Integrative Molecular Phenotyping
INTEGRATIVE MOLECULAR
PHENOTYPING
WHEELOCK LABORATORY
DEPARTMENT OF MEDICAL
BIOCHEMISTRY AND BIOPHYSICS
WHEELOCK LABORATORY
DEPARTMENT OF MEDICAL
BIOCHEMISTRY AND BIOPHYSICS
WHEELOCK LABORATORY
DEPARTMENT OF MEDICAL
BIOCHEMISTRY AND BIOPHYSICS
WHEELOCK LABORATORY
DEPARTMENT OF MEDICAL
BIOCHEMISTRY AND BIOPHYSICS
WHEELOCK LABORATORY
DEPARTMENT OF MEDICAL
BIOCHEMISTRY AND BIOPHYSICS
WHEELOCK LABORATORY

KI News

Updated: 51 min 32 sec ago

Fertility preservation with hormone stimulation did not increase risk of breast cancer relapse

Mon, 06/11/2017 - 14:24
Women who received hormone stimulation for fertility preservation did not have a higher relapse rate in breast cancer compared with unexposed control women in a study from Karolinska Institutet published in Breast Cancer Research and Treatment. The results could influence the clinical practice for young cancer patients wishing to pursue fertility preservation. Women presenting with breast cancer are often excluded from programmes for fertility preservation due to a fear that the hormonal stimulation treatments required to retrieve eggs/embryos for cryopreservation might increase the risk of relapse. Because breast cancer is the most common malignancy in women, researchers at Karolinska Institutet conducted a study to investigate the safety of fertility preservation in 188 women with breast cancer who had undergone hormonal treatment from 1999–2013 in the Stockholm healthcare region. The control group of 378 women comprised data retrieved from the Regional Breast Cancer Register. Data linkage to the register allowed the researchers to follow-up the progress of both the exposed women, who underwent fertility preservation treatment, and the unexposed matched controls, who did not receive fertility preservation treatment, over the same period. A primary quality of survival issue The study findings reveal that women who received hormone stimulation did not present with a higher relapse rate than unexposed control women. The results remained virtually unchanged after adjustment for age and calendar period of diagnosis, tumour size, oestrogen receptor status, affected lymph nodes and chemotherapy treatment. “Our work could potentially influence medical care and clinical practice to the benefit of young cancer patients wishing to pursue fertility preservation options”, says the responsible researcher, Kenny Rodriguez-Wallberg, at the Department of Oncology-Pathology, Karolinska Institutet. “Having a chance to build a future family after surviving cancer is currently recognized as a primary quality of survival issue for young people with cancer”. The work was supported by grants from The Swedish Research Council, the Swedish Society for Medical Research, the Swedish Society of Medicine, the Swedish Cancer Society, Radiumhemmet’s research grants, Stockholm County Council (ALF) and the Karolinska Institutet. Dr Rodriguez-Wallberg is supported by a Clinical Investigator Grant from Stockholm County Council. Publication “Safety of fertility preservation in breast cancer patients in a register-based matched cohort study” Rodriguez-Wallberg KA, Eloranta S, Krawiec K, Lissmats A, Bergh J, Liljegren A. Breast Cancer Research and Treatment, online 2 November 2017

KI wins the big pot in Swedish Research Council Medicine and Health grants

Mon, 06/11/2017 - 12:24
With success in 116 of 204 grants awarded, Karolinska Institutet will receive a total of almost SEK 490 million. The Swedish Research Council approves approximately SEK 1 billion in grants within Medicine and Health. The four researchers from Karolinska Institutet who have been awarded the highest grants within Medicine and Health 2017 will each receive SEK 9 million divided over five years. Abdel El Manira, Department of Neuroscience, receives a grant for his research on the organisation of the neuronal networks that control motor movements. Johan Ericson, Department of Cell and Molecular Biology, receives a grant for his research on identifying a clock mechanism that controls the production of motor neurons and serotonergic nerves from natural stem cells. Tomas Olsson, Department of Clinical Neuroscience, receives a grant for his research on genetics and pathogens in neuroinflammation, focusing on multiple sclerosis. Thomas Renné, Department of Molecular Medicine and Surgery, receives a grant for his research on the interaction of coagulation, inflammation and congenital immunodeficiency. Proof of Concept in life sciences The Swedish Research Council has also reached a decision on grants for Proof of Concept in life sciences. The purpose of these grants is to bridge the gap between basic research and the commercialisation of research results. Two researchers from Karolinska Institutet will each receive SEK 1.2 million. Ulf Eriksson, Department of Medical Biochemistry and Biophysics, receives a grant for developing new pharmaceutical candidates for stroke, fibrosis and cancer. Agneta Richter Dahlfors, Department of Neuroscience, receives a grant for developing optotracers for studies of bacterial biofilm within an infected host organism.

