Molecular mechanisms of metabolic syndrome and atherosclerosis

Research group information

Contact information

Research group leader

  • Professor
    Olavi Ukkola

Research group description

Our problem-oriented cardiovascular disease research will focus on the role of novel risk markers beyond the lipids, high blood pressure and other conventional risk factors in the development of metabolic disturbances and atherosclerosis. We study factors influencing cardiovascular disease in a long-term follow-up. The project will utilize methodologically molecular and clinical epidemiology (cohort studies), clinical physiological measurements, metabolic analyses, molecular biology, genetic experiments as well as cell biology approaches.

The Oulu Project Elucidating Risk of Atherosclerosis (OPERA) is a population-based epidemiological study in middle-aged subjects (n = 1045) (first phase, cross-sectional at years 1991-1993) that focuses on cardiovascular risk factors and endpoints. A follow-up study of the study was conducted in 2013-2014 (n = 600). An estimated 300 subjects (69-90 years old) will participate in the second follow-up of the OPERA study in years 2022-2023. Cardiovascular events have been followed by registers with mortality data until year 2021.

We will explore the role of metabolic and environmental risk indicators as predictors of Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular morbidities and mortality. In addition, clinical risk markers such as liver fat and fibrosis accumulation, ambulatory blood pressure characteristics, renal function and impaired autonomic regulation of cardiovascular system as well as genetic risk indicators will be studied as potential predictors of events. These studies should provide molecular and genetic information to help us to identify subjects susceptible to cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes but also make it possible to develop new clinical tools.

Professor Olavi Ukkola is the leader of FIBROBESITY which is one of the three new research themes supported by the Academy of Finland PROFI6 funding (2021-2026) strengthening the strategy of the University of Oulu. Our research draws on strong multidisciplinary expertise integrating biomedical and human sciences. FIBROBESITY strengthens and expands our research to generate impactful new knowledge of the molecular, epidemiological, clinical and behavioural basis of obesity-linked fibrosis in complex chronic diseases and unhealthy ageing.

Our team

Where are we headed

  1. To explore the role of obesity-related peptide hormones and other novel markers as predictors of the progression of atherosclerosis and outcomes of cardiovascular events (OPERA follow-up study).
  2. To develop novel effective preventive, diagnostic and therapeutic options to combat fibrotic diseases and associated adverse societal outcomes.
  3. To compare the effects of levothyroxine (l-T4) and a combination l-T4/l-triiodothyronine (T3) therapy on cardiac structure and function, cardiac biomarkers, inflammatory markers, thyroid hormone levels, body weight, vital signs, metabolic parameters and quality of life (QoL) of female patients with primary hypothyroidism.
  4. To take part in international randomized controlled clinical studies on hypertension, lipids and diabetes.

Our main collaborators

  • Professor Veikko Salomaa, Professor Antti Reunanen and Docent Antti Jula, National Institute for Health and Welfare, Helsinki, Finland
  • Cardiology Professor Juhani Junttila and Associate professor Juha Perkiömäki, University of Oulu, Faculty of Medicine, Research Unit of Internal Medicine, Oulu, Finland
  • Professor Claude Bouchard, Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Baton Rouge, Lousiana, USA
  • Professor Jane Armitage and Dr. Martin Landray, University of Oxford, UK

How to find us

University of Oulu, Faculty of Medicine, Research Unit of Internal Medicine, Oulu University Hospital, Medicine