Specialist in laboratory testing knows that new does not always trump old

Tests work if they help to reach the correct diagnosis or treat the patient, says professor Kari Pulkki.

What are your research topics?

I investigate whether new laboratory tests are better than old ones. Some laboratory tests currently in use have been employed for quite some time, but new tests are being developed in support of new drugs and therapies. Laboratory tests must benefit patients either in terms of diagnostics, treatment-related decisions, or follow-up. Basic research produces some of the new tests, which large companies specialised in diagnostics subsequently develop into tests fit for patient care. I have studied laboratory tests associated with cardiac diseases, metabolism, and inflammation in particular.

Where and how does the topic of your research have an impact?

The condition of a patient with chest pain is investigated with the help of their medical history, clinical examinations and an electrocardiogram as well as with laboratory tests. Tests that are carried out as quickly as possible and that are of sufficiently high quality play a part in ensuring correct diagnoses and treatments.

I have been involved in studies where markers occurring in blood have been examined and compared to previously used markers. In addition to coronary artery disease, there may be other causes underlying the condition, some of which can be identified in laboratory tests.

In roughly 20 years, a standard global understanding has been established on the requirements and use of the laboratory tests needed in patient care. This ensures equally good laboratory diagnostics for all.

What is particularly inspiring in your field right now?

Collaboration with top specialists and diagnostics companies that develop laboratory tests in both Finland and abroad is inspiring and challenging. New laboratory tests must benefit patients, and they must be practicable.

Kari Pulkki is the professor of clinical chemistry at the Faculty of Medicine.

Watch Kari Pulkki’s inaugural lecture as a new professor on YouTube.

Read about the other newly appointed professors.