BYU–Hawaii Professor Part of Breakthrough Immunology Report
Ariel Chaffin | University Relations | 6 August 2012
“It was hard work, but in the end, the results were very rewarding,” said Dr. Georgi Lukov, assistant professor in the department of Biochemistry and Physical Science, who co-authored an article which was published in the most recent Nature Immunology. Lukov has been a professor at BYU–Hawaii since July 2010, and before teaching here, he researched at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, which is where the research for the article was conducted with main author Dr. Fabian Zohren, a hematologist-oncologist from the Heinrich-Heine-University in Düsseldorf, Germany, and under the leadership of Dr. Margaret Goodell, Director of the Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine Center at Baylor College of Medicine.
Nature Immunology is a prestigious publication in the biology world, respected for the research presented, and recognized as premier source for scientific breakthroughs in the field of Immunology. Brother Lukov teaches general Chemistry as well as Biochemistry classes on campus. “We need more and more students interested and involved in research,” said Lukov, “There is so much that can be done and so much to be discovered.”
The project that was published in Nature Immunology focused on the Lyl-1 gene and T-cell progenitors. The research for the project took four and a half years. “Initially we were trying to figure out how it works, what it does, and how it functions,” said Lukov. The Lyl-1 gene is involved in the maturation and survival of the T-cell progenitors; without the gene the progenitors cannot develop into mature T-cells. Emphasizing the importance of the research, Lukov explained, “There are different types of T-cells with a collective role to help and to regulate the function of other white blood cells, or to destroy infected and cancer cells, thus preventing the disease from spreading. The Lyl-1 gene regulates the transition of the progenitors to mature T-cells. If Lyl-1 is absent, the production of progenitors giving rise to mature and functional T-cells is significantly damaged, ultimately leading to impaired defenses for the body. If there is more Lyl-1 present in the progenitor cells, there is a danger for overproduction of the not fully matured T-cell progenitors, which could lead to development of leukemia.”
“While this study doesn’t give us the answer how to treat this kind of leukemia, it adds to our understanding of the development of this disease,” said Lukov. “Having a better, more complete understanding of how a disease works, gives the ability for making better judgments in the efforts to find more effective treatments.”
Commenting on his role in the project as a coauthor, Lukov shared, “I give all the credit to him (Zohren), because he is the one who really drove this work. We worked together, we did experiments together, we analyzed together, and we stayed late together.” Since Lukov moved to Hawaii before the project was finished, he continued to aid Zohren by editing the manuscript. The manuscript was first submitted in February 2010 and underwent a grueling review process. “It is really hard to publish in this journal,” says Lukov. “The review process is challenging and extremely demanding, but when you receive the approval letter it feels good not only because it is over, but mostly because your efforts have been rewarded and you have been a part of something significant in the world of science.”
Learn more about BYU–Hawaii’s Biochemistry and Physical Science department at biochem.byuh.edu.