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Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences


Recent Submissions

  • Holopainen, Sini (2022)
    During the time of ecological crisis, it is important to find new approaches on how to produce welfare within planetary and ecological boundaries. Besides focusing on technical and societal changes I state in this thesis that there is a need for focus on human’s spiritual side to solve wide sustainability issues. Immaterial welfare is highlighted with people who are practicing spirituality, in this case meditation with Buddhist background. Enhancing immaterial welfare is important in the world in which overconsumption is dwindling biodiversity and planetary resources. In this master’s thesis I discuss how acknowledging peoples’ inner worlds is an essential part of holistic sustainability transition towards sustainable welfare and society. According to previous research spiritual practices such as meditation and mindfulness can support sustainable behaviour in many ways. People practicing meditation with Buddhist background try to live in a way that reduces their own suffering and suffering of living beings around them. When living in a mindful state it may be easier to make daily choices that are aligning with one’s values. Those who practice meditation may feel stronger connection to nature which can foster ecological behaviour. In this thesis I conducted nine interviews with nine meditation practitioners who are regularly practicing meditation with Buddhist background. I focused on their lifestyle that takes environmental aspects into account and how do they perceive that the meditation practice helps them to live in sustainable way. Central questions in the interviews included connectedness to nature, values and adapting and reacting to ecological crisis. I analysed the interviews using content-guiding theory analysis reflecting previous research. Meditation itself does not transform one to become more environmentally friendly but it can for example help to live by own values. Buddhist philosophy and spiritual lessons based in Buddhism play important roles in the meditation practices of the people I interviewed. Those lessons can motivate them to act respectfully towards all kinds of living beings and reduce their suffering. The people in this study live out environmentally friendly lifestyle in multiple ways. The interviewees highlighted many immaterial factors in their wellbeing from relationships to being in silence. In addition, spiritual practice can support them with difficult emotions that can arise from the news about the environment and climate. Altogether the sustainability science could benefit from considering human’s spiritual sides and the lost connection to self and the surrounding world.
  • Liiwand, Maj Britt (2022)
    Chronic stress has been linked to the pathogenesis of various disorders, such as generalized anxiety disorder, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Stress-induced hyperexcitability of the basolateral amygdala (BLA) has implications in anxiety-like behavior. Promising evidence points to the direction of GluK1 subunit containing kainate receptors (KARs) having a role in the modulation of GABAergic transmission in the lateral amygdala (LA). The aim of the present study was to investigate whether dysfunction of KARs contribute to stress-induced amygdala hyperexcitability and anxiogenesis in mice. Chronic restraint stress (CRS) is an animal model simulating chronic psychological stress. An in situ hybridization experiment was performed to investigate how CRS affects expression levels of GluK1 in the different neuronal populations in the LA. These data show that CRS leads to downregulation of GluK1 expression in the parvalbumin-positive (PV+) interneurons specifically. Patch clamp recordings of spontaneous inhibitory postsynaptic currents showed that CRS did not affect synaptic GABAergic transmission to the principal neurons in the LA. Lastly, conditional knock-out (cKO) mice that have the Grik1 gene knocked out selectively in the PV-expressing interneurons showed no change in anxiety-like behavior after CRS while their wild-type counterparts demonstrated an increase in anxiety-like behavior observable in the elevated plus maze test. Thus, ablation of GluK1 in PV+ interneurons affects the stress-induced anxiogenesis. Due to low number of animals, it cannot be confirmed yet whether the deletion leads to stress resilience or a phenotype where even regular handling is an aversive experience comparable to physical restraint. GluK1 KAR modulation of PV+ interneuron excitability and its susceptibility to stress-related alterations is only a recently discovered phenomenon, and even though this study provides some insight into the underlying mechanism, further research is needed. Systematic characterization of the mechanism could provide a novel tool for understanding and treating stress-related pathological anxiety, possibly helping patients suffering from anxiety disorders resistant to current treatments available.
  • Hynynen, Outi (2022)
    A common understanding of partnership goals is widely acknowledged to be one of the most crucial factors of a partnership project’s success. This thesis examines a partnership between the city of Espoo and five company partners and looks for processes and conditions that support a common understanding of the project goals. The aim is to support future sustainability-partnerships by giving managers concrete tools for facilitating goal-alignment by answering the research question “how did the partners accept and adapt to a common sustainability goal?” The data consists of interviews conducted with the project employees from both the city and the private entities, the project contract and web communications published by the partners. The data was analyzed using theme categories derived from the literature, seeking to first find the answer of whether the official partnership goal was adopted an accepted by the partners, and then comparing those observations to the experiences that partners had had working in the collaboration. It seems that the project goal was adopted and accepted in this case, and based on the findings five key mechanisms for how that was achieved and what future managers can therefore consider were recognized: 1) the organizational goals of the partner organizations were sufficiently compatible with the partnership goal, 2) the partnership goal was broad enough to leave room for later adjustments, 3) the partners were further divided into smaller sub-tasks with supporting sub-goals, 4) there was a lot of mandatory group-work and 5) all of the above-mentioned features were taken into account already in the design-phase of the partnership, and programmed into the day-to-day activities of the collaboration.
