Thursday, May 17, 2018

Lea Sistonen elected as new EMBO member


Lea Sistonen, who is Professor of Cellular and Molecular Biology at Åbo Akademi University and an Affiliated Group Leader at Centre for Biotechnology, has been elected as a new member of the prestigious life science organization EMBO (European Molecular Biology Organization). As defined by the organization, election to EMBO Membership is recognition of research excellence and the outstanding achievements made by a life scientist.

She joins the other two previously elected EMBO members from Turku, Professors Sirpa Jalkanen and Johanna Ivaska.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

International Collaboration between U.S. and Finnish Researchers Identifies New Approach for Treating Neuropathic Pain


Neuropathic pain is the chronic, pathological pain that continues even when the cause of pain is removed. Causes include damage to nerve cells and medicines used to treat cancer. A collaboration between research groups from Indiana University in Bloomington, USA and Turku Centre for Biotechnology in Finland has discovered an experimental molecule that appears to interrupt the signaling cascades in the body required for multiple forms of neuropathic pain.

The adaptor protein NOS1AP in a microscopic image.

​Neuropathic pain is extremely common, affecting up to 5-10% of the population globally, and no cures or effective treatments are currently available. Moreover, chemotherapy-induced pain can be so extreme that it causes some patients with cancer to discontinue treatment and greatly impairs quality of life in survivors.

Prior to this study, researchers were aware that pathological pain is triggered by a biological pathway that is activated by binding of the excitatory transmitter glutamate to receptors called NMDARs. This process then triggers activation of an enzyme neuronal nitric oxide synthase (nNOS) that generates nitric oxide gas that plays a role in aberrant pain sensation. However, experimental drugs designed to block either the NMDAR receptor or the nNOS enzyme can cause intolerable side effects, such as memory impairment and motor dysfunction.

Now, researchers from Indiana University in Bloomington, USA and the Turku Centre for Biotechnology in Finland have demonstrated that an experimental molecule reduces neuropathic pain in rodents resulting from either nerve damage or a common chemotherapy drug.

The team in Finland was able to design the molecule after discovering that a protein, NOS1AP, that is downstream of nNOS, triggers several biological pathways that are associated with abnormal glutamate signaling, including neuropathic pain.

The Indiana University group demonstrated that an experimental molecule designed by the Turku group to prevent nNOS signalling to NOS1AP reduced two forms of neuropathic pain in rodents. These forms of pain develop as result of either chemotherapeutic agent paclitaxel or nerve damage.

The treatment also disrupted markers of nociceptive signaling in the spinal cord when the test drug was injected at that site into mice. Importantly, the NOS1AP inhibitor did not cause typical motor side effects observed with previous experimental molecules that directly target NMDARs.

– Importantly, the chemical that prevents this signalling did not cause the negative side effects observed in previous experiments. Our studies suggest that the nNOS-NOS1AP interaction site is a previously unrecognized target for pain therapies”, says Professor Andrea Hohmann from the Indiana University in Bloomington.

The results suggest that the protein NOS1AP might be a valuable novel target in the development of more effective medicines to treat neuropathic pain.

– NOS1AP should be studied in more detail to find the best way to prevent this protein from contributing to chronic pain, said Senior Researcher Michael Courtney from the University of Turku.

This research is funded by the National Institutes of Health’s National Cancer Institute ( held jointly by Andrea Hohmann at Indiana University and Michael Courtney in Turku.

This study appears in the journal Pain

Monday, March 19, 2018

Mass cytometry kick-off


Mass cytometry kick-off (link)


Andrius Serva, PhD, Field Application Specialist, Europe, Fluidigm
Discovery and Functional Profiling with Mass Cytometry
High order multiplexing of biological samples – from suspension to tissue

 Zhi Chen, PhD, Turku Centre for Biotechnology
Helios Mass Cytometry in Turku

Organized by: Turku Centre for Biotechnology; Fluidigm; AH Diagnostic


As part of the newly established Biocenter Finland Single-cell omics platform, Mass cytometry has been installed at the Turku Centre for Biotechnology. The workshop is to introduce this new technology and how it can be used in your study. This seminar will give you an introduction to mass cytometry, including a tech overview, applications, workflow and reagents, and the Hyperion Imaging System. Additionally, you will get a data presentation description of the technology service in Turku.

