Institute of Biology Systems and Genetic Research
During the expansion of fundamental medical study programs, the Department of Biology was founded at the Faculty of medicine in 1950. Until 1964 it was headed by Prof. Tadas Ivanauskas (1882 – 1970), who received his education in world-famous academic institutions in Sorbonne and St. Petersburg, and whose name is well-known both in Lithuania and abroad for great breakthroughs and achievements in biological science. Some of the most important professor’s monographs - the Birds of Lithuania and Birds of the World - were published during the period when Ivanauskas was working for the Department of Biology. Professor delivered lectures in zoology and evolution science, while simultaneously emphasizing the importance of the science of genetics. In 1964 – 1969 the Department was headed by Assoc. Prof. M. Venclauskas, who incorporated the New Biophysical methods into the activities of the Institute of Medicine, was one of the founders of the Central Science Research Laboratory (later known as the Institute of Biomedical Research), and also was the head of the Biophysics Division. In 1969 – 1983 the Department was headed by Assoc. Prof. J. Lapinskaitė. She continued the work begun by Prof. T. Ivanauskas, and completed the formation of study courses of Fundamental Biology. In 1983 – 2009 the Department was under supervision of Prof. A. Bertulis. During that time, in 2008, on the basis of the Department of Biology the Institute of Biology was formed. In 1967 the Visual Neurophysiology research group was established at the Department. The Visual Neurophysiology research group was lead by Prof. A Bertulis, who completed an internship and worked at the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences and the University of Copenhagen. The laboratory of Visual Neurophysiology, headed by Prof. A. Bulatov, was founded at the Institute of Biology, which in 2009 – 2011 was headed by Prof. A. Bulatov. Due to the higher education reform in 2011 the Institute of Biology, the Breeding and Genetics Department of the Lithuanian Veterinary Academy and Dr. K. Janušauskas’ Animal Genetics Laboratory were joined together to form the Biology Systems and Genetic Research Institute. During the period of 2011-2016 the Institute was headed by Prof. Ilona Teodora Miceikienė, who also was the head of the Animal Breeding and Genetics Department of Lithuanian Veterinary Academy in 2001-2011. During the period of 2016-2020 the Institute was headed by Prof. Rasa Ugenskienė. Since January 2021 the Institute is headed by Assoc. Prof. Laimutis Kučinskas.
Genetics and the neurophysiology of vision are the main areas of research in the institute. Research is carried out in three scientific structural units: Dr. K. Janušauskas’ Laboratory of Genetics, Scientific Twin Center, and the Laboratory of Neurophysiology of Vision.
Dr. K. Janušauskas’ Laboratory of Genetics. In 1987 Department of Animal Breeding and Genetics a laboratory of Animal Cytogenetics was founded in the Lithuanian Veterinary Academy and in 1997 a new division – of Animal Molecular Genetics - was established. The founder of the laboratory was Assoc. Prof. K. Janušauskas (1939-1999) - the patriarch of genetic research of farm animals in Lithuania. In 2000 the laboratory was named after the professor, who pioneered the Cytogenetical and Molecular Genetical research of farm animals in Lithuania and under whose initiative a DNA bank of farm animals was created and research of native Lithuanian farm animals and birds began. Assoc. Prof. K. Janušauskas headed the laboratory from 1987 up to 1999, followed by Prof. Dr. Ilona Miceikienė who was the head of the laboratory until 2017. In 2011, after being merged with the Medical and Veterinary academies, Dr. K. Janušauskas’ Animal Genetics Laboratory was incorporated into the Institute of Biology Systems and Genetic Research. The main focus areas of the Laboratory involve fundamental research, education, counseling with a mission to help to increase effectiveness of selection procedures, improve animal productivity and the quality of dairy and meat. Additionally, the activities of the Laboratory are aimed at testing animal and human genetic diseases, performing parentage verification and traceability of milk and meat by using novel molecular technologies – marker assisted selection and genomic selection; and also to gather and conserve genetic material in DNA bank. The laboratory is equipped with molecular and cytogenetic technologies of the highest quality. Research directed at finding markers for obesity and milk ability as well as a project for application of genomic selection to increase milk and beef cattle breeding value have also started recently. Since 2017 the head of the laboratory is Researcher, Dr. Renata Bižienė.
Scientific Twin Center – in 1970 a laboratory of cytogenetic was founded at the Department of Biology of Kaunas Medical Institute. The laboratory was headed by Prof. A. Sinkus, who before interned and worked in Vienna and Ulm Universities and whose work became widely known and acknowledged in other countries. In 2004 the Twin Center was established on the basis of the Department of Biology. This center is dedicated to genetic research, studies and services. It is constitutes a functional unit of the Lithuanian University of Health Sciences, which also includes the following departments: the Institute of Biological Systems and Genetic research, the Orthodontic Clinic, the Institute of Endocrinology, the Diabetes mellitus laboratory, the Laboratory of Cardiovascular research Automation in Cardiology Institute and the Gastroenterology Clinic. At the Twin Center the heritability of multifactorial pathology is tested by the twin method.
From 2011 to 2016 the head of Biology Systems and Genetic Research Institute – Prof. I.T.Miceikienė – also was the head of the Scientific Twin Center. Since November 2016 the Twin Center is being coordinated by Lecturer, Dr. Loreta Šalomskienė.
The Laboratory of Neurophysiology of Vision has been successfully analyzing vision perception problems more than 50 years. During this period the Laboratory scientists, using modern methods of electrophysiology and psychophysics acquired through internships abroad, studied the receptive fields of cortical and subcortical neurons, the structure of their assembles and principles of activity; examined the regularities of visual perception of objects shape, size, brightness and color; tried to explain the neurophysiological origin of color constancy and invariance, the effects of the visual field anisotropy; mathematically modeled the peculiarities of various phenomena in visual perception. In 1991, the Laboratory scientists actively participated in the organization of the European Conference on Visual Perception ECVP-1991 in Lithuania. In 1993, the work of the department’s scientists was positively evaluated by the official International Quality Committee, recognizing that important scientific projects are being carried out in the department. In collaboration with foreign colleagues, the monograph “Spatial Color Vision” was published. In 1993, prof. A. Bertulis has been awarded the Lithuanian National Prize. Over the past 20 years, the Laboratory researchers continued the studies on visual perception of objects size, shape, orthogonality and curvature. An important part of modern investigations is further development of mathematical models of the geometrical illusions of extent with aim to reveal the principles of organization of neural mechanisms underlying the perception of visual objects localization. Since 2008, the Laboratory is headed by Prof. Aleksandr Bulatov.
Studies conducted at the Institute belong to fundamental and applicable disciplines of biomedicine. Studies at the Institute are delivered in both Lithuanian and English languages. More than 70 different subjects are taught with study fields including genetics, biology, parasitology, physiology of vision for all bachelor study program students. Postgraduate courses are also taught in the Institute. Institute tutors Medicine and veterinary genetics bachelor and Veterinary genetics master programs. Institute scientists participated in preparation and started teaching in several new study programs: Medical and veterinary biochemistry, Health Psychology, etc.
New modern laboratory for genetics was established at the institute in 2011 allowing students to acquire and develop practical skills. Students also gain transferable skills that are widely applicable throughout other courses.