Troponin linked to increased risk of death

Thu, 02/11/2017 - 15:24
A blood test that measures the presence of heart specific proteins called troponins is used by A&E hospitals to diagnose myocardial infarction in patients with chest pain. But even normal levels of the protein in patients without infarction increase the risk of death, a study from Karolinska Institutet published in the renowned Journal of the American College of Cardiology shows. Patients with measurable troponin levels should therefore be investigated, suggest the researchers. Troponins leak into the blood and become measurable in blood samples taken from patients with acute conditions, such as myocardial infarction or pulmonary embolism. However, even chronic leakage can give rise to measurable levels, such as in the elderly or in the event of chronic kidney disease and severe heart failure. “We know that a large group of patients have chronically higher levels than 14 ng/l, which is the normal upper limit,” says study leader Martin Holzmann, docent at Karolinska Institutet’s Department of Medicine, Solna and physician at Karolinska University Hospital. “This group is larger than the number of heart attack patients, but so far such findings have not led to any action being taken since we don’t know enough about the risks that elevated levels entail.” Chronically elevated troponin levels To ascertain how chronically elevated troponin levels affect the risk of death and heart disease, the researchers reviewed the medical records of all patients over 25 years of age who sought medical attention at the emergency clinic at Karolinska University Hospital in Huddinge or Solna with chest pain for the first time between the years 2011 and 2014. At least two registered troponin measurements were required during the three-year follow-up period for them to qualify for the study. Patients with severe kidney disease, acute myocardial infarction or other acute conditions were excluded, leaving just over 19,000 patients. Complementary data were then sourced from the National Board of Health and Welfare’s patient, prescribed drug and cause of death registers. The researchers found that just under ten per cent of the patients had above normal troponin levels, and that half of them had no previously diagnosed heart condition. A third had a troponin level of 5–14 ng/l, which is seen as normal but which proved to be strongly linked to death. In the 5–9 ng/l range, the risk of death was double that of the control group, which had immeasurable troponin levels. In the10–14 ng/l range, the risk was three times as high. Of those who had a troponin level above 50 ng/l, one third died within the first year of follow-up. Measurable troponin levels were also associated with a high risk of myocardial infarction and an even higher risk of heart failure. Good risk marker for heart disease “As we can see, troponin is a good risk marker for heart disease and death,” says Dr Holzmann. “Patients with measurable troponin levels should therefore be examined. It may be suitable for these patients to be referred by their general practitioner for echocardiography, which can reveal heart disease. And the troponin test can be used to identify which patients need to be treated for hypertension, for example, or high cholesterol. We have to get better at evaluating patient risk, especially in primary care.” The study was conducted in association with Danderyd Hospital and Sahlgrenska University Hospital and was financed by Stockholm County Council. Martin Holzmann has received consultancy fees from drug companies Actelion and Pfizer. Text: Inna Sevelius Publication “Stable high-sensitivity cardiac troponin T levels and outcomes in patients with chest pain” Andreas Roos, Nadia Bandstein, Magnus Lundbäck, Ola Hammarsten, Rickard Ljung, Martin J. Holzmann Journal of the American College of Cardiology (JACC), online 23 October 2017

Science becomes art

Thu, 02/11/2017 - 09:51
On the 31 October the exhibition The Invisible Body opened at Sven-Harry’s Art Museum in Stockholm. A number of researchers at KI are represented by pictures from their own research. The new art exhibition The Invisible Body (Den osynliga kroppen) narrates the story of ongoing medical research from the perspective of medical images. “In my role as a communicator, I have often experienced the difficulty in finding a way to talk about research in a comprehensible manner yet without oversimplification. The idea for this exhibition came when a researcher showed me a beautiful image obtained during her work. We soon realised that, through her picture, we had discovered an excellent way of discussing her research. Here, beautiful images become an entirely new point of entry to science,” explained Mona Norman, project manager at the Ragnar Söderberg Foundation, at the exhibitions opening. The image was taken in Maria Kasper’s research group at KI’s Department of Biosciences and Nutrition and shows an area of the skin that is particularly susceptible to cancer. Her laboratory studies follicular stem cells in order to understand their link to wound healing and cancer. “The opportunity to gain access to an advanced microscope that makes it possible to take these types of pictures and to among other things study the development of individual cancer cells, was the reason why I chose to locate my research at KI,” says Maria Kasper who attended the vernissage together with doctoral candidate Karl Annusver, the photographer behind the image.   The exhibition collects a number of works that depict subjects invisible to the naked eye, giving us new insights into how the healthy and diseased body functions. However, these images are also things of beauty. They are artworks that, after the exhibition closes, will be auctioned to raise funds to support research. And, according to Saida Hadjab at KI’s Department of Neuroscience, there are similarities between art and science. “Creativity is a vital ingredient in the work of both artists and researchers.” Saida herself has two pictures in the exhibition and is one of the project’s two scientific coordinators. Her own great interest in photography has proved an important motivational factor behind her research work at the microscope. “I search for images that are both elucidatory and beautiful. A beautiful picture has a greater ability to convey its message,” she says. The exhibition runs until 7 January 2018 and is an initiative from Ragnar Söderberg Foundation in collaboration with Sven-Harry’s Art Museum. It includes pictures from Hagströmer Medico-Historical Library, Lennart Nilsson Photography and researchers at a number of universities. In conjunction with the exhibition, a number of popular science lectures will be held. Learn more about the exhibition here.  In conjunction with the exhibition, a number of popular science lectures will be held. Learn more about the exhibition. The full list of researchers from Karolinska Institutet that contributed to the exhibition: Eduardo Guimaraes // Christian Göritz lab John Schell // Fredrik Lanner lab Carmelo Bellardita // Ole Kiehn lab Tomas McKenna // Maria Eriksson lab Elisa Floriddia // Fanie Barnabé-Heider lab Javier Calvo Garrido // Anna Wredenberg lab Anders Hånell // Histology course, Neuroscience department Cajsa Classon // Liv Eidsmo lab Saida Hadjab // François Lallemend lab Karl Annusver // Maria Kasper lab Jan Krivanek // Igor Adameyko lab Shigeaki Kanatani & Laura Heikkinen // Per Uhlén lab Katarzyna Malenczyk // Tibor Harkany lab Sten Linnarsson // Sten Linnarsson Lab Matthijs C. Dorst // Gilad Silberberg lab Ada Delaney // Camilla Svensson lab Margherita Zamboni // Jonas Frisén lab Laura Comley // Eva Hedlund lab Nicola Crosetto // Nicola Crosetto lab Sebastian Hildebrand // Fredrik Lanner lab Daniel Fürth // Konstantinos Meletis lab Sofie Ährlund-Richter // Marie Carlén lab Tomas McKenna // Maria Eriksson lab Benjamin Götte // Gerald McInerney lab Anna Rising Lab

