Discovery of the Year award for research on blood pressure regulation

Biocenter Oulu has again awarded the best research discovery of the year. This year's Discovery of the Year award was given to a study on blood pressure regulation. The award was received by Doctoral Researcher, B.M. Roosa Rahunen from the Internal Medicine Research Group.
Doctoral Researcher, B.M. Roosa Rahunen
The Discovery of the Year 2022 award was received by Doctoral Researcher, B.M. Roosa Rahunen from the Internal Medicine Research Group (photo: Kulmakuvaamo).

Hypertension is the most important risk factor reducing healthy life years worldwide, as it increases the likelihood of many adverse cardiovascular events such as strokes and heart attacks.

Rahunen was first author on the paper, which was published in the high-profile Journal of the American Heart Association in March. Researchers showed how the nuclear receptor pregnane X (PXR), which senses the chemical environment of cells, raises blood pressure in both humans and rats when activated. PXR activation regulates the production of 4beta-hydroxycholesterol (4bHC) in the liver, and increased levels of 4bHC are linked with lower blood pressure. This is a previously unknown pathway involved in the regulation of blood pressure.

The discovery increases our understanding on the regulation of blood pressure, particularly overweight and obesity-induced hypertension. The study found that people with the lowest blood pressure had the highest levels of 4bHC. People with overweight and obesity, on the other hand, had much lower 4bHC levels than normal weight people. The finding may open up opportunities for the development of new antihypertensive drugs with a new mode of action, particularly targeted at people with overweight and obesity.

Discovery of the Year awards, especially for young researchers

Discovery of the Year awards have been presented at Biocenter Oulu since 1997. The annual Discovery event aims to raise awareness of the high quality science and research carried out by Biocenter's research groups. In particular, it is considered important to highlight young researchers. The main author of the winning publication will be awarded a certificate of honour and a small cash prize, and a number of other good publications and their authors will also be highlighted.

The Biocenter team leaders can submit proposals for the award-winning studies, but the actual evaluation and selection proposal will always be made by an external expert on request.

"The criteria for awarding the best research have been the same since the beginning. They focus on the high scientific quality of the discovery, the significance of the result and the originality of the approach. The research must have been carried out by a Biocenter Oulu research group and it must also be relevant for future research at Biocenter Oulu", says Pirkko Huhtala, coordinator of Biocenter Oulu.

"It was a great honour to receive the 2022 Discovery of the Year award. For a young researcher at the beginning of her career, such recognition means a lot. Receiving the award gives me more confidence, which I hope will bear fruit in research for a long time to come", says Roosa Rahunen.

The award-winning study is the 26th Discovery of the Year and received wide publicity both in Finland and abroad last spring when the University of Oulu announced it to the media.

Read more: Discovery by the University of Oulu’s research group of a new mechanism that regulates blood pressure

Discovery of the Year 2022 -research publication: Roosa Rahunen, Outi Kummu, Vesa Koivukangas, Heidi Hautajärvi, Jukka Hakkola, Jaana Rysä and Janne Hukkanen. Pregnane X Receptor‒4β‐Hydroxycholesterol Axis in the Regulation of Overweight‐ and Obesity‐Induced Hypertension. Journal of the American Heart Association. 2022;0:e023492.

Last updated: 13.12.2022