Research themes

Molecular and environmental basis for lifelong health


Northern Finland population and disease cohorts – identification of factors contributing to lifelong health

Northern Finland Birth Cohorts (1966 and 1986) are world famous prospective studies with genetic, environmental and clinical data spanning over 50 years. In addition, other unique disease cohorts including relevant clinical data and biological samples have been collected from patients with various diseases. These cohorts allow exploration of the evolution of long-term morbidity from prenatal period through childhood up to middle and old age, by means of identifying high-risk groups and biological markers. The focus of the research theme is translational with the aim to explore genetic susceptibility, environmental risk factors and their potential biomarkers for primary disease prevention, early diagnosis, and for personalised medicine. Multidisciplinary nature of the university enables integration of clinical and physiological science with biomedical engineering and ICT technologies.

Cell-matrix interplay in tissue homeostasis – identification of novel targets for disease therapeutics and diagnostics

Proper microenvironment and oxygenation of cells is essential for normal growth, regeneration and function of tissues. Disturbances in the tissue microenvironment can lead to pathological processes ranging from connective tissue diseases such as musculoskeletal and skin diseases and fibrosis to malignant growth in cancer, while compromised tissue oxygenation (hypoxia) is a key phenomenon in many common diseases, including anemia, infarcts, metabolic disease and inflammation. Scientists in Oulu are international leaders in research on collagens, the most abundant component of the extracellular matrix in the tissue microenvironment and they also have a strong international status in the hypoxia research field with their studies on key regulators of the hypoxia response. The objectives are to understand how cell-matrix-hypoxia interplay and the tissue microenvironment contribute to tissue development and homeostasis, and to mechanisms leading to diseases.

Proteins and metabolites in understanding health and disease

Proteins and their interactions with metabolites form the cellular machineries and enable organisms to respond to changing environments. These machineries are essential for providing energy, catalysing enzymatic conversions, providing mechanisms for mobility, and for metabolite transportation. Our research includes in-depth studies of protein structures, protein structure-function relationships and protein networks by experimental and biocomputational approaches. In addition, use of comprehensive metabolomics profiling, metabolomics, improves the understanding of the molecular physiology and the causes of disease that underlie common metabolic disorders. This knowledge is required to understand the normal functioning of cells and organisms, and the cause and progression of diseases, and subsequently how to intervene in these processes.

New ICT and imaging solutions for health monitoring and diagnostics

University of Oulu offers a unique possibility to develop novel solutions for imaging instrumentation and image analysis, biosensor technology and delivery and exploitation of personalised health and wellbeing data. Current focus is on the development of novel imaging biomarkers and image analysis solutions for osteoarthritis and fibrosis, development of advanced light microscopy techniques with modern machine vision and computer learning based customised image analysis, and development of new methods for analysis of functional neuroimaging data. In biosensors our goal is to develop recognition technologies of genetic markers, proteins and metabolites in non-invasive samples to provide convenient biomarker detection for personal well-being applications. Research topics include smart ICT solutions and diagnostics for the future health and well-being processes. Assessment of functional digital health systems and of novel digital solutions powered by artificial intelligence and data analysis are part of the research aiming at digital service co-creation.