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Immunology research gets funding boost through international collaboration

 09.01.12

The Academy of Finland, the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) have agreed to provide funding to joint projects between Finnish, German and Chinese researchers in the field of immunology. The Academy’s funding contribution to Finnish researchers within the collaboration comes to slightly more than EUR 2 million. The research projects receive funding for three years. The objective is to promote immunology research cooperation between Finland, Germany and China.

The Academy will fund the following research projects:

Sirpa Jalkanen (University of Turku): “Lymphatics as Targets – New Tools to Regulate Traffic and Immunity in Health and Disease”. Jalkanen’s project will tackle unknown fundamental questions regarding immune cell entrance to afferent lymphatic vessels and egress to efferent lymphatic vessels. These are the control points regulating immune-cell trafficking both in health and disease and, thus, determine the quality and quantity of our immune response to infections and cancer. Elucidating them will not only increase our understanding of basic biology but also provide new tools and technology for preventing unwanted cell trafficking such as metastasis of cancer cells.

Ilkka Julkunen (National Institute for Health and Welfare) and Dennis Bamford (University of Helsinki): Julkunen and Bamford receive funding for their research consortium on influenza virus infections. Influenza viruses are globally very important pathogens causing yearly epidemics and occasional pandemics that may lead to significant morbidity and mortality. At present, vaccines, antiviral substances and social isolation are the means to prevent and treat influenza infections. Thus we need better understanding of the basic mechanisms of virus replication, viral-host interactions and activation of host immune responses. The research groups within the consortium will characterise the activation of host innate immune responses in human cellular models and mouse animal experiments. The data obtained are likely to lead to novel innovations and a better means to treat and prevent severe influenza virus infections.

Marjut Roponen (University of Eastern Finland): “Multi-Centre Analysis of Immune-Regulatory Mechanisms That Protect from Childhood Asthma in Distinct Rural Environments”. Roponen’s project aims to clarify protective immune regulatory mechanisms for childhood atopic asthma in environmentally distinct areas. The unique exposure to two environments protecting from asthma, i.e. farms in Europe and rural areas in China, offers an opportunity to assess the interplay of the innate and adaptive immunity in the protection against asthma in exposed and non-exposed children. The project provides a basis for future immunological studies on asthma through the exchange of expertise. It also represents a unique chance to understand immune mechanisms behind the protection from asthma, which are also critical for the development of preventive strategies.

Riitta Lahesmaa (University of Turku) and Harri Lähdesmäki (Aalto University): “Systems Biology Approach to Molecular Mechanisms of Human-TGFb-Induced iTreg Cell Differentiation and the Role of iTreg in Multiple Sclerosis”. Regulation of the immune response is central for human health. T helper (Th) cell subsets orchestrate the immune system and their pathological imbalances result in chronic inflammatory and autoimmune diseases. Effector cell functions are suppressed by natural or induced T regulatory cells and their deficient function results in immune pathology. The project will study how induced regulatory cells develop and how they function in patients with multiple sclerosis as compared to healthy individuals. The results are expected to reveal the key regulatory mechanisms of human immune response and pathology and potentially new opportunities for its modulation.

Nafis Rahman (University of Turku): “Tumour Immunity in Prostate Cancer (PCa): Novel Treatment Approaches Based on CD40-CD40L Interactions”. Rahman’s project explores tumour immunity in prostate cancer, one of the most common and most harmful cancers. Worldwide, one in six men will develop prostate cancer during their lifetime. The effects of traditional cancer treatment are often only temporary, especially in hormone-independent prostate cancer. The project aims to develop novel treatment strategies targeting low immunogenic prostate cancer (PCa) based on the novel antigen ZP3, expressed on PCa and on triggering the immunopotentiating CD40/CD40L signal axis.

More information:
Science Adviser Heikki Vilen
Academy of Finland
tel. +358 9 7748 8456
heikki.vilen(at)aka.fi

Academy of Finland Communications
Riitta Tirronen
Communications Manager
tel. +358 9 7748 8369
riitta.tirronen(at)aka.fi

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