Integrative Molecular Phenotyping

KI News

Updated: 1 hour 10 min ago

3D microscopy gives more accurate cancer diagnosis

Tue, 03/10/2017 - 08:00
A novel microscopy technique to examine tumour tissue in three dimensions can more accurately diagnose cancer than current two-dimensional methods, according to a study conducted at Karolinska Institutet and Karolinska University Hospital and published in Nature Biomedical Engineering. Every day, a vast number of tumour tissue samples are examined by pathologists around the world, whose pronouncements inform the treatment their patients are given. In some cases it is very difficult to make the correct diagnosis, which could mean that the wrong treatment is given, causing suffering for the patient and sometimes death. Current methods of pathological examination for assessing the stage of a tumour use two-dimensional light microscopy. The cancer staging describes how much the cancer has grown and spread, and is necessary for prescribing the right treatment. Studying three-dimensional objects with methods that can only see in two dimensions is, however, not optimal and causes information gap. Hard to study 3D structures “To be sure, the tumours can be divided into sections for individual study, but three-dimensional structures such as the blood and lymph systems are very hard to study in this way,” says lead investigator Per Uhlén, professor at Karolinska Institutet’s Department of Medical Biochemistry and Biophysics. The researchers have applied a new imaging technique, one that is used in basic research, to study human tumour tissue. The technique involves making the tissue transparent and then reproducing it in three dimensions in what is known as a light-sheet microscope. By using specific antibodies, researchers can label certain proteins and analyse them in more detail. “Light-sheet microscopy has been used in basic research for a while, but it is only in recent years that it’s been refined so much that it can be used practically in hospitals,” says Professor Uhlén. “It was an unforgettable experience to look inside a tumour from a patient for the first time.” Blood system structures give important information Working with clinicians from Karolinska University Hospital, the researchers were able to study stored samples from patients with bladder cancer and then by recreating, amongst other structures, the three-dimensional blood system feeding the tumours, show that these structures say a great deal about how aggressive the tumours are. The new technique was able to diagnose muscle-invasive tumours, which can be missed with two-dimensional methods, with greater accuracy. “We’ve also studied other cancer types and judge that the method has considerable potential in the clinical diagnosis of all forms of solid tumours, especially cases that are difficult to diagnose,” says Professor Uhlén. “I hope that one day more pathological examinations will be conducted using 3D imaging.” Available at a KI core facility The light-sheet microscope used for the study is one of only a few in Sweden and is housed at the core facility CLICK (Center for Live Imaging of Cells at Karolinska Institutet). The study was financed by the Swedish Research Council, the Swedish Cancer Society, the Swedish Brain Foundation, the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation, the Swedish Royal Academy of Science, the David and Astrid Hagelén Foundation, the Takeda Science Foundation, the Scandinavia-Japan Sasakawa Foundation and the Wenner-Gren Foundations. Publication “Whole-tissue biopsy phenotyping of three-dimensional tumours reveals patterns of cancer heterogeneity” Nobuyuki Tanaka, Shigeaki Kanatani, Raju Tomer, Cecilia Sahlgren, Pauliina Kronqvist, Dagmara Kaczynska, Lauri Louhivuori, Lorand Kis, Claes Lindh, Przemysław Mitura, Andrzej Stepulak, Sara Corvigno, Johan Hartman, Patrick Micke, Artur Mezheyeuski, Carina Strell, Joseph W. Carlson, Carlos Fernández Moro, Hanna Dahlstrand, Arne Östman, Kazuhiro Matsumoto, Peter Wiklund, Mototsugu Oya, Ayako Miyakawa, Karl Deisseroth, Per Uhlén Nature Biomedical Engineering, online 2 October 2017. doi:10.1038/s41551-017-0139-0

The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2017 to Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael W. Young

Mon, 02/10/2017 - 11:36
The Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet has today decided to award the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine jointly to Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael W. Young for their discoveries of molecular mechanisms controlling the circadian rhythm. Life on Earth is adapted to the rotation of our planet. For many years we have known that living organisms, including humans, have an internal, biological clock that helps them anticipate and adapt to the regular rhythm of the day. But how does this clock actually work? Jeffrey C. Hall, Michael Rosbash and Michael W. Young were able to peek inside our biological clock and elucidate its inner workings. Their discoveries explain how plants, animals and humans adapt their biological rhythm so that it is synchronized with the Earth's revolutions. Using fruit flies as a model organism, this year's Nobel laureates isolated a gene that controls the normal daily biological rhythm. They showed that this gene encodes a protein that accumulates in the cell during the night, and is then degraded during the day. Subsequently, they identified additional protein components of this machinery, exposing the mechanism governing the self-sustaining clockwork inside the cell. We now recognize that biological clocks function by the same principles in cells of other multicellular organisms, including humans. With exquisite precision, our inner clock adapts our physiology to the dramatically different phases of the day. The clock regulates critical functions such as behavior, hormone levels, sleep, body temperature and metabolism. Our wellbeing is affected when there is a temporary mismatch between our external environment and this internal biological clock, for example when we travel across several time zones and experience "jet lag". There are also indications that chronic misalignment between our lifestyle and the rhythm dictated by our inner timekeeper is associated with increased risk for various diseases. Brief facts about the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine Laureates Jeffrey C. Hall was born 1945 in New York, USA. He received his doctoral degree in 1971 at the University of Washington in Seattle and was a postdoctoral fellow at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena from 1971 to 1973. He joined the faculty at Brandeis University in Waltham in 1974. In 2002, he became associated with University of Maine. Michael Rosbash was born in 1944 in Kansas City, USA. He received his doctoral degree in 1970 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. During the following three years, he was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. Since 1974, he has been on faculty at Brandeis University in Waltham, USA. Michael W. Young was born in 1949 in Miami, USA. He received his doctoral degree at the University of Texas in Austin in 1975. Between 1975 and 1977, he was a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University in Palo Alto. From 1978, he has been on faculty at the Rockefeller University in New York.

