TAU gets new Academy of Finland-funded projects in biosciences, health and environmental research
The BTY Research Council granted €41 million in funding for new projects, meaning that the application success rate was 18.5%.
The aim of Academy Project funding is to attain internationally as high a scientific standard of work as possible and to support scientific breakthroughs and top-tier international research collaboration. The Academy Project funding is meant for employing a research team and for other research costs.
The funding is granted to a Finnish university or research organisation that manages the use of funding on behalf of the Academy Project.
The BTY Research Council’s most important funding criterion was the high scientific quality of research. The Research Council makes the funding decisions based on international peer review.
MiWaGen consortium: Mining of wastewater metagenomic data to identify population health and disease trends
Senior Research Fellow Sami Oikarinen (BioMediTech) explores total metagenome from wastewater treatment plants, which are a trusted source of community-level population health data.
Wastewater-based epidemiology is a new epidemiological tool that can provide a complementary approach to the current surveillance of infectious diseases, which can be used to observe changes on the population level. The rapid development of new generation sequencing technologies has decreased the costs of sequencing, supporting projects where all genetic material in a sample is researched (metagenomes).
The project will evaluate the correlation between the health records in a locality and the corresponding wastewater metagenomic signatures. The project aims to identify disease risk indicators using bioinformatics and data science, such as machine learning.
Furthermore, the research will produce a cost-effective community-level alternative to generating health information for infection epidemiology and population health research.
Oikarinen directs the MIWaGen consortium in which the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare is also involved.
Do trade and investment agreements protect public health and universal health coverage?
Professor Meri Koivusalo’s (SOC) project analyses how health has been noted in the EU’s trade and investment agreements.
Finland and the European Union (EU) are committed to developing an Economy of Wellbeing and ensuring high levels of health protection in all arenas. However, progress has been limited especially in trade-related negotiations and areas where commercial interests are at stake.
The project will examine the processes and practices of health impact assessment in trade agreements as well as the scope and limits of gender, labour and sustainability chapters when addressing health.
The project will use data from trade-related documents, interviews, and dialogue workshops.
The research will also analyse potential alternatives utilising post-pandemic negotiations on pandemic preparedness and equitable access to vaccines. Applying bioethics principles and frameworks, the project will seek to develop new tools to explicate and better balance conflicts between health and trade priorities.
The effect of cellular interactions on human white adipose tissue browning
The Academy Project of Susanna Miettinen, professor of cellular and tissue engineering at BioMediTech, uses cells differentiated from human stem cells to model human adipose tissue.
The global obesity epidemic and associated diseases have triggered an urgent need to understand the functions of human adipose tissue. The fat deposits of mammals are composed of varying amounts of white and brown adipose tissue. White adipose tissue stores energy and brown burns fatty acids to maintain body temperature. The browning of white adipose tissue might be a strategy for tackling obesity, but more information is needed on its regulatory mechanisms in humans.
The aim of the project is to study how cellular interaction in white adipose tissue could modulate white adipose tissue browning by using human cell-based cell culture systems.
CElMi Consortium: Cells as electromechanical micromachines: mechanical and ionic orchestration of multicellular systems
Senior Research Fellow Teemu Ihalainen (MET) leads the CElMi consortium that is developing microscopic cell manipulation and measurement methods.
The epithelium is a multifunctional tissue that lines the organs and cavities of our body. Its aberrant behaviour is connected to severe disorders extending from blinding eye diseases to gastrointestinal disorders and cancer. These diseases involve changes in the cells’ mechanical and electrical processes which regulate the normal functions of these multicellular assemblies.
However, the electromechanical regulation of epithelial cell functions is poorly understood and one reason for this has been the lack of proper methodologies. The Academy Project will develop multi-modal microscopic cell manipulation and measurement methods, which will be used to study the role of cellular electromechanics in epithelial functions and two epithelium-related eye diseases. Age related macular degradation and retinitis pigmentosa are used as examples of eye diseases.
Both diseases cause a substantial societal and economic burden as their prevalence is high and efficient cures are lacking.
A subproject led by Senior Research Fellow Soile Nymark (MET) is a partner in the consortium.
In addition to the Academy Projects granted to Tampere University. Professor of Clinical Chemistry Terho Lehtimäki (MET) received Academy Project funding for a study that will be carried out by Tampere University Hospital.
Lehtimäki’s project is titled Lifelong and transgenerational epigenetic profiles in relation to the development of cardiometabolic diseases.
Epigenetic changes are reversible, respond to environmental stimuli, affect gene expression and lead to phenotype variability. The project aims to increase the understanding of the mediating capacity of epigenetic changes and epigenetic stress on the risk of long-standing accumulating cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes.
The Academy Project will use the over 40-year-long follow-up data from the Young Finns Study to investigate the stability, dynamics and heritability of DNA methylation and miRNA expression.
The project will also analyse the connections between the classical risk factors of cardiovascular diseases and these epigenetic profiles. In addition, the project aims to research the intra- and intergenerational inheritance of these epigenetic profiles and whether they convey the risk of cardiovascular diseases to the next generation.