Ukkola Olavi

Molecular mechanisms of metabolic syndrome and atherosclerosis


Research unit: Internal Medicine


Group leader

Professor Olavi Ukkola, MD, PhD


What do we do

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. 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. Population-based cohort (OPERA), initiated in early 90's consisting of 1045 subjects, have been utilized. Total mortality and hospital events have been followed up to 2014 and survivors have attended follow-up measurements.

We will explore the role of metabolic and environmental risk indicators as predictors of Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular morbidities. 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 Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease but also make it possible to develop new clinical tools.

Our aim is also to expand research area by studying whether novel technology can prevent hypoglycaemia in elderly Type 2 diabetes patients and by comparing cardiovascular and metabolic effects of different treatment modalities in hypothyroidism. We will also continue our participation to international randomized controlled clinical studies.


Our team

Senior adviser

  • Kesäniemi Antero, MD, PhD, Professor Emeritus

Post doc researchers

  • Vasunta Riitta-Liisa, MD, PhD
  • Käräjämäki Aki, MD, PhD

PhD students

  • Leinonen Tuija Leinonen, MD
  • Lempiäinen Päivi, MD
  • Okkonen Marjo, MD
  • Puurunen Veli-Pekka, MD
  • Pääkkö Tero, MD
  • Yliaska Iina, MD

Other staff

  • Kortetjärvi Saija, Laboratory technician
  • Ukkola Leena, Study nurse
  • Koistinen Marita, Study secretary


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 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.
  3. To assess the efficacy of new flash glucose monitoring technology system compared with conventional self-monitoring of blood glucose testing in parallel with Holter-ECG to prevent hypoglycaemia and associated arrhythmias in aged patients with poorly controlled type 2 diabetes.
  4. To conduct a systematic GastroPanel® screening of autoimmune thyroid disease (AITD) and type 1 diabetes (DM1) patients to establish the prevalence of autoimmune atrophic gastritis and its associated risks (pernicious anemia included). Another objective is to assess the utility of this non-invasive serum biomarker test as a substitute to gastroscopy in the systematic monitoring of the AITD and DM1 patients for autoimmune atrophic gastritis.
  5. To  compare two different methods for blood glucose monitoring between invasive method and non-invasive method, study for the dependency on physiological state and evaluate the practical usability of the non-invasive method for health care.
  6. To take part in 4 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
Associate Professors Juhani Junttila and 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

Last updated: 9.7.2019