Professor Agneta Ståhle now presented at AcademiaNet

Sun, 01/10/2017 - 20:55
Very prominent female researchers and academics can be selected to the AcademiaNet portal, but only after being nominated by one of the AcademiaNet's partner organizations. Agneta Ståhle, Professor in Physiotherapy, was nominated by the Swedish Research Council and selected during the late summer this year. “It is a tremendous honor to be nominated for and a part of this forum of female world-leading researchers," says Professor Ståhle, active at Karolinska Institutet's Department of Neurobiology, Care Sciences and Society. The purpose of the portal is to gather and make available prominent female researchers and academics, active within different disciplines. The idea is that this will make it easier to appoint leadership positions with female representatives, both in scientific organizations and other organizations. Additional target groups for the portal include journalists and conference organizers looking for experts. In order to be elected and to have a profile on the portal's website, the candidate must have outstanding academic qualifications, independent leadership activities, and very good academic credentials.

SEK 14 920 000 granted to research at KI within ageing and health

Sun, 01/10/2017 - 14:38
Forte, the Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare, has announced the granted applications in the call ”Research in ageing and health”. Three researchers at Karolinska Institutet (KI), all active at the Department of Neurobiology, Care Sciences and Society, were granted in total SEK 14 920 000.  Six out of 113 project applications were granted funding, summing up to 30 MSEK to be distributed. This between the years of 2017 and 2019. KI researchers receiving the grants Sara Garcia-Ptacek Project: Stroke rehabilitation in older persons and persons with dementia Grant: 5 225 000 SEK Amaia Calderón Larrañaga Project: Does our healthcare system truly fit older people? Impact of multidimensional health trajectories on the use of medical and social care services Grant: 4 890 000 SEK Debora Rizzuto  Project: Can a Healthy Physical and Social Environment Compress the Period of Disability in Older Adults? Grant: 4 805 000 SEK

Over SEK 76 million in Forte grants to KI researchers

Sun, 01/10/2017 - 13:31
Forte’s board has granted SEK 302 million in funding to 89 research projects in the fields of health, working life and welfare. In total, SEK 76,575,000 will go toward financing projects at Karolinska Institutet (KI). This year, Forte received a total of 1,247 applications in the annual open call for project, junior and postdoctoral research in the fields of health, working life and welfare. Of these, 27 applications from KI were approved. A record number of 18 junior researcher grants were approved in this year’s open call, five of which went to KI. The open call for proposals for the coming year will open in December.

KI students successful in this year’s Undergraduate Awards

Thu, 28/09/2017 - 15:50
The Undergraduate Awards (UA) is an international awards programme that annually recognises the best undergraduate work in 25 categories covering the fields of sciences, humanities, business and the arts. Eight KI students qualified as the top ten percent with their papers this year, and Paulina Werner was named as a Regional Winner. This year, eight students at Karolinska Institutet – studying medicine, biomedicine and biomedical laboratory sciences – have been placed in the top ten percent for their undergraduate work and have therefore been named as Highly Commended Entrants. Within each category, a number of Regional Winners are also named based on the quality of their degree work, as well as their field and geographic location. Paulina Werner, a student of biomedicine at KI, is the European winner in the Medical Sciences category.  Later this autumn, the annual UA Global Summit will be held in Dublin, Ireland and Paulina Werner and two fellow KI students will be invited to participate. All eight KI students will also become members of the UA Network and Alumni Portal, as are previous KI alumni who have been successful in the awards. Competition in the UA 2017 was tough, with 6,472 submissions from around the world. KI submitted 25 degree projects for assessment this year. Highly Commended Entrants at KI in 2017 Camille Wilhelmi, Bachelor's Programme in Biomedicine Paulina Werner, Bachelor's Programme in Biomedicine (Regional Winner) Alfredo Dueñas Rey, Bachelor's Programme in Biomedicine Malin Strömgren, Study Programme in Biomedical Laboratory Science Tina Yanting Lorentzon, Study Programme in Biomedical Laboratory Science Karl Björkström, Study Programme in Medicine Biying Huang, Study Programme in Medicine Besaf Pirmosa, Study Programme in Medicine

Four KAW project grants to KI

Wed, 27/09/2017 - 10:10
The Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation (KAW) have granted close to SEK 108 million to four research projects at Karolinska Institutet. In total this year, the Foundation has granted SEK 560 million to 18 research projects, which are considered to be of the highest international class, and offering potential for future scientific breakthroughs. “Project funding is mainly granted to basic research within medicine, engineering and natural sciences. This support give researchers the opportunity to invest in risky and long-term projects. The basic idea is to give them the freedom to succeed and fail without any demands on results or applications, "comments KAW's Chairperson Peter Wallenberg Jr, in a press release. KAW is the largest private research financier in Sweden, celebrating its 100 year anniversary in 2017. The Foundation applies a strict peer review process, assigning leading international researchers in each area to evaluate the grant applications. 2017 project grants at KI Project: Understanding malaria-parasite survival in the human body for developing antimalarial drugs Funding: SEK 27 500 000 over a period of five years Lead applicant: Mats Wahlgren, Professor, Department of Microbiology, Tumor and Cell Biology Project: The Achilles’ heel of breast cancer Funding:  SEK 36 800 000 over a period of five years. Lead applicant: Anita Göndör, Senior Researcher, Department of Oncology-Pathology Project: Elucidating the principles of allelic Funding: SEK 18 400 000 kronor over a period of five years. Lead applicant: Rickard Sandberg, Professor, Department of Cell and Molecular Biology Project: Deciphering Spatial Signaling of Protein Clusters at the Membrane Funding: SEK 25 150 000 over a period of five years. Lead applicant: Björn Högberg, Associate Professor, Department of Medical Biochemistry and Biophysics

