The experiments that German chemist Hermann Emil Fischer conducted on amino acids in 1900 were certainly exciting.
Together with his work group, he succeeded in synthesizing around 100 peptides, each comprising of up to 17 amino acids.The American biochemist Vincent du Vigneaud finally managed to produce the first synthetic polypeptide hormone in 1953. It was oxytocin, which plays an important role during childbirth. But it took another decade until Robert Bruce Merrifield achieved his breakthrough by designing an automatic peptide synthesis process, which he called solid-phase synthesis. It enabled the manufacture of synthetic insulin and other hormones.But this was by no means the end of the peptide story.
During the 1970s, Soviet scientists Vladimir Khavinson and VyacheslavMorozoy developed certain peptide bioregulators. What makes them special is their capacity to help the body maintain its natural regeneration function.
Their work was based on research conducted at the Military Medical Academy in St. Petersburg, which aimed to preserve the physical capacities of Soviet troops despite exposure to radiation trauma or hypothermia.
“When our research started, the military was experimenting with laser beams that burned the retina. We were asked to develop a drug that protected humans from battle lasers,” says Professor Vladimir Khavinson, a retired physician with the rank of Colonel. “To do this, we isolated peptides from the retinas of calves and initially used the preparation we obtained on rabbits, before moving on to clinical trials. We realized that our drug was able to reduce the destructive impact of the laser on the retina, and that it also precipitated regeneration.” Nowhere else in the world – neither in the United States or in Europe – had a drug of this caliber been developed. It therefore ranked as a major accomplishment for Russia. Not only did it reduce the deterioration in vision, it also managed to restore eyesight within two weeks. Khavinson explains: “Further research revealed that the processes that unfold during aging are similar to stress situations: protein synthesis is inhibited in various organs and tissues, especially in the brain and in the immune and hormone systems.”
Khavinson, Vladimir was born in 1946 in Cottbus, in the former GDR (German Democratic Republic). His scientific work focuses on gerontology, biochemistry and immunology. He is an Honored Scientist of the Russian Federation, holder of the Prize of the Council of Ministers of the USSR, professor, reader and doctor of medicine, Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences, Director of the Chair of Gerontology and Geriatrics at the Northwest State University of Metschnikov and Honored Inventor of the RSFSR (since 1998).
Khavinson is Director of the St. Petersburg Institute for Bio-Regulation and Gerontology, President of the European Regional Chapter of the International Association of Gerontology and Geriatrics (IAGG) since 2011, Vice President of the Gerontology Association of the Russian Academy of Sciences and Chief Gerontologist in St. Petersburg.
Nominated for the Nobel Prize in 2010, he has authored 775 scientific publications and can present 194 inventors certificates and patents in the field of gerontology, biotechnology and immunology.