Doctoral Candidate Norma Jäppinen and Docent Pia Rantakari received the prize at a ceremony held during the BioCity symposium on 17 August.
The prize, which is awarded to the best publication of BioCity Turku, is named after Professor Elias Tillandz (1640‒1693) who introduced empirical life science to Finland and published the first scientific study in Turku. The prize includes a grant.
The winning paper “Fetal liver endothelium regulates the seeding of tissue-resident macrophages” was published in the Nature journal. It is based on research conducted by the university’s researchers at the MediCity research laboratory of the Faculty of Medicine who found a gene that regulates the migration of macrophages in tissues.
“We observed that deficiency of the PLVAP gene, which is only present in blood vessels, surprisingly causes major alterations in the macrophages of different tissues. The migration of fetal liver macrophages to other tissue is almost completely inhibited without the PLVAP gene, even though there were completely normal levels of bone-marrow-derived macrophages,” say Docent Pia Rantakari and Doctoral Candidate Norma Jäppinen.
The deficiency of fetal liver macrophages had significant physiological consequences in adulthood. For example, the iron released from old red blood cells accumulated in the body because of the deficiency. Furthermore, the deficiency of PLVAP protein blocked the development mammary branching in puberty almost entirely. The researchers’ observations indicate that the macrophages that develop at different points of individual development have specialized in certain tasks in the body that extend outside the immune system. The research group showed that the PLVAP protein is needed for regulating the transfer of fetal macrophage precursors from the liver to the bloodstream and from there to different parts of the body. Without the PLVAP protein these macrophage precursors are, in a way, stuck in the liver.
The authors are Pia Rantakari, Norma Jäppinen, Emmi Lokka, Elias Mokkala, Heidi Gerke, Emilia Peuhu, Johanna Ivaska, Kati Elima, Kaisa Auvinen and Marko Salmi.
Photo: Tilda Junko