INSTITUTE OF PHYSIOLOGY AND PHARMACOLOGY
On 15 April 2011, the Institute of Physiology and Pharmacology was established by the decision of the Senate of the Lithuanian University of Health Sciences. This new unit of the University united two divisions with deep-rooted traditions and high scientific potential: the Departments of Physiology and Theoretical and the Department of Clinical Pharmacology.
Research in physiology and pharmacology are nowadays tightly interrelated. The foundation of the Institute and the collaboration between researchers in the two fundamental fields are expected to strengthen not only the research but also the study base.
The core area of activities of the Institute of Pharmacology and Physiology is the organisation and performance of the research work. The Institute organises and implements study programmes, scientific research, and experimental development activities, and trains researchers and specialists.
Main objectives of the Institute of Physiology and Pharmacology:
- to carry out state-of-the-art biomedical research in the fields of physiology and pharmacology, to develop and disseminate scientific knowledge and expertise in the areas of public health and its promotion, functioning of human body systems, treatment, prevention and control of diseases, and the quality of life (well-being);
- to train researchers and participate in the research and research and study programmes of the University as well as under Lithuanian and international frameworks;
- to provide specialised expertise of high quality to the authorities that make and implement health and medicines control policies in the country and its regions;
- to effectively use the research evidence in the health system and in education;
- to optimise the courses in physiology and pharmacology by improving traditional and new teaching methods.
Main functions of the Institute of Physiology and Pharmacology:
- to organise and implement study programmes and research;
- to develop the curricula and study programmes, syllabuses, and specialisation plans;
- to procure and maintain the equipment and facilities needed for research and studies;
- to produce course books, scientific articles, training books, and other educational and research tools;
- to consider and make proposals on the selection of candidates for teaching positions, for the positions of the Head of the Institute and for the positions of researcher and Head of the Research Laboratory within the Institute;
- to provide scientific and practical advice and expertise on scientific articles, projects, health programmes, medicinal products and medicines;
- to prepare projects and applications for additional funding in Lithuania and abroad;
- to organise scientific events, conferences and symposia;
- to disseminate the latest scientific knowledge and experience in society.
The Institute conducts studies on vascular endothelial secretions and their effect, the role of endothelial calcium-activated potassium channels in nitric oxide synthesis, the function of the coronary blood vessels and their dysfunction in hypertension, and the abnormalities of arterial nitric oxide production in hypertension. It also investigates the effect of pulmonary hypertension on cardiac function and changes in the pulmonary arteries, and studies the mechanisms of pulmonary artery changes in pulmonary hypertension. Erectile dysfunction and its mechanisms, the effect of calcium and the mechanisms of vasoconstriction are also studied.
The Institute has implemented and developed techniques for in vitro myography of small arteries and computerized isolated perfused heart imaging. The Institute conducts the research studies in vascular contractility by wire myography. These studies investigate the effects of herbal preparations and their components on vascular tone with the aim of identifying the mechanisms of action of new herbal preparations on vascular tone and to develop combinations of herbal preparations favourable to the reduction of blood pressure.
The Institute also carries out studies to determine the function, expression and localisation of the renin-angiotensin system (RAS) by analysing samples from the jejunum of healthy and obese patients.
The researchers at the Institute work on issues such as drug efficacy, drug interactions, and adverse drug reactions. They analyse the consumption of individual medicines and the relationship between the prevalence of diseases and social factors.
Clinical pharmacokinetic, medicine efficacy assessment, pharmacoepidemiology and pharmacoeconomic studies are also conducted. There is also a large body of research on rational pharmacotherapy. These studies are carried out in collaboration with LSMU Hospital Kaunas Clinics.
The title of the current study is “Determining and monitoring therapeutic concentrations of immunosuppressants using a probabilistic model”. The aim is to determine the therapeutic windows for immunosuppressants after transplantation of different organs and to determine the probability of accurate dosing using mathematical probability theories. The subjects are patients after organ transplantation (kidney, liver, heart, lung or bone marrow) who have been prescribed immunosuppressant therapy. In addition to patients who have undergone organ transplantation in Lithuania, patients from the French University Hospital of Limoges, which is collaborating on this study, are also planned to be included.
One of the new research areas of the Institute is the study of stem cells and regenerative medicine. Currently, the Institute is implementing three projects funded by the Research Council of Lithuania in this field.
