University of Helsinki membrane researchers receive major funding from ESF

Two research projects run by the Department of Biomedicine at the University of Helsinki have been accepted to the EuroMEMBRANE research programme funded by the European Science Foundation (ESF).

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The ESF has granted funding to the six EuroMEMBRANE research projects totalling EUR 8.4 million for 2009–2012. Two of these projects are coordinated by Professor Elina Ikonen and Professor Paavo Kinnunen from the Department of Biomedicine at the University of Helsinki.

The EuroMEMBRANE projects involve over 30 scientists from eleven different countries researching biological membranes. They bring together the best competencies and newest technology available in the field.

“The goal is to develop new methods and standards for research into membrane biology and to produce new knowledge about it both in health and in disease,” says Professor Ikonen.

Ikonen heads the Lipid Specific research project which involves her own team as well as five other research groups from Germany, Switzerland and Italy, and a co-operation group. The project focuses on the basic biological significance of lipids.

“We will find out which is more significant to the function of proteins, the general biophysical behaviour of lipids, such as the formation of lipid rafts, or specific interaction between proteins and certain lipids.” We use model organisms, such as nematodes, flies and yeast, because their lipid structure can be genetically manipulated in a controlled manner,” Ikonen explains.

Professor Kinnunen’s OXPL project involves seven member groups and three co-operation groups in Austria, the Czech Republic, Sweden, Germany, Scotland, Denmark and Italy. The OXPL project studies the behaviour of oxidised phospolipids and the changes they cause in biological and model organisms.

The objective is to gain understanding on the link between these lipids and national diseases, such as cancer, diabetes and the Alzheimer’s disease, as well as atherosclerosis and inflammations. New knowledge will be utilised in diagnostics, disease prevention and the development of therapies.

Teksti: Päivi Lehtinen

Translation: AAC Noodi Oy

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