Soon there will be an alternative in the Czech Republic for taking coronavirus samples: the GARGTEST self-test kit. It is based on gargling, which means doing away with the unpleasant procedure of taking samples from the nasopharynx with a sterile cotton swab. The sample thus taken and transported to the laboratory will be prepared for analysis by ordinary methods based on nucleic acid amplification (PCR, LAMP, etc.).
Cooperating in the creation of GARGTEST, in addition to the Institute of Molecular and Translational Medicine of the UP Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry (IMTM) and the AUMED company, were also IntellMed, the distributor I.T.A.-Intertact, and the Czech Cancer Research Foundation. The shared motivation was not only to speed up sample taking and make it less unpleasant but was at the same time an attempt to develop a test which would reflect the needs of one of the most at-risk groups – oncological patients. Due to their treatments, such patients suffer from mucous membrane problems and repeated sample taking can be irritating and unpleasant.
“We developed GARGTEST in order to simplify and speed up the process of self-testing and at the same time to reduce dependence on healthcare personnel for conducting the tests. We will try to offer GARGTEST to testing centres, and of course we’ll try to make it available to general practitioners. At the same time, it is ready for distribution to pharmacies for home use. One of the nice things about it is that the sample is stable under widely disparate conditions (4–30° C), for at least a week. We tested GARGTEST with 459 sample pairs from patients, comparing them against the standard nasal swab test. The results showed no significant disparity and were functionally comparable, which is fantastic news,” said Marián Hajdúch, IMTM director.
The sampling process requires several steps. First, a person adds ordinary drinking water to a measuring cup, gargles the water for 20–30 seconds, and then spits the water into a test tube inside of which is the transport powder. The person seals the test tube and packages it according to instructions. The procedure can be carried out at a test site, or at home and then sent to a test site, a lab, or to one’s doctor.
“GARGTEST is the result of work by Czech scientists. It is the connection of science and research, with practise in resolving the current problems with testing for Covid-19. It is the perfect example of translational medical research, the result of shared effort and motivation on the part of Czech scientists and manufacturers to contribute to this process via our own methods. Its development and manufacture are not complicated, for they are based on methods and components already in use. The test is simple to carry out. We are able not only to fully cover the needs of preventative testing for example of individuals and in firms, but also to reduce the strain on the healthcare system in case of another flare-up of the epidemic, which I hope will not come to pass,” added Lubomír Němec from IntellMed.
The GARGTEST system is meant also for home use as well as to facilitate data entry in labs and at test sites, where the greatest burden on time is the data entry on the patient requisition forms. With GARGTEST, the person being tested can fill in the information themselves into an electronic system and create their own requisition form electronically. This method is even preferred, because it speeds up the process of testing in labs and reduces errors in transcription.
The gargle method of testing was welcomed by musicians of the Czech Philharmonic, who are glad that they can rehearse and prepare for concerts without repeated nasal swab tests. “The new method of testing is much more pleasant for the Philharmonic. Another indisputable advantage is also the frequency necessary in repeating the test: every 14 days, instead of five days for nasal swabs. In December, we’re looking at Advent concerts every Sunday until Christmas in our series Czech Philharmonic Live in Your Livingroom, and the reduced number of tests will ensure smoother rehearsals as well as the concerts themselves,” said David Mareček, CEO of the Czech Philharmonic.
“GARGTEST, due to its noninvasiveness, is a very suitable alternative, proven in the testing which we carried out for example at the Czech Philharmonic and the Prague theatre Bez Zábradlí, as well as in the areas of healthcare and social services, including senior homes. Samples are processed using the reliable PCR method, and thus they are valid for two weeks,” summarised Hajdúch.
Tereza Kalousková from the International Relations Office of the Palacký University Rector’s Office is the laureate of the Aspen Central Europe Leadership Award. The award is bestowed to inspiring young leaders from Central and Eastern Europe and is awarded by the Aspen Institute Central Europe. In addition to Kalousková, Michal Tarnowski from Poland, who is involved in educational projects, was also awarded.
The names of the award winners were announced at the annual conference Where Are You Going, Czechia 2020 (Kam kráčíš, Česko), the main theme of which was restarting Central Europe. “Every year, the institute awards young people with outstanding achievements in the fields of responsible citizenship and values-based leadership with positive societal impact. This year, Tereza Kalousková and Michal Tarnowski were granted this award, since they have demonstrated their dedication during the pandemic crisis,” said Milan Vašina, Executive Director of the Aspen Institute CE.
Tereza Kalousková is a graduate of English Philology and History at the UP Faculty of Arts. She is currently a doctoral student and works at the Rector’s Office as an international relations officer. She received the award for her extraordinary activities on behalf of foreign students at UP during the spring coronavirus pandemic. She provided all kinds of support to the students who stayed in Olomouc and found themselves in a difficult situation far from home. She made herself a go-between, providing them with necessary information and important contacts both at the university and other institutions such as public health offices. She was also helpful in terms of their leisure activities, being one of the initiators of a series of online concerts for foreign students. “We believe that she deserves acknowledgment for actively promoting responsible citizenship. Tereza is an inspiration for the entire student community,” said the Aspen Institute CE representative, highlighting the activity, energy, and empathy she employed during the global pandemic.
“I really appreciate this award, but I have to say it does not belong only to me; what was going on was teamwork in which many colleagues from various university departments took part,” said Kalousková.
The purpose of the Aspen Central Europe Leadership Award is to strengthen the influence and potential of personalities under the age of 40 who are actively committed to the betterment of society. It was first awarded last year to Do Thu Trang, the author of the Asijatka.cz blog, and Michal Mižigár, a Romani studies and history student.
In mid-September, Palacký University Olomouc introduced a scholarship programme for Belarusian academics and students who are currently struggling with the complicated socio-political developments in their homeland. UP has now selected eight fellows from the received applications. Three teachers and five students will start their respective research and study internships at the UP Faculties of Science, Education, and Theology.