Doctoral dissertation is currently being prepared on the topic “Development, characterisation and application of a stem cell preparation for kidney regeneration”. This work will involve the isolation, cultivation and application of stem cells of muscle and bone marrow origin in a pre-clinical nephrotoxicity model involving laboratory animals; selection of therapeutic exploratory doses, selection of the most effective stem cell therapy, and studies on the pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of stem cell preparations.
The new equipment has opened up new possibilities for pharmacological research on isolated organs or tissues from laboratory animals. A doctoral student of the Institute and Master’s degree students of the Faculties of Pharmacy and Medicine are currently working in this field.
The Institute of Physiology and Pharmacology teaches students from all faculties of the LSMU Medical Academy. The Institute teaches the following disciplines: Physiology, Pathological Physiology, Pathology, Pharmacology, Clinical Pharmacology, Pharmacotherapy, Phyto- and Homeopathic Medicines, Rational Clinical Use of Antimicrobials, and General Nosology.
The 2nd and 3rd year students of the Faculty of Medicine study physiology and pharmacology under the following problem-based learning modules:
- Basics of Preclinical Studies and Locomotion
- Metabolism and Homeostasis
- Respiration and Blood Circulation
- Human Reproductive Health and Fundamentals of Clinical Studies
- Basics of Neurosciences
- Immune Response and Infection
Disciplines of the doctoral studies
The Institute of Physiology and Pharmacology supervises Master’s thesis writing by students of the Faculty of Pharmacy, and final research paper writing by students of the Faculty of Medicine. Doctoral students in the science fields of Biomedical Sciences, Medicine (06B) and Pharmacy (08B) study the following courses at the Institute:
- Fundamentals of General Clinical Pharmacology
- Fundamentals of Pharmacokinetics and Toxicokinetics
- Application of the Principles and Methods of Pharmacology to Medical Research
- Cell Biology
- Development and Quality Assessment of Medicines
- Human Physiology: Levels and Mechanisms of Regulation
Physiology Club of the LSMU Students’ Scientific Society
The Physiology Club of the LSMU Students’ Scientific Society was established on 23 November 2009. Prof. Edgaras Stankevičius, Head of the Institute of Physiology and Pharmacology, became the scientific leader of the club. Students of the Faculties of Medicine and Pharmacy participate in the activities of the club.
For more information about the Physiology Club of the LSMU Students’ Scientific Society follow this link.
Projects and collaboration
- In 2010–2013, the researchers of the Institute participated in the project “Exploration of optimal combinations of ginkgo, hawthorn and motherwort and development of capsules to assess the effect of these plants on the cardiovascular function”.
- Research on the topic “Modulation of resistance to radiation therapy during the tumour process” is conducted in collaboration with the Institute of Oncology (Vilnius University). A radiation therapy-resistant cell line has been developed and the expression of genes involved in the development of resistance to radiation therapy has been determined. Modulation of radiation therapy resistance by β-glucans is anticipated according to the project plans.
- Project partners: Department of Gastrosurgical Research and Education, Institute of Clinical Sciences, Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden. The studies are performed using Western blot, Immunohistochemistry, ELISA and Ussing chamber techniques. They are expected to demonstrate the existence of the renin-angiotensin system (RAS) in the jejunum, which would provide specific knowledge of the effect of the individual components of the RAS on the absorption function.
- In collaboration with researchers at the Academy of Veterinary Medicine, research is being carried out on energy drinks to investigate the effect of their consumption on structural changes in cardiomyocytes.
The researchers of the Institute collaborate with the following Lithuanian higher education institutions and research centres:
- Cell Culture Laboratory (Institute of Cardiology);
- Faculty of Medicine (Vilnius University);
- Institute of Oncology (Vilnius University);
- Kaunas University of Technology;
- Vilnius Academy of Arts;
- Faculty of Kaunas (Vilnius Academy of Arts);
- State Medicines Control Agency.
In 2012, the Institute of Physiology and Pharmacology started cooperation with the State Medicines Control Agency (SMCA) under the Ministry of Health. The cooperation agreement was signed on 2 March 2012 by Prof. Remigijus Žaliūnas, Rector of LSMU, and Gintautas Barcys, Head of SMCA. The implementation of the agreement was entrusted to the researchers of the Institute of Physiology and Pharmacology of LSMU. The safe and effective use of medicines in Lithuania and the establishment of a clinical pharmacology residency programme are the objectives of the cooperation agreement signed by LSMU and the SMCA.
