Developmental interactions research group.
Mikael Niku, principal investigator

Mikael is senior lecturer in microscopic and comparative anatomy and developmental biology, and docent in microscopic anatomy.  He has >20 years of research experience in developmental biology, domestic animal immunology, intestinal physiology and microbiology.  He is a principal investigator since 2016, and supervisor of several PhD and licentiate theses. 

"I am interested in the earliest host-microbe interactions in the mammalian intestine: when and how they begin, and how the immune system learns to tolerate commensal microbes while repelling pathogens. The development of a healthy immune system requires microbial exposure early in life. The interactions with the maternal microbiota begin already before birth, but the mechanisms and microbial signals involved are still unclear."

Mikael Niku's profile in the University of Helsinki People Finder

Tiina Pessa-Morikawa, senior researcher

Tiina is university lecturer in veterinary anatomy and senior scientist in the Developmental Interactions Research Group. She has >30 years of experience on lymphocyte biology, immunological methods, cell culture, flow cytometry and sorting of eukaryote and prokaryote cells.

Tiina Pessa-Morikawa's profile in the University of Helsinki People Finder

Roselydiah Nasipwondi Makunja, doctoral researcher

Roselydiah is a passionate scientist who recently joined our team as a doctoral reseacher. She has extensive knowledge and skills in molecular biology, cell culture, virology, and parasitology. Her area of interest is in the gut microbiota. She is interested in learning more about the relationship between gut microbiota and their hosts, as well as how this interaction affects the host, and wishes to apply the knowledge gained to solve some of the societal challenges. 

Arina Maltseva, university researcher

Arina has studied various aspects of the interactions between metazoan hosts and their associated microbes in several marine invertebrate models (PhD in biochemistry and zoology). Much of her research experience is related to analysis of proteins/peptides in the contexts of evolutionary biology (e.g. characterisation of fast-evolving proteins involved in immunity, reproduction or adaptation). Also, she has experience investigating metabolomic changes that accompany ecological accommodation, parasite infestation, etc., as well as analysis of composition, plasticity, metabolomic capacity of associated microbiomes and possible roles of microbes in host adaptation. 

Arina's profile in the University of Helsinki Research Portal

Masuma Khatun, visiting researcher

"I hold a Ph.D. in Obstetrics and Gynecology from Oulu University Hospital, Finland, with a specialization in Reproductive Medicine. Currently, I am a postdoctoral researcher in Professor Juha S. Tapanainen and Ralf Butzöw´s team, where my focus is on establishing an independent project in reproductive disease modeling utilizing induced pluripotent stem cells obtained from women with PCOS and endometrial cancer. My Ph.D. research centered on the human endometrium, exploring its role in infertility, implantation failure, and metabolic derangements in gynecological disorders. However, the unexplored and crucial influence of prenatal host-microbe interactions sparked a keen interest in understanding their impact on fetal immunity development. Therefore, I have joined the Development Interactions team, to apply my expertise in reproductive medicine and acquire new skills.”

Aleksi Husso, doctoral researcher

Aleksi is currently finalizing his PhD thesis.

"Prenatal host-microbe interactions prime the developing intestinal immune system and a species-specific microbiota, seeded by the mother, is necessary for proper immune differentiation. In my project we aim to find out what kind of microbial factors can enter the fetus, how these factors influence the developing immune system and what are the long-term effects of the microbial exposure to host immunity and fitness."

Aleksi Husso's profile in the University Helsinki People Finder

Kirsi Lahti, senior laboratory technician

Expert in molecular biology (such as nucleic acid extraction and PCR), microbiology (including anaerobic culture), immunohistochemistry and cell culture.

Santeri Suokas, laboratory technician

Expert in histology, immunohistochemistry and molecular biology.

Mohammad Jaber Alipour, doctoral researcher (external)

Mohammad's PhD is about perinatal intestinal microbiota in large mammals. He is a licensed veterinarian (DVM) in Finland and Sweden with special interests and expertise in laboratory animal science. Mohammad is trained and skilled with several cellular and molecular biology techniques such as PCR, flow cytometry, cell culture, immunohistochemistry and confocal microscopy, among others. In the project, his main duty is DNA based microbiota research. Mohammad is currently working elsewhere. 

Antti Iivanainen, professor, principal investigator

Antti is the professor of veterinary anatomy and developmental biology and a PI in the Developmental Interactions Research Group.

"I was the former group leader of Developmental Interactions but felt that the time had come to rejuvenate the group. So I have stepped down and follow with great interest the group's exciting scientific journey under Mikael's leadership.”

Antti Iivanainen's profile in the University of Helsinki People Finder

Hyuk Nam Kwon, postdoctoral researcher

Kwon is our previous postdoctoral researcher, now working at the University of Ulsan, South Korea.

"My major research focuses on metabolomics (Clinical-/Pharmaco-) for metabolic diseases including diabetes and various cancers. Through my research careers, I utilized metabolomics and systems biology approach to identify disease-specific biomarkers, and I am trying to identify underlying metabolic pathways using non-invasive or invasive metabolomics techniques using NMR, LC/MS techniques.

I would like to contribute to the project by actively utilizing my research experience in disease-related clinical metabolomics and new drug development experience at pharmaceutical companies."

Kwon's profile in the University of Helsinki People Finder

Lea Mikkola (alumni)

Lea recently completed her PhD thesis and is now working as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Turku.

"I specialised in quantitative genetics and genomics. In my PhD project I concentrated on the genetic background of canine hip dysplasia, a common complex hereditary disorder, but I also tried to figure out what are the genetic factors driving the development of lumbosacral transitional vertebrae in dogs. The complexity of multi-factorial traits continues to intrigue me and after my dissertation defence I aspire to build my career in the domain of complex traits."

Jenni Liljavirta (alumni)

Jenni got her PhD in 2014 and is now Senior Scientist at International Flavors & Fragrances (previously DuPont Nutrition & Health).

Jenni's PhD thesis: Bovine B cells - Antibody repertoire diversification in fetal cattle

Jenni in LinkedIn

Tiina Salomäki (alumni)

Tiina got her PhD in 2015. She is now Sales Manager at Triolab Finland Oy.

Tiina's thesis: Host-Microbe Interactions in Bovine Mastitis Staphylococcus epidermidis, Staphylococcus simulans and Streptococcus uberis

Tiina in LinkedIn

Anna Ekman (alumni)

Anna got her PhD in 2012 and is now New Indications Medical Lead, North Europe, Immunology, at Sanofi.

Anna's PhD thesis: Bovine B cells -  B lymphopoiesis and the Generation of Primary Immunoglobulin Repertoire in Fetal Cattle

Anna in LinkedIn