Migraine with aura – but not without – increases risk of stroke

Tue, 26/09/2017 - 10:38
Only people with migraine with aura have a higher risk of stroke, shows a twin study with 12-year follow-up, from Karolinska Institutet published in the journal Brain. The study also found that the risk is lower than previously demonstrated and possibly related to familial factors. Between 11 and 13 per cent of the population suffer migraines. The condition, which is up to three times more common in women, often debuts in adolescence or early adulthood. Sufferers have recurrent headaches combined with symptoms such as nausea, vomiting or hypersensitivity to light and sound. For one in three sufferers, the headaches start with an aura of neurological symptoms, leading to the migraine classification “with/without aura”. Repeated studies, conducted over the past 30 years or more, have shown that migraine – particularly with aura – increases the risk of stroke. Gender (being female), young age (under 45), smoking and contraceptive pills have also been linked to a higher risk of stroke in migraine patients. Studied 53,000 twins Using the Swedish Twin Registry, the researchers looked at over 53,000 twins over a twelve-year period, 16.2 per cent of whom had any form of migraine, and 6.7 migraine with aura. During the follow-up time, 1,297 of the 53,000 twins had a stroke. On examining the link between this and migraines, they found that the data corroborated with earlier studies, although with a lower general risk. “Our results showed no increase in stroke risk for individuals with migraine without aura, and a somewhat higher risk in twins with migraine with aura, even though this risk was lower than previously demonstrated,” says Maria Lantz, postdoc at Karolinska Institutet’s Department of Clinical Neuroscience. Familial factors could play a role The results also remained largely unchanged when the researchers controlled for other risk factors, such as smoking and high blood pressure. “Further analyses of twin pairs indicate that familial factors, such as heredity and childhood environment, can exacerbate the risk,” says Dr Lantz. The results of the study provide valuable clinical information both for sufferers of migraine without aura, where there is no observable increase in risk, and for sufferers of migraine with aura, where the risk of stroke is lower than previously demonstrated. The study was financed by Stockholm County Council through the ALF scheme and the Swedish Migraine Society. Publication “Migraine and risk of stroke: A national population-based twin study” Maria Lantz, Johanna Sieurin, Arvid Sjölander, Elisabet Waldenlind, Christina Sjöstrand, Karin Wirdefeldt Brain, online 26 September 2017

Vaccination debated at open house

Tue, 26/09/2017 - 08:33
How should we go about achieving the UN’s global sustainable development goals? In mid-September, the Department of Public Health Sciences cohosted an open house on this theme, concluding the day with a panel debate on how information – and myths – about vaccination can be managed.  The overall purpose of the UN’s 17 global sustainable development goals is to eradicate extreme poverty, reduce inequality and injustice and tackle climate change. These global goals were also the theme of an open house at the Widerström Building on 14 September, arranged in collaboration between the department of Public Health Sciences at Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm County Council’s (SLL) Centre for Epidemiology and Community Medicine and the Public Health Agency of Sweden.  During the afternoon, visitors were able to attend lectures in the fields of infectious diseases, inequality, policy, children and young people, and epidemiological surveillance. The day concluded with a panel debate at the Public Health Agency of Sweden, focusing on the third global goal – good health and well-being. The issue of the day was how to deal with people’s doubts about vaccination.  Important that the university promotes sustainability Vice-Chancellor of Karolinska Institutet Ole Petter Ottersen began by emphasising the universities responsibility to adopt the UN’s global sustainable development goals. “We educate the leaders of tomorrow, who will implement the goals which must be incorporated into KI and the universities,” he stated.  While emphasising KI’s important role in the vaccination debate, as a bearer of facts and scientific evidence, he also raises the importance of communicating the uncertainties.  “When it comes to vaccines, society craves facts. But what are the uncertainties and how can we communicate these? In certain cases, it is more important to explain what remains to be done,” says Ole Petter Ottersen. Panellists included Lucia Pastore Celentano, head of the vaccine-preventable disease programme at the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), who stated that over 20,000 cases of measles have been reported in EU member states in the past year alone.  “This is the largest number we have ever seen,” she said.  Ann Lindstrand, head of the Vaccine and Register Unit at the Public Health Agency of Sweden, contributed a Swedish perspective, bearing witness to the country’s high and stable 97 percentage vaccination level.  “We have good control over our vaccine-preventable diseases and this is because our system of paediatric healthcare clinics allows nurses to build trust and long-term relationships with parents.”  A matter of solidarity? Sahar Nejat, paediatric public health advisor at Stockholm County Council, agreed with Ann Lindstrand that the Swedish system of paediatric healthcare is unique and creates trust. She also works at a paediatric clinic in Rinkeby, where nurses are under considerable pressure on the issue of vaccines. “The doubting groups vary. Some are well-read, well-educated people looking for help to sort through the available information; some of those we have trouble reaching have strong opinions about vaccination and others are afraid of the link between autism and the measles vaccine,” she says.  The panellists were united in believing that knowledge is generally low regarding the diseases for which vaccines are currently available.  “Many parents have never been exposed to these diseases, so we need to explain that they can be life threatening. We receive more questions about the risks associated with vaccination than their effects,” said Lucia Pastore Celentano, emphasising that we should be discussing vaccination at a societal rather than individual level. “If everyone thinks at the individual level, cases of disease will increase – something we’re already seeing with diphtheria. Vaccinating one’s is a service one performs for the community.  Collaboration important in making progress This is the third time that Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm County Council and the Public Health Agency of Sweden have arranged an event of this kind. “We do this in order to increase the scope of collaboration. It is just as much a social event as it is scientific and field-related, so it fulfils multiple functions,” explains Bo Burström, one of the organisers and a professor at the Department of Public Health Sciences.