The Institute of Physiology and Pharmacology collaborates with the following foreign institutions:
- European Medicines Agency (London, UK);
- Aarhus University (Copenhagen, Denmark);
- Koç University (Istanbul, Turkey);
- Institute of Medicine at the University of Latvia (Riga, Latvia);
- University of Tartu (Tartu, Estonia);
- Kiel University (Kiel, Germany).
The Institute of Physiology and Pharmacology founded in 2011 united two divisions with deep-rooted traditions and high scientific potential: the Departments of Physiology and Theoretical and the Department of Clinical Pharmacology. Prof. Edgaras Stankevičius, the initiator and organiser of the establishment of the Institute, was elected as its Head.
History of the Department of Physiology
The establishment of a higher education institution came into focus after the relocation of the Lithuanian government to Kaunas in early 1919. Mobilisation and shortage of available funds slowed down the establishment of the first Lithuanian university despite the obvious need for it.
On 27 January 1920, the Higher Courses were officially established in the current building of Kaunas Maironis University Gymnasium (Gimnazijos st. 3) including six departments: Humanities, Law, Mathematics-Physics, Natural Sciences, Medicine, and Technology.
In 1922, the Department of Medicine became the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Lithuania. The Department of Physiology and Physiological Chemistry was established in 1922, and Prof. Vladas Lašas was elected the first Head of the Department, a position he held until 1966.
Following the reorganisation of Kaunas State University and the establishment of Kaunas Institute of Medicine from 1951, the Department resumed its operations under the name of the Department of Normal Physiology (Lith. Normaliosios fiziologijos), from 1966 – the Department of Normal Physiology (Lith. Normalinės fiziologijos), from 1979 to 1993 – the Department of Normal and Pathological Physiology, as the Department of Pathological Physiology merged with the Department of Physiology.
Since 1993, it has been called the Partment of Physiology after the Department of Pathological Physiology became a separate unit.
After the reunification with the Department of Pathological Physiology in 2003, the name of the Department remained the Department of Physiology. On 15 April 2011, after the merger of the Department of Physiology and the Department of Pharmacology, the Institute of Physiology and Pharmacology was established. Prof. Edgaras Stankevičius, the initiator and organiser of the establishment of the Institute, was elected as the Head of the Institute.
Heads of the Department OF PHYSIOLOGY and of the Institute
Prof. Vl. Lašas
Prof. Vladas Lašas, a graduate of the Universities of St. Petersburg and Tartu, became the first Head of the Department. In 1930, together with J. Mackevičaite-Lašienė, he wrote and published a course book “Concise Human Anatomy, Physiology, and Hygiene” (Lith. “Trumpa žmogaus anatomija, fiziologija ir higiena”). In 1931, together with his senior assistant J. Šopauskas, he wrote and published a course book “”Practical Works on Physiology” (Lith. “Fiziologijos praktikos darbai”) for medical students. In 1945–1958, he wrote and published the monographs comprising the entire course in physiology for students. In 1965, after updating and supplementing parts of the course, he published the first physiology course book in Lithuania – “Human Physiology” (Lith. “Žmogaus fiziologija”).
In 1922, VI. Lašas was elected Associate Professor, later – Extraordinary Professor, in 1928 – Ordinary Professor, and in 1922 – 1940 – 1941 – Vice-Rector of Kaunas State University. In 1924–1940, he was Dean of the Faculty of Medicine of Vytautas Magnus University, and in 1944–1946 – Dean of the Faculty of Medicine of Kaunas State University. In 1945, he was awarded the title of Meritorious Scientist of the Republic of Lithuania, in 1946 he was elected an academician of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences. In 1948, he was elected a corresponding member of the USSR Academy of Medical Sciences. Under his leadership, the building of the Faculty of Medicine was built on A. Mickevičius Street (1933) and the building of the Eye Clinic and Department of Nose, Ear and Throat – on Vytautas Avenue (1930; at present – the Military Hospital), and the Clinical Hospital (1940) was built.
He authored and co-authored more than 120 scientific works: monographs, course books, articles, brochures, and reviews, including the major course book “Human Physiology” (Lith. “Žmogaus fiziologija”) (1965). He contributed to the publications “Aušrinė”, “Lietuvos ūkininkas”, “Jaunimas”, “Kultūra”
Prof. Bernardas Padegimas
In 1957, he defended his thesis for the degree of Doctor of Medical Science, and in 1968 he defended his Habilitated Doctor of Science thesis “Experimental Data on the Mechanism of Anaphylaxis”, and coined the terminology of passive anaphylaxis.