Asthma, hay fever and eczema share more than 100 genetic risk factors

Mon, 30/10/2017 - 17:16
Researchers at Karolinska Institutet have contributed to a major international study in Nature Genetics that has identified more than 100 genetic risk factors for asthma, hay fever and eczema which explain why these conditions often coexist. Asthma, hay fever and eczema are allergic conditions that affect different parts of the body: the lung, the nose and the skin. Previous studies have shown that the three conditions share many genetic risk factors, but it has not been known exactly where in the genome those shared genetic risk factors are located. The new international study, led by researchers at QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, Australia, aimed to determine which genes are involved in all three conditions by looking at data from the Swedish Twin Registry and analysing the genomes of more than 360,000 individuals. The researchers pinpointed 136 separate positions in the genome that are risk factors for developing these conditions by influencing whether nearby genes are switched on or off. They believe that these genes in turn influence the risk of asthma, hay fever and eczema by affecting how the cells of the immune system work. Environmental factors affect the genes The study also found that environmental factors affect whether many of these genes are switched on or off. For example, the researchers found one gene that is more likely to be switched off in people who smoke. When the gene is switched off, the risk of developing allergies increases. The mapping of genetic risk factors helps us understand why asthma, hay fever and eczema often coexist and provides new clues on how these conditions can be prevented or treated, according to co-author Catarina Almqvist Malmros, Professor at Karolinska Institutet’s Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics. The study involved collaborators from Australia, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, the UK and the US and was supported by the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), The Swedish Research Council and the Swedish Heart-Lung Foundation, among others. This news article is based on a press release from QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute. Publication “Shared genetic origin of asthma, hay fever and eczema elucidates allergic disease biology” Manuel A Ferreira , Judith M Vonk, Hansjörg Baurecht, Ingo Marenholz, Chao Tian, Joshua D Hoffman, Quinta Helmer, Annika Tillander, Vilhelmina Ullemar, Jenny van Dongen, Yi Lu, Franz Rüschendorf, Jorge Esparza-Gordillo, Chris W Medway, Edward Mountjoy, Kimberley Burrows, Oliver Hummel, Sarah Grosche, Ben M Brumpton, John S Witte, Jouke-Jan Hottenga, Gonneke Willemsen, Jie Zheng, Elke Rodríguez, Melanie Hotze, Andre Franke, Joana A Revez, Jonathan Beesley, Melanie C Matheson, Shyamali C Dharmage, Lisa M Bain, Lars G Fritsche, Maiken E Gabrielsen, Brunilda Balliu, The 23andMe Research Team, AAGC collaborators, BIOS consortium, LifeLines Cohort Study, Jonas B Nielsen, Wei Zhou, Kristian Hveem, Arnulf Langhammer, Oddgeir L Holmen, Mari Løset, Gonçalo R Abecasis, Cristen J Willer, Andreas Arnold, Georg Homuth, Carsten O Schmidt, Philip J Thompson, Nicholas G Martin, David L Duffy, Natalija Novak, Holger Schulz, Stefan Karrasch, Christian Gieger, Konstantin Strauch, Ronald B Melles, David A Hinds, Norbert Hübner, Stephan Weidinger, Patrik K E Magnusson, Rick Jansen, Eric Jorgenson, Young-Ae Lee, Dorret I Boomsma, Catarina Almqvist, Robert Karlsson, Gerard H Koppelman & Lavinia Paternoster. Nature Genetics, online 30 October 2017, doi:10.1038/ng.3985

Regarding CEPN’s opinion on suspected misconduct in research

Mon, 30/10/2017 - 15:30
Comment: The Central Ethical Review Board’s Expert Group for Misconduct in Research has now submitted its opinion to Karolinska Institutet regarding six articles of which Paolo Macchiarini is the main author. In June 2016, Karolinska Institutet requested that CEPN express its opinion in order to investigate suspected misconduct in research. The authors of the articles will now also be invited to give their opinions before the vice-chancellor of Karolinska Institutet reaches a decision on the matter. At the present time, it is not possible to state the date on which this decision will be made.