Jonas Frisén awarded major prize

Mon, 25/09/2017 - 15:10
Professor Jonas Frisén at Karolinska Institutet has been awarded the 2017 Eric K. Fernström Foundation Grand Nordic Prize of SEK 1 million in recognition of his research on how stem cells are transformed and renewed in adult organs. Jonas Frisén, professor at the Department of Cell and Molecular Biology at Karolinska Institutet, is an internationally renowned scientist and stem cell researcher who is interested in the formation of new stem cells, which are able to develop into specialised cells. Professor Frisén has concentrated mostly on the formation of new nerve cells, but has also conducted researches on the heart and cancer. Knowledge of stem cells is important to cancer, which often arises in stem cells, and to diseases caused by cell loss, such as Alzheimer’s. “I was surprised and overwhelmed when the prize committee called,” says Jonas Frisén in a press release from Lund University. Developed his own method of age-determining cells His interest in stem cells was born at a decisive moment in 1993 when he discovered something unexpected while looking at microscopic images of the rat spinal cord. The images were of a healthy and an injured cord, and he could see that while in the former the stem cells were inactive, in the latter they had been activated and had started to form new cells, seemingly around the precise area of damage. The discovery was revolutionary and made Professor Frisén drop all other lines of research. To find out if new nerve cells can be formed in an adult human, he has developed his own method of age-determining cells, inspired by the archaeological technique of carbon dating. “We made use of the nuclear tests that took place during the Cold War,” he explains. “Put simply, they put an enormous amount of radioactive matter into the atmosphere, which the cells absorbed. We then used this knowledge to date the neurons.” Reckless, curious and fearless What Professor Frisén loves about research is finding clever solutions, and he believes that a large dose of curiosity and fearlessness have contributed to his scientific success. “I guess I can be a little reckless,” he says. “I’m driven by the question – if there’s no way of answering it, I just have to find new ways. Using the nuclear tests was a long shot that no one else had tried. It sounded fun in theory but we had to learn a whole lot of new things to make it work in practice.” Jonas Frisén’s research group has shown that neuron formation in humans differs dramatically from other mammals. He has also studied new cell formation in the heart and demonstrated how we slowly replace our heart muscle cells. Every year, the Eric K. Fernström Foundation awards a Nordic prize to a medical researcher from one of the Nordic countries, and local prizes to junior researchers at medical faculties in Sweden. The Nordic Prize is worth SEK 1 million. The awards ceremony marks the end of the Science Day event in Lund, which this year is on 8 November. The Lund University medical faculty has been in partnership with the foundation since 1978, when honorary doctor of medicine Eric K Fernström made his endowment that first formed the Eric K. Fernström Foundation. This article is based on a press release from Lund University.

Mapping the gut flora of HIV patients can lead to new therapies

Mon, 25/09/2017 - 08:00
Hello there Jan Vesterbacka, researcher at Karolinska Institutet's Department of Medicine, Huddinge, who will soon be defending his thesis on the part played by gut flora in HIV patients’ immune systems. What has your research shown? "In untreated HIV patients, bacterial components leak out from the gut into the blood in a process called microbial translocation, which activates the immune system and contributes to inflammation. Such inflammation in HIV patients increases the risk of complications like cardiovascular disease and cognitive problems. I’ve been able to show that anti-retroviral drugs reduce the microbial translocation and that antibiotics can probably diminish the inflammation more effectively. I also observed that HIV patients who have not yet received anti-retroviral drugs have a gut flora, or microbiome, that is less species diverse than healthy controls and that the difference in the bacterial flora persisted even after a year of treatment.  Additionally, I investigated the gut flora of so-called “elite controllers”, who are HIV patients that can control their virus without drugs for 20 or 30 years with no impairment of their immune system. This rare group of HIV patients had the same species diversity in their microbiota as HIV negative people as well as some unique bacteria that were over-represented. When I examined how the gut flora of elite controllers works biologically, I found that there were proportionally fewer bacteria that break down carbohydrates and a higher percentage involved in fat metabolism. We hypothesize that their unique gut flora helps them control their virus." What does your research mean for HIV patients? "We hope that one day it will be possible to study the gut flora of HIV patients and adjust or modulate it using faecal transplantation to introduce a tailored, healthy microbiome. This is currently an established treatment for recurrent Clostridium difficile intestinal infection, which is caused by a microbiome dysbiosis. Faecal transplantation is also being tried for other diseases involving abnormal gut flora. Clinical trials have been performed on giving probiotics to HIV patients, although without significant effect. Maybe progress can be made here." What contribution do you hope your research will make? "I hope that what we learn about the gut flora and the immune system can also be useful to other diseases. In the past four or five years, scientists have correlated microbiome changes to several inflammatory and autoimmune diseases, such as MS (multiple sclerosis)." What interested you in the subject? "I’d been working for a few years with HIV patients at the infection clinic when it was found that microbial translocation was an important factor behind harmful HIV inflammation. This was in 2006 and I thought it was interesting, and figured that here was something long term that could be done for the patients." What will you do now? "I’ll continue to study our patients searching for bacterial metabolites as to explain the findings we’ve made investigating their microbiome. It’s still too early to start modulating the microbiome of HIV patients to any great degree since we don’t know exactly which bacteria to introduce or how to do it." Text: Maja Lundbäck Jan Vesterbacka is due to defend his thesis on “The role of microbial translocation and gut microbiota in HIV-1 infection” at Karolinska Institutet on 29 September 2017.

