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The scientific readings on chitin research have been recently held in the Moscow region for the first time in history. The event was organized by the Russian Chitin Society. It was regarded as a tribute to Academician Pavel Shorygin, a scientist devoted to research of chitin. Many branches of science have paid closer attention to chitin lately, it’s a polymer that forms outer covering of insects, crustaceans and arachnids. A number of young scientists were awarded the Shorygin prize at the readings.

Most of us are likely to fight an irresistible urge to throw up while watching the participants of a TV reality show eat warms and larvae. However, people in many parts of the world eat spiders, cockroaches and other insects like delicacies. Australian aborigines and Amazonian Indians, residents of China and Africa know what they’re doing: nauseatingly looking insects and hideous marine creatures are very healthy to eat.
Aside from proteins and fats, this kind of food is also rich in chitin, a biopolymer that reportedly holds bright prospects for modern medicine.

“In nature, only cellulose occurs in larger quantities than chitin,” says Valery Varlamov, Chem. Dr., head of ferment engineering laboratory of the research center Bioinzheneria under the Russian Academy of Sciences, chairman of the Russian Chitin Society. “Scientists made the first drugs out of chitin back in the 1960s. The drugs were used for the protection against radiation.”

All work involving chitin was strictly classified at the time, therefore even the doctors had no idea what the drugs were made of. The lab mice which were given injections of the secret drug could survive a lethal dose of radiation whereas other control group of the mice were killed by radiation. Today chitin and its derivatives have an extremely broad range of use – from liquid crystals and flocculants used in waste-water treatment to absorbents and preservatives to the production of paper and pesticide products. The research of this natural polymer for medicine and biology is picking up fast.

Chotosan, a modified product of chitin, is capable of significantly boosting the dissolution speed of medicines with poor solubility. The medicines’ absorption levels go up too. The chitin derivatives are added to the makeup of drugs to make their action more long-lasting. The gel-forming properties of chitin help delay the release of active ingredients. The chitin-containing ingredients swell up and float around the surface in
an acid medium. It can spare the stomach mucus during the intake of such medicines as aspirin or indometacine.

Chitosan is used in oncology for conveying of drugs which kill the cancerous cells. The substance is capable of flocking around the malignant cells only and hinder their development. Chitosan is thought to curtail the development of blood vessels in the tissues of a tumor.

That’s why foreign researchers involved in chitin research projects keep an eye on the work of their Russian colleagues. The Russian Chitin Society launched a contest for the best study on chitosan.

Gleb Aktuganov, senior researcher with the Biology Institute of the Ufa Scientific Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences, was awarded the top Shorygin prize for a series of works. The other contestants were handed out diplomas and valuable presents.


© Рудаков В.Г. - NEKTO 2009г.

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