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Professor Dr Vladimir N. Parfenov (1945-2012)


On 29 March 2012, Prof Dr Vladimir Parfenov died in St. Petersburg, Russia at the age of 66, after a short bout with cancer. Parfenov was Director of the Institute of Cytology of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS) and a corresponding member of the academy. Friends, colleagues and students have lost an extraordinary personality and untiring researcher in cell biology. He was well known in Russia and throughout the world for his research on the functional compartmentalization of the cell nucleus in oocytes of both invertebrate and vertebrate organisms, including humans.

Parfenov was born on the 26th October 1945 in the Khabarovsk Region of Siberia. His father was an army officer and his mother a medical practitioner. In 1963, young Vladimir entered the Leningrad State University, but a year later he was conscripted into the Soviet Army to serve until 1967 in the missile forces near Archangelsk. After his return from the army to the University, he continued his education in the Department of Embryology, focusing his research on oogenesis in seals and finally earning his diploma in Biology.

In 1974, he became a post-graduate student at the Institute of Cytology, affiliated with the USSR Academy of Sciences. All the remaining years of his life were connected with this Institute, where he concentrated his scientific interests on the structure and function of the cell nucleus. In 1975, he was granted the candidate degree (Ph.D.) based on his thesis "Nuclear structures in late oogenesis of frogs". His doctoral thesis (D.Sc.) in 1995 dealt with transformations of nuclear structures during oogenesis in some vertebrates and the problem of karyosphere capsule morphogenesis.

In 1984, Parfenov was appointed Vice-Director of the Institute of Cytology RAS, becoming the Director in 2004. In 1988, he had become Head of the Laboratory of Cell Morphology after the death of Professor Dr Pavel P Rumyantsev, a corresponding member of the USSR Academy of Sciences and a world-renowned specialist in myocardial regeneration and cardiomyocyte proliferation. Parfenov encouraged members of the Institute to study the functional organization of nuclear structures, while maintaining diverse research interests in his own laboratory. He was supervisor of many research projects at the Institute of Cytology. Under his leadership, research based on new cellular technologies in the field of regenerative medicine was successfully developed at the Institute. In December 2011, he was elected a Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Parfenov was recognized in many ways, including election to the Presidium of the St Petersburg Scientific Centre RAS and the American Society for Cell Biology. He served as Chairman of the Scientific Council at the Institute of Cytology RAS, vice-president of the Russian Society for Cell Biology, and as an active member of the Special Scientific Councils that award doctoral degrees at the Institute of Cytology and St Petersburg State University. He was a member of the Editorial Boards of several international and Russian scientific journals, including Cell Biology International, Cell Research, Tsitologiya, and Journal of Evolutionary Biochemistry and Physiology.

Parfenov gave his research students and younger colleagues a great deal of freedom, encouraging them to follow their own inclinations rather than telling them what to do. He never dominated or criticized people, but always tried to encourage and help them. He was a gracious person and a deeply caring family man. His friends recognized his liking for Russian romances, and his interest in poetry and historical books.

Vladimir Parfenov is survived by his wife, Professor Dr Helena Parfenova, and his son, Dr Fedor Parfenov. Those who knew him personally will remember him as an open-minded and sociable individual. His passing is a huge loss for his family, his dear friends, and his colleagues in the wider cell biology community. Vladimirís memory will long remain in our hearts - a big and good man has died.

Joseph G. Gall (Carnegie Institution, Department of Embryology, Baltimore, MD 21218, U.S.A.), Ivan Raška (Institute of Cellular Biology and Pathology, First Faculty of Medicine, Charles University in Prague, 128 01 Prague, Czech Republic), Nikolay N. Nikolsky, Sergei O. Skarlato and Dmitry S. Bogolyubov (Institute of Cytology, Russian Academy of Sciences, St. Petersburg, 194064 Russia).


ISSN Print: 1065-6995
ISSN Electronic: 1095-8355
Published by Portland Press Limited on behalf of the International Federation for Cell Biology (IFCB)