Human Brain Disease Modelling (Lehtonen lab)´s Profile image

Human Brain Disease Modelling (Lehtonen lab)

Research group
01.01.2021 -
A.I. Virtanen Institute for Molecular Sciences, Faculty of Health Sciences


Group description

Our research group aims to develop more physiologically relevant human-based models for studies of neurological diseases’ cellular and molecular mechanisms and the prediction of drug transport into the brain. We utilize patient-derived brain cells in 2D and 3D culture systems, including organoids, to more accurately mimic the diseased brain’s pathological conditions. We are especially interested in the glial non-cell-autonomous mechanisms and their contribution to neurodegeneration. We use breakthrough single-cell and imaging technologies combined with cutting-edge models to reveal the mechanisms and identify key therapeutic targets and pathways responsible for pathological glial phenotype. For drug transport studies, we employ custom-designed chips by Finnadvance. The system uses microfluidics and 3D cell culture and simulate thus the in vivo microenvironment with blood flow. Apart from using this model for testing novel drugs, we are also interested in using these models to uncover the molecular and transport mechanisms that regulate BBB permeability in physiological and pathological conditions.


  • 2022

    • Valtteri Syvänen continues to work in our group as a project researcher from July
    • Katrina Räty received a grant from the YUFE Postdoctoral Programme
    • Eugenio Gallucio from Italy joined our group as an intern
    • Katrina Räty received the postdoctoral funding from the Finnish Cultural Foundation
    • Patryk Krupa from Poland joined our group as a research trainee to work with midbrain organoids
    • PhD student Tuuli-Maria Sonninen and PI Sarka Lehtonen received research grants from Päiviki and Sakari Sohlberg Foundation to model BBB with human iPSC-derived cells and to reveal metabolic profile of human microglia obtained from PD patients


    • Lab “pikkujoulu” in escape rooms and dinner at Blocco
    • PhD student Jonna Niskanen received a three and half years salaried position from DPMM starting from January 2022
    • Katrina Räty (Albert) joined our group after her postdoc in Spillantini group at the University of Cambridge
    • Valtteri Syvänen started his Master`s thesis project in our group
    • Sanni Peltonen and Sara Kälvälä joined our group as research assistants
    • Group retreat in Puijo Disc Golf Park in June
    • Vili Hakosalo joined our group as a project researcher in May
    • Jonna Niskanen started as an early-stage researcher in January


    • Sarka Lehtonen received a three years Senior research fellowship from Sigrid Juselius Foundation in December
    • PhD student Tuuli-Maria Sonninen was granted a three years position from the Doctoral Programme of Molecular Medicine in September
    • Sarka Lehtonen obtained a three years research grant from Janne and Aatos Erkko Foundation in September
    • Sarka Lehtonen got a funding for young group leaders from Sigrid Juselius Foundation in March



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