“We decided to help the Belarusians in any possible way right after the wave of anti-government protests broke out in Belarus, followed by repression. I am immensely happy that we have managed to bring the whole matter to a successful end in such a short time. The situation is not easy for many academics and university students in Belarus, and any opportunity to offer them help, hope, and peace of mind for work and study really matters now,” said UP Rector Jaroslav Miller.
“It is symbolic that we have managed to officially receive our Belarusian colleagues the day after the celebrations of the Czech national Struggle for Freedom and Democracy holiday on November 17th, the events of which were very similar to the current Belarusian ones,” Miller added. The holiday commemorates the student demonstration against Nazi occupation in 1939, resulting in massive repression, as well as the student demonstration against the communist government in 1989 which led to the Velvet Revolution.
UP is strongly involved in the Scholars at Risk network, which helps vulnerable academics anywhere in the world. In recent years, UP has supported and welcomed, for example, Ukrainian students in 2014 during the events of the Euromaidan, and persecuted Turkish academics in 2016 during President Erdogan’s repression. Similarly, UP promised to support Belarusian universities immediately after the presidential election in August when UP expressed its support for Belarusian citizens.
“Solidarity with countries undergoing similar experiences as we did in 1989 is absolutely necessary. People and academics from countries that have undergone similar political developments are those best equipped to understand how Belarusian citizens feel today. I believe that the internships will be beneficial and inspiring not only for Belarusian academics and students, but also for the members of our academic community who will work closely with our Belarusian colleagues,” said Martin Kudláček, UP Vice-Rector for Foreign Affairs.
Palacký University Olomouc has allocated almost €35,000 for the scholarships of Belarusian students and academics. Belarusians will start working in Olomouc from February: students for 4 months, academics for one month. The university management believes that even more Belarusian academics and students will arrive in Olomouc on the basis of partnership agreements contracted with Belarusian universities.
As opposed to the spring wave of the coronavirus epidemic, when there was a lack of equipment for protecting breathing passages, now there is quite a large scale of various types of face masks and respirators available. For better orientation in choosing suitable equipment, Pavel Otřísal of the UP Faculty of Physical Culture has created a guide according to their labelling and effectiveness.
According to the guarantor of the study programme Physical Education Aimed at the Education and Protection of the Populace, not all people when looking for a suitable means of protection are correctly grounded in their specifications, so they could have problems in differentiating the level of provided protection according to the product’s labelling.
“Respirators or filtration half-masks against particles for protection of respiratory passages fall under various regulation norms globally which specify certain required physical properties and performance characteristics of the protection devices. I made an analysis of respirators on the basis of studies and compared these norms and technical standards. I also employed materials available on the Internet. Some of them were not very unified and so I had to correctly explain some facts,” said Prof Otřísal, who in his analysis informs readers with comparisons of mostly European, Chinese, and American standards, primarily on the basis of respirator filtration effectiveness.
The individual standards state the minimum amount of particles 300 nanometres or larger in diameter which respirators filter or catch. The FFP2 label, which is derived from European norms and indicates a filtering efficiency of 94%, is comparable to the label N95. FFP3, with an efficiency of 99%, is comparable to products labelled N99 and N100.
“The best protection is given by respirators in the FFP3 category, which have a filtering efficiency of over 99 percent. For protection against the Covid-19 virus, FFP2 respirators can be used, but they must be marked as “anti-Covid-19 / FFP2”. With respect to the nanomembrane (made from nanofibres) technology used, respirators labelled FFP2 have a measured efficiency of 98.5%. For this purpose they are quite adequate and in price comparison the best option to protect oneself against the coronavirus,” added Prof Otřísal, who previously served at the NBC Defence Institute at the University of Defence in Brno.
For community use, respirators or face masks of lower certification classes (FFP1, KN90, KP90) are suitable if worn properly, providing a higher level of protection than regular healthcare and non-healthcare masks. “Using respiratory protection is one of the most important preventive measures which helps limit the spread of respiratory diseases. Despite this, use of quality respiratory protection without other measures is simply not enough. They must always be combined with avoidance of contamination, adequate hygiene, and frequent handwashing,” Otřísal concluded.
The guide to respirator labelling can be found here.
An overview of the efficiency of respirators can be found here.
More than three years of editorial work, more than a thousand distinctive drawings of coats of arms, and its imprimatur via an introduction by Prince Charles of Britain. Palacký University Press, in cooperation with the Olomouc Regional Museum, announced the publication today in the presence of British Ambassador Nick Archer and the Mayor of Olomouc Miroslav Žbánek, also marking what would have been heraldist Jiří Louda’s centennial. The book maps the nearly seven-century history of the Order of the Knights of the Garter, one of the most important such orders in Europe, at whose head sits Queen Elizabeth II.
Jiří Louda: Coats of Arms of the Knights of the Order of the Garter / Erby rytířů Podvazkového řádu is the title of the ambitious bilingual English-Czech – bordering on the bibliophile – publication summarising the life’s work of the world-famous heraldist Jiří Louda, who spent the majority of his life in Olomouc, the author of the Greater Coat of Arms of the Czech Republic, among others.
Connection between the Czech Republic and Great Britain
“The England of the knights became Jiří Louda’s muse for decades. He found his passion for it during World War 2, when he was a parachutist in the British Royal Air Force, and his fascination with the history of the Knights of the Order of the Garter never abated. The personal and typically British style which Louda brought to countless drawings of the Order’s individuals’ coats of arms was even mentioned by Prince Charles in his introduction,” UP Press Director Aleš Prstek commented.
Proof that the book’s publication is resonating on the British Isle is underlined by the active participation of British Ambassador Nick Archer in the book’s launch. During the launch, university representatives also symbolically handed diplomat Otakar Fojt the first two copies of the book – intended for Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles, her successor to the throne and to the helm of the Order.
