Bone and Stem Cell Biology Research Group

Stem cells are the body's main facilitator in the development and the growth and regeneration and maintenance of adult tissues. Stem cells are deeply involved in the inflammatory process and enable the regulation of any tissue repair after injury.
Our stem cell research group examines the mesenchymal stem cells isolated from various adult tissues or cord blood. We investigate cell activity under normal circumstances, rheumatoid arthritis, organ repair and cancer. Stem cells are collected in Oulu University Hospital patients who have given their consent to the study. We do not do research on embryonic stem cells.

Research group information

Contact information

Research group leader

  • Professor
    Petri Lehenkari

Research group description

The stem cell research group uses translational approaches to provide basic knowledge of the cellular prosesses behind inflammation and healing. We use mesenchymal stem cells isolated from various adult tissues or cord blood. We investigate cell activity under normal circumstances in addition to special focus on rheumatoid arthritis, tobacco adverse effects and adverse effects of metal implants.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a destructive, progressive autoimmune disease affecting about 1 % of the population in Finland. The onset of the disease is possible at any age and two out of 3 affected are female. RA causes local and systemic symptoms in the patients’ body, including pain, stiffness and inflammation of synovial joints, that leads to erosions of bone and cartilage if untreated. RA is a multifactorial process involving cells of the immune system as well as stromal cells and somatic stem cells that are responsible for the repair and maintenance of the integrity of tissues. The cascade leading to initiation of RA inflammatory process has remained unclear. One of the factors complicating understanding RA process initiation is the fact that RA autoantibodies attacking host tissues (rheumatoid factor; RF and antibodies binding to citrullinated proteins; ACPA), may develop years before the clinical disease onset. This suggests that the disease development starts with subclinical processes that have not been identified yet. ACPA are connected to more severe course of disease, but the exact role of these antibodies in disease development is unknown. Smoking is an acknowledged predisposing factor for RA and ACPA antibodies.

In Finland smoking causes yearly approximately 5000 deaths and 277 million euros worth of direct health care costs to the society. In 2018, 14 % of the Finnish adult population smoked daily. Smoking is a risk factor connected to connective tissue diseases like osteoporosis and rheumatoid arthritis as well as impaired healing of fractures and other connective tissue defects. The effects of smoking in healing processes are multifactorial and even further complicated in diseases.

Metal- on metal implant catastrophe and consequent clinical studies have revealed that adverse tissue reactions occur more often than earlier anticipated and the incidence of clinical case reports of any kind of metal reactions is in exponential rise at the moment. Hence, all understanding of the true nature of metal and foreign body reaction in general are essential for further development of the implants. Our collection of tissue material from real patients combined with live cell cultures provides a unique translational approach to this phenomenon experimentally.

Our team

Where are we headed

The on-going research in our group focuses on stem cell biology in rheumatic diseases, adverse effects of tobacco and orthopedic implants. 

Our main collaborators

  • Professor Juha Tuukkanen, University of Oulu
  • Professor Olli Vuolteenaho, University of Oulu
  • Professor Motohiro Uo, Tokyo Medical and Dental University, Japan
  • Professor Takao Hanawa, Institute of Biomaterials and Bioengineering, Tokyo Medical and Dental University, Japan
  • Professor Sandra Sacre, Brighton and Sussex Medical School, England, UK.

  • Adjunct Professor Peter Bankhead, Institute of Genetics and Cancer, University of Edinburgh, Scotland, UK. 

  • Adjunct Professor Johanna Huhtakangas, Rheumatology Unit, Kuopio University Hospital, Kuopio, Finland.

How to find us

Cancer and Translational Medicine Research Unit, University of Oulu

Department of Surgery and Medical Research Center, Oulu University Hospital

petri.lehenkari[at]oulu.fi

Videos of stem cells

Please see our videos of human mesenchymal stem cells 100 h in culture: