Dr. Outi Keinänen gets Academy of Finland funding to research health effects of micro- and nanoplastics at Hunter College and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, USA

Dr. Outi Keinänen has won a three-year Academy of Finland postdoctoral fellowship for the years 2020-2023 to study the bioaccumulation of micro- and nanoplastics in mice under the mentorship of Dr. Brian Zeglis (Hunter College of the City University of New York, New York, NY, USA), Dr. Jason S. Lewis (Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, NY, USA), and Dr. Mirkka Sarparanta (University of Helsinki). Outi earned her Ph.D. in Radiopharmaceutical Chemistry in 2018 from the Tracers in Molecular Imaging Group under the supervision of Associate Professor Anu J. Airaksinen and Dr. Sarparanta, and her previous research has focused on the use of bioorthogonal chemistry for radiopharmaceutical development for cancer diagnostics and theranostics.

The proliferation of micro- and nanoplastics in the environment is increasing at an alarming rate, and the evaluation of their possible health effects has emerged as a critical need. In this study, radiolabeled plastic particles are used to explore the biodistribution, pharmacokinetics, and pharmacodynamics of micro- and nanoplastics in mice utilizing non-invasive molecular imaging techniques, PET and SPECT. The accurate determination of the in vivo pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of micro- and nanoplastics in mammals will provide valuable information on their biological fate and thus their potential health effects, including their gut retention time and their ability to cross epithelial membranes. During the project Outi will spent majority of her time in New York working at Hunter College and MSKCC. She will be developing methods to radiolabel plastic materials focusing on the most common plastic pollutants found from the environment – polystyrene, polyethylene and polypropylene. The exquisite sensitivity of radioactivity detection methods will enable the evaluation of the bioaccumulation of micro- and nanoplastics at very low, environmentally realistic concentrations.

We are excited to host Outi in Helsinki and look forward to the exciting project!