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Bild på forskaren Hannu Kankaanranta
Researcher Hannu Kankaanranta out in the forest in Finland.

New asthma and allergy researcher at Krefting Research Centre


He has worked clinically as a lung specialist and has conducted both clinical and epidemiological asthma research as well as basic research on inflammatory cells in asthma disease. Now the asthma and allergy researcher Hannu Kankaanranta joins the department and the Krefting Research Centre.

Welcome to the Department of Medicine Hannu!
You are Professor of Respiratory Medicine, previous head of the Department of Respiratory Medicine at Seinäjoki Central Hospital in Tampere, Finland, as well as the Principal investigator of the SAAS-study - a study with the longest published non-selected cohort of adult-onset asthma. What triggered your interest to join the Department of Medicine at Sahlgrenska and the Krefting Research Centre?

- It is a dream come true for me to be able to join the researchers at Krefting. They have a long tradition of asthma and allergy research and it is clearly the platform you want to be part of. I am very proud to have been elected.

What do you think will be your main contribution to the department?
- Over the years, I have done both lab work, clinical work, clinical research, administration as well as running a clinic and I have been invited to several advisory boards. These things combined have trained me to understand and communicate the lab side to the clinical side and vice versa. It has helped me identify connections between research in different projects, as well as to combine skilled people from different areas to work together. I see myself as somebody positioned in the middle and that is my strength.

You worked first in pharmacology and your other clinical specialization is in clinical pharmacology and drug therapy, but after your Phd thesis your interest changed after spending a postdoc year at the National Heart and Lung Institute, Imperial College in London.

- Yes, there I changed to the respiratory field, studying eosinophils which is a blood type associated with asthma. My major research interest since has been asthma and recently especially adult-onset asthma. Part of the reason why is because there is a history of multiple allergies in my family, which is something I also have myself.

Since 2011, your main project is the SAAS study, which focuses on adult-onset asthma. What are the main results from the project?

- What is remarkable about that study is that it is a 12-year real-life follow-up study of new-onset asthma diagnosed at adult age. It is the longest published non-selected adult asthma cohort, which makes it interesting because in asthma research we have previously thought the disease started early in life and not much has been known about adult-onset asthma. Since the discovery of the asthma phenotypes, several types of asthma have been identified. We have found that later- or adult-onset asthma that is less associated with allergy than asthma beginning in childhood, has clearly worse prognosis than childhood-onset disease. Two lifestyle-associated phenotypes, such as obesity-associated asthma and smoking-associated asthma, were identified and patients belonging to these phenotypes are very symptomatic, suffer from exacerbations and there is major unmet medical need in their treatment.

- Another interesting result is that while it is usually young boys with allergies that develop asthma, it is mostly middle-aged women, often with no previous allergies, that develop adult-onset asthma. That was partly know before but the difference is that it has only been looked at from a cross sectional setting. We are now able to follow patients for many years in this study and find out more about adult-onset asthma.

What has it been like for you to start this new position at Krefting during the unusual circumstances of Covid-19?
- Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to travel from Finland due to the situation but to be honest it hasn’t been as big of a problem as I first thought. I am surprised how well it has worked out with Zoom meetings with people from Krefting and the department. I already feel I have a good connection with many of my co-workers.

Current project

  • Seinäjoki Adult Asthma Study (SAAS)
  • FinEsS (Finland-Estonia-Sweden): a population-based questionnaire study of asthma, allergies and COPD that we joined in 2016
  • Nordic EpiLung
  • Involved in the Nordic Severe Asthma Network (NSAN), that published Scandinavian severe asthma guideline and Nordstar (severe asthma study), Fibrosis consortium (a Finnish pulmonary fibrosis registry), FinnGen (a large Finnish genetic study) and is part of TUNIResp (respiratory research collaboration in Tampere).

We are incredibly happy and grateful to be able to recruit Hannu Kankaanranta to KRC. He is a very competent asthma researcher with clinical background. It means a lot to us to get Hannu here - a professor with expertise from clinic to population and cellular level is extremely valuable.

Madeleine Rådinger, director Krefting Research Centre.

Foto: Privat