Ageing research is the first theme for a new collaboration between Stockholm and Tokyo

Sat, 23/09/2017 - 10:24
  How can research help a society handle matters connected to an ageing population? This issue was discussed at a workshop held to mark the start of a collaboration between three of Stockholm’s academic institutions and the University of Tokyo. Both in Sweden and Japan more and more people are living to an increasingly old age, and this raises important questions, like how to guarantee access to healthcare and how to finance pensions. Other important issues are how we can stay healthy for as long as possible and how homes for the elderly can best be designed. A workshop titled “Active ageing” was arranged on 21 September in KI’s Nobel Forum by KI, Stockholm University (SU), the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) and the University of Tokyo. The event was part of the visit that a delegation from Tokyo is making to Stockholm in order to sign a collaboration agreement with KI, SU and KTH. Karolinska Institutet’s Vice-Chancellor, Ole Petter Ottersen, welcomed the delegates to this first official part of the programme. The University of Tokyo’s Executive Director and Vice President, Mamuro Mitsuishi, reminded participants that in 2018 Japan and Sweden will be celebrating 150 years of diplomatic relations, and that this new partnership serves to strengthen the bond between the countries and is a possible catalyst for new collaborations. The Queen of Sweden sees much potential for collaborations Queen Silvia opened the workshop with a speech in which she said that matters related to ageing, and how society handles them, are important to both Sweden and Japan. The Queen also mentioned her own commitment to such issues: for two decades, the Queen has worked to raise awareness of how to build a society that cares for its elderly citizens in the best way possible. Amongst the initiatives to which the Queen has contributed is Silviahemmet, which trains dementia care workers. Queen Silvia then concluded her address by saying that Sweden and Japan have much to learn from each other and that this new collaboration opens up considerable opportunities. The University of Tokyo prioritises Stockholm In 2014, the University of Tokyo adopted a strategy to establish strategic partnerships with leading academic institutions around the world, university Vice President Naoto Sekimura told the workshop participants. In addition to KI, SU and KTH, such priority partners include Berkeley, MIT and Cambridge.  The collaboration will centre on research and education under the watchwords excellence, interdisciplinarity and social relevance. The focus will be on three prioritised areas: health and medicine; energy, resource use and climate change; and economic equality. A rapidly ageing population The first researcher to speak was Livia Oláh, Associate Professor in Demography at SU, who stated that an ever-growing share of the global population is over the age of 65. Japan has one of the fastest ageing populations in the world, and also has a lower birth rate than Sweden.  The relatively high rate of childbirth in Sweden is linked to the large number of women who works, this made possible by the country’s family policy supporting the combination of work and family for both woman and men. One of the most important political measures that facilitates this combination lifestyle is childcare, Livia Oláh stated. She emphasised that a sustainable societal development requires a balanced age structure, with childbirth being a key part of maintaining this balance. Healthy ageing is possible Laura Fratiglioni, Professor at KI within the field of Medical Epidemiology specialising in dementia diseases, raised the issue that healthy ageing is possible and already a reality. The challenge, she said, is to make sure it stays this way. The population studies that have been conducted in Stockholm show that approximately 50 percent of the 90-year-olds say they are relativity healthy. Moreover, the statistics show that the risk of suffering from a cardiovascular condition or dementia has declined in recent decades. If this trend is to continue, it is important for people to, amongst other things, be physically active, maintain social relations and refrain from smoking. During the day, speakers from the four universities addressed different aspects of ageing from three general perspectives: the biophysical, the biomedical and the social scientific. The agreement will be signed on 25 September by the collaborators at a ceremony to be held at SU. Text: Per Larsson

Chilly weather and happy runners in this year’s KI-loppet

Fri, 22/09/2017 - 14:36
This year’s KI race took place in somewhat overcast and chilly conditions. That may have been just as well, as the competitors gave it their all and were certainly warm enough by the time they reached the finish line. “The KI race is great for international students. We arrived here this semester but have already had an excellent introduction to KI through a range of events, and have been made to feel extremely welcome,” said Lena (Zombie) Schaller and Marianne (Mad Scientist) Brookman, both Master’s students in toxicology. They were two of the 210 participants – 170 individual entrants and 10 teams – participating in the race at Campus Flemingsberg on 20 September. The somewhat robust weather conditions that accompanied the race were almost certainly of benefit to the runners, the fastest of whom in the individual class was Joakim Eriksson, currently studying the first term of the physiotherapy programme.  “I finished on 14 minutes 23 seconds, a decent time for me. I do have some experience of running as I compete in distances between 5,000 and 10,000 metres,” explained the winner, catching his breath just after reaching the finish line.

Inflammatory bowel disease in childhood associated with increased risk of cancer

Thu, 21/09/2017 - 08:00
Children who develop inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease) run a higher risk of cancer, both in childhood and later in life, a study from Karolinska Institutet published in The BMJ reports. Adulthood onset inflammatory bowel diseases such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease have been associated with an increased risk of bowel cancer. However, there have been no studies showing how the cancer risk is affected by childhood onset of the disease and whether it changes over time. Using data from the Swedish National Patient Register, researchers at Karolinska Institutet have now compared the incidence of cancer in 9,405 individuals who were diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease as children, with 92,870 individuals from the general population. Doubled cancer risk Their results show that individuals who developed inflammatory bowel disease before the age of 18 had twice the cancer risk during childhood and adolescence as well as adulthood, compared with people who did not have such a diagnosis. The largest increase in risk was observed for bowel cancer, but there was also an increase in risk for other forms of cancer, such as blood and skin cancers. “We believe that the main cause is the chronic inflammation, which we know to be a driving factor for many different cancer types,” says principal investigator Ola Olén at Karolinska Institutet’s Clinical Epidemiology Unit at the Department of Medicine, Solna. “Early onset means that the body is exposed to inflammation for a longer time.” The study participants were diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease between 1964 and 2014. “The treatment for inflammatory bowel disease improved considerably over these years, thanks in part to the introduction of new immunomodulating drugs, but unfortunately we can’t see that the relative incidence of cancer simultaneously declined,” says Dr Olén. Important to attend examinations Adult patients with inflammatory bowel disease are regularly invited to colonoscopy screenings, which can detect the presence of any cancer in the gut. The researchers believe that the knowledge of the cancer risk associated with the early onset of inflammatory bowel disease has to be factored into decisions on colonoscopy screening for children and adolescents, from both a healthcare and a patient perspective.” “Don’t forget that even if relative risks are high, the absolute risks are much more modest, and during childhood absolute risks are extremely small. Most young people don’t get cancer, and some of these forms of tumours are extremely rare,” explains Dr Olén. “But it’s probably important for individuals who develop inflammatory bowel disease in childhood to make sure to attend the examinations they’re invited to, especially those who have other strong risk factors for cancer, such as a family history of early cancer.” The research was financed by the Swedish Society of Medicine, Mag-tarmfonden, the Jane and Dan Olsson foundation, the Mjolkdroppen foundation, The Bengt Ihre research fellowship in gastroenterology, Karolinska Institutet foundations, the regional agreement on medical training and clinical research between Stockholm County Council and Karolinska Institutet (ALF), the Swedish Cancer Society, the Swedish Research Council, and the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research. Publication “Childhood-onset inflammatory bowel disease and risk of cancer – a Swedish nationwide cohort study 1964-2014” Ola Olén, Johan Askling, Michael Sachs, Paolo Frumento, Martin Neovius, Karin Ekström Smedby, Anders Ekbom, Petter Malmborg and Jonas F Ludvigsson The BMJ, online 21 September 2017, doi: 10.1136/bmj.j3951