Among the members of the Knights of the Garter, whose history has been in the writing for 672 years, we can find the names of many world-famous personalities in political, cultural, and society life. Readers can find not only the personal coats of arms of the above-mentioned Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles, but also for example the coats of arms of Prince Philip, Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, Sir Winston Churchill, Baroness Margaret Thatcher, Sir Edmund Hillary, and Prince William.
“The close connection between Jiří Louda and England was evident in nearly every piece of his legacy which we reviewed in preparing the book. What is more, all those materials revealed a story which we could not keep only to ourselves, which is why we have prepared such a remarkable exhibition,” reminded Břetislav Holásek, Director of the Olomouc Regional Museum, of the exhibition entitled Jiří Louda – Život mezi erby (Jiří Louda – Life Among Coats of Arms), planned to run until 10 January 2021. “Jiří Louda, due to his extraordinary life story and his aristocratic noblesse, is one of the most exceptional personalities of the 20th century – not just in Olomouc, but in the whole of the Czech Republic,” Holásek added.
“I’ve always known that Jiří devoted an enormous effort to depicting the coats of arms of the Order of the Knights of the Garter. However, examining the extent of his work in the materials he left behind was shocking to me – in the good sense of the word. None of us were prepared for something so complex and on such a large scale,” revealed Karel Müller, Director of the Regional Archives in Opava, a long-time friend of Jiří Louda and the co-author of the publication.
Towns Unite! or A national crowd-funding
Jiří Louda is not only the author of the Great Coat of Arms of the Czech Republic and the Knights of the Garter coats of arms. He also authored hundreds of coats of arms for Czech towns and cities. And Louda’s “trail” across the country became an important component in the book’s publication.
Work on such a magnificent publication as Jiří Louda: Coats of Arms of the Knights of the Order of the Garter / Erby rytířů podvazkového řádu required a huge financial investment. In order for this magnum opus to be carried out in appropriate style and format, UP Press decided to appeal to Czech cities and towns for whom Louda designed their coats of arms for a contribution to the publication of the book.
“The feedback we got was wonderful. We received small financial donations, from 50 to 1000 euros, from over twenty Czech cities and towns. And the City and Region of Olomouc of course also contributed significantly to the publication,” Prstek recounted.
Together with a contribution from the National Cultural Fund they were able to collect more than 15 thousand euros, which enabled the publication of the book in its final form. “It was like a national crowd-funding,” added Prstek, with some slight exaggeration, referring to the large number of small donors who supported the book’s publication.
“Jiří Louda was the prototype of the modest hero in whom are combined lifelong dedication and courage. I’m incredibly happy that this timeless work has lived to see such a magnificent, deserving publication. I consider the participation of our university in the creation of this book as a logical responsibility,” added UP Rector Jaroslav Miller. In 2004, Louda was awarded an honorary doctorate by Palacký University Olomouc. During his lifetime he also received awards from the City of Olomouc, the Olomouc Region, and last but not least, the Medal of Merit, given to him personally by the President of the Czech Republic, Václav Havel.
More detailed information on the book is available at louda.upol.cz.
According to experts from the UP Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry and University Hospital Olomouc, the coronavirus epidemic is an opportunity for a change in lifestyle. The 5S project, which was established at the Department of Sports Medicine and Cardiovascular Rehabilitation, is meant to remind us that everyone is responsible for their own health and to provide advice on how to maintain or fortify it.
“One day I realised that even a pandemic could be a positive situation. It can show us that we have stopped paying attention to our own health, just waiting for what will be recommended to us, what some authority will do for us. We have stopped perceiving the signals of our body, which marvellously tells us what is wrong and that we should change it in some way,” said department head Eliška Sovová about the project, adding that after the spring’s anti-coronavirus measures, they encountered a fourteen-year-old who had gained sixteen kilograms, and other patients with worsening diseases.
The authors of the project highlight five Ss – Sleep, Sustenance, Sport, Stress, and stop Smoking – as priorities for maintaining health based on scientific evidence. Quality sleep and a healthy diet with an adequate intake of vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 unsaturated fatty acids play an important role in strengthening the immune system. Likewise, adequate physical activity is an important component in the prevention of many diseases.
“If you are quarantined for Covid-19, increase your exercise time to 200 to 400 minutes per week to compensate for the reduction in other movements. The intensity should be rather moderate, since too high an intensity might reduce immunity. It is also good to exploit all the possibilities of home exercise, including dance, muscle strengthening and coordination with common household objects, and relaxation,” recommends Prof Sovová.
It is also important to avoid stress, because chronic stress reduces immunity. The authors of the project recommend to cut back on following so much negative news, to focus on activities that make us happy rather than complaining, and to keep smiling. “Try relaxation, breathing exercises, yoga. Go to nature, which is a powerful antistressor. Singing, listening to music, some light reading, enjoying a cup of coffee, buying something nice – everyone has their own activity which makes them feel great.”
Smokers can also take the epidemic as an opportunity to change their lifestyle. Smoking is a risk factor for the severity of the illness and death from respiratory infections, and smokers are twice as likely to have severe Covid-19 than non-smokers.
Further tips and recommendations as well as contacts for experts from the Department of Sports Medicine and Cardiovascular Rehabilitation can be found here.
How did Czech children cope with the closure of schools due to the COVID-19 pandemic in spring 2020? Surprisingly well, says a study conducted in June by Palacký University researchers among schoolchildren aged 11–15 at almost 150 schools throughout the country. The children reportedly had more physical activity, ate more fruits and vegetables, and slept better. In addition, they significantly reduced the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and energy drinks. They also appreciated the amount of time spent with their families and all the new things they had a chance to learn. On the other hand, one in five children suffered from loneliness.
“As in the spring, the media talk about the increase in the number of infected people, the economic aftermaths of the pandemic, and the technical aspects of closing schools. However, the debate in the society seems to ignore the issues among the child population and the question of how the school lockdown is experienced,” explains Petr Baďura, head of the research team at the UP Faculty of Physical Education and a member of the HBSC study team. The research team intends to provide the obtained data and findings to other parties who are interested in collaborating with them in the context of the current closure of schools.
