Pekka Katajisto’s main research focus is mechanisms behind tissue homeostasis loss and aging. Young stem cells renew tissue constantly; old stem cells can no longer produce daughter cells at the rate required for tissue function preservation. This leads to a decline that’s manifested as aging. The failure of stem cells to regenerate tissue can be caused by damage accumulated over time, or by misinformation by the neighboring cells.
At CIMED, Katajisto investigates the cellular basis of aging from both perspectives. His research team is currently investigating how communication changes during aging (i.e., communication between stem cells and the cells around them). The team uses the well-characterized intestinal stem cell system to investigate whether or not such changes could provide points for intervention in aging-related diseases. They’re also studying a novel stem cell mechanism that they recently identified.
“We discovered that stem cells can asymmetrically apportion certain organelles in a cell division so that the differentiating daughter cells will receive old organelles. We will address the molecular mechanisms and study the role of this novel phenomenon in stem cell and tissue maintenance.”
For Katajisto, tissue stem cell expertise that exists among other CIMED partners was particularly tempting – as was the generous grant that will allow him to explore some slightly risky avenues of research.
“CIMED provides an exciting environment and interactions for our research team, and we look forward to establishing partnerships to extend our findings in mice to a more clinically relevant setting.”
Katajisto received his PhD training at the University of Helsinki in 2008. From 2009 to 2013, he held a postdoc position at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research and MIT in Boston, where he worked on cell-cell communication and stem cell research. In 2013, he returned to Finland and started his own lab at the University of Helsinki, where he is concentrating on the mechanisms that lead to tissue homeostasis loss and aging.