Cell model of the brain provides new knowledge on developmental disease

Tue, 19/09/2017 - 11:10
By reprogramming skin cells into nerve cells, researchers at Karolinska Institutet are creating cell models of the human brain. In a new study published in Molecular Psychiatry the researchers describe how cells from patients with the severe developmental disease lissencephaly differ from healthy cells. The method can provide vital new knowledge on difficult-to-study congenital diseases. Lissencephaly is a rare congenital developmental disease that can be caused by, amongst other anomalies, a mutation of the DCX gene. Affected individuals are born with serious developmental disabilities and a brain that is smooth instead of folded. Uses award-winning technique The discovery that it is possible to reprogramme specialised cells such as skin cells in order to reverse their development back to stem cells was rewarded with the 2012 Nobel Prize. The resulting so-called iPS-cells (induced pluripotent stem cells) can then be turned into other specialised cell types. Anna Falk, docent at Karolinska Institutet’s Department of Neuroscience, uses this technique to build cell models of the human brain. In the present study, her team took skin cells from patients with lissencephaly and turned them into iPS cells, which they then cultivated under special conditions into neuronal stem cells and neurons that are copies of those in the patients’ brains. By examining the cell cultivation dishes, the researchers were able to observe how the patients’ cells behaved and developed from stem cells to nerve cells and compare them with cells from healthy controls. They found that the diseased cells matured much more slowly, sent out shorter projections and were much less mobile. “It’s already known that DCX affects the ability of neurons to migrate, but we can now show that DCX plays a much greater, broader part in brain development than that,” says Dr Falk. “Our hypothesis is that it’s this, the damaged nerve cells’ resistance to maturation that causes the disease.” No relevant animal models  Since there are no relevant animal models for lissencephaly, the reprogramming technique has been essential to the study of lissencephaly’s underlying pathogenesis. At Dr Falk’s laboratory, the method is used to also study other congenital diseases that affect the brain, such as autism and Down syndrome. In future projects, the researchers hope to study how diseased cells can be modified to act as healthy cells. “What many developmental diseases have in common seems to be the failure of brain cells to mature at the same rate as they do in healthy people,” says Dr Falk. “Trying to influence the cells so that they behave like healthy cells is the first step towards some kind of therapy for these diseases.” The study was a collaboration with Karolinska University Hospital, Uppsala University, SciLifeLab and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in the USA. It was financed by several bodies, including the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research, the Åke Wiberg Foundation, the Tore Nilson Foundation, the Jeansson Foundations, the Thuring Foundation and the Swedish Research Council, and through the KID and SFO funding schemes. Publication ”An in vitro model of lissencephaly: expanding the role of DCX during neurogenesis” M Shahsavani, R Pronk, R Falk, M Lam, M Moslem, S Linker, J Salma, K Day, J Schuster, B-M Anderlid, N Dahl, FH Gage, A Falk Molecular Psychiatry, online 19 September 2017. doi: 10.1038/MP.2017.175