KI researchers receive SEK 11 million from AFA Insurance

Mon, 30/10/2017 - 13:06
Four researchers at Karolinska Institutet will share SEK 11 million in research grants from AFA Insurance. Their research will contribute to reducing work-related injuries and long-term sick leave. Magnus Helgesson, Department of Clinical Neuroscience, will receive SEK 4,200,000 to study the role played by a combination of physical and psychosocial burdens on sick leave among employees in health and social care. The study will make it possible to identify how risk factors and determinants of health affect employees’ sickness-related absenteeism. Sara Gunnare, Institute of Environmental Medicine, will receive SEK 2,878,000 to map the health of eyelash stylists and nail technologists, their working environments and knowledge of protective equipment. She will also measure exposure to acrylates contained in the products used by these professional groups, which can cause respiratory problems and eczema. Annika Lindahl Norberg, Institute of Environmental Medicine, will receive SEK 2,229,000 to investigate which work-environment factors affect the desire of nurses and midwives to remain in a position requiring night work. The study is intended to increase knowledge about how night and shift work can be combined with good health, high levels of motivation and dedication to the job. Anneli Julander, Institute of Environmental Medicine, will receive SEK 2,116,000 to map the effects of short-term and repeated skin contact with nickle in professions where exposure is not considered high. Previous research has carried out on professions exposed to high levels of nickle but knowledge is lacking regarding the effects of more diffuse daily contact.

Cerebral palsy survey in Uganda fills knowledge gap

Thu, 26/10/2017 - 07:00
Cerebral palsy is more common and has higher mortality in Uganda than in high income countries. The underlying brain injury often occurs after the first month after birth, probably caused by malaria, a new population based study by researchers at Karolinska Institutet and Makerere University in Kampala reports. The study, which is published in The Lancet Global Health, is the largest of its kind on cerebral palsy in Africa. Registry and epidemiological studies from high income countries (HIC) show that about ten per cent of all children have some type of neurodevelopmental disorder and that two in every thousand have cerebral palsy. The corresponding information is lacking for low and middle-income countries (LMIC), as there are only few high quality population-based studies. To get a better understanding of the situation, researchers at Karolinska Institutet have charted cerebral palsy in Uganda in sub-Saharan Africa, generating data that can be used to develop national healthcare programmes and international initiatives for children with developmental disabilities. “Children with developmental disabilities are neglected and discriminated against in many countries, where they live under difficult circumstances,” says principal investigator Professor Hans Forssberg at the Department of Women’s and Children’s Health at Karolinska Institutet. “A first step towards changing this is to show that children with disabilities exist and how common different neurodevelopmental conditions are.” Joint project with support from SIDA Uganda has no population registers and the authorities do not know how many children are born or how many develop disabilities. The researchers therefore used a health and demographic surveillance system (HDSS) that Karolinska Institutet helped to devise with Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda, with support from SIDA. Since 2005, field workers have been gathering vital data, e.g. on birth, death and migration for all people living in a rural part of eastern Uganda. The round of data collection that took place in 2015 included screening for cerebral palsy in over 30,000 children. The results show that CP in 2–17 year-olds was about 50 per cent more common in Uganda than in HIC, and that the prevalence of CP was twice as high in Uganda in the young 2–7 year-old group than in the 8–17 year-old group. “We interpret this as due to high mortality, particularly for children with severe functional disabilities. The incidence of cerebral palsy is therefore probably twice as high in Uganda as in HIC,” says Professor Forssberg. “Our findings on increased mortality need to be followed up in a longitudinal study, and if corroborated, the new knowledge must lead to better care of children with cerebral palsy.” Different causes behind the disability The survey also shows that the cause of cerebral palsy differs to that in HIC, where some 40 per cent of children are born preterm while only two per cent of the children with CP in Uganda were born preterm, probably due to the low survival rate of preterm infants. “This is important to consider now when programmes are initiated to increase survival rate of preterm born infants,” says Professor Forssberg. “It’s important that the brain is protected to prevent surviving infants from developing cerebral palsy.” One in four babies born in Uganda acquired their brain damage after the first month of life, compared with only five per cent in HIC. In interviews, the care givers said that these children were born and developed normally until suddenly falling sick with fever seizures and convulsions. According to the researchers, the likely cause of the brain damage is cerebral malaria, which is preventable with prophylactic measures or better treatments. The study was financed by the Swedish Research Council and the Promobilia Foundation. Publication ”Prevalence of cerebral palsy in Uganda: a population-based study” Angelina Kakooza-Mwesige, Carin Andrews, Stefan Peterson, Fred Wabwire Mangen, Ann Christin Eliasson, Hans Forssberg The Lancet Global Health, online 25 October 2017

Blood-thinning drugs linked to decreased dementia risk in patients with atrial fibrillation

