Tiia Kärkkäinen profile picture
Tiia
Kärkkäinen
Doctoral Student, Department of Biology
Ecology and Evolution Biology
MSc

Contact

Research

Telomeres are non-coding DNA-sequences at the end of chromosomes and their main function is to protect genome from damage. Telomeres shorten with every cell division, but external factors can accelerate the shortening through oxidative stress. Short telomeres are shown to increase the risk of cancer and other age-related diseases. Furthermore, inter-individual variation in telomere length explains inter-individual differences in, i.a., lifespan, susceptibility to disease and ability to handle stress.

In my PhD, I am investigating within-individual changes and inter-individual differences in telomere length as well as the factors that may drive these differences using pied flycatcher as a model species. Studies about telomere dynamics have rapidly increased in number during recent years. Although, traditional telomere research is mainly correlative even if only experimental research allows us to see the underlying causes behind the individual differences and subsequent survival probabilities. Telomere length is also about to be established as a biomarker of long-term costs but there is no research focusing on individual consistency in telomere measurements which should be required for telomere length to be useful in this purpose. 

In my thesis, I aim to fill in this gap and to provide a solid basis for future studies using telomere length as a proxy for individual state. My research will also provide new information about how individual telomere lengths are determined in early life as well as how different life-history events affect telomere dynamics in later life.