  • D' Assunção Castro, Beatriz (2022)
    Tiivistelmä – Referat – Abstract The mTORC1 (mechanistic target of rapamycin complex 1) protein kinase is a master regulator of cell growth. In the presence of environmental cues, such as nutrients and growth factor, mTORC1 is transported to the lysosome where it is activated by a small GTPase Rheb. Dysregulation of mTORC1 has been linked to several diseases such as cancer and neurodegeneration. Despite our growing understanding of the nutrient-driven activation mechanism of mTORC1, we still do not fully understand how nutrients are transported out of the lysosome or how nutrient sensing is connected to nutrient transport. Recently, SLC38A9, a small lysosomal transmembrane protein, was identified as a mediator of the efflux of essential amino acids from the lysosome to the cytosol. It also acts as an amino acid sensor for mTORC1, playing a role in its activation. Due to poorly vascularized tumor cores, cancers such as pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma, have access to very scarce amounts of free nutrients. Consequently, they rely on scavenging of protein macromolecules from the extracellular environment, followed by digestion inside lysosomes. The digested nutrients are released to the cytosol via transporters such as SLC38A9 and activate the mTORC1 pathway which carries out the growth processes. In fact, recent studies in mouse xenograft models have shown a severely slowed down growth of PDAC tumors with SLC38A9 knocked out. Blocking of SLC38A9 activity with pharmacologics or biologics would prevent the release of digested amino acids from the lysosomes, starving cancer cells of nutrients, while sparing normal cells that do not feed on extracellular proteins. However, SLC38A9 is still poorly understood, and development of selective inhibitors first requires mechanistic understanding of the protein and knowing what its binding pockets look like. In order to obtain this information, we aimed to determine the three-dimensional structure of SLC38A9 through cryogenic electron microscopy (cryo-EM). However, two significant challenges hindered our ability to obtain high-resolution images of this membrane protein: (i) its small size, and (ii) its constant conformational changes. To address this, I proceeded to develop a set of nanobodies that would bind SLC38A9 with high affinity and specificity. Nanobodies allow for locking of target proteins in specific conformational states, and they can also serve as chaperones for visualizing proteins in cryo-EM. To obtain these nanobodies, I used a library of 100 million unique nanobodies, displayed on the surface of yeast cells. Specific SLC38A9 binder nanobodies were obtained through multiple rounds of selection and sorting, using decreasing concentrations of fluorescently- labeled SLC38A9. After the final selection round, single colonies were picked and the strength of binding to SLC38A9 was evaluated. High-throughput screening results showed that we were able to obtain specific SLC38A9 binders and that there was variation in binding strength among the selected nanobodies. These nanobodies will enable the determination of the cryo-EM structure of SLC38A9 and also serve as tools to further dissect the function and mechanisms of SLC38A9 in amino-acid efflux from lysosomes to cytosol, providing further insights for the development of novel cancer therapeutics.
  • Katajarinne, Jenni (2022)
    Biodiversity loss and ecosystem service degradation and the related economic costs are increasingly recognized as sources of financial risks. The risks are arising through physical and transition sources of risks caused by dependencies and impacts upon biodiversity and ecosystem services. Therefore, it has become increasingly important for both individual financial institutions as well as central banks and financial supervisors to better understand and manage these risks. However, biodiversity loss is associated with unique complexity and uncertainty, making it a challenging task. The purpose of this thesis was to study the linkages between biodiversity loss and financial stability in Finland. This was done by assessing the financial exposure of Finnish credit institutions to sectors dependent on ecosystem services for their production processes. A quantitative analysis was conducted in order to combine loan data obtained from the Bank of Finland and ecosystem service data obtained from the ENCORE database. The results showed that 23% of loans provided by Finnish credit institutions are exposed to high or very high biodiversity-related financial risks. The sectors associated with most value at risks were real estate and agriculture, forestry and fishing sectors. Disruptions of ecosystem services providing surface water and climate regulation were posing the highest financial risks. The findings represent a first step towards assessing the exposure of the Finnish financial system to biodiversity-related financial risks. The results and previous literature indicate that physical biodiversity-related financial risk exposures are significant for individual financial institutions and for the whole financial system, despite the prevailing methodological challenges and gaps in knowledge. In order to complete a comprehensive biodiversity-related financial risk assessment, further research is needed.