Wed, 25/10/2017 - 08:45
Blood-thinning drugs not only reduce the risk of stroke in patients with atrial fibrillation but are also associated with a significant reduction in the risk of dementia among these patients, according to a new register-based study by researchers at Karolinska Institutet’s Department of Clinical Sciences, Danderyd Hospital. The study is published in the prestigious European Heart Journal. Atrial fibrillation (AF) is a common heart rhythm disorder that is known to be associated with an increased risk of stroke and dementia. Oral anticoagulants, or blood-thinning drugs, have been shown to reduce the likelihood of stroke but it has not been clear whether they could also prevent dementia in AF patients. However, it’s been hypothesised that they might protect against the small clots that can cause unnoticed microscopic strokes that eventually lead to cognitive deterioration. Looking at data from Swedish registries, Mårten Rosenqvist and Leif Friberg at Karolinska Institutet’s Department of Clinical Sciences, Danderyd Hospital have examined the link between oral anticoagulant treatment and dementia in patients with AF. The researchers identified all patients in Sweden who had a diagnosis of AF between 2006 and 2014. Among 444,106 patients with atrial fibrillation, 26,210 were diagnosed with dementia during the study period. The sooner treatment was started, the greater was the effect Less than half of the patients were taking blood-thinning drugs to prevent blood clots when they first joined the study. Those who were taking blood-thinning drugs had a 29 per cent lower risk of developing dementia than patients who were not on such treatment at the start of the study. When the researchers looked at what happened during the period of time that the patients continued to take the drugs, they found a 48 per cent reduction in the risk of dementia. They also found that the protective effect was greater the sooner the treatment was started and that there was no difference between the older blood-thinning drug warfarin and the newer oral anticoagulants. “Although we can’t prove a causal relationship, we believe that the results strongly suggest that blood-thinning drugs protect against dementia in AF patients”, says Professor Mårten Rosenqvist. The new findings could have important clinical implications. “Patients on oral anticoagulation for stroke prevention often stop taking the drugs after a few years. Doctors should explain to their patients how these drugs work and why they should use them. No brain can withstand a constant bombardment of microscopic clots in the long run”, says associate professor Leif Friberg. The study received no specific financing. Neither of the authors have reported any potential conflicts of interest in relation to the present study. Outside of this, Leif Friberg has received consultancy fees from Bayer, BMS, Pfizer and Sanofi. Mårten Rosenqvist has received grants and/or consultancy fees from Bayer, Boehringer-Ingelheim, BMS, Medtronic, Pfizer, Roche, Sanofi, St Jude Medical and Zenicor. Publication “Less dementia with oral anticoagulation in atrial fibrillation” Leif Friberg and Mårten Rosenqvist European Heart Journal, online 25 October 2017. doi:10.1093/eurheartj/ehx579

Previous screening results important for smear-test decision after age 60

Wed, 25/10/2017 - 08:15
Being screened again after the age of 60 reduces the risk of cervical cancer in women who have previously had abnormal smear tests and in women who did not have smear tests in their 50s, researchers at Karolinska Institutet show. The study, which is published in PLOS Medicine, is important for setting guidelines on the age at which screening can be discontinued. Despite being screened with gynaecological smear tests, relatively many women over the age of 60 develop cervical cancer. There is currently a discussion on when and against what criteria screening should be discontinued. Different countries discontinue screening at different ages, and in Sweden the upper age limit was raised recently to 64. Researchers at Karolinska Institutet have conducted a national study of over half a million women born between 1919 and 1945 in order to examine the incidence of cervical cancer in the over-60s. The researchers looked at the risk of developing cervical cancer between the ages of 61 and 80 depending on the women’s screening history when in their 50s, and compared the risk of developing cervical cancer depending on if the women had been screened after the age of 60 or not. Developed cervical cancer Their results show that five in one thousand women over 60 who had not been screened in their 50s developed cervical cancer; however, if the women were screened between 61 and 65, the risk dropped by 58 per cent to 3.3 cancers per thousand women. For women who previously had abnormal smear tests in their 50s, the reduction in risk associated with screening between the ages of 61 and 65 was also statistically significant. “It might be a good idea to pay closer attention to the results of women’s previous screenings when deciding at which age it can be discontinued,” says Professor Pär Sparén at Karolinska Institutet’s Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics who led the study. Normal smear tests The women who had only had normal smear tests in their 50s showed no measurable lower cancer risk with new tests after age 60. However, the researchers did observe fewer cases of advanced cancer in 61 to 65-year-old women, since screening revealed the cancers at an earlier stage of development. The study was financed by the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research, the Swedish Cancer Society and the Swedish Research Council. Publication Effectiveness of cervical screening after age 60 according to screening history: nationwide cohort study Jiangrong Wang, Bengt Andrae, Karin Sundström, Alexander Ploner, Peter Ström, K. Miriam Elfström, Joakim Dillner, Pär Sparén PLOS Medicine, online 24 October 2017

Karolinska Institutet's Commentary on Dr Ahmadreza Djalali

Tue, 24/10/2017 - 19:46
Commentary: On 23 October 2017, Nature writes on the prosecution of Ahmadreza Djalali, a PhD and former research associate of Karolinska Institutet: “A judge in Tehran has ordered the death penalty for Iranian researcher Ahmadreza Djalali, according to his wife and diplomatic sources in Italy.” Today Reuters confirms that Dr Djalali has been sentenced to death in Iran on suspicion of espionage. As Vice-Chancellor of Karolinska Institutet, Sweden, I would like to express my deepest concern over the detention of Dr. Ahmadreza Djalali who was arrested last year in Iran and who could now face the death penalty. As of today the evidentiary basis of his arrest remains undisclosed. Dr. Djalali is an Iranian-born resident of Sweden and received his PhD in disaster medicine in 2012 at Karolinska Institutet. He was affiliated with Karolinska Institutet until 2016. He teaches at the Università degli Studi del Piemonte Orientale, Italy, and Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium. For many years, he has worked with researchers from all over the world to improve the capacity of hospitals in countries suffering from extreme poverty or affected by disasters and armed conflicts. Karolinska Institutet – a medical university and a Scholars at risk member – is strongly committed to academic freedom and human rights. All citizens are entitled to due process and a fair trial, and no citizen should be subjected to the death penalty. The death penalty is an act of violence that creates more violence and that is in conflict with human dignity, a wealth of research, and all the values our universities stand for. We ask that Dr Djalali be subjected to due process and fair trial. Ole Petter Ottersen, Vice-Chancellor at Karolinska Institutet

The Crown Princess couple at seminar on children's lifestyle

Mon, 23/10/2017 - 16:10
Last Friday, Generation Pep organized a half-day event at KI to inform, inspire and bring together people who believe that they can improve children's and young people's opportunities to live a healthy and healthy life. In addition to the Swedish Crown Princess couple, other speakers and panelists, KI's vice-chancellor Ole Petter Ottersen and Professor Carl Johan Sundberg participated in the program.

