Finalist of the category: Exceptional young scientist in Slovakia under the age of 35

Tatiana Sedláčková

Massive parallel DNA sequencing

„It's fascinating to be able to read every single letter from the three billion human genome.“

Mgr. Tatiana Sedlackova, PhD. works at the Comenius University Science Park in Bratislava. She and his team focus on the use of massive parallel sequencing, the process of determining the exact order of nucleotides in a DNA molecule, in the search for genetic markers of various cancers. She deals with the potential use of circulating tumour DNA (ctDNA) as a molecular marker in the diagnosis and monitoring of cancer.

Tatiana Sedláčková currently mainly focuses on endometrial cancer (cancer of the inner lining of the uterus), prostate cancer and colorectal cancer. "We focus on the sensitive detection of small subchromosomal structural variations, that are in the case of cancers, and in various types and at different stages, present in at least a portion of patients’ blood plasma. We can easily get this by venous blood collection, which is a very big advantage compared to demanding, painful and risky biopsies, the essence of which is tissue removal."

It is very likely that this method could be used as an early diagnosis of patients in the future. It could also be used for long-term monitoring of patients and improvement of their treatment, not only because it represents a non-invasive alternative, significantly less troublesome for the patient and the healthcare facility in sampling, but also because it can help better characterize the current course of cancer. Tatiana Sedláčková is also involved in the large international project Pangia, which aims to improve the algorithms that make up the computing infrastructure for genome analysis. This initiative should lead to a significant improvement in the speed and accuracy of DNA analyses. The essence of this project is to establish international cooperation between universities and workplaces from around the world.

As a scientist, she was inspired mainly by her dissertation mentor RNDr. Gabriel Minárik, PhD., and later the head of the Laboratory of Genomics and Bioinformatics, at Charles University Dr.rer.nat. Tomas Szemes, PhD. "Years ago, they came up with the first idea to determine a baby’s gender from the mother's blood during pregnancy, which resulted in a successful non-invasive test for prenatal screening for fetal chromosomal abnormalities. Both have always been inspiring to me - they had innovative ideas that they were able to turn into reality with their diligence and conscientiousness, and they built a workplace with the most modern technologies, where I had the opportunity to work. They showed me that even in Slovakia it is possible to do science at a truly world-class level, for which I am very grateful."

In addition to her research, Tatiana Sedláčková is fully dedicated to her 4-year-old daughter. "It's challenging, but I manage. Every now and then, when I take her to work, I notice that she enjoys the laboratory environment very much. Maybe she’ll be inspired by it one day."