Research into cerebral diseases receives a EUR 360,000 donation

The Jane and Aatos Erkko Foundation has donated EUR 360,000 to scientists at the University of Helsinki and HUCS for the development of treatment for brain-derived diseases in early childhood.

Kai Kaila

“Damage to the brain in early childhood will lead to a life-long burden of illness. This burden could be reduced dramatically, and the latest knowledge produced through neurobiological basic research could be transferred more rapidly in actual care work,” says Professor Kai Kaila, who heads the research project.

Many diseases that appear in old age are rooted in early childhood development.<7p>

“Yet the treatment of the symptoms of diseases in old age is started at the final stage of the disease, not when we could actually target the mechanisms of the diseases; for example, during neonatal care of a premature infant,” Kaila points out.

Kaila’s research group is conducting basic research into brain mechanisms at the Laboratory of Neurobiology at Viikki campus, while Dr Sampsa Vanhatalo and Dr Sture Andersson from HUCS Children’s Hospital are in charge of the clinical part of the project. The project also involves scientists from Germany, Ireland and the United States.

“Our approach to many early-onset neurological diseases is completely new, and it has aroused a great deal of international interest,” says Kaila.

The research group has, for example, developed a “broadband EEG” for registering the brain functions of premature and neonatal infants. Infants who have been affected by a shortage of oxygen during delivery have a high risk of experiencing as many as hundreds of epileptic seizures that may damage the brain. Without appropriate EEG monitoring, most of these seizures would go undetected.

As the basic mechanisms of brain function change during individual development, medical knowledge about the adult brain cannot be directly applied to treating dysfunction in the brains of infants and particularly premature infants.

Text: Päivi Lehtinen
Photo: Liisa Huima

Translation: AAC Noodi Oy

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