Seven international master’s students received this year’s scholarships

Mon, 23/10/2017 - 11:42
For the sixth year in a row, Karolinska Institutet’s Global Master’s Scholarship has been awarded to master’s students from outside Europe. The students have been admitted to one of Karolinska Institutet’s (KI) eight global master’s programmes on the basis of their excellent qualifications. KI once again saw the highest number of applicants per place of all Swedish universities that participate in the Swedish Council for Higher Education’s calls for master’s candidates. This year, seven of 1,500 applicants were presented with their scholarship, worth between SEK 180,000 and 360,000, at a ceremony held on 17 October. The scholarships cover the students’ fees to a value of between SEK 180,000 and 200,000 a year and the money comes from the Swedish Council for Higher Education (UHR). “This is an important part of KI’s strategy and efforts to be a more international university,” says Anna Lena Paulsson, Head of the International Relations Office at KI. Qualification-based scholarship The scholarship is entirely qualification-based and considers the student’s grades, work experience, research experience and a motivational letter that the students write themselves and attach to their applications.  One of the scholarship winners is Fatematuj Juhara from Bangladesh, who studies toxicology. “Like many others here, the reason why I chose KI was its good reputation and quality. KI is a prestigious university with a vision that I share. I have always known that I wanted to work in health and medical care and by being an active student at KI I can be part of KI’s vision of improving people’s health,” Fatematuj Juhara says. Scholarship winner Shuhan Xu from Singapore is studying on the master’s programme in Molecular Technologies in the Life Sciences, a collaborative programme between KI, KTH Royal Institute of Technology and Stockholm University.  “I was an exchange student at KI last year and I loved it! Everyone is so friendly and nice,” he says. “KI is at the forefront in the research and I really want to be part of it,” he goes on. Highest number of applications per place in Sweden Over 3,300 students from 128 counties applied to KI’s global master’s programme beginning in autumn 2017 and KI is also the Swedish higher education institution that has the most applicants per programme in the international master’s programmes.  Vice-Chancellor Ole Petter Ottersen was at the ceremony to present the scholarships: “It’s fantastic to see these highly ambitious students from different parts of the world coming here and enriching our university,” he says.

Success for KI in obtaining national infrastructure funding

Fri, 20/10/2017 - 14:45
Karolinska Institutet’s applications to the Swedish Research Council for national funding for research infrastructure have proved successful. Two out of three applications in which KI was the main applicant were granted funding, as well as seven of eight applications in which KI was a co-applicant. At the end of September, the Swedish Research Council presented the results of applications for long-term investment in research infrastructure. In total, the Council decided on financing amounting to approximately SEK 4 billion over a period of up to eight years. National investments are made in high-quality facilities, equipment and databases that are of crucial importance to the development of research and innovation. Stefan Eriksson, KI’s vice-dean of infrastructure, is satisfied with the outcome: “It is great to see how our applications have been received by the Swedish Research Council. Two of our three applications in which KI was the main applicant were granted funding, as well as seven of eight applications in which we are participating as co-applicants. These infrastructure investments are of course not open every year so it is vital that we take advantage when they are available,” he says. The two approved infrastructure grants in which KI is the main applicant are: The National E-infrastructure for Aging Research (NEAR) NEAR is a collaboration between six universities: Karolinska Institutet, Blekinge Institute of Technology, the University of Gothenburg, Jönköping University, Lund University and Umeå University. NEAR’s head office will be based at the Aging Research Center (ARC) and the organisation will be under the leadership of Laura Fratiglioni, professor at the Department of Neurobiology, Care Sciences and Society at Karolinska Institutet. The purpose of the investment is to develop a technical platform for managing and coordinating high quality population-based databases in Sweden, to provide researchers with access to the information contained therein and thereby create the conditions for future high-quality research. About the investment on ARC’s website The Swedish Twin Registry (STR) The Swedish Twins Registry was established at KI in 1959 and is now an infrastructure of national importance. In addition to KI, the members of the consortium are the University of Gothenburg, Stockholm School of Economics, Jönköping University, Linköping University, Lund University, Umeå University and Örebro University. Patrik Magnusson, researcher in the Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics at Karolinska Institutet, is director of  the STR. The grant from the Swedish Research Council will be used to maintain and expand the registry. Also included is an investment in further improving the availability of data and ensuring that more research groups in Sweden can gain access to this unique registry material. As a first stage, a national committee will be formed with members from the universities in the consortium. About the investment at STR’s website