The results of the study suggest that the lifestyle of children during the “quarantine” changed for the better. Young Czechs were more involved in physical activities and positively adjusted their eating habits. Since they didn’t have to get up so early for school, they also got a lot more sleep. Almost 70% of them actually fell under recommended sleep requirement guidelines during the spring corona crisis. More than half of the children (58.4%) appreciated having more time for joint family activities. Almost two thirds of the pupils (64.1%) participating in the research claimed that the closure of schools gave them space to learn new things for which they did not have time before.
Social distancing: every fifth child suffered
However, researchers also registered negative aspects of lockdown. One in five children lacked someone to open up to during the school closure. Girls suffered from feelings of loneliness to a greater extent, and fifteen-year-olds complained about the lack of contact far more than younger schoolchildren. On the other hand, despite the national restrictions in social contact, 63% of respondents stated that they rarely or never felt lonely during those critical times.
How did Czech children perceive the closure of schools?
School in the times of corona
How did Czech children perceive their school duties during the emergency? Two thirds of them (64.6%) felt that their school duties had increased. This was reported mainly by the older pupils in the research sample – seventh- and ninth-graders. According to their own estimates, children spent an average of 2 hours and 45 minutes a day fulfilling their school duties (girls about 20 minutes more than boys).
“The perceived increase in school duties does not necessarily mean that they have actually increased. It may be related to the fact that children started working from home more than before, and subjectively felt the demands were greater,” adds Baďura.
Screen time: games, social networks, movies
Czech children spent much time online during spring 2020, not only because of fulfilling school duties in distance education. Much of their time behind the screens was also spent playing computer games. Boys spent an average of 3 hours a day playing them, while girls played significantly less – 1 hour and 10 minutes a day. Girls, on the other hand, spent more time than boys on social networks (girls 2:44 hours, boys 1:55 hours). Young Czechs also spent quite a lot of time during the quarantine watching movies and videos – an average of 2 hours and 45 minutes a day; the groups of boys and girls have the same score here.
Informed children? Or media information overload?
Schoolchildren showed that they had good awareness of the pandemic. More than 85% of them considered information dealing with the health aspects of spreading coronavirus to be sufficient, which is in stark contrast to the findings concerning health literacy, which is generally rather poor, as recently found by the same team of researchers. Research team analyst Baďura attributes this mainly to the strong influence of media content. “If more than 85% of children say that they had enough information about coronavirus, it does not mean that they had correct, verified information, or that they were able to actively process it. This information probably indicates that the public space was completely saturated with such information, and that children perceived it strongly,” he says.
The authors of the study hope that the results of the spring survey will find their application elsewhere, too. This is one of the reasons why researchers offer the collected data to those experts who would like to further work with them – for example, to publish the data or use it to make adjustments to crisis strategies at the national, regional, or local level. Those interested can request data HERE.
More information available at www.zdravagenerace.cz.
The Palacký University Olomouc team has been monitoring and commenting on factors influencing the health of Czech schoolchildren aged 11, 13, and 15 years via the HBSC (Health Behaviour in School-aged Children study). The study is meant to comprehensively map the lifestyle of the young generation. Current research uses the long-established methodology of the HBSC study; due to the present situation it also focussed on the period of school closure during the pandemic. The research project was supported by the Czech Science Foundation (GACR) under Reg. No. 20-25019S.
The Jean Monnet Module projects acquired by the Department of Geoinformatics at the UP Faculty of Science focus on Earth sciences in the context of European policies as well as the acquisition and analysis of European data. The projects support innovation, the mutual sharing of knowledge, and the dissemination of information on European issues in the field of Earth sciences.
“I am not aware that any field of science at Palacký University would be awarded similar projects focused on the EU. Such topics are usually more suitable for humanities scholars, lawyers, and sociologists. Acquiring these projects focused on legal, social and cultural aspects is therefore proof of the faculty’s interdisciplinary capacities. It is a chance to promote EU issues in the natural sciences as well,” said Vít Pászto from the Department of Geoinformatics, the chief investigator of this project.
A brand-new course will clarify the impact of EU policies on Earth sciences
The first three-year project focuses on the impact of EU policies on Earth sciences. The Department of Geoinformatics, the Department of Development & Environmental Studies, and the Department of Geography are involved. The project will be under the auspices of Ondrej Hamuľák, Vice-Dean of the UP Faculty of Law, a distinguished expert on European themes. “We will focus not only on how the various components of EU policies directly affect working with spatial data, but also on development aid, geography, and the creation of civil society and citizen participation in issues that concern each of us,” added Pászto.
Each department now specialises in a certain area of these EU aspects. So far, there has not been a comprehensive course that would focus on the impact of EU policies on Earth sciences. “Thanks to our project, we will create a new course, which is planned for the summer semester. The course will be composed of standard lectures and seminars which will cover topics that are close to the cooperating departments,” said Pászto.
These include, for example, essential knowledge about the European Union and its functioning, climate change issues, sources of EU geographic, satellite and statistical data, EU development aid and participatory methods, and active citizenship. In addition to standard teaching, the programme will also include round table discussions to which a guest working in one of the EU institutions will be invited, and an excursion to Prague, where the European Global Navigation Satellite Systems Agency (GSA) control centre is located. “This agency administers the entire Galileo satellite imagery programme in Europe. We will also create an online series of lectures, presentations and prepare workbooks, textbooks, and popular science publications. Everything in English,” added the investigator.
Innovative courses focused on data mining and geodata processing
Associate Professor Zdena Dobešová’s second project will modernise one existing course and introduce another new course at the Department of Geoinformatics. “It focuses on the innovation of the data mining course, i.e. the acquisition of knowledge from data, and on a new course focused on advanced geodata processing. Thanks to this, we will enrich the courses with practical examples of data processing available within the EU,” said Dobešová.
