Kristīne Kitoka is a 1st year student of the doctoral study program at the Faculty of Chemistry of the University of Latvia and a recipient of the “Mikrotīkls” scholarship for doctoral students in the field of exact and medical sciences administered by the University of Latvia Foundation. The researcher's dissertation is being developed at the Latvian Institute of Organic Synthesis (OSI) in the Laboratory of Physical Organic Chemistry led by Dr. chem. Kristaps Jaudzems. 

The doctoral dissertation is devoted to the study of the structural and aggregation mechanisms of pathological tau protein and amyloid-beta peptides by NMR spectroscopy. The aim of the work is to fill the gaps in the existing knowledge about the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease (AS) at the atomic level by applying multifaceted NMR methods. The expected results of the dissertation could allow to find a potential therapeutic goal in the treatment of AS. 

In the period since the start of the scholarship, the study of tau protein dGAE (297-391) and 306-378 constructs has been started. Currently available scientific literature indicates that both constructs have been found in the brain tissues of AS patients. This indicates the involvement of these constructs in the pathogenesis of the disease. Kristīne spent the first three months of her doctoral studies in Bratislava (Slovakia) at company AXON Neuroscience, who has years of experience in AS research.  

The work that started in Bratislava is currently being continued - sample quality testing with cryoelectron microscopy and atomic force microscopy in collaboration with colleagues from CEITEC (Brno, Czech Republic). The first solid-state NMR experiments for both dGAE (297-391) and 306-378 tau constructs are planned in the coming months. Amyloid-beta peptide studies are also underway. The first attempts at 19F CEST NMR experiments are currently being made.  

The data from these experiments could allow the development of a publication manuscript on amyloid-beta peptide aggregation kinetics studies using 19F NMR in the near future. The pedagogical work of the scholarship holder is manifested in the course work of a student of the Faculty of Biology of the University of Latvia on the study of tau protein aggregation. 

The pandemy has had a significant impact on students' research lives. Kristīne should spend a lot of time abroad as part of her doctoral projects. Unfortunately, even more than a year after the pandemy has begun, there are difficulties in carrying out regular missions. Kristine hopes that this will change in the near future, and she will be able to fully engage in international knowledge transfer. 

“This scholarship serves me as an excellent source of motivation, which motivates not to concentrate on small failures and purposefully move towards the main goals, "says the scholarship holder. As for University of Latvia Foundation - Kristine wishes to keep polishing diamonds so they become brilliants.