In the ReproHealth team, clinical research is combined with in vitro tissue modeling and modeling with human pluripotent stem cells.
Stem cell models

Most or our knowledge on gonadal development stems from studies in animal models. However, there are crucial developmental differences between species, and the development of human gonads is surprisingly poorly known. We utilize human embryonic (ESC) and induced (iPSC) pluripotent stem cells to model the development of the somatic cells of the gonads, i.e. the Sertoli cells of the testes and the granulosa cells of the ovaries.

Our aims are:

  1. to increase our understanding of the embryonic gonadal development in human
  2. to generate models for studying the molecular mechanisms of disorders of sexual development (DSD) by studying specific genes, and
  3. to establish in vitro models for testing the effect of potential drugs and suspected endocrine disrupters on stem cell-derived Sertoli and granulosa cells and hence on fertility.
Clinical research projects

Long-term health consequences of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)

A common female endocrinopathy, PCOS affects 10% to 15% of women. Characterized by anovulation, hyperandrogenism, chronic inflammation, and unbeneficial lipid profile, it often manifests as irregular menstruation and infertility in fertile age women, but later in life women with PCOS present increased risks for type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.

The projects concerning PCOS deal with long-term risks and health consequences. Special emphasis in these studies includes lipid metabolism, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular morbidity and preventive treatments.

Metabolic effects of combined hormonal contraceptives

Combined hormonal contraception (CHC) has been widely used since the 1960s. There are currently an estimated 100 million fertile-age users of combined contraception in the world. In Finland, CHC is used by about 200,000 women. CHCs have been linked to worsened glucose tolerance. Reduced glucose tolerance has been associated particularly with preparations containing high-dose ethinyl estradiol and androgenic progestins. Recently, the use of CHC in late fertile age has been associated with an increased risk for type 2 diabetes.

The projects are aimed to study and compare the metabolic effects of CHCs containing different estrogen and progestin components. Special interest is in studies comparing traditional ethinyl estradiol and newer natural estradiol containing preparations.

Parity and gynecological cancer

Pregnancy is associated with significant changes in the metabolic and hormonal state. Circulating levels of sex steroids during pregnancy are 10–100 times higher than in nonpregnant women, which influences many functions of reproductive and other organs. There is strong evidence that parity and especially multiparity decreases the risk of breast and gynecological cancers.

In this project we focus on the risks of different epithelial ovarian cancer types and endometrial cancer, and granulosa cell tumors in nulliparous and parous women using the data from the Finnish Cancer Register and the Finnish Population Register.

Embryo research

Human preimplantation development from fertilized oocyte to implanting blastocyst lasts 5-6 days during which the number of cells multiply from one to roughly one hundred and also the first developmental lineages are established. Our project heads to reval how the development is regulated at genetic and epigenetic level and also, how in vitro conditions may affect the control of gene expression.