Participation is free of charge – no sign-up required. Refreshments will be served.
Welcome everyone!

Further information behind this link

Start: Thursday, March 22, 2018 at 10:00

End: Thursday, March 22, 2018 at 11:30

Location: Turku Centre for Biotechnology, 5th floor seminar room, BioCity B-staircase, Tykistökatu 6, Turku

Thursday, February 22, 2018

A New Immune System Regulator Discovered by TCB Research Group


Academy Professor Riitta Lahesmaa’s research group from Turku Centre for Biotechnology of the University of Turku and Åbo Akademi University, Finland, has discovered a new regulator of the immune system, a key factor that controls development of regulatory T cells. The discovery provides basis for new strategies for the treatment of both cancer and immune-mediated diseases.

Regulatory T cells are critical in controllers of the immune response. The majority of T cells boost the immune response enhancing the ability to destroy cancer cells, viruses and bacteria. In contrast, regulatory T cells may suppress the immune system’s ability to attack cancer cells, allowing cancer to grow and spread. In these instances, inhibiting or braking the regulatory T cell activity would be needed.

The group discovered that a protein called ‘Hypermethylated In Cancer 1’, or HIC1, serves as the key regulator of regulatory T cells controlling the expression of a large set of genes contributing to T cell function. In addition, with genome-wide methods they showed that HIC1 binds to genomic sites that often contain genetic variations associated with immune-mediated diseases. The results provide new insights into molecular mechanisms that regulate T cell function and immune response in general.

The study was published in the journal Cell Reports on 20 February 2018.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Academy Professor Riitta Lahesmaa was awarded with the title of Knight, First Class, of the Order of the White Rose of Finland


Academy Professor Riitta Lahesmaa was awarded with the title of Knight, First Class, of the Order of the White Rose of Finland by the President of the Republic of Finland Sauli Niinistö on the 100th Independence Day of Finland on 6 December 2017.

The Order of the White Rose of Finland is one of the three official orders in Finland, along with the Order of the Cross of Liberty, and the Order of the Lion of Finland. The President of Finland is the Grand Master of all three orders. The honour can be granted for military and civilian merit.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Laura Elo, Riitta Lahesmaa and Tapio Lönnberg receive Health from Science (TERVA) Academy Programme Funding


Starting in 2018, the Academy of Finland TERVA programme will be built around consortia that seek bold, new research initiatives to solve major public health problems in Finland. The Health from Science Academy Programme includes  seven research consortia.

Laura Elo and Riitta Lahesmaa received total of 619 614 EUR funding for 2018-2020. In total Heal-Art consortium received worth 1.5 MEUR of funding. Heal-Art consortium will study the disease mechanisms underlying Rheumatoid Arthritis with the aim of enabling more individualized treatment in the future.

Tapio Lönnberg received 139 392 EUR funding for 2018-2020 at MAP-CAD consortium. The consortium will combine state-of-the-art imaging, genomics and multiscale analysis approaches to develop tools to trace macrophage phenotypes, which could be highly valuable for disease prediction.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Johanna Ivaska receives the A.I. Virtanen Prize 2017


The A.I. Virtanen Prize of 2017 has been awarded to the Academy Professor Johanna Ivaska. The prize committee states that the prize is awarded in recognition of her groundbreaking work to to elucidate the mechanisms underlying cell adhesion and cell migration.

Ivaska has received funding from the prestigious European Research Council (ERC) three times. In addition to the Academy Professorship, she has a professorship in molecular cell biology at the University of Turku. She has supervised 13 doctoral theses and received several national and international awards. Ivaska has a number of national and international positions of trust.

More information in Finnish at

Friday, October 6, 2017

The Gadd Research Prize 2017 to Prof. John Eriksson


Prof. John Eriksson was awarded the Gadd Prize 2017 for successful research activities. The prize was bestowed by the Chancellor of Åbo Akademi University, Ulrika Wolf-Knuts, based on specific criteria, such as the supervision of doctoral students, number of own publications, success in raising external funding for research, and special achievements for the benefit of the researcher community. The prize sum of 20,000 euro will be allocated to the research group of the prize winner.

