Our research group is dedicated to the development of physiologically relevant human-based models for studying the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying neurological diseases, as well as predicting drug transport into the brain. We employ patient-derived brain cells in 2D and 3D culture systems, including organoids, to more accurately mimic pathological conditions in the diseased brain.
In our research, we are particularly interested in understanding the glial non-cell-autonomous mechanisms underlying neurodegeneration. We investigate these mechanisms using breakthrough single-cell and imaging technologies, combined with cutting-edge models, to reveal the underlying molecular and cellular mechanisms. Additionally, we employ custom-designed chips by Finnadvance for drug transport studies. This system uses microfluidics and 3D cell culture to simulate the in vivo microenvironment with blood flow. Our goal is to use these models not only to test novel drugs, but also to uncover the molecular and transport mechanisms that regulate BBB permeability in physiological and pathological conditions. Overall, our research aims to improve our understanding of neurological diseases and to develop new treatments to improve patient outcomes.
YUFE Postdoctoral Programme’s appeal lies in career mentoring and collaboration possibilitiesCanadian-born researcher Katrina Räty found herself in Finland again – this time as a Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Eastern Finland.
Päivikki ja Sakari Sohlbergin säätiöltä apurahoja lasten, nuorten ja vanhusten hyvinvointia edistävään tutkimukseenSyksyn apurahahaun kautta myönnettiin rahoitusta 129 tutkimukselle ja ratkaisulle, jotka rakentavat lasten, nuorten ja vanhusten hyvinvointia sekä…
Sigrid Jusélius Foundation grant boosts brain disease modellingSigrid Jusélius Foundation has granted a senior researcher post to Docent Šárka Lehtonen from the University of Eastern Finland. Her lab develops…
Projects on Parkinson’s disease and novel antibiotics secure significant fundingJane and Aatos Erkko Foundation has granted significant funding to two research projects at the University of Eastern Finland. Docent Šárka Lehtonen…
Neuroinflammation research group 01.01.2017 -
Skitsofrenian neurobiologia 01.01.2022 -
Biolääketieteellinen informatiikka 01.02.2019 -
Šárka Lehtonen, Ph.D. in Pharmacology – I am a highly motivated, results-driven senior researcher and group leader who has over 20-years of experience in in vitro and in vivo pharmacology and over 10-years of experience in stem cell technology. I am very committed to exceeding goals and working with the team to develop novel human models for neurological diseases and drug development studies.
Katrina Räty (Albert), Ph.D. in Pharmacology – I have expertise in models of Parkinson’s disease, with a focus on the main pathological protein: alpha-synuclein. I completed my PhD at the University of Helsinki and then went to University of Cambridge to improve my knowledge of alpha-synuclein. Now I am back in Finland and starting my own project in the Lehtonen lab related to microglia and alpha-synuclein. My main interest is in making better preclinical models to find new treatments for disease. When I’m not thinking about alpha-synuclein you can find me trying new beers and brewing my own, or then attending concerts (just kidding – I’m thinking about alpha-synuclein those times too).
Tuuli-Maria Sonninen, M.Sc. in Molecular Medicine, PhD student – I am working in the blood-brain barrier on a chip project.
Jonna Niskanen, M.Sc. in Molecular Medicine, PhD student – I am intrigued by our immune system – the body’s first line of defense – and the intercellular communications within. My previous projects have all been connected to cellular communications in one way or another. In my current position, I can combine the cell signaling and immunology aspects. I study iPSC-derived microglia and astrocytes in PD to see how these highly reactive glial cells effect neuronal wellbeing.
Sara Kälvälä, M.Sc. in Biomedicine – My research is focused on iPSC-derived midbrain organoids as a model system for PD. Next-generation human-based disease models could offer a more efficient and physiologically relevant alternative to animal models, bridging the gap between in vivo and in vitro. The brain is an immensely intricate organ with a vast variety of cell types functioning in perfect harmony – capturing a snapshot of that complexity in vitro is super exciting! I completed my Master’s thesis in the Lehtonen lab and am thrilled to continue working with the group. Outside the lab, I enjoy creative activities like drawing, photography and sculpting. Also, a self-confessed podcast addict.
Vili Hakosalo, M.Sc. in Genetics and Molecular Biology – I am a project researcher in the Human brain disease modelling group. I have graduated from the University of Helsinki in 2021. My BSc is from biotechnology. I am interested in finding molecular pathways and setting up models for neurodegenerative diseases. More detailed, I am working on establishing in vitro models for PD with bona fide Lewy bodies.
Sanni Peltonen, M.Sc. in Biomedicine – I’m working on projects related to the blood-brain barrier and microglia. I’ve graduated at the beginning of 2022 from the University of Eastern Finland but have been working in the group since 2021 and before that made my master’s thesis in the group. Currently, I am concentrating on blood-brain barrier modelling and glial cells. For me, it is important to develop more accurate human in vitro models for disease studies and drug development and thus offer better alternatives for in vivo models.
Valtteri Syvänen, M.Sc. in Pharmacy – I am currently working as a project researcher in the Human brain disease modelling group. When I finished my Master’s thesis in the Lehtonen lab it was clear to me that I want keep exploring the vast field of disease modelling. Neurodegenerative diseases have been a major interest of mine during my studies so it is exciting to continue as part of this group. I have experience in 3D and 2D culturing and at the moment my focus is on developing an in vitro gut-brain-axis model to study gut changes in Parkinson’s disease.
