Our research focuses on the adaptive immune system and especially T lymphocytes. Common theme is to study how the thymus, the primary immunological organ where T cells develop, functions in different clinical situations. We study certain rare congenital inborn errors of immunity and autoimmune diseases such as Autoimmune polyendocrine syndrome type 1 (APS-1 or APECED) and Myasthenia gravis where the thymus is affected. In these diseases our main goal is to understand how the thymus maintains immunological tolerance and homeostasis. Even though these diseases are rare, they provide important insight how the immune system is controlled in general. Another important clinical situation of severe immunodeficiency is immune reconstitution after hematopoietic stem-cell transplantation. We aim to understand how the immune system in general and especially the thymus heals after stem-cell transplantation and how we could better predict potential complications in that process.

Specific research questions that we are currently working on

  • Why and how ectopic germinal centers are formed into the thymus in Myasthenia gravis?
  • How does the T cell pool heal after stem-cell transplantation in children?
  • Recent thymic emigrants are the most naïve T cells in the circulation and they are used to measure how well the thymus functions e.g. when diagnosing inborn errors of immunity. How could we measure thymopoiesis better in different clinical conditions?
  • How do different viral infections affect the thymus and thymopoiesis?

Methods in use

In our projects we use a wide selection of modern biomedical methods such as multi-color flow cytometry, multiplex immunofluorescence, RNA sequencing (also on single-cell level), and in vitro functional tests on lymphocytes. We work only with human sample material (blood cells, tissues) so we collaborate closely with different physicians from the Helsinki University Hospital and other hospitals in Finland. We also use sample material from the Finnish biobanks.