Research teams

SyMMyS is highly interdisciplinary and translational, covering competencies from clinical immunology and cohort studies to molecular systems immunology, metabolomics, diagnostics and computational systems biology.

University of Helsinki
Team name: Pathogenesis of Type 1 Diabetes and Other Immune-Mediated Diseases<
Team leader: Prof. Mikael Knip

Our research focuses on type 1 diabetes and other immune-mediated diseases in children and adolescents. We are running a series of observational studies starting from birth and a few intervention trials aimed at primary prevention of type 1 diabetes. We also set out to define mechanisms behind potential preventive effects. The TRIGR (Trial to Reduce IDDM in the Genetically at Risk) study tests the hypothesis whether weaning to an extensively hydrolyzed formula will reduce the frequency of beta-cell autoimmunity and type 1 diabetes in children at risk. Another study, i.e. DIABIMMUNE, tests the hygiene hypothesis in type 1 diabetes and other immune-mediated diseases. We have learned that the disease process leading to the manifestation of overt type 1 diabetes starts months and years before any symptoms appear. Deeper insights are needed into the process resulting in clinical disease to speed up the development of truly effective preventive measures. New technologies provide promising prospects for generating novel knowledge that can be translated into successful prevention and treatment. The attached brochure outlines the team’s current research projects.

External page of the team

University of Turku
Team name: Molecular Systems Immunology and Stem Cell Biology
Team leader: Prof. Riitta Lahesmaa
Other principal investigators
Prof. Anjana Rao, La Jolla Institute for Allergy & Immunology and Turku Centre for Biotechnology
Prof. David Goodlett, University of Washington, Seattle and Turku Centre for Biotechnology
Key senior scientists
Dr. Zhi Jane Chen, Ph.D.
Dr. Riikka Lund, Ph.D.

Regulation of the immune response is central for human health. T cells in particular orchestrate the adaptive arm of the immune system and are required for key immune functions. T helper (Th) cell subsets with distinct cytokine secretion profiles and function play a crucial role in host defense. Pathological imbalances in these lymphocyte subsets are observed in human allergy (mediated by Th2 cells) and chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases (mediated by Th1 and Th17 cells). Effector cell functions are suppressed by natural or induced T regulatory cells (Treg and iTreg, respectively).

Understanding the gene regulatory pathways controlling T cell differentiation into functionally distinct subsets will be crucial to understand the pathogenesis of immune-mediated diseases and to develop better therapies. Cell signalling through differentiation initiating signals leading to posttranslational, transcriptional, epigenetic and topological changes resulting in a given phenotype will be investigated. We are using a range of holistic approaches including cutting-edge genome wide methods, proteomics and metabolomics in vitro and in vivo to better understand the molecular mechanisms underlying these processes. We exploit such methods also to identify biomarkers for Type 1 Diabetes and to understand the pathogenetic mechanisms involved.

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University of Turku
Team name: Quantitative biology and bioinformatics
Team leader: Matej Orešič, PhD
Other principal investigators
Tuulia Hyötyläinen, PhD (metabolomics, analytical chemistry)

We rely on systems medicine approach, where instead of focusing on each disease individually, the aim is to account for the complex gene-environment, socio-economic interactions and co-morbidities that lead to individual-specific complex phenotypes. We are particularly interested in the identification of disease vulnerabilities associated with different metabolic phenotypes and the underlying mechanisms linking these vulnerabilities with the development of specific disorders or their co-morbidities. Such in depth understanding of the metabolic phenotypes in health and disease is crucial if one is to implement personalized medicine. In addition to new knowledge on the disease etiology and pathogenesis, our studies may discover novel biomarkers for early disease detection as well as identify novel avenues for disease prevention or therapy.

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Hospital District of Southwest Finland
Team name: Type 1 Diabetes Prediction and Prevention Study - DIPP
Team leader: Prof. Jorma Toppari
External page of the team

Aalto University
Team name: Computational systems biology
Team leader: Prof. Harri Lähdesmäki

We use computational techniques to model and understand molecular regulatory mechanisms and their role in health and disease. We focus on developing statistical modeling and machine learning methods to understand transcriptional, post‐transcriptional and epigenetic regulatory mechanisms, protein signaling pathways, and effects of mutations on regulatory mechanisms. We also develop methods for biological sequence analysis, combining heterogeneous biological information sources and analyzing high-throughput measurement data, such as deep-sequencing and microarray measurements. Research projects are carried out in close collaboration with experimental groups, and we collaborate on molecular immunology, stem cell, cancer and type 1 diabetes systems biology research projects.

External page of the team