Research Team

Group Leader

Associate Professor Kirsi A. Virtanen
Associate Prof. Kirsi A. Virtanen currently works at Turku PET Centre, University of Turku, Finland and leads the research group of Human Brown Fat Metabolism. She is a pioneer in establishing the existence of brown fat in human adults. She has several decades of clinical research experience.

Senior Scientists & Post-doctoral Researchers

Dr Mueez U-Din
Dr Mueez U-Din is an Adjunct Professor (Docent) of Medical Imaging & Metabolic Research at the University of Turku and a Fellow of Research Council of Finland (Suomen Akatemia, 2023-2027). 
Dr Mueez U-Din’s research focuses on understanding the biology and molecular pathways controlling adipose tissue metabolism in humans. He examines how the hormones and signalling molecules regulate metabolic effects in fat depots. His work aims to contribute to developing new preventative strategies and treatments for metabolic diseases, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular complications. He is keenly interested in utilizing and optimizing medical imaging methods for metabolic health research.
Twitter: @MueezUdin

Dr Francisco M. Acosta
Dr Francisco is an MSCA postdoctoral fellow working in the energy metabolism and adipose tissue biology field. He carried out his undergraduate studies at the University of Granada in Spain, where he majored in Sports Health and Sciences. He did his PhD in Biomedicine at the lab of Jonatan Ruiz, where he investigated the role of brown adipose tissue (BAT) in human biology. He also explored the use of exercise, cold and circadian biology modulation as strategies to improve BAT metabolic activity. Currently, he is working within the frame of the Finnish InFLAMES flagship. His project is aimed at ascertaining the crosstalk between the immune system and BAT in humans, and more specifically, if the modulation of specific immune cell populations within BAT can improve its metabolic function in adults with obesity – therefore being a potential way of improving their cardiometabolic health. Dr Francisco is also interested in ascertaining the mechanisms by which obesity induces brown and white adipose tissue dysfunction. His overarching aim is to find strategies which represent real and effective avenues to combat the current obesity pandemic.
Twitter: @FranM_Acosta

Dr Milena Monfort-Pires
Dr Milena Monfort-Pires has a bachelor’s degree in Sports (2003) and Nutrition (2008) and She got her master’s degree and her PhD (2015) in Nutrition and Public Health at the University of São Paulo in Brazil. As a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Campinas, Brazil, she worked on a project aiming at activating brown adipose tissue with olive oil supplementation (2016-2021). Moreover, she worked as a researcher for the Lipidinflammages project at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (NMBU, Norway) between 2021 and 2022, investigating the effects of different sources of animal fats on cardiovascular risk markers. She is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the Turku PET Centre and she is working on the project “The gut microbiome and immunological system as Modulators of Brown Adipose Tissue function in obese adults” (MOTORBAT) under Kirsi Virtanen’s supervision. From the beginning of her academic career, the focus of her research has been to investigate the effects of foods and nutrients on cardiometabolic diseases and metabolism. She has experience in conducting clinical trials and she has been studying the effects of foods and nutrients on brown adipose tissue activity since 2016.

Dr Teemu Saari
Dr Teemu Saari is keenly interest in PET imaging and the metabolism of brown adipose tissue in the context of obesity and type II diabetes. He holds a doctoral degree in Clinical Physiology and Isotope Medicine from the University of Turku, Finland.

Doctoral Researchers

Johanna Örling
Johanna graduated from Turku University of Applied Sciences as a medical laboratory technologist in 2007. Since then, she has worked in preclinical research in Pharmatest Services, mainly with cancer and bone-related preclinical disease models. In 2019, she started her master’s studies in the Drug Discovery and Development track at the University of Turku. After completing her master’s studies, she joined the Human BAT metabolism group in April 2022 as a doctoral researcher. Her research focuses on the immunology of brown adipose tissue and its significance for human health.

Research Staff

Sanna Himanen
Sanna is a registered study nurse working at Turku PET Centre. Sanna has several years of experience in assisting and coordinating metabolic research projects.