The course on advanced geodata processing offers more complex analyses of a huge amount of data about Europe. “This is valuable data for geoscientists, and the point is to teach students to process it properly and to obtain new information from it. Thanks to the modernisation, students will also get an idea of what data are collected and freely provided in Europe – for example, the Copernicus Urban Atlas and Eurostat data. We are therefore planning an open workshop, which every student will be able to attend. During the event, students will work with actual data and analysis. It will be a practical demonstration of what Earth science students discuss in these courses. Of course there will be publications, too,” said Dobešová.
Milan Urban, from the Institute of Molecular and Translational Medicine of the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, and also a member of the UP Faculty of Science, won the UP Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry Dean’s Award for his article “Design and synthesis of pentacyclic triterpene conjugates and their use in medicinal research”, published in the prestigious European Journal of Medicinal Chemistry. The awards ceremony took place in the Department of Neurology and University Hospital Olomouc’s lecture hall.
“This overview article is largely the result of the work of my students and postdoctoral students from the Department of Organic Chemistry at the UP Faculty of Science, specifically Jiří Hodona, Lucie Borková, Jan Pokorný and Anna Kazaková. I support the intensive involvement of students in our laboratory’s scientific work and grant projects. We all enjoy the interconnection between chemistry and biology, which is why I very much appreciate the well-functioning cooperation between both workplaces,” said Urban.
Urban’s team deals with pentacyclic triterpenes, which are natural compounds that have (not only) antitumour activity. “The awarded work deals with conjugates formed by combining these triterpenes with other molecules. We form conjugates in order to increase the selective cytotoxic activity of the intitial terpenes against tumour cells, to improve their solubility in aqueous media, but they also allow us to investigate the mechanism by which these substances work. Thanks to one type of conjugate, we can make the active molecule visible in the cell and observe its fate. Using another type of conjugate, we find proteins to which our active substance binds, the blocking of which is related to biological activity. Our scientific work has culminated in this article, which contains an overview of our results and puts them into context with the work of other researchers,” explained Urban.
Experts from both the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry and the Faculty of Science have been dealing with the issue of conjugates for a long time. “In previous years, we have published a number of primary results of this research, some of which have also been given the Dean’s Award of the UP Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry. Out of these, I value the three Czech patents granted in 2018, in which Miroslav Soural and Jan Šarek also took part. Lucie Borková placed second in the Jean-Marie Lehn Prize in Chemistry in 2018 for her dissertation, and my students have also been cited by the Dean of the Faculty of Science for their student work,” added Urban.
In conjunction with the new Czech government measures reacting to developments in the Covid-19 pandemic, starting 14 October there will be changes and broadening of the current regime in effect at Palacký University. You will find specific information below relating to life at UP from now until 1 November, or respectively 3 November.Classes, exams
The ban on physical teaching remains in effect, without changes – both for regular UP students and for those in the life-long learning programme. Exceptions to the ban on physical teaching are clinical and practical teaching and internships for students studying in the educational fields 35 – General Medicine and Dentistry, 36 – Health Sciences, 8 – Pharmacy, and also education students who are doing internships at nursery schools, grammar schools, and high schools.
The ban on the physical presence of students at the university also applies to exams involving more than 10 persons.
The full text of the government resolution on schools and universities.Dormitories, dining halls
The original government resolution on the necessity of students who have permanent addresses in the Czech Republic to vacate their dormitories was revised and mitigated by the Minister of Education on Tuesday morning, 13 October.
According to the actual specifications, the following persons can remain in the dormitories:
At the same time, the Czech Ministry of Education has issued the stern recommendation that all students who are able to return home should leave the dormitories as soon as possible.
If certain students have qualms about returning home due to the possibility of infecting members of their family, the Ministry of Health is offering the possibility of immediate testing of such students for Covid-19 by their mobile testing teams.
Understandingly, students who have decided to return home can leave their possessions which are not necessary to take with them in their dorm rooms for when they return to the dormitories during the winter semester. Of course we must ask you to remove all food items from refrigerators which could go off during your absence. Also remember to please close the windows and balcony doors to your rooms.
Detailed information (in Czech) from the Ministry of Education.
Dining halls will be closed to the public from 14 October to 3 November; only UP employees and students will be allowed in during that time. Stricter hygienic and other measures are in effect at dining halls according to the current Czech Government measures.Students assigned to work duty
With respect to exposure in the current situation and the lack of personnel in medical and social facilities, the following classes of UP students will be assigned to work duty:
These students may remain in the dormitories and wait for their possible assignments to work in healthcare and/or social facilities.
The list of all students able to be assigned to work was sent by UP to the President of the Olomouc Region on 13 October.Others
Working from home. Individual faculties, or the heads of workplaces at individual university units, will establish their own regimes for employees being present in offices or possibly working from home. More detailed information will be published in the days to come on the www.upol.cz/en/covid-19 page.
Laboratories, research. For the time being, the current interpretation of the measures also prevents personal attendance of students in laboratories and elsewhere at the university for the purposes of research (incl. carrying out experiments and measurements necessary for Master’s theses and other academic work).
Consultations. Consultations between students and teachers between 14 October and 1 November must take place only on-line or by telephone.
An international team of scientists led by David Peris from the University of Bonn, Germany, and Robin Kundrata from the Department of Zoology at the UP Faculty of Science has managed to create a detailed reconstruction of the appearance of beetles whose 99 million-year-old fossils were found in Burmese amber in 2019.
Using modern computed tomography, the researchers identified the detailed morphology of these beetles and attributed them to the family of click beetles. The results of this study, that helps better understand the evolution of insects during the Cretaceous period of the Mesozoic era, were published in the prestigious journal Scientific Reports.
