboratories in order to keep the qualification. She received several fellowships, including a prestigious “red post” of CNRS for stays in Jacques Monod Institute in Paris, in laboratory guided by K. Scherrer. Here she mastered modern methods of molecular biology, studied structure of proteasomal genes, which encode particles degrading protein wastes in the cell. Even more prominent results were achieved in the Plant Genetics and Crops Institute in Gatersleben, Gemany. In collaboration with M. Ganal and M. Röder T. Sjakste worked on genetic markers of barley, DNA structures used as labels in the breeding process. They received a patent and published a highly-cited paper. Later Tatjana performed genetic characterization of the Latvian barley varieties. She proposed and implemented a research project on distribution of the tightly bound proteins in barley genome

In beginning of the 21st century a consortium for the study of human genome and associations of its traits with human pathologies was organized in Latvia. The acquired experience enabled T. Sjakste to join the consortium with her own idea. Working in Paris she detected a polymorphic fragment (a DNA sequence differing in individuals) in a proteasomal gene. This triggered several research projects on association of polymorphisms of proteasomal genes with different human diseases including diabetes mellitus, rheumatoid arthritis, obesity, bronchial asthma, multiple sclerosis.

In 2005 Tatjana Sjakste organized an independent researched group called “Genomics and Bionformatics”. The group moved into the new premises, the equipment was purchased. The independent position stimulated intensity of Tatjanas research work. She started collaboration with animal breeders, helped to organize laboratory of molecular genetics in the Latvian Agriculture University. Diversity of objects – humans, animals and plants became a characteristic feature of the research of the group. T. Sjakste counselled several doctoral projects, I. Trapiņa, N. Paramonova, K. Ošiņa, J. Kalniņa worked under her supervision. To her young collaborators Tatjana gave advices not only on scientific matters but also on life problems.

T. Sjakste continued also the international collaboration. Several joint projects were performed in collaboration with plant geneticists from Nordic countries and Lithuania. A comparative study of genetics of bronchial asthma in Latvia, Lithuania and Taiwan was performed in a frame of an international project. Research of association of proteasomal gene polymorphisms with cardiovascular diseases was performed together with French scientists. In recent years the group participated in projects funded by the European structural funds. A method of detection of genetic predisposition to autoimmune diseases was proposed. Being already seriously ill Tatjana elaborated a project on multiple sclerosis study. The project was accepted after her untimely death on October 19 2106. The project will be implemented by her staff. The scientific heritage left by Tatjana Sjakste comprises more than 100 articles in scientific journals.

Nikolajs Sjakste


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