Members of the Koistinaho Lab
Group leader

Jari Koistinaho, MD, PhD, is the Director of the Neuroscience Center, HiLIFE and Professor of Regenerative Medicine at the University of Eastern Finland. He is also a founder of three spin-off companies (Cerebricon Ltd acquired by Charles River Discovery Research Services 2009; Medeia Therapeutics Ltd 2006, Aranda Pharma Ltd 2015) and he serves as a scientific/strategic advisor for several biopharma companies and Life Sciences of the University of Oslo. He was awarded a Saatamoinen professorship in Stem Cell Research in 2012 at the University of Eastern Finland and was appointed to a professorship in neuropharmacology in faculty of Pharmacy at the University of Helsinki in 2019.

Senior Scientists

Šárka Lehtonen received her PhD from the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology at the University of Kuopio, Finland, under the supervision of Prof. Pekka T. Männistö in 2005. Immediately after, she completed two postdoctoral fellowships: first, at the University of Helsinki under the supervision of Prof. Eero Mervaala from 2005 to early 2007, and the second at A.I.Virtanen Institute for Molecular Sciences, University of Eastern Finland, Kuopio, in Molecular Brain Research Group led by Prof. Jari Koistinaho from 2008 to 2011. During 2012-2013, Šárka visited the lab of Prof. Petr Dvořák at the Masaryk University, Brno, to develop the differentiation method for derivation of dopaminergic neurons from human-induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSC). Šárka has expertise in stem cell technology and derived more than 300 hiPSCs lines during the last 10 years, including lines from Parkinson´s and Alzheimer`s patients and other neurological disorders. Currently, Šárka leads the Human brain disease modelling group at the University of Eastern Finland. Her group regularly uses all cell brain types derived from hiPSC to build up relevant human-based models to understand disease development of neurological diseases.

Staff Scientists/Coordinators

Taisia earned her PhD from the University of Eastern Finland (UEF) in 2015 for the project studying the role of nuclear factor kappa B in mouse models of neuroinflammation. In 2016-2018, Taisia studied the regulatory role of neuronal adhesion molecule ICAM5 in microglial functions in the laboratory of Dr Carl Gahmberg, University of Helsinki. Taisia joined the current Koistinaho group in Helsinki in April 2018. She uses human iPSC-derived brain cells, especially microglia and astrocytes, for modelling Alzheimer’s disease in vitro and in vivo by transplanting human cells into mouse brain. Currently, Taisia also acts as the Coordinator of the Neural iPSC core facility (NiPS).

Postdoctoral Researchers

Meike achieved her Master’s degree in Clinical and Medical Neuroscience at the University of Cologne, Germany. In 2014, she started as a PhD student in the laboratory for “Molecular Brain Research” at the A.I. Virtanen Institute, University of Eastern Finland, Kuopio. After a 6-months internship in the research group “ Cerebrovascular Research” of Anna M Planas at the IibB, Barcelona, Spain, Meike continued her work in 2019 in our research group “Biological Modelling of Human Brain and Mind in Disease” at the Neuroscience Center, HiLIFE, University of Helsinki. Here, she finished her PhD studies on “Developing and testing novel treatment strategies in mouse models of cerebrovascular accidents.”. Since 2021, Meike works as a post-doctoral researcher on engineering vascularized cortical organoids from human induced-pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) and human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs). Furthermore, she is working on 3D-bioprinting of human brain tissue constructs.

Doctoral Researchers

Ying-Chieh has worked on neuronal development and received her Master in Neuroscience from National Yang-Ming University, Taiwan. After that, she worked as an associate scientist for several years in the pharmaceutical industry. She joined the group as a doctoral student in the Brain & Mind program at the University of Helsinki at the beginning of 2020. She is now focusing the work on understanding how vascular dysfunction, particularly pericytes contributes to Alzheimer’s disease onset and progression.

Noora is working as a PhD student in collaboration between Koistinaho and Pietiläinen labs. In her project, Noora investigates interactions between human iPSC-derived neurons and astrocytes from patients with schizophrenia using single-cell RNA sequencing and microelectrode array recordings. Noora has graduated from Tampere University in 2019 and has been working with the PhD project in University of Helsinki since 2020. 

Pinja graduated as a Master of Philosophy from the University of Helsinki in 2017 with a broad background in neuroscience, physiology, ecology and evolutionary biology.  She is currently working as a doctoral researcher with a focus on the role of glial cells in Alzheimer’s disease pathology. She is mainly interested in neuroinflammation, and the interplay between brain cells, pathogens and innate immunity. Pinja is also passionate about science communication and works part time as a scientific illustrator.

Elina has a dual background in biomedicine and business. She did a Master's degree in translational medicine in University of Helsinki and another Master's degree in business administration and bioentrepreneurship in Copenhagen Business School. She has gained research experience both in academia and pharmaceutical industry.  She is currently a doctoral researcher focusing on schizophrenia and additionally she is a commercial champion in a R2B-funded commercialization project, Living Human Brain.

Marianna has graduated as a Master of Science in Bioscience from the University of Eastern Finland (UEF). In 2019-2020, she was working on a project studying the unconventional secretion of tau protein in the research group of Henri Huttunen and Riikka-Liisa Uronen, University of Helsinki. In December 2020, she joined Koistinaho group to continue her PhD. Her current PhD project aims to understand the regulatory role of Alzheimer’s disease-associated genes ABI3 and PLCG2 in iPSC-derived microglia in vitro and in vivo. The project is done in collaboration with Dr Mikko Hiltunen, UEF. 

Research Interns
Isabelle Weert

Isabelle graduated in 2022 with a BSc in Biotechnology from the van Hall Larenstein University of applied sciences in the Netherlands. During her bachelor's thesis that she performed at the Koistinaho lab, she was focused on microglia in Alzheimer's Disease. Now that she is a research assistant, she will help doctoral researchers and postdoctoral researchers on various projects.

A.I. Virtanen Institute Lab
Gundars Goldsteins

Gundars Goldsteins, PhD, is a senior scientist and docent in neurochemistry at the University of Eastern Finland. He is also a founder of three spin-off companies (Cerebricon Ltd acquired by Charles River Discovery Research Services 2009; Medeia Therapeutics Ltd 2006, Aranda Pharma Ltd 2015). His research is focused on in-vitro models of neurodegenerative diseases and development of novel treatment strategies.

Velta Keksa-Goldsteine

Velta is a project researcher at the University of Eastern Finland. Velta joined the current Koistinaho group in Kuopio in April 2000 contributing to the setup of in-vitro models of neurodegenerative diseases and supporting bioanalytical part of investigations. Currently, she uses human iPSC-derived brain cells for modelling Parkinson’s disease in vitro.


Marja Koskuvi, Doctoral researcher 2014-2022.

Hiramani Dhungana, Doctoral researcher 2009-2014; Post-doctoral researcher 2015-2021.