Vascular Biology (Laakkonen)

Research group

'From basic science to translational impact.'
The goal of our junior research group is to improve therapeutics and diagnostics of cardiovascular diseases by understanding the biology behind the diseases. The main focus is in studying vascular anomalies and aortic aneurysms. Particularly genetics, cell-cell interaction and angioparacrine mediators are studied. We also develop therapeutics to modulate neovessel growth.

Our projects:
Causal effects of vascular malformations
Pathogenesis of thoracic aortic dilatation
Hippo signalling pathway in vascular diseases
Novel targets in treatment of myocardial ischemia

Our group:
PI Johanna Laakkonen
Academy Research Fellow,
PhD, Adjunct Professor (Molecular Medicine)
A.I. Virtanen Institute

Project Researcher, PhD Suvi Jauhiainen
PhD student, M.Sc., Henna Ilmonen
PhD student, M.Sc., Miika Kiema
PhD student, M.Sc., Heidi Pulkkinen
Medical student Emma Luoto
Medical student Heta Rasinkangas
Medical student Akseli Kivistö-Rahnasto
B.Sc., Mila Jäntti
Biomedical student Liinu Kilpeläinen
Biomedical student Jimi Virkkala

Academy of Finland’s Flagship Programme GeneCellNano (, Academy Research Fellow, Academy of Finland, Finnish Foundation of Cardiovascular Research, The Finnish Cultural Foundation, The Finnish Cultural Foundation Regional Fund North Savo


Main funder

Academy of Finland

Vascular Biology (Laakkonen) funder logo

Other funders

Suomen Kulttuurirahasto, Pohjois-Savon rahasto


Suomen Kulttuurirahaston keskusrahasto

Suomen Akatemia GeneCellNano Flagship


A.I. Virtanen Institute for Molecular Sciences, Faculty of Health Sciences

Group description

Introducing image of the groupVascular Biology (Laakkonen)

From left to right: Miika Kiema, Emma Luoto, Heidi Pulkkinen, Henna Ilmonen and Johanna Laakkonen.

Selected, recent publications y.2020-

1) JAUHIAINEN S, Kiema M, Hedman M, Laakkonen JP. Large Vessel Cell Heterogeneity and Plasticity: Focus in Aortic Aneurysms. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 2022 Jul;42(7):811-818. doi: 10.1161/ATVBAHA.121.316237. Epub 2022 May 19. PMID: 35587695.

2) KIEMA M, Sarin JK, Kauhanen SP, Torniainen J, Matikka H, Luoto ES, Jaakkola P, Saari P, Liimatainen T, Vanninen R, Ylä-Herttuala S, Hedman M, Laakkonen JP. Wall Shear Stress Predicts Media Degeneration and Biomechanical Changes in Thoracic Aorta. Front Physiol. 2022 Jul 7;13:934941.

3) PULKKINEN HH, Kiema M, Lappalainen JP, Toropainen A, Beter M, Tirronen A, Holappa L, Niskanen H, Kaikkonen MU, Ylä-Herttuala S, Laakkonen J.P. BMP6/TAZ-Hippo signaling modulates angiogenesis and endothelial cell response to VEGF. Angiogenesis 2021 Feb;24(1):129-144.

4) HSIN-FU LIU O, Kiema M, Beter M, Ylä-Herttuala S, Laakkonen JP, Kaikkonen MU. Hypoxia-Mediated Regulation of Histone Demethylases Affects Angiogenesis-Associated Functions in Endothelial Cells. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 2020 Nov;40(11):2665-2677.

5) LAAKKONEN J.P., Ylä-Herttuala S. Chapter in book: Emerging technologies for heart diseases. Volume 2: Treatments for Myocardial Ischemia and Arrhythmias. 1st edition. Chapter: Gene and protein therapy approaches to cardiac neovascularization and protection from ischemia. Editor: Udi Nussinovitch. Elsevier Publishing Group. 2020.

6) TIRRONEN A, Downes NL, Huusko J, Laakkonen JP, Tuomainen T, Tavi P, Hedman M, Ylä-Herttuala S. The Ablation of VEGFR-1 Signaling Promotes Pressure Overload-Induced Cardiac Dysfunction and Sudden Death. Biomolecules 2021. Mar 17;11(3):452.

7) MOREAU PR, Bosch VM, Bouvy-Liivrand M, Õunap K, Örd T, Pulkkinen HH, Pölönen P, Heinäniemi M, Ylä-Herttuala S, Laakkonen JP, Linna-Kuosmanen S, Kaikkonen MU. Profiling of primary and mature miRNA expression in atherosclerosis associated cell types. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 2021 Jul;41(7):2149-2167.

8) KERÄNEN S, Suutarinen S., Mallick R., Laakkonen J.P., Guo D., Pawlikowska L., Jahromi B.R., Rauramaa T., Ylä-Herttuala S., Marchuk D., Krings T., Koivisto T., Lawton M., Radovanovic I., Kim H., Faughnan M.E., Frösen J. Cyclo-oxygenase 2, a putative mediator of vessel remodeling, is expressed in the brain AVM vessels and associates with inflammation.  Acta Neurochir (Wien) 2021 Jun 29. doi: 10.1007/s00701-021-04895-z. Online ahead of print.

9) MUSHIMIYIMANA I., Niskanen H., Beter M., Laakkonen J.P., Kaikkonen M.U., Ylä-Herttuala S., Laham-Karam N. Characterization of a functional endothelial super-enhancer that regulates ADAMTS18 and angiogenesis. Nucleic Acids Res. 2021 Jul 28:gkab633. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkab633. Epub ahead of print.


    Cover image in Angiogenesis journal

    Our cover image in a recent issue of Angiogenesis journal (y. 2021). In the image, you can see cells that have formed tubes (i.e. points of the star) mimicking blood vessel formation.

Group members - UEF

Other group members

  • Heta Rasinkangas
    Heta Rasinkangas
  • Emma-Sofia Luoto
    Emma-Sofia Luoto
  • Akseli Kivistö-Rahnasto
    Akseli Kivistö-Rahnasto
  • Mila Hattunen
    Mila Hattunen
  • Liinu Kilpeläinen
    Liinu Kilpeläinen

Collaboration with UEF research groups

Cooperation partners