SEK 15 million in project funding from the Erling-Persson Foundation

Fri, 20/10/2017 - 14:00
Two researchers at Karolinska Institutet receive a total of SEK 15 million in project funding from the Erling-Persson Foundation. The funding is awarded over a three-year period. In its support of scientific research the Erling-Persson Family Foundation prioritizes projects with a focus on medicine and healthcare. The Foundation has a preference for research that is close to the patient and application-oriented, as well as built on collaboration across scientific boundaries. The two projects currently receiving funding are related to the areas of rheumatism/ immunology and patient-related digital diagnostics tools, respectively. Project: Developing a vaccine against rheumatoid arthritis Principal investigator: Rikard Holmdahl, Professor at the Department of Medical Biochemistry and Biophysics Funding: SEK 9 million More about Rikard Holmdahl's research Project: Patient-related diagnosis of cancer and infectious diseases with mobile digital microscopy and artificial intelligence Principal investigator: Johan Lundin, Visiting Professor at the Department of Public Health Sciences Funding: SEK 6 million

Blood molecule attracts predators and warns prey – including humans

Fri, 20/10/2017 - 11:00
Researchers at Karolinska Institutet have identified an evolutionarily preserved scent molecule in mammalian blood that attracts predators and repels prey. In the study, published in Scientific Reports, they also report that humans exposed to the smell become stressed and react to it as if they were prey. Most animals use their sense of smell to find partners, hunt for food and detect danger. These natural smells, or chemical signals, normally comprise hundreds of scent molecules, which are often species-specific. The smell of blood, on the other hand, is different, as it is important to a large number of animal species, predators and prey alike. Scientists therefore think that the smell of blood might originate in a single, evolutionarily preserved “food and warning molecule”. Researchers at Karolinska Institutet now report that they might have identified this molecule in trans-4,5-epoxy-(E)-2-decenal, or E2D for short. A truly interdisciplinary project “We’ve been working closely with Professor Matthias Laska at Linköping University, who isolated the molecule from porcine blood and first discovered that predators were attracted by the scent of E2D,” says Associate Professor Johan Lundström at Karolinska Institutet’s Department of Clinical Neuroscience. “Together we tested the scent molecule on blood-sucking flies, wolves, mice and humans, so it was a truly interdisciplinary project.” The fly liked the smell as much as the smell of real blood. When the wolves detected the scent of E2D, which had been wiped onto a piece of wood, they licked, bit and protected it as if it were an actual prey. When the scent was then tested on mice, the reaction was different. The mice displayed flight behaviour and tried to avoid the smell just as they do when they detect the smell of real blood. Humans perceived the smell as a threat In human participants, the researchers exposed individuals to a wide range of smells, including E2D, while measuring their movements. When the participants detected the smell of E2D they recoiled as if to avoid it, even though it was not perceived as unpleasant. Their hands also perspired more. The participants were also asked to locate images of faces that could be perceived as emotional on a computer screen as quickly as they could. When exposed to E2D, their ability to do this improved. Previous studies have shown that this ability is augmented in threatening situations, suggesting that people unconsciously perceive the smell of blood as a threat. “E2D seems to activate our entire general defence system,” explains lead author Dr Artin Arshamian, postdoctoral researcher in Dr Lundström’s group. “Our findings concur with paleontological data showing that our earliest relatives, the early primates, were almost certainly insectivores and were primarily the prey of other animals. Modern humans are without doubt predators, but we probably evolved from a prey species, and some aspects of this characteristic remain.” Next, the researchers intend to study the brain mechanisms behind the observed behaviours and whether E2D, and thus the smell of blood, can affect even more complex behaviours such as decision-making. Could play a role in certain occupations “This would be extremely important for people who have to take difficult decisions in their daily jobs while exposed to the smell of blood, such as trauma surgeons and nurses,” says Dr Lundström. “Blood is essential to all life so maybe it’s not so strange that it can affect us so powerfully.” The study was financed by the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation, the Swedish Research Council, the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) and the Swedish Foundation for Humanities and Social Sciences. None of the authors have reported any conflicts of interest. Publication “A mammalian blood odor component serves as an approach-avoidance cue across phylum border - from flies to humans” Artin Arshamian, Matthias Laska, Amy R. Gordon, Matilda Norberg, Christian Lahger, Danja K. Porada, Nadia Jelvez Serra, Emilia Johansson, Martin Schaefer, Mats Amundin, Harald Melin, Andreas Olsson, Mats J. Olsson, Marcus Stensmyr & Johan N. Lundström Scientific Reports, online 20 October 2017

EIT Innovators Award 2017 to prostate cancer screening project

Thu, 19/10/2017 - 13:03
Stockholm3, the new and innovative prostate cancer test based on research in Henrik Grönberg’s group at Karolinska Institutet, has been rewarded with the EIT Innovators Award. EIT Innovators Award recognizes products and services with a very high potential for societal and economic impact. Stockholm3 is a blood test that detects the risk of aggressive prostate cancer by combining five protein markers, more than 100 genetic markers, clinical data and a proprietary algorithm. Stockholm3 finds 20% more aggressive cancers and at the same time reduces the number of unnecessary treatment by 50%. If screening for prostate cancer based on Stockholm is introduced in Europe it is possible to save 500,000 men from unnecessary and dangerous treatments and save millions for society. The Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare is expected to reach a decision about a Swedish screening program for prostate cancer later in 2017. Stockholm3 is presently used at some 200 care facilities in Sweden, Norway and Finland.

