Group leader

PekkaPekka Katajisto Ph.D, Docent


As we age, our stem cells can no longer compensate for the accumulated damage and fail to maintain youthful tissue function. I am fascinated by such basic biological processes, as they can provide completely novel views on a well-known, but poorly understood, phenomenon of aging.



AnaAna Amaral Ph.D.

Mitochondria are my favourite organelle in the cell since, in addition to being responsible for energy production, they also regulate many cellular processes via signalling mechanisms. At the Katajisto lab, my project focuses in understanding how mitochondria determine the fate of a stem cell after asymmetric division.
I am definitely the metabolic “geek” of the lab but I also love singing and cooking/baking and photographing!


JohannaJohanna Englund Ph.D.


I am interested in exploring how extracellular matrix changes during aging and how it affects stem cell maintenance, specifically asymmetric cell division. Also, I am studying the role of extracellular matrix in cancer progression using in vitro and in vivo mouse models.


Swetha Gopalakrishnan, Ph.D

“To be, or not to be ; That’s the question”
My interest in the lab is to understand the logic behind fate choice decisions made by stem cells in various spatio-temporal contexts.

Rodrigo Lozano, Ph.D.
My interests are focused on tissue engineering. At the Katajisto lab, my main interest is investigating the role of mechanical forces, niche contour, and extra cellular matrix (ECM) constituents, to understand the role they play in maintaining crypt function and intestinal
tissue renewal.

Tomás McKenna, Ph.D.

I’m interested in the stem cell niche, specifically I want to pick apart the effects of ECM proteins on the morphology and stemness of cells in the niche, and try to find out how ECM properties control cell behaviour.


Sandra Scharaw, Ph.D.



Stem cells maintain tissue function by balancing self-renewal and differentiation, which is controlled by signaling cues from their surrounding niche. My research focuses on the cellular secretion processes that ensure successful signal delivery from the niche Paneth cells to the stem cells in the small intestine. I try to understand how the signal secretion is regulated and adapted in order to determine the stem cell fate.


Graduate students

HienHien Bui


During asymmetric division, stem cell has to asymmetrically organize and divide organelles that affect its fate. How does that happen is my interest. In the lab, I am focusing on studying the mechanism that regulate age-selective segregation of peroxisomes during stem cell division.


NalleNalle Pentinmikko, M.Sc,


My interests are focused on stem cell niches. Organized interplay between the niche and stem cells maintain tissue homeostasis during the lifetime and is a vital part of longevity. Although tissue maintenance is finely tuned it’s not perfect and errors in the system are usually disastrous from the organisms point of view. Thus, knowledge from the basic biology of stem cell niches can point out valuable intervention targets in aging related diseases.


juliaJulia Döhla, M.Sc,


Stem cell exhaustion is a key contributor to age related tissue demise. My interest is focused on the mechanisms stem cells use to avoid accumulation of damage and to maintain tissue renewal. Understanding how stem cells recognize and rid themselves of damaged cellular material in order to preserve their functionality can give important clues about aging and longevity.


SharifSharif Iqbal, M.Sc,


Aging tissues often demonstrate reduced regenerative capacity. I am interested how the tissue regeneration is affected by the stem cell and niche interaction.


Undergraduate students

SimonSimon Andersson


An all year summer student turned lab moral executive. I am interested in stem cell exhaustion and what could be done to alleviate this, and improve tissue function during aging.


EllaElla Salminen


My interest is to understand what factors contribute to stemness and how stem cells maintain healthy and highly functional organelles by dividing asymmetrically. I study molecular biosciences at the University of Helsinki.


Lab managers

MaijaMaija Simula


My main interest is to research and prevent the premature aging of my colleagues by focusing on lab management and taking care of running issues in the Helsinki lab. At present, the relative grayness of the test population is minor.