After graduating from Kaunas Medical Institute in 1953, B. Padegimas was accepted as a postgraduate student of the Department of Physiology. He investigated the mechanisms of acute allergic reactions, the role of interoreceptors, desensitisation, and obtained new scientific data on passive anaphylaxis.
When Prof. Vl. Vl. Lašas passed away, Prof. Bernardas Padegimas was elected Head of the Department. He was the Head of the Department in 1966–1993
Prof. Habil. Dr. Romualdas Abraitis
In 1961, he graduated from Kaunas Medical Institute and was appointed assistant at the Department of Physiology. In 1965, he defended his doctoral thesis for the Doctor of Medical Science degree. In 1992, Romualdas Abraitis defended his thesis on the topic “Cardiac Anaphylaxis” for the degree of Habilitated Doctor of Science.
Using sectional and experimental material, he determined the role of the cardiac conduction system, the contractile myocardium, and the coronary histaminergic system in allergic reactions.
In 1993, he was awarded the title of Professor. In the same year, he became Head of the Department. Prof. Habil. Dr. Romualdas Abraitis headed the Department in 1993–2002.
Prof. Anatolijus Juozas Kondrotas
Prof. Anatolijus Juozas Kondrotas graduated from the Faculty of Medicine (Kaunas Medical Institute, KMI) in 1961. In 1963–1965, he was a post-graduate student at the Department of Normal Physiology of KMI. In 1965–1969, he was a senior lecturer at the Department of Normal Physiology of KMI. Since 1969 he held the status of an Associate Professor. He investigated immunological mechanisms of pathogenesis of allergic reactions, conducted preclinical studies of phytoimmunosuppressants.
In 1966, he defended his thesis on “The role of acetylcholine, histamine and heparin in acute allergic reactions”. In 1969, he was an Associate Professor at the Department of Normal Physiology, and in 1979 – the Head of the Pathological Physiology Sector. In 1984, he was a Laureate of the Lithuanian State Prize. In 1992, he defended his habilitated doctoral dissertation on the topic ‘The role of T- and B-lymphocytes in acute allergic reactions’. In 1994, he received the scientific academic title of professor. He was the Chairman of the Board of the Lithuanian Scientific Society of Pathophysiology, an Honorary Member of the Lithuanian Scientific Society of Immunology, and a member of the Editorial Board of the international journal “Immunology, Allergy, Infectology”. He reviewed the following scientific publications: “Immunological Research Methods in Rheumatology” (“Imunologiniai tyrimo metodai reumatologijoje”) (E. Redaitienė et al.), “Immunology” (“Imunologija”) (J. Pieškus), “Allergology” (“Alergologija”) (R. Dubakienė).
In 1993–2003, he was the Head of the Department of Pathological Physiology, professor.
Prof. Egidijus Kėvelaitis
Professor Egidijus Kėvelaitis, a pupil of Prof. R. Abraitis, headed the Department from 2002 to 2009. In 1979–1985, he studied at Kaunas Medical Institute (KMI). In the second year of his studies, he tied his research and professional activities to the Department of Physiology. In 1985–1988, E. Kėvelaitis worked as an assistant of the Department of Normal and Pathological Physiology at the KMI, in 1988–1992 – as a senior lecturer of Normal and Pathological Physiology at the KMI (since 1989 – at Kaunas Medical Academy (KMA), from 1992–2001 – as an associate professor at the Department of Physiology at the KMI (since 1998 – at Kaunas Medical University (KMU). During his work at the Department, E. Kėvelaitis was the first to record the electrical potentials of the sinus node (sectional material) of the human heart, and to investigate the allergic histaminergic mechanisms of the cardiac conduction system and the coronary vessels. His research was summarised in a thesis for the candidate of medical sciences, which was defended in 1988. In 1993, it was recognized as the doctoral dissertation for the award of the degree of Doctor of Sciences. In 2001, he was awarded the title of Professor. In 2002–2009, he was Head of the Department of Physiology.
He organised the events “KMU Book 2002–2003”, “KMU Book 2004–2005”, “KMU Book 2006–2007”, where the authors of the publications of our University were presented and awarded.
