Professor Yuri Volkov, Chair of Molecular and Translational Medicine at the School of Medicine Gives Inaugural Lecture

Posted on: 20 June 2013

Professor Yuri Volkov, Chair of Molecular and Translational Medicine at the School of Medicine   gave his inaugural lecture this week.  The following are extracts from his lecture titled ‘Aladdin’s lamp, Swedish postmen, molecular supermarkets and nano-bullets’:

“Over the past four centuries, generations of scholars inspired by the discoveries of Anton van Leeuwenhoek, have been captivated by the everlasting quest towards understanding the fundamental processes of life obscure to the naked human eye. From bodily organs and tissues through to cells and their individual organelles, to molecules and atomic footprints, this pursuit has brought mankind to our current position, enabling us not only to comprehend, but often to interfere with the crucial mechanisms underlying life, maladies and death.”

TCD Provost, Dr Patrick Prendergast, Professor Yuri Volkov and Head of Medicine, Professor Paul Browne

“This perpetual quest is not over, and scientists nowadays are empowered with the tools for exploring and manipulating the tiniest building blocks of living nature at the unprecedented level, thousands of times smaller than an individual living cell of the human body, aka nanoscale. The arsenal of these tools and their uses spans the attention of physicists, chemists, engineers, biologists and physicians alike, and is constantly expanding. Recently, it paved the way to the establishment of a new area of science called nanomedicine. This highly innovative scientific field provides a unique chance to exploit the diverse properties of man-made nanoscale tools for the ultimate benefit of the patients.”

“Among these, for example light-emitting and magnetic ultra-small particles (or nanoparticles) possess an outstanding potential for biomedical research and diagnostics. Other nanoparticles offer opportunities to generate novel classes of therapeutic drug delivery systems. These systems rely on the fact that the finite size of the engineered nanoparticles, when used as drug delivery vehicles, can impose highly selective distribution barriers at the level of cells, tissues and bodily organs, thereby limiting or entirely eliminating undesirable side effects pertinent to many common medicines ubiquitously penetrating our bodies when administered.”

“Nonetheless, there is still a lack of definitive systematic information about the consequences of interactions of nanoscale objects with human cells, hence safety-related issues are high on the Nanomedicine agenda. Some types of nanoparticles, including those released into atmosphere as carbon fuel exhausts, cigarette smoke and even dust, constitute the objects of potential hazard, unless properly contained. Cells lining  the lungs, gastrointestinal tract and blood vessels along with the universal “scavengers” in the human body – the macrophages are primary candidates to encounter any externally administered nanoparticles. Therefore, a responsible approach to the use of nanomaterials for the biomedical purposes, as well as the informed societal awareness of the benefits and risks associated with the purpose engineered and environmentally presented nanoparticles are paramount to secure the benefits which nanotechnologies hold for mankind, while minimising the potential associated jeopardies. “

About Prof Volkov

Professor Yuri Volkov joined Trinity College in 1995. He holds an MD from the Moscow Medical University, PhD from the Institute of Immunology, Moscow, and MA (Jure Officii) from Trinity College Dublin. He was elected to TCD Fellowship in 2009. Professor Volkov is a Chair of Molecular and Translational Medicine at the School of Medicine and Principal Investigator of the Trinity’s Institutes of Molecular Medicine and CRANN.