Award Winner - Saara Wittfooth Interview

undefinedDr. Saara Wittfooth is the winner of the second EFLM-HyTest Cardiac Marker Award. The Award is granted to a young scientist for remarkable scientific work in the field of cardiovascular diseases.

The winner was announced during the opening ceremony of the EuroMedLab in Barcelona. Read below Saara's inteview and find out how she sees cardiac disease diagnostics now and in the future:

What is sustainability for you? And what do you think about the Challenge25 campaign?
Sustainability means the wise use of the available resources. Whether we are talking about it on a global scale to avoid the depletion of natural resources or in the field of medical biosciences to use public research funding for meaningful, well-planned research, the principle is the same.
The Hytest Challenge25 campaign is an admirable effort at targeting the UN sustainable development goals with practical actions. It is a wonderful example of how all stakeholders should consider their performance from the perspective of sustainable growth in order to improve the future for all of us.

What made you choose cardiac diseases as the topic of your research?
Some years ago, as an exchange student during my Master’s studies, I attended an inspiring lecture on the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis and the role of inflammation in it.
I was fascinated by this interplay of different processes and the way in which these processes that are designed to protect us can go awry and harm us. Soon after this lecture I had to choose the topic for my Master’s thesis and one topic in particular caught my attention: a study of PAPP-A as a novel atherosclerotic plaque vulnerability-related cardiac marker.
The aim of my Master’s thesis was to study possible PAPP-A degradation in the blood of myocardial infarction. I did not find any degradation products but instead I did discover that, unlike in pregnant women, PAPP-A in the serum of infarction patients existed in a noncomplexed free form.
This finding led me to the path of making my PhD on PAPP-A in cardiac diseases and then continuing the work with my own Master’s and PhD students.

What do you enjoy most about your work?
The top aspect of my work is being able to study something that could improve the wellbeing of human beings. It is also highly rewarding when – after doing hard work - you finally find a solution to a problem and reach the goal of the research.

Can you name one or two articles that you are especially proud of?
Here is a list:
Wittfooth S, Tertti R, Lepäntalo M, Porela P, Qin Q-P, Tynjälä J, Inkinen O, Perttilä J, Airaksinen KEJ, Pettersson K. Studies on the effects of heparin products on pregnancy-associated plasma protein A. Clinica Chimica Acta 2011;41283(4):376-81.
Wittfooth S, Qin QP, Lund J, Tierala I, Pulkki K, Takalo H , Pettersson K. Immunofluorometric point-of-care assays for the detection of acute coronary syndrome related non-complexed pregnancy-associated plasma protein A. Clinical Chemistry 2006;52(9):1794-1801.

When looking back, how has the diagnostics of cardiac diseases improved over the years? Has it been the result of major breakthrough discoveries or mainly as a result of small steps?
Cardiac troponins have been a major breakthrough that has had a great impact on the diagnostics of cardiac diseases.

What would you say are the main pain points in the current cardiac disease diagnostics?
In this era of highly sensitive or even ultrasensitive troponin assays, there is a need for other supporting markers to help clinicians in their decisions when seeing patients with only mildly elevated troponins or borderline concentrations.
Numerous candidate markers have been suggested but there has not been any significant progress to bring these markers to the clinic. More work is required to show the true clinical significance of the candidate markers and also interest is needed from the test manufacturers to make simple assays for the markers available.

Now that you’ve won the EFLM-HyTest Cardiac Marker Award and the 5,000 euros that comes with it, have you already decided how you are going to spend the money?
The award was made for the article, for which there were 14 authors, all of whom had their own very important role in the work. Therefore, I have decided to share the money equally amongst all of the authors, excluding the few who have already indicated that they wish to waive their share.
I hope that every one of us will use the money on something refreshing and invigorating that will inspire us to produce further innovative research.

Thank you Saara for an interview and once more congratulations! Check also other actions and read more about our anniversary year campaign Challenge25 below:


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