Mateusz Manicki: Collaboration breeds scientific opportunity

In order to understand the biochemical underpinnings of disease, it is imperative to shrink down to the molecular level.

It’s this mentality that steered Mateusz Manicki all the way from Poland’s Gdansk University to Madison, Wisconsin to study mitochondrial proteins. Manicki will be using mass spectrometry resources to better understand the functionality of cells contributing to a given disease.

What brought him to the Morgridge Institute for Research in particular? “Scientific opportunity to study the mitochondria,” says Manicki.

As a current Morgridge Institute postdoctoral fellow, Manicki plays a pivotal role within the joint venture between the Morgridge Institute and the UW–Madison campus. Manicki works hand in hand with mentors Dave Pagliarini, director of the Morgridge Institute Metabolism theme, and Joshua Coon, a UW–Madison researcher focusing on mass spectrometry, to understand how mitochondria work.

The Pagliarini lab works to elucidate the function of still uncharacterized proteins in the mitochondria, and mass spectrometry tools are essential instruments in facilitating answers to these questions. In collaboration, these labs strive to uncover the many unknowns of these proteins, and in doing so, have a better understanding of mitochondrial roles in various diseases.

Manicki is fascinated by mitochondria and their involvement in diseases such as inborn metabolic errors, neurodegenerative disorders, diabetes, cancer and more. These organelles are best known for their involvement in the energy production, but they also play a crucial role in other processes like programmed cell death, lipids biosynthesis, enzyme cofactors production and more. Many aspects of these processes are still poorly understood, therefore good characterization of mitochondrial proteins is required to fill the gaps in our knowledge and to potentially also discover new functions of the mitochondria.

With more than 1,000 proteins types inside of the mitochondria and around 200 of these proteins uncategorized, much is still unknown. These proteins represent untapped resources and, through exceptional scientific collaboration in an unprecedented facility, Manicki hopes to find answers to the multitude of questions.

“I came here for great scientific collaboration. And to discover great things about underpinnings of mitochondria biology,” says Manicki.

He finds collaboration to be the crux of all great modern research. The unique opportunity to collaborate as a postdoc fellow in the Pagliarini and Coon labs houses invaluable potential to explore uncharted territory and Manicki is very excited to be involved.

“Our goal is extremely complicated, and it cannot be found by one person,” Manicki says. “It is quite extraordinary and outstanding that Pagliarini and Coon have such great collaboration, this combination of great biological and analytical skills is very fruitful and already led to exciting discoveries like identification of new proteins involved in mitochondrial biosynthesis of coenzyme Q, an essential lipid which deficiency is a hallmark of many diseases.”

Manicki ultimately hopes to understand mitochondria one day and establish his own research group to study their involvement in health disorders. He says the Morgridge Institute will serve as a large stepping stone in improving his scientific leadership skills and in addressing problems in multidisciplinary research endeavors.