Entered into scientific literature during his student years

Tanyeri Barak, graduating from Istanbul University’s Faculty of Medicine on November, was featured in the world’s highly esteemed scientific journals through his works during his student years.

(Reporter: Elif Zebitay, “Entered into scientific literature during his student years”, Istanbul Unıversıty Science Culture And Arts Magazine, Issue: 8, Istanbul University Press and Public Relations Department, Year: 2012, p: 34-37)

Tanyeri Barak, graduating from Istanbul University’s Faculty of Medicine on Novem­ber, was featured in the world’s highly esteemed scientific journals through his works during his student years.

Tanyeri Barak, born in Istanbul in 1986, graduated from Istanbul University’s Faculty of Medicine on November, 2011. Making an impression thanks to his scientific works he made during his student years, Tanyeri Barak has been working in the team of Professor Murat Günel, Head of the Neurovascular Program at Yale University, for five years. Barak, partici­pating in gene researches conducted under the co­ordination of Professor Günel, has been featured in the world’s highly esteemed scientific journals.

An article related to the LAMC3 gene, which was discovered as a result of Barak’s works at th Neurovascular Program of Yale University where he worked under scholarship for one year, was published in Nature Genetics. The article, which was primarily contributed by Tanyeri Barak, explains the development of LAMC3 gene, the occipital lobe responsible for visual pro­cessing of the brain. Barak also was a member of the team discovering the WDR62 and NDE1 genes.

We made an interview with Tanyeri Barak, who is now preparing for exams to specialize in neurosurgery in the USA.

What did you do to make the best of your university years?

Since the 2nd grade, I prefer attending surgical operations at the Department of Neu­rosurgery. By spending my time there, I met many people who shaped my future. Professor Talat Kiriş was among the most important ones. Thanks to Professor Kiriş, I met Professor Mu­rat Günel, who accepted me in his own labora­tory under scholarship and with whom I work for five years. Also, Dr. Kaya Bilguvar and Dr. Yavuz Aras, with whom I met during this pe­riod, have made big contributions to my personal and academic development.

How did you start to working in Professor Murat Günel’s team?

During the days after I graduated from high-school, I read an interview of Professor Murat Günel in a newspaper, Head of the Neurovas­cular Program at Yale University. From that interview, I learnt that he had graduated from the IU’s Faculty of Medicine, and that was a big factor for me to prefer Faculty of Medicine of Istanbul University for my undergraduate education.

Meeting him after such preference and then being a part of his team were an interesting coincidence. The team led by Professor Murat Günel was conducting researches on the genetic of vascular bubbles (aneurysm) that occur in veins and result in death if they explode, and on genetic disorders causing structural brain diseases with mental infirmity and epileptic attacks.

After I met Professor Murat Günel through my lecturers, I started to work at his laboratory in Yale University during summer holidays. I was coming back to Turkey when the faculty was opened in winter and kept on working for the Turkey side of project. After two years had passed as such, I received an offer from Profes­sor Günel and I suspended my study at Istanbul University, and then about one year, I worked in his neurogenetic laboratory at Yale Uni­versity under scholarship. In this one year, the team firstly discovered a gene named WDR62, thanks to the vision of Professor Günel. This research was published in Nature, which is con­sidered as the world’s highly esteemed scientific journal. Then, the Science journal ranked this discovered among the top 10 most important scientific discoveries of that year.

Afterwards, as a result of a research for which I was assigned as responsible by Professor Günel under the supervision of Professor Kaya Bilgu­var, we discovered two more genes. The first one was the gene named NDE1. We discovered a genetic disorder causing extreme microcephalia in a child as a result of consanguineous marriage. In the NDE1 project, we worked with my friend Mehmet Bakırcıoğlu, who got the same schol­arship as me. That was a joint project of Yale, Harvard and Cambridge Universities. Then, it was published in American Journal of Human Genetics, one of the most important journals in the area of genetics.

I embrace Bertrand Russell’s saying, “Being able to fill leisure intelligently is the best product of civilization.” A “free-time” that we are free how to fill it in. Our professors tells us about the past, when it was difficult to reach the knowledge. The problem in this era is to choose which information is useful in such overload due to the internet.

Then, we discovered the gene named LAMC3. We revealed that this gene, which plays a role on cells in the process of recognizing each other and sticking together, is highly important in the development of occipital lobe responsible for visual processing of the brain. Brains of health people have grooves and ridges named sulcus and gyrus that increase the surface area of brain. Again we observed that in mutations (change of genetic codes) as a result of consanguineous marriage, such grooves and ridges on occipital lobe of brain get lost and this area becomes flat. LAMC3 is the first gene revealed as responsible for the development of only one part of brain. We also observed that many animals which are genetically similar to human beings have this gene on their vein walls contrary to the case in human brain, and this gene does not have any role on such animals in the development of brain. However, in human brain, the expression (production of protein) of this gene maximizes especially on the visual center of brain, which is called as occipital lobe, and on synaptogenesis where nerve cells communicate with each other, and accordingly, causes the formation of grooves and ridges called as sulcus and gyrus. That was published in Nature Genetics, the most esteemed journal on genetics.

The most important reason for such structural mental infirmities is consanguineous marriages. Unfortunately, in Turkey, overall rate of con­sanguineous marriages is 23%. In some parts of Southeastern Anatolia, it’s 48%. In Istanbul, it’s 15%. Such ratios show the importance of our works in the neurogenetic program, in terms of preventive medicine and public health.

How will the developments in medicine function in practice?

With these developments in molecular biology, many diseases unexplainable in the past are now explained with their mechanisms in molecular terms. More effective treatment methods are developed as the medical world has started to un­derstand the mechanism of diseases.

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