Research into mitochondrial disease (mito) is a core pillar of Mito Foundation's work. Only through research will we one day find treatments and cures for mito. Find out more about our research and medical grant program.

We recently awarded two mito researchers, Dr Aye Moe and Dr Oksana Pogoryelova an Incubator Grant. This grant type supports early stage research. Often it enables researchers to show the value of their concept and apply for more funding from other sources.

Dr Moe and Dr Pogoryelova's project will take place in the UK. It will explore the usage of computerised tests in cognitive assessments of adults with mito. Their project aims to improve clinical trials. Results from their project will inform future international research.

Read our interview with Dr Pogoryelova to find out more about her work, this project and its benefit to the mito community.

Dr Oksana Pogoryelova
Dr Oksana Pogoryelova

When did you first begin your work in mito research, and what attracted you to this field?


I joined Newcastle Wellcome Centre for Mitochondrial research over two years ago. Before that I had worked in clinical and translational research in stroke and rare neuromuscular diseases, so transition to the mitochondrial field was a desirable next step in my career. Newcastle mitochondrial team is well known for its excellence in molecular and clinical research, reproductive medicine and guidelines development. I’ve joined the team to work on various aspects of translational medicine including clinical trials, outcome measures, and assessment of innovative methods in studying the complexity of mitochondrial diseases.


In the time that you’ve researched mito, what are some of your findings that will help the mito community?


Overall, the mitochondrial field is developing at a fast pace, the changes of course do not happen immediately but every year we learn more about this condition and ways to manage it. I’ve been involved in a few clinical trials and non-commercial projects. The results of one of the trials are promising and will be published soon. COVID time of course presented a unique challenge for us and slowed some of the clinical trials recruitment. However, every challenge is an opportunity to make something better and look at it from a different angle, therefore we are now working on a new concept that will help us to deliver trials in a decentralised way, in other words make participation in trials closer to patients’ homes.


Are there studies or projects that relate to your work or have inspired you?


I am very privileged to work with my talented colleagues. Some of the work conducted in Newcastle is truly groundbreaking, for instance, the mitochondrial donation which is a novel IVF procedure. I am also inspired by the projects that do not necessarily make the first line on the news, but they have an unusual angle or approach to solving a problem. These projects are very important for any rare disease.


How has Mito Foundation helped in your research journey?


Mito Foundation is helping my colleague Dr Aye Moe and I to further expand and deliver the project looking at cognitive function assessment in people with mitochondrial disease. We are looking at comparing the efficiency of several tools that are suitable for detecting mild to moderate cognitive impairment. Using these tools, we can also determine which cognitive domains are more affected and monitor the progress of cognition over time.


How have/will you engage with the mito community for this project?


Patient’s perception of our work is very important for us. We involved patients in a review of the cognitive assessment and asked for their opinion with regards to the burden or potential fatigue that these assessments may bring, we also ask for feedback on the interface and overall experience. In the ongoing pilot project, we encourage participants to leave us their feedback on the tasks they did during the study visit. The Lily Foundation (UK mitochondrial research charity) is kindly helping us to spread the word about the study and inform potential participants.


How do you expect computerised tests to improve upon existing paper-based test?


Digital assessments may have a number of advantages over the traditional paper-based ones, for example easier navigation for people with ataxia and availability of the test in multiple languages; digital tests often do not require a specialist only to administer them and can be administered by a person who is trained to do a particular test. It is expected that digital tests are more objective as there is almost no influence from an examiner and minimal if any learning effect.


How will your work affect the international mito community?


We are hoping that by doing this project we will help to facilitate a better clinical trial design; the outcomes of the study will contribute to our understanding of the cognitive function in people with mitochondrial disease and finally will help with decentralising clinical trial visits and assessments.


What else have you seen in the field of mito research that may excite the community?


I think the emerging role of mitochondrial dysfunction in many common conditions such as Alzheimer's disease or Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) leads to a high interest of the various scientific groups in studying mitochondrial biology more. I believe this may bring us to some really exciting breakthroughs in the future.