In January 2019, the Spanish palaeontologist David Peris, one of the two main authors of the published study, found several specimens of unknown beetles in Mesolithic amber from the state of Kachin in northern Myanmar. Peris and his colleagues from the Czech Republic, Spain, Germany, and the United States then began to study the morphology of newly found fossil beetles in detail, while another scientific team described the group as Mysteriomorphidae, based on two other specimens from the same site.
Modern technology deciphered the origin of these mysterious beetles
Such a demanding reconstruction of the mysterious beetles living in the dinosaur age was chosen due to the fact that it was not possible to observe basic diagnostic morphological features on the found bodies, which made it difficult for scientists to classify these beetles. “The first published study left unanswered questions about the systematic position of this unique evolutionary lineage. Therefore, we used the latest technology to answer questions about the morphology and classification of Mysteriomorphidae within the beetle system,” explained David Peris of the Institute for Geosciences and Meteorology at the University of Bonn.
The authors used the method of computed tomography (CT) to achieve the virtual reconstruction of one of the very well-preserved individuals. This modern technology can be used in palaeontology to study minute features, often inaccessible by other technologies. It also helps to examine internal structures, such as the genitals, if they are preserved. “Based on the detailed study of their morphology through modern computed tomography, we were able to better classify these beetles from the dinosaur age and found out that they were very closely related to members of the family of click beetles still living today,” explained the second author of the study, Robin Kundrata from the Department of Zoology, UP Faculty of Science, who is an expert on this group of beetles.
Ancient amber revealed much about the evolution of insects in the Mesozoic
Insects preserved in amber for many millions of years are testament not only to the diversity and morphology of evolutionary lineages living at the time, but also to the composition of ancient ecosystems, in many ways different from those of today. That is why in addition to morphology the researchers also analysed the evolutionary history of beetles at the end of the Mesozoic. Earlier hypotheses assumed a low rate of extinction during the evolution of this order of insects, including the Cretaceous period of the Mesolithic era, when in a changing environment most seedless plant lines were replaced by flowering plants (Angiosperms), which is often referred to as the “Cretaceous revolution”.
These significant changes in the ecosystem enabled the rapid development of many groups of insects, particularly flower pollinators. On the contrary, other groups that had been adapted to evolutionarily older seedless plants, were not able to cope with those changes and became extinct. Researchers have gradually compiled a list of fossil families of Cretaceous amber beetles (including Mysteriomorphidae), which are known only from that time. Since they do not appear in the later fossil record, it has been assumed that they did not survive the end of the Mesozoic period. “Our results support the hypothesis that beetles – and perhaps other groups of insects, too – had a decline in diversity during the Cretaceous revolution,” added Peris.
According to Kundrata, the researchers will now seek to obtain additional material from the Burmese amber and then study the diversity of Mysteriomorphidae, because the known specimens probably represent several morphologically different species.
On the basis of Thursday’s Czech government meeting on new measures against the Covid-19 epidemic, all Czech universities have been ordered to shift to distance teaching from 12–25 October. Get acquainted with the details regarding the regime at UP below.Ban on physical teaching, exceptions for medicine, health sciences, pharmacy
The ban on physical attendance at lessons affects not only university students, but also life-long learning students. Exceptions to the ban on physical teaching are clinical and practical teaching and internships for students studying in the educational fields 35 – General Medicine and Dentistry, 36 – Health Sciences, and 8 – Pharmacy.
In addition, students of education do not have to interrupt or end their required teaching internships taking place off-campus.
Practical lessons in other study programmes at other faculties are not allowed. The entire Czech government edict of 8 October 2020 can be read in its entirety here (in Czech).Ban on individual laboratory (and other) research, consultations possible only on-line
For the time being, the current interpretation of the measures also prevents personal attendance of students in laboratories and elsewhere at the university for the purposes of research (incl. carrying out experiments and measurements necessary for Master’s theses and other academic work).
Students are allowed to consult with their teachers only on-line.
IInformation on possible changes to the regime at university libraries will be found in the days to come on the university library website, on their Facebook profile and of course also on the webpage www.upol.cz/en/covid-19. We will also keep you updated on any changes in the current rules in effect at UP as a whole.Tools for on-line teaching and videoconferencing
UP, via the Computer Centre, is currently able to extend to interested UP employees its licence for the on-line and university-supported platforms Zoom and MS Teams. Also available are the open source platforms Big Blue Button and Moodle, whose server capacities have been increased for maximum stability. In case of any questions or uncertainties about them, UP students and employees should contact the Helpdesk service.
UP has also issued a manual for on-line teaching and examinations.Working from home
Individual faculties, or the heads of workplaces at individual university units, will establish their own regimes for employees being present in offices or possibly working from home.
At the press conference after Thursday’s Czech government meeting on new measures against the Covid-19 epidemic, Education Minister Robert Plaga stated that as of Monday, 12 October, all universities must shift to distance teaching until 25 October.
At the press conference after Thursday’s Czech government meeting on new measures against the Covid-19 epidemic, Education Minister Robert Plaga stated that as of Monday, 12 October, all universities must shift to distance teaching until 25 October. Exceptions to the ban on physical teaching include clinical lessons and internships for students studying medicine, dentistry, pharmacology, and other health sciences. The Czech government measures of 8 October 2020 can be read in their entirety here (in Czech).
We will keep you updated on the webpage www.upol.cz/covid-19 in more detail as soon as more information is forthcoming from the Ministry of Education.
UP management, in reaction to current developments in the epidemiological situation in the Olomouc Region, recommends its faculties teach on-line starting 12 October, if possible.
This recommendation goes into effect until further notice. With respect to the individual specifics of each faculty, UP management will not require on-line teaching across the board, nevertheless it strongly recommends UP faculties to shift to on-line teaching anywhere possible. Faculties should inform their students about the form of instruction which will take place starting 12 October by Friday, 9 October, at the latest.
The recommendation is made in conjunction with the government and public health authority measures currently in effect. In the case of further restrictions or changes in those measures in the coming days, these recommendations by UP management may of course also change.