- Lab ”pikkujoulu” dinner at Kuzina
- 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
Jonna NiskanenVäitöskirjatutkijaA.I. Virtanen -instituutti, Terveystieteiden tiedekunta
Tuuli-Maria SonninenVäitöskirjatutkijaA.I. Virtanen -instituutti, Terveystieteiden tiedekunta
Sara KälväläVäitöskirjatutkijaA.I. Virtanen -instituutti, Terveystieteiden tiedekunta
SARS-CoV-2 Infection of Human Neurons Is TMPRSS2 Independent, Requires Endosomal Cell Entry, and Can Be Blocked by Inhibitors of Host Phosphoinositol-5 KinaseKettunen, Pinja; Lesnikova, Angelina; Räsänen, Noora; Ojha, Ravi; Palmunen, Leena; Laakso, Markku; Lehtonen, Šárka; Kuusisto, Johanna; Pietiläinen, Olli; Saber, Saber H; Joensuu, Merja; Vapalahti, Olli P; Koistinaho, Jari; Rolova, Taisia; Balistreri, Giuseppe. 2023. Journal of virology. 97: . e00144-23
Species-specific metabolic reprogramming in human and mouse microglia during inflammatory pathway inductionSabogal-Guáqueta, Angélica María; Marmolejo-Garza, Alejandro; Trombetta-Lima, Marina; Oun, Asmaa; Hunneman, Jasmijn; Chen, Tingting; Koistinaho, Jari; Lehtonen, Sarka; Kortholt, Arjan; Wolters, Justina C; Bakker, Barbara M; Eggen, Bart J L; Boddeke, Erik; Dolga, Amalia. 2023. Nature communications. 14: . 6454
Astrocyte Progenitors Derived From Patients With Alzheimer Disease Do Not Impair Stroke Recovery in MiceVälimäki, Nelli-Noora; Bakreen, Abdulhameed; Häkli, Sara; Dhungana, Hiramani; Keuters, Meike H; Dunlop, Yannick; Koskuvi, Marja; Keksa-Goldsteine, Velta; Oksanen, Minna; Jäntti, Henna; Lehtonen, Šárka; Malm, Tarja; Koistinaho, Jari; Jolkkonen, Jukka. 2022. Stroke. 53: 3192-3201
CNS Redox Homeostasis and Dysfunction in Neurodegenerative DiseasesGoldsteins, Gundars; Hakosalo, Vili; Jaronen, Merja; Keuters, Meike Hedwig; Lehtonen, Šárka; Koistinaho, Jari. 2022. Antioxidants. 11:
Cellular Models of Alpha-Synuclein Aggregation: What Have We Learned and Implications for Future StudyAlbert, Katrina; Kälvälä, Sara; Hakosalo, Vili; Syvänen, Valtteri; Krupa, Patryk; Niskanen, Jonna; Peltonen, Sanni; Sonninen, Tuuli-Maria; Lehtonen, Šárka. 2022. Biomedicines. 10:
Microglial amyloid beta clearance is driven by PIEZO1 channelsJäntti, Henna; Sitnikova, Valeriia; Ishchenko, Yevheniia; Shakirzyanova, Anastasia; Giudice, Luca; Ugidos, Irene F; Gómez-Budia, Mireia; Korvenlaita, Nea; Ohtonen, Sohvi; Belaya, Irina; Fazaludeen, Feroze; Mikhailov, Nikita; Gotkiewicz, Maria; Ketola, Kirsi; Lehtonen, Šárka; Koistinaho, Jari; Kanninen, Katja M; Hernández, Damian; Pébay, Alice; Giugno, Rosalba; Korhonen, Paula; Giniatullin, Rashid; Malm, Tarja. 2022. Journal of neuroinflammation. 19: . 147
Novel Bile Acid-dependent Mechanisms of Hepatotoxicity Associated with Tyrosine Kinase InhibitorsSaran, Chitra; Sundqvist, Louise; Ho, Henry; Niskanen, Jonna; Honkakoski, Paavo; Brouwer, Kim LR. 2022. Journal of pharmacology and experimental therapeutics. 380: 114-125
An arylthiazyne derivative is a potent inhibitor of lipid peroxidation and ferroptosis providing neuroprotection in vitro and in vivoKeuters, Meike Hedwig; Keksa-Goldsteine, Velta; Dhungana, Hiramani; Huuskonen, Mikko T; Pomeshchik, Yuriy; Savchenko, Ekaterina; Korhonen, Paula K; Singh, Yajuvinder; Wojciechowski, Sara; Lehtonen, ¦árka; Kanninen, Katja M; Malm, Tarja; Sirviö, Jouni; Muona, Anu; Koistinaho, Milla; Goldsteins, Gundars; Koistinaho, Jari. 2021. Scientific reports. 11: 3518
Blood-Brain Barrier and Neurodegenerative Diseases-Modeling with iPSC-Derived Brain CellsWu, Ying-Chieh; Sonninen, Tuuli-Maria; Peltonen, Sanni; Koistinaho, Jari; Lehtonen, Sarka. 2021. International journal of molecular sciences. 22: 7710
Contribution of astrocytes to familial risk and clinical manifestation of schizophreniaKoskuvi, Marja; Lehtonen, ¦árka; Trontti, Kalevi; Keuters, Meike; Wu, Ying-Chieh; Koivisto, Hennariikka; Ludwig, Anastasia; Plotnikova, Lidiia; Virtanen, Pekka LJ; Räsänen, Noora; Kaipainen, Satu; Hyötyläinen, Ida; Dhungana, Hiramani; Giniatullina, Raisa; Ojansuu, Ilkka; Vaurio, Olli; Cannon, Tyrone D; Lönnqvist, Jouko; Therman, Sebastian; Suvisaari, Jaana; Kaprio, Jaakko; Lähteenvuo, Markku; Tohka, Jussi; Giniatullin, Rashid; Rivera, Claudio; Hovatta, Iiris; Tanila, Heikki; Tiihonen, Jari; Koi. 2021. Glia. 2022; 70: 650-660