Academy of Finland research fellowships to Ilkka Junttila and Keijo Viiri

Submitted on Fri, 05/19/2017 - 08:20

The Research Council for Health of the Academy of Finland granted five-year research fellowships to project director Ilkka Junttila and university researcher Keijo Viiri from the University of Tampere. Twelve fellowships were granted to eighty-five applicants, i.e. to fourteen percent of the applicants.

Ilkka Junttila’s study is investigating how cytokines, especially Interleukin(IL)-4, regulates allergic inflammation. Immune response protects people against invading pathogens such as viruses, bacteria, parasites and yeasts. Inappropriately activated immune response can result in an autoimmune reaction or an allergic reaction. Humoral mediators, cytokines, are critical regulators of various immune responses. By understanding how IL-4 and its cell surface receptors function, its therapeutic utilisation, for example in autoimmune diseases to redirect immune response to less inflammatory direction, may become possible. The study will be conducted in cooperation between the University of Tampere, Tampere University Hospital, Fimlab Ltd and National Institutes of Health (United States) and it is based on Junttila’s previous studies.

Keijo Viiri’s project will study the function of epigenetically dysregulated genes in coeliac disease. The main hallmark of the coeliac disease is the defectively differentiated intestinal epithelium, which leads to food malabsorption. The project previously discovered that an epigenetic gene-silencer called the polycomb controls the intestinal homeostasis between intestinal stem cells in crypts and mature epithelium in villi. In response to gluten ingestion, consequent aberrant polycomb activity was found to cause imbalance in intestinal homeostasis. The results are anticipated to reveal novel pathogenetic mechanisms and improve the diagnosis of the early coealiac disease.

Keijo Viiri’s Intestinal Signalling and Epigenetics group

Olli Lohi and Kaisa Hartikainen granted clinical researcher posts

The Research Council for Health of the Academy of Finland also granted funding to eleven new clinical researchers for a two-year period that will start on 1 September 2017. Funding was received by twenty-nine percent of the applicants.

The funding for a clinical researcher post includes the salary costs of part-time research work and a grant for research costs. Clinical researchers work in a key position at the intersection of basic research and clinical work with patients.

Docent, Chief Physician Olli Lohi from Tampere University Hospital and the University of Tampere is working to discover novel therapies for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. The prognosis of childhood acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL) has markedly improved during the past decades. However, the chemotherapeutic treatment is lengthy and a number of patients relapse. In the funded project Lohi will tackle this issues by systematically exploring the genomic features of distinct ALL subtypes. The aim is to discover potential target genes and candidate drugs specific for ALL subtypes in order to find novel treatments especially for intermediate and high-risk leukemia patients.

Olli Lohi’s Hematology and Oncology Group

The aim of Docent, Medical Specialist Kaisa Hartikainen’s study is to identify biomarkers of cognitive flexibility and emotion-attention interaction and evaluate their applicability as indicators of brain health in different patient populations. The project seeks to provide well-founded scientific evidence that can be used in clinical assessment and personally tailored treatment and rehabilitation plans for patients whose condition impacts mental functions. Today's information society places great demands on the brain’s executive functions and cognitive flexibility. Many neurological, psychiatric and other disorders or injuries, as well as their treatments, influence these functions. Presently, cognitive deficits are mainly assessed with traditional paper and pencil or reconstructive neuropsychological tests. However, these tests lack the sensitivity to detect subtle, or even more severe, cognitive impairment in cognitive and affective control functions.

Kaisa M. Hartikainen’s Behavioral Neurology Research Unit

The funding decisions of the Academy of Finland’s Research Council for Health – Research Fellows

The funding decisions of the Academy of Finland’s Research Council for Health – Clinical researchers