The contest of the Palacký University Olomouc faculties in blood donation has been officially launched at the Transfusion Department of University Hospital Olomouc. The competition to support free donations was initiated by students of the UP Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS), some of whom took the lead and rolled up their sleeves in the blood sample room. The contest, in which students and employees of all UP faculties can take part, will run the entire winter semester.
Dana Galuszková, Head of the Transfusion Department, together with the FHS Dean Martin Procházka, officially launched the competition; even UP Rector Jaroslav Miller came to support the organisers from the UP FHS Student Association and the first donors.
“Thank you for your deeply meaningful activity. The number of donors is declining, and every drop of blood counts. Especially now, when it is uncertain how many donors will come to us during the emergency, and when you might be enlisted to the hospital for help, yet you still come to donate a piece of yourself – it’s actually a double gift,” said Galuszková. She also mentioned that along with the growing number of patients hospitalised with Covid-19, the demand for blood plasma of people who have already contracted the disease will increase.
Procházka thanked the students for their initiative – not only as their dean, but above all, as a doctor, a representative of the field which can sometimes “really use up” the blood supply. In addition to his own words of thanks, Rector Miller also mentioned the recent recruitment to the Czech National Marrow Donor Registry at UPoint, when more than 60 new registered young people were added to the register. “I am very happy about that, and we will gladly continue to support such activities,” he said.
On the very first day of the contest of UP faculties, thirty donors arrived at the local Transfusion Department, and some of the event’s organisers also rolled up their sleeves. According to the coordinator, Jiří Kozel from the FHS Student Association, others are enlisting, too. “I have been contacted by employees of the Faculty of Science, asking where they can pick up the application form, because they are going to donate blood as a group. In the Facebook event, more than 130 people said they were going to participate, so we’re curious whether all of them will actually donate,” he said.
Faculties compete mainly in the total volume of blood donated by their students and employees and in the percentage of donors among their students. Those who are interested can easily join. They fill in a form on which they will receive a stamp after the blood donation at the selected donation point and then place it into the collection box. “The forms and boxes marked Contest of Faculties are located at all eight faculties in visible spots, close to the reception desks. The ninth box is located directly at the Transfusion Department of University Hospital Olomouc, because we expect that most donors will go here,” the organiser explained. The department also has a photo corner where donors can take pictures of themselves – for example with their blood type.
The contest of UP faculties will run the whole winter semester, culminating during the traditional event Donate Blood with the Rector, which is an integral part of the UP Academic Days in February. “We managed to gather a number of nice prizes from our partners from the greater Olomouc area, mostly coupons for experiences or meal vouchers. We will distribute them fairly, by drawing winners among donors from each faculty,” added Kozel.
The competition is organised by the FHS Student Association with the support of the UP Faculty of Health Sciences management and in cooperation with the UP Communications Office and the Transfusion Department of the University Hospital Olomouc. Further information, including the participation form, is available here.
As of Monday, 5 October 2020, new measures and restrictions go into effect in the Czech Republic in conjunction with the ongoing situation of the Covid-19 epidemic.
These are not blanket measures affecting the operations of universities; it depends entirely upon the green-orange-red status of individual regions according to the Czech Ministry of Health. In addition, the individual regional public health authorities enter into further restrictions on the operations of schools, including universities. The situation in the Olomouc Region is considered by the public health authorities as stable, thus the Olomouc Regional Public Health Authority for the time being has not indicated shutting down Palacký University (UP). Thus as of Monday, 5 October, physical classes may continue to take place at UP, observing the measures and recommendations already in place, however with the new exception of vocal (singing) classes and sporting activities, during which higher concentrations of water droplets are created in the immediate environment, likely increasing the risk of transmission of contagious diseases of a respiratory nature, according to the Regional Public Health Authority. These physical activities are hereby suspended from 5–18 October 2020 as per the Regional Public Health Authority management. Olomouc Regional Public Health Authority measures (in Czech)
The current situation at UP is being regularly and thoroughly consulted with the public health authorities and leading experts. Up to the present hour, all possible alternatives are being discussed, during which the above-mentioned experts have recommended keeping physical classes at UP, under a safe and partially restricted regime.
However, it is still valid that individual faculties can issue their own supplemental measures, with respect to the specifics of their study programmes, so you should continue to follow the information issued directly from your faculty (the link page to individual faculties is located at www.upol.cz/en/covid-19).
The following measures and recommendations remain in effect:
The information given above can change given developments in the situation, thus we will continue to inform you in case of all changes and/or implementation of stricter rules for classes on the webpage at www.upol.cz/en/covid-19.
Twenty-two international students started on-line studies in the two-year Master’s programme Development Studies and Foresight – Global Development Policy (GLODEP), organised by the UP Faculty of Science at Palacký University Olomouc together with two other universities – the University of Clermont Auvergne (France) and the University of Pavia (Italy). The faculty has prepared a new classroom with modern audio-visual equipment enabling hybrid teaching.
The programme will enable foreign students to acquire the knowledge and skills needed to analyse the socio-economic and environmental problems of developing countries. That knowledge can then be used in the field of development policies at the regional, national and international levels. “Generally, the programme is not online, but due to the fact that Czech embassies in different countries have only re-opened quite recently after their closure related to the coronavirus pandemic, our students do not have all their documents ready, e.g. certifications and visas, so we had to take this step for the time being,” said Simona Šafaříková from the Department of Development and Environmental Studies.
Teachers and students of the GLODEP specialisation can currently use the new classroom with audio-visual equipment, with a seventy-five-inch big screen and two cameras. One of them records the auditorium, the other the whiteboard and the lecturer. “You can choose between a surround microphone and a simple mixing console, to which two micro ports and two wireless microphones can be connected. The screen is on a hinged bracket, so the teacher can rotate it in order to see both the students in the room and the ones connected online,” said Miloslav Dušek, Vice-Dean for International Affairs.
