New methods for studying liver diseases and stem cell transplantation
Postdoc researcher Antti Kyrönlahti studies the rare biliary atresia and pediatric stem cell transplantation.
Research requires good collaborative relationships. In Professor Markku Heikinheimo’s research group, Kyrönlahti has formed good partnerships in Finland and abroad. His postdoc periods in Frankfurt and St. Louis have accelerated the creation of networks abroad.
The biliary atresia uses a messenger RNA sequencing material which is unique on an international level and which is already being analysed.
In conjunction with Professors Markku Heikinheimo and Mikko Pakarinen, who have carried out extensive research into biliary atresia, Kyrönlahti examines why connective tissue accumulates in the liver of pediatric patients after a successful Kasai operation.
Biliary atresia is treated surgically with the Kasai operation, which improves short-term clinical outcomes by alleviating cholestasis. Unfortunately, inflammation and progressive liver fibrosis persist after the Kasai operation, resulting in cirrhosis and deterioration of liver function. Fibrotisation of the liver due to biliary atresia is the most common cause of liver transplantations in small children.
– If we could identify the factors causing the fibrotisation of the liver, the accumulation of connective tissue after the Kasai operation, we could develop new medication for these patients. It might reduce the need for liver transplantation in the future, Antti Kyrönlahti says.
In biliary atresia patients, Kyrönlahti’s group has already identified two signal transmission routes which appear to be overly active even after the Kasai operation. The researchers are currently examining the connection between these signal routes and the fibrotisation of the liver.
Research into haploidentical stem cell transplantation
In another project, Antti Kyrönlahti and Docent Eliisa Kekäläinen, who is involved in the Helsinki University research programme for immunobiology, study the restoration of immune system after haploidentical stem cell transplantation.
They are about to launch a collaboration project with the Frankfurt University Hospital. Professor of Cell Therapy and Transfusion Medicine Kim Vettenranta plays an important role in enabling the project.
Kyrönlahti has visited Frankfurt with the support of the Finnish Pediatric Research Foundation in order to acquire deeper knowledge on haploidentical stem cell transplantation and to plan the details of the collaboration project.
In haploidentical stem cell transplantations, the transplants are treated before implanting them in the patient. In the technique most commonly used for pediatric patients, a large number of the mature T and B cells are removed from the transplants.
– The haploidentical stem cell transplantation technique is still relatively new. However, it seems that patients have far fewer graft-versus-host reactions due to the transplant, which may, in the worst case, result in significant issues after an otherwise successful stem cell transplantation. This is why we need new information about the onset of the graft-versus-host reaction, Kyrönlahti explains.
Helsinki University Hospital Children and Adolescents