As a researcher, Prof. Kėvelaitis participated in and led a number of Lithuanian and foreign programmes and was a highly erudite person. In 2000–2007, he was a member of the Council of the Federation of European Physiological Societies (FEPS). He was a member of the European Society of Cardiology, New York Academy of Sciences,Danish Society of Pharmacology. In 2001–2009, he was the Chairman of the Editorial Board and Scientific Editor of the journal “Medicina”. Thanks to Prof. E. Kėvelaitis, in 2007, the journal “Medicina” was included in the list of publications of the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI).
Prof. E. Kėvelaitis and his co-authors prepared 6 course books, supervised and published the course book “Human Physiology” (Lith. “Žmogaus fiziologija”) together with Lithuanian and foreign researchers. The latter was awarded the prize of the Ministry of Education and Sciences of the Republic of Lithuania in 2005. A second edition of this course book was published in 2006. In total, Prof. E. Kėvelaitis co-authored more than 150 publications.
Prof. Edgaras Stankevičius
Since 2009, he was the Head of the Department of Physiology at Kaunas Medical University (KMU). In 2011, he became the Head of the Institute of Physiology and Pharmacology, after its establishment. He headed the Institute until 2017, returned to the post in 2022 after a break and continues to head the Institute until today.
Prof. Arvydas Ūsas
The Head of the Institute of Physiology and Pharmacology from 2017 to 2022.
History of the Lithuanian Physiological Society
As physiological science developed in Lithuania, the Lithuanian Physiological Society was founded on 6 June 1955 at Kaunas Medical Institute (KMI). The founder and the first chairperson of the Society was Prof. Vl. Lašas (1955–1966). Initially, the Society was called the Lithuanian Society of Physiologists, Pharmacologists and Biochemists and had 26 members.
The first secretary of the Society was Prof. Habil. Dr. Algis Mickis, later – Assoc. Prof. Dr. Vl. Rimkevičiūtė, and from 1987 to the present – Assoc. Prof. Dr. Genuvaitė Civinskienė. Finance was handled by Assoc. Prof. Dr. Jonas Skirius, and from 1975 to the present – by Assoc. Prof. Dr. Rimvydas Miliauskas. After academician Vl. Lašas passed away, the Society was headed by Prof. Dr. Jonas Šopauskas until 1969. After his death (1969), Prof. Habil. Dr. Bernardas Padegimas was the head of the Society until 1997, and Prof. Habil. Dr. Romualdas Abraitis was the head of the Society from 1997 to 2005. In 2005–2009, the Society was headed by Prof. Dr. Egidijus Kėvelaitis. The current chairperson of the Lithuanian Physiological Society is Prof. E. Stankevičius.
After the restoration of Lithuania’s independence, thanks to the great efforts of Prof. Habil. Dr. A. Gutmanas and Prof. Dr. E. Kėvelaitis, the Lithuanian Physiological Society became an associate member of the Federation of European Physiological Societies (FEPS) in 1997, and a full member of the organisation since 1999
Benefits of membership in the FEPS:
- eligibility to attend and receive support at congresses organised by the FEPS;
- free access to the FEPS journal “Acta Physiologica”, which has a high impact factor.
History of the Department of Theoretical and Clinical Pharmacology
In 1990, on the initiative of Prof. A. Mickis, a new unit was established within the Department – the Clinical Pharmacology Unit. Teachers were trained specifically to work at this Unit. In the same year, the Department was renamed the Department of Theoretical and Clinical Pharmacology. In 1992–1997, Assoc. Prof. R. Basevičius headed the Department. In 1997, Assoc. Prof. A. Milašius took this position and held it up until the establishment of the Institute of Physiology and Pharmacology.
The faculty of the Department prepared more than 30 teaching aids, wrote and published 6 course books on pharmacology. In 1987, the Department staff was awarded the Lithuanian Republican Prize for the preparation of Lithuanian course books on pharmacology.
In 1922, the Department of Pharmacology was established at the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Lithuania. Professor P. Raudonikis became the first Head of the Department and headed it until 1937. He taught the pharmacology course from 1922 to 1927. In 1927–1940, the lectures on pharmacology were given by Professor B. Šiaulis. He headed the Department from 1937 to 1940. Prof. J. Kairiūkštis headed the Department of Pharmacology from 1940 to 1941. In 1941–1948, the Department was headed by Assoc. Prof. V. Kairiūkštis. In 1948, Assoc. Prof.. A. Tumas headed the Department and held the position for 9 years. In 1956, Prof. A. Mickis took over the position of the Head of the Department and was the longest serving Head of the Department of Pharmacology for 36 years.