The extracellular matrix (ECM) provides structural support and guidance cues for cells, and is centrally involved in dynamic processes in organogenesis, organ function and diseases. Pihlajaniemi investigates the structural and regulatory roles of collagens, a key group of ECM proteins in supporting homeostasis and function of cells and tissues. She has discovered several of the collagen family of proteins and studied their biochemical and cellular properties as well as physiological and pathological relevance in animal models and human diseases. These include the structurally homologous collagen types XV and XVIII, forming the subfamily of multiplexins (multiple triple-helix domains with interruptions), and collagen XIII, identified as a transmembrane protein. Of special interest currently is investigating their roles and mechanisms in stem cell niches and malignant processes. The aim is to use the new knowledge to design novel bioassays and approaches to be used in cancer therapeutic.
Academy of Finland Project 2017-2021; Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation 2018-2022, Sigrid Juselius Foundation 2017-2020, the Finnish Cancer Foundation 2017-2019
Supervisor or co-supervisor of 43 PhD or MD-PhD theses to completion.
Hans Kupczyk Guest Professor, 2006
Post-doctoral fellow, 1982-1985