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New Postdoctoral Researchers and clinical researchers in health research

5 June 2013

At its meeting on 5 June 2013, the Academy of Finland’s Research Council for Health decided to fund 20 new Postdoctoral Researchers and eight new clinical researchers. Within the September 2012 call, the Research Council received a total of 120 applications for Postdoctoral Researcher funding and 34 applications for funding for clinical researchers.

The three-year Postdoctoral Researcher funding is designed to advance the professional competence and independence of the most promising young researchers who have recently earned their doctorate. International engagement is highly important to early-career researchers and most of the Postdoctoral Researchers who were granted funding indeed intend to carry out part of their research abroad.

Examples of funded Postdoctoral Researchers

Prostate cancer is the most common form of cancer among Finnish men. Prostate cancer can be treated by means of surgery, radiation therapy, pharmacological intervention or active surveillance. Currently, prostate cancer treatment is based on a similar strategy for all patients. Because of the great variation of the disease between patients, this approach is suboptimal and results in both over- and under-treatment, which in turn leads to a disappointing outcome. Ronald Borra (Turku University Hospital) is working to investigate the potential of advanced functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) methods with a view to better selecting patients for prostate biopsies and better guiding the prostate biopsy needle to the cancer location. These improvements should enable more individualised treatment decisions and therefore better outcomes.

Given the major functional role of liver in maintaining metabolic homeostasis, ectopic fat accumulation poses a great health risk. Satu Pekkala (University of Jyväskylä) is researching the role of gut microbiota and adipose tissue in liver fat accumulation. The results of the project are expected to provide new knowledge of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) pathophysiology and may open up new possibilities for preventing hepatic fat accumulation and NAFLD.

Academy supports clinical research careers

The Research Council for Health supports researchers in clinical practice by providing them targeted funding for their part-time research and research costs. This funding opportunity was now open for the eighth time. The aim is to encourage medical doctors working in clinical practice to engage in research so that they can continue to pursue their research career while in specialist training and, upon completion of that training, alongside with clinical practice.

Within the September 2012 call, the Research Council for Health selected 20 new clinical researchers. The success rate was 23.5 per cent. The number of applicants rose by 30 per cent from 2011.

Examples of funded clinical researchers

The old paradigm of bone as a mere structural element has dramatically evolved in recent years. Riku Kiviranta (University of Turku) is researching bone as a dynamic endocrine organ capable of regulating diverse metabolic functions. In addition to its structural and endocrine functions, bone is also home for haematopoiesis. It is now clear that osteoblasts, the bone-forming cells, play an important role in regulating the hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) niche in bone marrow as well as in the metabolic functions of bone. The aim is to elucidate the molecular mechanisms regulating the osteoblast differentiation and function focusing on early B cell factor proteins. Kiviranta’s project is expected to gain a deeper understanding of the osteoblast differentiation and function with a view to identifying new therapeutic avenues for metabolic, haematopoietic and malignant bone diseases.

There is an urgent need in child psychiatry and preventive child mental health work for more effective and more accurately focused parenting interventions. Marjaterttu Pajulo’s (Turku University Hospital) project consists of five subprojects, which all explore or implement into practice a new treatment approach focusing on the core element of parenting. It is based on enhancing parental mentalisation, that is, the parent’s capacity to think and understand the child’s experience behind observed behaviour. It has been shown to be crucially associated with the child’s social, cognitive and emotional development and is considered to be one of the most promising areas of treatment development within whole psychiatry. Two of the subprojects are interventions targeted at substance-abusing pregnant women, two focus on normative parents in the primary healthcare system and one is designed for training professionals in child psychiatry clinics. Pajulo’s project will also develop and test new self-report questionnaires to assess early parental mentalising in a large birth cohort with international collaboration.

Atte-Pekka Meretoja (Helsinki University Hospital) aims at developing better treatments for stroke. He will investigate if a haemostatic agent called tranexamic acid reduces haematoma growth in acute intracerebral haemorrhage. The aim is also to identify a set of blood biomarkers, which allows for the pinpointing of the time of stroke onset and for differentiating between ischaemic and haemorrhagic stroke. This will help more patients receive timely effective recanalisation therapies in ischaemic stroke, and it will also save brain tissue and reduce disability. The aim is also to establish a rodent model of spontaneous intracerebral haemorrhage with a view to identifying basic molecular mechanisms that lead to stroke and providing treatment targets in humans. The project will use existing large databases to identify the best possible clinical practices and the cost-effectiveness of present and emerging interventions in stroke management.

More information:

Postdoctoral Researchers

  • Funding decisions
  • Science Adviser Heikki Vilen, tel. +358 29 533 5135, firstname.lastname(at)aka.fi

Clinical researchers

  • Funding decisions
  • Science Adviser Sanna Marjavaara, tel. +358 29 533 5070, firstname.lastname(at)aka.fi 

Academy of Finland Communications
Communications Specialist Vesa Varpula
tel. +358 29 533 5131
firstname.lastname(at)aka.fi

 

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