Associate professor Pekka Katajisto from the Institute of Biotechnology and HiLIFE will be leading one of the new Centres of Excellence for 2018 - 2025 that were announced by the Academy of Finland on 1 June 2017.

How to harness the full potential of stem cells? Can we then eradicate diabetes, or even rejuvenate old and weary tissues? The new Centre of Excellence in stem cell metabolism may be able to answer such questions among others in the coming years. The Centre is directed by Pekka Katajisto and other team members are Associate professor Ville Hietakangas, Professor Timo Otonkoski and Associate professor Henna Tyynismaa.

Stem cells can regenerate damaged tissues, and consequently, they provide great therapeutic potential. While recent advances in stem cell research allow their routine production and modification, stem cell based strategies are hampered by inaccurate control of cellular identity and function. One feature that sets stem cells apart from other cells in our tissues is their metabolism.

The new Centre of Excellence on Stem Cell Metabolism will address whether stem cells and their differentiation can be controlled by subtle metabolic cues to gain precise control and to facilitate therapeutic approaches.

"We aim to identify metabolic switches that can be utilized for example towards generation of fully functional pancreatic beta cells from lab grown stem cells. This would open completely novel avenues to treat diabetes" says Pekka Katajisto, the director of the new Center of Excellence.

"On a more conceptual level, we will address the hierarchical position of metabolism in determining cellular identity. In other words, we aim to understand whether cellular metabolism provides tools to actively drive tissue renewal and repair that could for example be used to reduce aging associated ailments".

Centres of Excellence (CoE) conduct research with great potential to achieve scientific breakthroughs and promote science renewal. They can contribute to the renewal of science by supplying new research topics, new methods and approaches, and new combinations of research teams. The Academy expects the CoEs’ research to have impact beyond academia as well.

Further information:

Academy of Finland Centres of Excellence coordinated by the University of Helsinki

Academy of Finland press release

Pekka Katajisto, pekka.katajisto@helsinki.fi, tel. +358 40 708 5349

Katajisto Lab

Pekka Katajisto’s interview on Yliopisto-journal (in Finnish only)