Shervin Shahnavaz travels by train to international conferences

Fri, 15/09/2017 - 14:18
This September, KI researcher Shervin Shahnavaz will be participating in two scientific conferences in Ljubljana and Vienna. In order to reduce his and KI’s negative environmental impact, he´s taking the train instead of flying for his official business travels, something he consider to be the responsibility of every KI co-worker who has the opportunity to choose. Anyone who believe in a scientific attitude also has a responsibility to take research findings seriously and use the knowledge that is developed, according to Shervin Shahnavaz, researcher at the Department of Dental Medicine, who chooses to travel climate-smart for both his private and his business travels. “In the research community we need to practise what we preach and by our actions show that we take results of climate research seriously. If we don’t change our travel habits for the better, we undermine research and its importance in general,” says Shervin Shahnavaz. The inspiration to travel by train on his upcoming trips came during March for Science last spring, a manifestation to underline the importance of science and research-based knowledge in society with an emphasis on climate research. But he has had an ambition to reduce his climate footprint in both his private and his business travels for a long time. “I’ve travelled by train to southern Europe with my family on holiday and discovered that it’s both pleasant and doable. At work, thanks to our head’s and the staff’s openness and interest in environmental issues, we have for several years had an ongoing dialogue about environmentally adapted travel, and when the section was to make a study visit to Denmark we chose to travel by train.”  Means of transport is important but also to plan ahead Shervin Shahnavaz tries to make all his domestic trips by train and as he says himself, hopefully also many trips in Europe. He is however aware that some international trips cannot be made by train and then advocates being restrictive and where possible cut down on unnecessary business travels. “Online conferences should be much more common than they are today. I also try to combine several activities during the same trip. In addition to attending the two congresses, this time I’ll also be networking, holding a seminar on children’s and young people’s healthcare together with colleagues from a sister section, and making study visits to colleagues. The trips to Ljubljana and Vienna will take two weeks, of which about two days will be spent travelling.  Wouldn’t it have been more time-efficient to fly?  “That depends on how we define ‘time-efficient’. Of course it would be faster to fly to southern Europe but that does not automatically mean that you get more out of the trip or that you use your working time more effectively. I’ll spend the night on the train and during the day I’ll be writing a scientific article and preparing my presentations. On my way home I’ll have my colleague Jonas Rafi with me and we’ll be able to have thorough discussions about how we can apply what we’ve learned during the congresses. And then of course I’m going to take the opportunity to look out of the window at the parts of Europe I pass through.” So what about the price? Shervin Shahnavaz says that on these particular trips, to fly is the more expensive choice. “The price is important but it’s also important to reduce one’s climate impact. KI’s business trips make up the university’s largest climate impact, with long-distance flights accounting for most of it. It´s therefore important that we as employees and our organisation raise awareness and take action on this issue, it affects us all,” says Shervin Shahnavaz. Environmental issues given greater prominence in KI’s travel guidelines International journeys by air are a prerequisite for KI’s activities and operations, but with its updated travel rules KI is encouraging employees to use more environment-friendly means of transport for short journeys, and to arrange travel-free meetings. The university’s action plan for the environment and sustainable development 2016-2018 also defines a goal of reducing the negative climate impact from KI’s business travel by three percent from the beginning of 2017 to the end of 2018. It is to be achieved by, among other things, educating employees in digital technology for travel-free meetings, favouring eco-labelled hotels and choosing means of transport with the least possible environmental impact.  “In our new rules and instructions for business travels, that came into effect in May, we have taken a holistic approach to our travelling that includes all means of transport. Wherever possible KI’s negative environmental impact is to be reduced, for example by travelling by public transport instead of by taxi or taking the train instead of flying,” says KI’s Travel Manager Kjell-Ove Lindgren.   He also says that we should always ask ourselves what the outcome of a meeting will be if we use modern technology such as video conferencing or webinars instead of travelling.  “If the outcome is the same, choose a travel-free meeting. There are extremely good technical solutions today for holding meetings at a distance so some business trips are totally unnecessary.” KI´s needs are still the deciding factor It should however be made clear that KI will not introduce measures that are not appropriate for its operations and activities, Kjell-Ove Lindgren emphasises.  “It is not a question of avoiding all travelling. Physical meetings are needed and cannot always be replaced. The focus is first and foremost on trips that are made across half the country for shorter meetings, and where a video conference might be a better alternative.” “Not needing to travel also makes our day easier; we don’t need to book transport, check with the family, stay at a hotel and so on. We can work efficiently, leave work on time and have our free time be just that,” Kjell-Ove Lindgren goes on. To learn from each other, universities in Sweden have started a network group consisting of the Royal Institute of Technology, Umeå University, Lund University, Uppsala University, the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Stockholm University and Linköping University.  “We meet twice a year and exchange experience and discuss how we together can develop the best solutions for our colleagues regarding traveling and environmental impact,” says Kjell-Ove Lindgren. KI’s policy on business travel and the environment/sustainability KI’s travel rules state that university employees are to: • Always consider ways to hold a travel-free meeting • Take the train instead of flying to Gothenburg and for other short domestic trips • Choose eco-taxi • Rent an eco-car • Use the KI bus to travel between KI campuses • Use public transport • Choose hotels that are eco-labelled, eco-certified or that can in some other way prove that they work actively with environmental issues 1 flight = 74,000 travels by train A person who flies between Stockholm and Gothenburg contribute to the emission of as much carbon dioxide as 74,000 travels by train for the same route would result in. Source: SJ

Ole Petter Ottersen: ”Meeting new students made a strong impression"

Fri, 15/09/2017 - 11:35
For a little over a month, Ole Petter Ottersen has been on his new job as the vice-chancellor of Karolinska Institutet (KI). The time has been used wisely in getting to know the organisation and its employees. However, focus is already on a new KI strategy for 2030 and reorganisation, measures following the Heckscher inquiry and contacts with the Stockholm County Council (SLL), among lots of other things. How has your first month as KI’s vice-chancellor been? “It’s been fascinating, with an extremely steep learning curve. I’ve spoken with many KI employees, been to both the Flemingsberg and Solna campuses and met the Stockholm County Council and Karolinska University Hospital – all very important meetings. I have also had talks with all heads of departments. I’ve formed a very good first impression of KI and I'm impressed by all the research that’s being done here. I also see possibilities for KI to become an even stronger medical university in the future. Right now, I’m very happy. We’ve just had a first residential meeting with the Board of Karolinska Institutet, and the board strongly supported my idea that KI should institute a collegial council. Through this council, KI employees will be able to put their education and research ideas forward to the management and the board. It's important that all our employees get real influence. However, the decision hasn’t yet been formally taken.” What has made the greatest impression? “One of the strongest impressions was left by the meet and mingle with the new students who have come to KI full of expectations and inquisitiveness. Listening to them was very stimulating.” What has been your primary focus? “Thus far, getting to know KI’s organisation, listening, asking questions and forming ideas of the major challenges facing KI. Also, seeing all the great opportunities. Balance is important.” What has been most instructive? “Walking around the campuses and visiting various departments. I’ll be calling in at all of them in the future. Speaking with Karin Dahlman-Wright and learning about all the great work she and several others have done during the past one and a half very turbulent years, has also been instructive and useful.” Is there anything that you have already re-evaluated about KI? “I’ve followed KI throughout my entire career. Now that I see KI from the inside, I realise even more clearly how strong its research is. I can also see the potential for KI to be an even better university as regards to education.” What is your focus right now? “On top of the very important visits to the departments, we have been commissioned by the board to review KI’s organisation. The action plan following the Heckscher inquiry must also be seen through. Additionally, we must ensure that all the moving-in processes, for example Biomedicum and Neo, can be carried out optimally. Hard work is now also starting on KI’s strategy 2030. Such long-term work forces us to think very creatively and to put students and young researchers and their career paths in focus. And, not least, it will be possible to link the strategy to the UN's Agenda 2030 and the global goals for sustainable development. As a world-leading university, KI has an important responsibility to work for sustainable development, and particular in the field of public health. I also want to put a lot of energy into establishing good relations between KI and SLL and between KI and Karolinska University Hospital. This is perhaps one of the most important things.”   Text: Helena Mayer

