Saarakkala Group

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a severe and common musculoskeletal disease causing significant burden to society at both the individual and economical level. The disease should be diagnosed at the early stage in order to develop and offer effective treatment options for patients suffering OA.

Prof. Saarakkala’s DIOS (Diagnostics of Osteoarthritis) group is focusing on developing novel and innovative clinical diagnostic and follow-up methods for early OA and other musculoskeletal diseases. Specifically, non-invasive ultrasound imaging as well as thermal, acoustic and kinematic measurements are currently under investigation and development in the group. Furthermore, nowadays digital image analysis methods and machine/deep learning allow extraction of novel information from many traditional clinical imaging modalities of OA, e.g., conventional radiography, computed tomography (CT), ultrasound imaging, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The group is developing quantitative in vivo image analysis methods for evaluating the structure and composition of articular cartilage and subchondral bone from conventional clinical imaging modalities. The ambitious ultimate goal would be to develop automated image analysis and classification algorithms that would enhance the sensitivity of the current clinical imaging methods and offer a prediction for the clinical progression of OA.

Despite intensive research worldwide, pathogenesis of OA at tissue level is poorly understood. The group is investigating the early pathological changes in articular cartilage, subchondral bone and meniscus in vitro and in situ using animal and human tissue samples. Conventional histological and immunohistochemical staining methods, as well as modern Fourier-Transform Infrared (FTIR) and Raman imaging techniques, are applied in the group to characterize structural and compositional osteoarthritic changes from tissue sections. Furthermore, the group is actively developing biomedical imaging techniques suitable for quantitative 3D imaging of tissue samples. Specifically, micro/nano-CT imaging techniques are investigated in the group. These techniques enable 3D imaging of tissue structure and composition in different stages of OA in micro/nanometer scale, which significantly improves our understanding of pathogenesis of OA.

The research is currently funded by: 1) European Union research grants (Horizon 2020), 2) Sigrid Jusélius Foundation, 3) Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation (Business Finland), 4) Strategic Funding of the University of Oulu, and 5) The Northern Ostrobothnia Hospital District (VTR grant).


Simo Saarakkala, Ph.D. 
Professor of Biomedical Engineering, ERC Starting Grantee
Research Unit of Medical Imaging, Physics and Technology 
Faculty of Medicine
University of Oulu

Post-Doctoral Researchers

Mikko Finnilä
Jérôme Thevenot
Sakari Karhula

Ph.D. Students

Aleksei Tiulpin
Iida Kestilä
Vesa Virtanen
Hanna Kemppi
Shuvashis Das Gupta
Egor Panfilov
Hoang Nguyen
Joonas Oinas
Simo Ojanen (co-supervision for University of Eastern Finland)

Laboratory Technician

Tarja Huhta / Piia Mäkelä

Research Assistants

Santeri Rytky
Sami Kauppinen
Jesse Lohela
Linda Rantamaa
Ville Karjalainen
Nanni Nielikäinen

Last updated: 22.8.2019