In this academic year, twenty-two students from, for example, Mexico, Brazil, Venezuela, Nigeria, Zambia, Laos, Pakistan and Tajikistan started the programme. They attend the online classes very responsibly. “I am very happy that the students are active and very well prepared for classes, despite the fact that they still have to manage all the administrative challenges,” said one of the lecturers, Lenka Dušková from the Department of Development and Environmental Studies.
Eva Žwaková from the same department is also in daily contact with the students. “We try support students by e-mail, on Facebook, or once a week as part of an online administrative class, which we have so far included in the programme in order to resolve current problems with study and arrival administration. Students can ask anything that comes to their mind. For example, they are interested in how to log in to STAG [the online study administrative system of Palacký University], what the current situation with COVID-19 is in the Czech Republic, whether it is possible to buy medicines for fever or headaches in pharmacies here, and in the condition of the Czech healthcare system.”
One of the students in this programme is Jannico Cabañero from the Philippines. “The diversity in the GLODEP program made our on-line classes lively and interesting, especially when we get to share our ideas, experiences and perspectives on different issues and topics. In addition, the professors provide us a safe space to freely express our thoughts and they ensure that the discussions are engaging and productive. However, this current learning set up still poses several challenges to us such as time zone differences – some of the classes take place between 1 am and 3 am local time – technical and connectivity issues, and limited interaction. Although we are still having classes on-line, I am looking forward to meeting my classmates and professors in real life and I am eager to learn more – not only about global development, but also the intercultural experience that the program offers,” he said.
The GLODEP study programme opens up the possibility for students to study at three European universities that are implementing programmes in the field of development studies and development economics. The aim of the programme is to prepare students in the field of international development.
More than a thousand perennials, bulbs and succulents now decorate the south-eastern terrace of the Faculty of Science, a popular resting place for students. Extensive, durable greenery was planted, able to last in adequate quality without regular watering or professional care.
“In addition to a pleasant place for sitting, the terrace also offers 109 m2 of green space. The head of the Botanical Garden, Václav Dvořák, and Milan Antropius from the Perennial Nursery, took part in the selection of plants. More than a thousand perennials, bulbs, and succulents were planted. In the future, we plan to add recycling bins, new seating, and possibly other greenery to the terrace,” said Ondřej Kolář from Building Management.
The space for greenery was created as part of the roof reconstruction, during which the skylights were removed. “Given the extreme conditions to which the plants will be exposed, their composition was chosen as follows: 10% grasses, 30% succulents (stonecrop, houseleek), and another 10% are bulbs and rootstocks. The lion’s share is made up perennial herbs, comprising 50% percent of the area. In nature, most of these plants grow on rocks, and dry and semi-dry stands. In the spring of next year, students and employees of the Faculty of Science will have more to enjoy than just blooming crocuses,” added Antropius.
Dear students, esteemed colleagues, allow me to greet you upon the occasion of the new 2020/2021 academic year.
I’d like to wish you all much success, motivation and enthusiasm, despite the fact (or perhaps because of it) that we may be facing similar, non-standard circumstances as we did in the spring. We cannot exclude, in case the epidemiological situation worsens, the fact that the university might have to massively shift to the distance model of teaching this semester. If such a situation does come to pass, I firmly believe that we will handle it better than in the spring. We will not give up on the joy we get from education, no matter in what form it takes place.
Palacký University has gone through many difficult situations in its long history, and I remain confident that we will pass this “test” successfully, too.
So please, behave responsibly to one another, and maintain all safety and hygiene rules – because the health of each one of us depends upon the rest.
Rector, Palacký University Olomouc
New substances that have a chance of becoming part of cancer pharmacotherapy in the future have been developed by scientists from the Regional Centre of Advanced Technologies and Materials (RCPTM). The new group of copper coordination compounds contains natural substances in their structure isolated from the fruit maclura pomifera. The new substances show marked effects against cancer cells along with low toxicity to healthy human cells. The discovery has been already protected by a national patent.
One of the team’s long-term goals is to extend, by innovating the composition and mechanism, the range of anticancer agents with those that will be more effective than metal compound-based drugs, especially platinum, which are commonly used today. At the same time, they will a have noticeably greater effect against cancer cells, while being almost non-toxic to healthy cells and producing lower adverse side effects.
“The development of a third generation of copper coordination compounds is our latest, notable achievement in this area. These compounds differ significantly in composition and structure from previously presented copper-containing substances, which received patent protection in 2012 and 2017. These are complexes containing small organic molecules, or ligands, from the group of natural isoflavones. Specifically, these are osajin and pomiferin, which were originally isolated from the fruit tree maclura pomifera,” explained the team’s leader, Zdeněk Trávníček.
In terms of the scope of their effect on human tumour cell lines, these compounds are comparable to their predecessors from the RCPTM ‘manufacturer’. The most efficient substances surpass the effect of the most widely used complex drug—cisplatin—by up to 100-fold, with their toxicity to healthy human liver cells appearing almost negligible,” said another member of the research team, Ján Vančo.
The use of the new and unique copper complexes in cancer therapy, specifically in the treatment of malignant tumours in the ovaries (including those resistant to the most commonly used drug cisplatin), breasts, prostate, colon, rectum, bones or lungs, has been protected since last July by a patent entitled Heteroleptic copper complexes with osajine or pomiferin and their use in preparing medicaments for treating cancer (CZ 308426, inventors: Trávníček Z.; Vančo J.; Dvořák Z.)
However, the patent’s originators point out that the road to using the prepared substances as pharmaceuticals is still long and rather bumpy, and many more experiments and collaborations with strong partners from both biomedicine and the pharmaceutical industry will be still needed for their possible application.
The development of the substances took about five years. Substances with an anticancer effect have been of interest to Olomouc scientists for a number of years. Overall, Professor Travníček’s team has already obtained 17 national and two European patents that protect the biomedical use of a range of compounds based on gold, copper, iron, platinum or tantalum. They all have distinct anti-tumour and some of them simultaneously anti-inflammatory effects.