The Gadd Prize 2017 went to John Eriksson, Director of Turku Centre for Biotechnology and Professor of Cell Biology at the Faculty of Science and Engineering. The research of John Eriksson focuses on the interactions between cytoskeletal molecules and cell signal processing and how this interaction, in turn, governs and senses cell shape, movements, and interactions with the cellular surroundings. The research requires advanced microscopy and, consequently, Eriksson has worked actively to get world class bioimaging instrumentation to Turku. This instrumentation is at the Cell Imaging Core ( of Turku Centre for Biotechnology, which is also hosting the Finnish service centre ( of the pan-European imaging organization Euro-Bioimaging (

The prize is named after Pehr Adrian Gadd (1727–1797), the first Professor in Chemistry at the Royal Academy in Åbo (Turku). His idea was that everyone should learn chemistry, and a chemist should explore nature in order to find answers to his questions. In accordance with the ideals of what is known as the ‘Age of Utility’, he thought that science served the purpose of being useful, just as is thought today. Therefore, he viewed science from a local perspective and was interested in what could be cultivated, refined, and sold in Finland.

The Gadd prize 2017 was given along with another research prize, the Kristina Prize 2017, which was awarded to Prof. Ria Heilä-Ylikallio. These prizes were nominated by a committee comprised of the Chancellor and four professors, one for each Faculty.

For more details, see:

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Academy of Finland awarded Tapio Lönnberg (Finnish Functional Genomics Centre) with Academy Postdoctoral Fellow funding 280 000 € for 2017-2020


Academy of Finland awarded Tapio Lönnberg (Finnish Functional Genomics Centre) with Academy Postdoctoral Fellow funding 280 000 € for 2017-2020


Single-cell Atlas of human follicular T helper cells in Health and Disease

Generation of protective antibodies results from collaboration of two types of cells: B-cells and Follicular T helper cells (Tfh cells). Tfh cells can be further divided into several subsets, some of which are associated with autoimmune disorders. However, the full extent and functional implications of this subset diversity remain incompletely understood. To date, Tfh cells have been difficult to study in human due to their diversity and localization in lymph nodes.

We are exploiting novel methods enabling the determination of functional states of single cells by measuring gene expression. This allows us to target those rare Tfh cells, which have migrated from lymph nodes to peripheral blood, and are therefore accessible to sampling. By comparing cells from healthy volunteers and Rheumatoid Arthritis patients, we aim to identify disease-associated subsets of cells, providing new targets for therapeutic interventions.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Academy of Finland awarded Guillaume Jacquemet (Ivaska lab) with Academy Postdoctoral Fellow funding 259 054 € for 2017-2020


Academy of Finland awarded Guillaume Jacquemet (Ivaska lab) with Academy Postdoctoral Fellow funding 259 054 € for 2017-2020

Myo10 filopodia and cancer metastasis
The formation of metastases is responsible for 90% of deaths in patients with solid tumours. Consequently, there is a pressing need to develop therapeutic strategies that block the ability of cancer cell to disseminate throughout the body. We and others have made an intriguing discovery that cancer metastasis is associated with the development of specialized cellular protrusions called filopodia. In migrating cells, filopodia are “antenna-like” protrusions, which contain cell-surface adhesion receptors, such as integrins, responsible for constantly probing the cellular environment. At filopodia, integrins modulate signalling pathways that support cell migration, survival and proliferation. Integrins are transported to filopodia via a motor protein called Myosin-X, a regulator of filopodia formation. Based on our breakthrough experiments, we discovered that myosin-X contribute to cancer cell metastases in vitro and in vivo models and that myosin-X is highly expressed in patient samples (including breast, pancreatic, colorectal, glioma and lung carcinoma) where it correlates with poor prognosis. These results clearly indicate that myosin-X is a promising novel target for anti-cancer therapies. Data I accumulated to date clearly demonstrate that myosin-X-mediated transport of integrins, together with integrin signalling in filopodia are two important prerequisites for cancer metastasis. Therefore, I aim to develop strategies to target myosin-X in cancer by 1) generating myosin-X-specific small molecule inhibitors in collaboration with the non-profit organization CD3 (University of Leuven), 2) identifying the regulatory mechanisms by which myosin-X transports integrins to filopodia and 3) assessing the role of Myo10 filopodia in in vivo dissemination of cancer cells using intravital microscopy. If sucessful, our findings will lead to the development of a drug that can inhibit Myo10 function in cancer and thus provide novel and desperately needed therapeutic strategies for treating metastatic pancreatic and breast cancer as well as other cancer forms.