Research interests of the Koli Lab are directed towards understanding how targeting and activation of the TGF-β/BMP family growth factors are involved in the pathogenesis of malignant and fibrotic lung diseases. The aim is to develop new therapeutic strategies for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) and malignant mesothelioma based on the identified new pathological mechanisms.

Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) and malignant mesothelioma are relatively rare progressive diseases. Both diseases are characterized by epithelial abnormalities and a disease course of invasive fibrotic progression to which conventional anti-proliferative therapies have yielded little efficacy. We have identified several shared biochemical markers of disease progression (gremlin 1 in IPF and mesothelioma) and possible markers of treatment effect in IPF (activin B). In addition, we have identified a groundbreaking mechanism related to mesothelioma invasion and chemoresistance (gremlin-induced EMT through upregulation of transcription factor slug).

Targeting the overexpressed cysteine knot protein gremlin 1 and activins in the fibrotic lung parenchyma as well as in the mesothelioma tumor microenvironment may provide a novel therapeutic strategy to treat these diseases. The aim of our research is to use high-quality, nationwide registry data, biobank samples, drug and diagnostic modality development and  preclinical mouse models for developing new strategies to evaluate patient prognosis and novel therapies for these devastating fibrotic disorders.

Our research in conducted in close collaboration with clinical researcher to translate the molecular findings into understanding and treating human disease. Together with professor Marjukka Myllärniemi’s research group (pulmonary medicine, HUS Heart and Lung Center) we have published a number of original research articles.