Molecular Cardiology

Research group information

Contact information

Research group leader

  • Professor
    Risto Kerkelä

Research group description

The major cardiovascular pathologies such as systemic hypertension, myocardial infarction and valvular heart disease induce injury to the heart and predispose to development of cardiac fibrosis and heart failure. The accumulation of extracellular matrix in the heart results in increased ventricular stiffness and disrupts the normal electrical cell-to-cell coupling and impulse conduction predisposing to arrhythmias and sudden cardiac death. This research aims at identifying signaling pathways regulating cardiac fibroblast function and development of cardiac fibrosis.

Small molecule kinase inhibitors (KIs) are a class of agents currently used for treatment of various cancers. Unfortunately, treatment of cancer patients with some of KIs is associated with cardiotoxicity and there is unmet need for methods to predict cardiotoxicity of them. One of the aims of our laboratory is to identify kinases and signaling pathway that are crucial for cardiac cell viability.

The standard of care for the prompt treatment of myocardial infarction and acute coronary syndromes are reperfusion therapies, including primary percutaneous coronary intervention and thrombolysis. Restoration of blood flow to ischemic myocardium limits infarct size and reduces mortality. Paradoxically, however, the return of blood flow can also result in additional cardiac damage and complications, referred to as reperfusion injury. Despite an improved understanding of the pathophysiology of this process and successful preclinical trials of multiple agents, most of the clinical trials to prevent or alleviate ischemia-reperfusion (I/R) injury have been disappointing, and therapies to reduce or prevent I/R injury do not exist. Our goal is to identify novel therapeutic approaches to target the development of I/R injury.

Our team

  • Zoltan Szabo, PhD
  • Lea Rahtu-Korpela, PhD
  • Sini Skarp, PhD
  • Tarja Alakoski, MSc
  • Manar Elmadani, MSc (Pharm)
  • Evelina Halmetoja, MSc
  • Anna Kemppi, MSc
  • Ruizhu Lin, MSc (Pharm)
  • Mikko Parkkonen, Med. Cand.
  • Sami Raatikainen, MD
  • Laura Vainio, MD

Where are we headed

The key aim of our research is to gain understanding of the intracellular signaling pathways that regulate fibroblast function in order to develop novel therapeutic approached to target development of cardiac fibrosis and heart failure. We will also pursue studies to identify factors and signaling mechanisms that could be utilized in order to prevent injury to the myocardium.

Our main collaborators

  • Professor Kari Alitalo, University of Helsinki
  • Professor Jonathan D. Licht, University of Florida Health Cancer Center
  • Professor Walter J. Koch, Temple University School of Medicine
  • Professor Jeff Molkentin, Cincinnatin Children's Hospital
  • Professor Jukka Westermarch, University of Turku
  • Professor Tero Aittokallio, University of Turku and University of Helsinki
  • Professor Istvan Szokodi, University of Pécs, Hungary
  • Docent Olli Ritvos, University of Helsinki

How to find us