Saarakkala Group

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a severe and common musculoskeletal disease causing significant burden to society at both the individual and economical level. The disease should be diagnosed at the early stage in order to develop and offer effective treatment options for patients suffering OA.

Dr. Saarakkala’s DIOS (Diagnostics of Osteoarthritis) group is focusing on developing novel and innovative clinical diagnostic and follow-up methods for early OA. Specifically, non-invasive ultrasound imaging as well as thermal, acoustic and kinematic measurements are currently under investigation and development in the group. Furthermore, nowadays digital image analysis methods enable extraction of new information from many traditional clinical imaging modalities of OA, e.g., conventional radiography, computed tomography (CT), ultrasound imaging, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The group is developing quantitative in vivo image analysis methods for evaluating the structure and composition of articular cartilage and subchondral bone from conventional clinical imaging modalities. The ambitious ultimate goal would be to develop automated image analysis and classification algorithms that would enhance the sensitivity of the current clinical imaging methods and offer a prediction for the clinical progression of OA.

Despite intensive research worldwide, pathogenesis of OA at tissue level is poorly understood. The group is investigating the early pathological changes in articular cartilage, subchondral bone and meniscus in vitro and in situ using animal and human tissue samples. Conventional histological and immunohistochemical staining methods, as well as modern Fourier-Transform Infrared (FTIR) and Raman imaging techniques, are applied in the group to characterize structural and compositional osteoarthritic changes from tissue sections. Furthermore, the group is actively developing biomedical imaging techniques suitable for quantitative 3D imaging of tissue samples. Specifically, micro/nano-CT imaging techniques are investigated in the group. These techniques enable 3D imaging of tissue structure and composition in different stages of OA in micro/nanometer scale, which significantly improves our understanding of pathogenesis of OA.

The research is currently funded by: 1) European Research Council (ERC), 2) Academy of Finland, 3) Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation (Business Finland), 4) Sigrid Jusélius Foundation, 5) European Union (Horizon 2020), 6) Strategic Funding of the University of Oulu, and 7) The Northern Ostrobothnia Hospital District (VTR grant).

Simo Saarakkala, Ph.D.
Professor of Biomedical Engineering, ERC Starting Grantee
Research Unit of Medical Imaging, Physics and Technology
Faculty of Medicine
University of Oulu

Group members:
Jérôme Thevenot, Ph.D., Post-Doctoral Fellow
Lassi Rieppo, Ph.D., Post-Doctoral Fellow
Mikko Finnilä, Ph.D., Post-Doctoral Fellow
Lauri Hautala, Ph.D., Post-Doctoral Researcher
Lauriane Janssen, Ph.D., Post-Doctoral Researcher

Sakari Karhula, M.Sc., Ph.D. Student
Joonas Oinas, M.Sc., Ph.D. Student
Aleksei Tiulpin, M.Sc., Ph.D. Student
Shuvashis Das Gupta, Ph.D. Student
Iida Kestilä, M.H.Sc., Ph.D. Student
Vesa Virtanen, M.H.Sc., Ph.D. Student
Simo Ojanen, M.Sc., Ph.D. Student

Tuomas Frondelius, Research Assistant
Sami Kauppinen, Research Assistant
Santeri Rytky, Research Assistant
Jesse Lohela, Research Assistant
Bijay Shakya, Research Assistant
Iivari Kanninen, Research Assistant
Laura Tervala, Research Assistant
Linda Rantamaa, Research Assistant
Terhimaria Kaski, Research Assistant
Ville Karjalainen, Research Assistant
Hanna Hautamäki, Research Assistant

Tarja Huhta, Laboratory Technician

ERC Project members:
Heikki Nieminen, Ph.D., Senior Research Fellow
Tuomo Ylitalo, M.Sc., Ph.D. Student

If you are interested in working or collaborating with this research group, contact Meri Ojakangas.