Laboratory of Mitochondrial Medicine



Neurodegenerative diseases (Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s etc.) represent an increasing threat to public health in addition to their assault upon the lives of patients and their families. In most cases, the pathogenesis of these diseases has remained obscure and treatment strategies inadequate. However, recent lines of evidence suggest strong mitochondrial involvement in these diseases – defects in mitochondrial autophagy, dynamics or/and biogenesis have now been recognized as clearly associated with the pathogenesis of these diseases. We would like to further study some of these links and to determine whether these pathways could be used activate neuronal repair mechanisms. Thus, we expect that we will contribute to the common goal of uncovering the neurobiological basis of neurodegenerative diseases and may help to uncover, in the longer run, new treatments for with neurodegenerative diseases.


Specific research topics

  • Mitochondrial dysfunction in axonal damage
  • Mitochondria in pathophysiology of Wolfram Syndrome
  • The role of Keap1 in mitophagy



  • Professor Allen Kaasik 
  • Associate Professor Annika Vaarmann
  • Associate Professor Džamilja Safiulina
  • Associate Professor Vinay Choubey 
  • Lecturer/Research Fellow Malle Kuum
  • Specialist Akbar Zeb 
  • PhD student Nana Gogichaisvili 
  • PhD student Ruby Gupta 
  • PhD student/Specialist Liisa Tammsaar



  • Safiulina D, Kuum M, Choubey V, Hickey MA, Kaasik A. Mitochondrial transport proteins RHOT1 and RHOT2 serve as docking sites for PRKN-mediated mitophagy. Autophagy. 2019 May;15(5):930-931.
  • Safiulina D, Kuum M, Choubey V, Gogichaishvili N, Liiv J, Hickey MA, Cagalinec M, Mandel M, Zeb A, Liiv M, Kaasik A. Miro proteins prime mitochondria for Parkin translocation and mitophagy. EMBO J. 2019 Jan 15;38(2). pii: e99384.
  • Kaasik A. Mitochondrial Mobility and Neuronal Recovery. N Engl J Med. 2016 Sep 29;375(13):1295-6.
  • Cagalinec M, Liiv M, Hodurova Z, Hickey MA, Vaarmann A, Mandel M, Zeb A, Choubey V, Kuum M, Safiulina D, Vasar E, Veksler V, Kaasik A. Role of Mitochondrial Dynamics in Neuronal Development: Mechanism for Wolfram Syndrome. PLoS Biol. 2016 Jul 19;14(7):e1002511.
  • Vaarmann A, Mandel M, Zeb A, Wareski P, Liiv J, Kuum M, Antsov E, Liiv M, Cagalinec M, Choubey V, Kaasik A. Mitochondrial biogenesis is required for axonal growth. Development. 2016 Jun 1;143(11):1981-92.

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