FiDiPro (The Finland Distinguished Professor Programme) is a joint funding programme of the Academy of Finland and Tekes. FiDiPro enables top researchers, both international and expatriates, to work in Finland for a fixed period of time. One of the researchers who have participated in the programme is György K.B. Sándor, a Canadian professor specialising in oral and maxillofacial surgery. His research focus areas include bone regeneration, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, tissue engineering and stem cells.
Sándor works at the BioMediTech research institute run by the University of Tampere and the Tampere University of Technology. BioMediTech is an innovation centre that combines biomedicine and technology.
Making copies feasible
The goal of the research is to produce bone and cartilage using tissue engineering and to optimise the use of tissue-derived stem cells. A human body may be missing bone tissue already at birth, due to a developmental disorder, but bone defects may also be caused by accidents and various inflammations. Typical causes also include surgeries in which bone tissue has to be removed along with a difficult tumour.
With tissue engineering, it is possible to produce tailored, living human spare parts. If the method can be rolled out on a larger scale, it may become the third alternative form of treatment alongside the traditional forms, surgery and pharmacotherapy.
“Tissue-derived stem cells can be isolated from the patient’s own tissue. In that way, they will not cause a rejection reaction. Compared to tissue stem cells, human embryonic stem cells have a greater ability to differentiate into different cell types. In practice, it means that all cell types can be used,” Sándor says.
Encouraged by success
According to Sándor, Finland is a forerunner in developing bone tissue engineering.
“At the moment, expertise in the field is concentrated in Finland, but it has also generated global interest in other medically advanced countries.”
In the near future, it is possible that larger numbers of patients will travel to Finland to receive treatment. Sándor believes that as forms of treatment develop, expertise can also be exported abroad to be used on a larger scale.
“We have proven with more than 20 clinically successful operations that tissue engineering works,” Sándor says.
Sándor considers the research community in Tampere to be unique in how well it functions. That was one of the key reasons why the professor specialising in tissue engineering decided to stay and continue his research in Finland even after the FiDiPro project.
“In the field, BioMediTech is a unique concentration of researchers and expertise. In the Pirkanmaa region, also the cooperation between research, industry and administration works well. That enables efficient decision making which, in turn, contributes to the creation of new innovations,” he says.
“Cooperation with colleagues is smooth too. That was the determining factor in my decision to stay in Finland. Each day is like a new adventure.”
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Text: Pekka Säilä
Photo: Markus Sommers