Mattias Carlström receives SEK 6 million grant from the Swedish Heart-Lung Foundation

Wed, 18/10/2017 - 12:01
Mattias Carlström, associate professor at the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology at Karolinska Institutet, has been awarded the Prince Daniel research grant to promising young researchers of SEK 6 million from the Swedish Heart-Lung Foundation. The grant will be used to study the ability of beetroot to decrease the risk of diabetes, renal failure and cardiovascular disease. There is a correlation between high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and renal failure, and many argue that this link may be due to oxidative stress – that is, highly reactive oxygen compounds that damage cells and organs – in the body's small blood vessels. Mattias Carlström’s theory is that the condition can be alleviated by supplements of nitrate – a substance that occurs naturally in foodstuffs such as spinach, beetroot and rucola. During a clinical study, patients with cardiovascular and renal disease or diabetes will drink beetroot juice twice a day. Carlström’s research group will then measure parameters such as the diet’s effect on blood pressure, kidney function and insulin sensitivity. If the study shows favourable results it may lead to beetroot being added to the list of possible treatments, or even entirely replacing pharmaceuticals that are both expensive and may cause side-effects.

KI researchers awarded Ragnar Söderberg fellowships 2017

Wed, 18/10/2017 - 11:51
This year, five young researchers in the field of medicine – of which three are from Karolinska Institutet – share SEK 40 million in funding from the Ragnar Söderberg Foundation. The three new Ragnar Söderberg Fellows in Medicine at KI are Magdalena Paolino, Björn Reinus and Carmen Gerlach. Ragnar Söderberg Foundation provides five-year grants to promising young researchers with innovative ideas and proven scientific excellence.  Magdalena Paolino Project: Ubiquitination – how does it affect intestinal stem cells? Magdalena Paolino at the Department of Medicine, Solna studies ubiquitination, which is a process that controls many important processes in the cell. In particular, she is interested in the role of ubiquitination for intestinal stem cells. Her research can help us understand how the constant renewal of the intestinal epithelium works, but also provide more knowledge about the origin of intestinal cancers. Björn Reinius Project: X chromosome inactivation  Björn Reinius at the Department of Cell and Molecular Biology studies the two female sex-chromosomes, the X chromosomes, and how one of them always shuts down in the cells of women. He wants to understand how this works in detail, both in different kinds of tissue and in different cell types. This research can give us more knowledge about the basic processes controlling the activity of our genes, and also help us understand diseases caused by abnormal regulation of the X chromosome. Carmen Gerlach Project: How do the immune system's CD8 T cells acquire their different skills? Carmen Gerlach at the Department of Medicine, Solna explores the immune system and a particular type of immune cells, the CD8 T cells, which are particularly good at protecting us against infections and cancer. She is especially interested in understanding the origin of the variation of such CD8 T cells. This knowledge can then be used to design more effective vaccines and immunotherapies.

Investigation into Paolo Macchiarini’s animal experiments

Wed, 18/10/2017 - 10:34
An external investigation into the animal experiments conducted by Paolo Macchiarini in the animal facilities of Karolinska University Hospital in Huddinge reveals shortcomings in the control of his group and its way of conducting experiments and complying with ethical permits. The investigation was commissioned in December 2016 by KI’s acting vice-chancellor, Karin Dahlman-Wright and hospital director Melvin Samsom. Investigator Patricia Hedenqvist, docent of laboratory animal medicine at Sweden’s University of Agricultural Sciences confirms the serious consequences this can have for animal welfare. The investigation into Paolo Macchiarini’s animal experiments lists several serious failings in animal handling and poor or missing documentation. “The animal experimentation taken up by the report is objectionable and ethically indefensible,” says Ole Petter Ottersen, vice-chancellor at Karolinska Institutet. “We’re treating its conclusion that there was an abdication of responsibility on several levels extremely seriously and will be following it up in our continuing efforts to raise the quality of our animal experimentation.” Case reopened It was in February 2016 that newly appointed acting vice-chancellor Karin Dahlman-Wright decided to reopen the scientific misconduct case against Paolo Macchiarini, and to have a total of seven scientific papers assessed by the Central Ethical Review Board’s (CEPN) expert group for misconduct. Macchiarini was dismissed the following month. The Central Ethical Review Board’s expert group on scientific misconduct asked expert Professor Eva Ekblad to comment on the article entitled “Experimental orthotopic transplantation of a tissue-engineered oesophagus in rats” published in Nature Communications 2014 (and withdrawn in March 2017). Professor Ekblad noted in her official statement to CEPN that there were several uncertainties concerning Paolo Macchiarini’s animal experimentation as reported on in the article. KI then decided to extend  its investigations into the handling of animals. Investigations commissioned In September 2016, KI requested an investigation into possible failings in animal handling at the animal facility of Karolinska University Hospital where Paolo Macchiarini conducted his experiments. An external investigation was also commissioned in December 2016, the results of which have now been presented by Dr Hedenqvist. A review is already underway of animal facility management and on the influence of researchers on KI’s animal laboratories; the recommendations of Dr Hedenqvist’s report, says Ole Petter Ottersen, will form part of this review: “It is vital that KI maintains the highest quality of animal research and that the rules are obeyed,” he says. “It’s also vital that we adopt an ethical approach and make sure we keep the best possible environments for our animals. This must apply to all animal experimentation, regardless of where our researchers conduct it.” KI and Karolinska University Hospital have made substantial investments in recent years in animal research. “We want KI’s researchers to have access to Europe’s most modern animal laboratories. The investigation into Paolo Macchiarini’s animal experiments highlights the risk of anomalies that must not be allowed to occur, and the investigations we’re now conducting aim to mitigate this risk,” says Ole Petter Ottersen.

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