His interest in nature led Pertti Panula, now a Vice-Rector, to scientific research and the University of Helsinki, or the Tvärminne Zoological Station to be exact.
“I’ve always been a nature enthusiast, and going to Tvärminne as a teenager let me meet some researchers in the field. Tvärminne is still an important place for me.”
Tvärminne also exposed Panula, born and raised in a monolingual Finnish-speaking home, to Swedish. Today, his duties as vice-rector include bilingual affairs.
In addition, Panula is responsible for equality and non-discrimination affairs, community relations and regional activities as well as cooperation with the Hospital District of Helsinki and Uusimaa, the Hanken School of Economics and the Arcada University of Applied Sciences.
The Nordics can make a difference together
Important aspects of community interaction include providing research information to support decision-making and addressing social issues in the University’s strategy. The University wants to be a key partner for regional institutions and companies. Panula would strengthen the position of the Swedish language at the University, particularly because of the Nordic cooperation it enables.
“The Nordic countries are in many ways examples for the world, and even for Europe. Even though individual Nordic countries are curiosities on an international scale, together they can make a difference.
Panula’s position as vice-rector is part-time. During his remaining time he is a Swedish-language professor of biomedicine and leads his own research group at the Institute of Biomedicine and the Neuroscience Centre. The group is in charge of zebra fish research and is currently studying the impact of histamine receptor antagonists on the brain in the treatment of alcoholism. Preliminary studies indicate that the histamine H3 receptor antagonist reduces alcohol consumption and the related pleasure response among rats and mice.
According to Panula, the H3 receptor antagonists could be adopted for treatment of alcoholism in humans, but it would have to be supported by behavioural therapy.
“Adoption of this drug would be the crowning achievement of my career. This would also impact the children and families of alcoholics who would see the release of a drug which can reduce the drinking of a person addicted to alcohol.”
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