The Dimitris N. Chorafas Prize is awarded to Arvid Guterstam

Fri, 15/09/2017 - 11:11
Arvid Guterstam, postdoc at the Department of Neuroscience at Karolinska Institutet, has been awarded the Dimitris N. Chorafas Prize 2017 for his thesis on the neural mechanisms of the sense of bodily self. Arvid Guterstam receives the prize for his research on the neural and cognitive basis of bodily self-perception using a combination of human behavioural and neuroimaging approaches, including the use of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).   A key finding was that the sense of one’s own body is dependent on the integration of temporally and spatially congruent visual, tactile and proprioceptive signals in a spatial reference frame centred on the body. One piece of evidence for this arose from his discovery of the “invisible hand illusion” and the behavioural characterization of the perceptual rules that govern this striking perceptual phenomenon. Guterstam’s thesis was awarded an honorary distinction by the Thesis Examination Board; he has published 10 articles in international peer-reviewed journals. He was recently awarded the Wenner-Gren Fellowship and now plans to move the USA for a postdoc at Princeton University, where he will study the neural basis of awareness.

The Hagströmer Library celebrates with book treasure tours and open house

Thu, 14/09/2017 - 14:55
During this fall the Hagströmer Medico-Historical Library at Karolinska Institutet celebrates its 20th birthday, and extra guided tours are being held of the library's antique books and illustrations. The collections have grown steadily over the years, and today the library is well-known and internationally renowned. The Hagströmer Library in Hagaparken holds approximately 40,000 books, most of which were printed before 1870. Among other works the collection contains ten so-called incunabula, books printed before 1501, when the art of printing was in its infancy. One of the most valuable books is Carl Linnaeus’ personal copy of the first edition of his Systema Naturae, printed in 1735.  “I have had the honour of showing this Swedish national relic and world-famous book to Japanese Emperor Akihito in Tokyo, during the Linnaeus tercentenary celebrations in 2007, and also at the most prominent libraries in the USA,” says Ove Hagelin, the Hagströmer Library’s founder.  The basic idea 20 years ago was to bring together the old book collections from the Swedish Society of Medicine and Karolinska Institutet, but the library has grown over the years. Today many medical libraries have entrusted their collections of old books to the Hagströmer Library. Ove Hagelin’s vision has been, and continues to be, to bring to life these treasures that for centuries have stood unnoticed on library shelves.  Because the books are extremely valuable, the library cannot be permanently open to the public. For this reason, the library arranges guided tours and these have become increasingly popular over the years. Ove Hagelin estimates that about 10,000 people have visited the library. Visitors generally come from KI, associations, societies and foreign universities.  “During tours, visitors have the opportunity to see first editions of medical history’s classics but also the craftsmanship and artistry, which we think is so incredible today, that went into the production of a book in bygone centuries. After every visit it feels as if we’ve peeped through the door to a world that is totally unknown to most people,” Ove Hagelin says.   Limited space used to be a problem that was a constant struggle for the library but this was solved in 2010 when the National Property Board of Sweden offered KI the opportunity to lease the "k-listed" Haga Tingshus building in Solna.  “It was like a gift from Heaven. It’s fantastic to be able to invite people to such a beautiful building where we can display books in a worthy and appropriate setting,” Ove Hagelin continues.  Since a few years back, the library has been dependent on the Friends of the Hagströmer Library association. Doctor and writer Nils Uddenberg, the association’s vice-chair, met Ove Hagelin in 2002 and was fascinated by him as a person ad the unique collections he worked with. Since then he has been a frequent visitor to the library, whose materials he has used for research and inspiration in his writing. “I was spellbound immediately. All major breakthroughs in research can be seen all around on the walls and it’s a beautiful setting that seduces every visitor,” he says. Nils Uddenberg emphasises that it is a unique resource for a medical university that gives it a footing in the history of science.  “I hope it will be allowed to remain and that it is given a strong position at KI,” he goes on.  And the library continues to develop, not least through the association’s chair, financier Sven Hagströmer. He repeatedly finances new acquisitions to be kept at the Hagströmer Library, which takes its name from his great-great-great grandfather.     Text: Karin Montgomery Milestones in the Hagströmer Library’s history The Hagströmer Library takes its name from the Swedish Society of Medicine’s founder and Karolinska Institutet’s first inspector, Anders Johan Hagströmer (1753-1830).  The Hagströmer Library, which is a repository of medical history, has been built up in association with the Swedish Society of Medicine The Hagströmer Library is the core of the Medical History and Heritage Unit/Communications and Public Relations Office at Karolinska Insitutet, that takes care of and spreads information about KI’s medical heritage.  Milestones 1997 The Hagströmer Library is founded and Ove Hagelin is made Honorary Doctor of Medicine at KI. 2005 Exhibition at Nationalmuseum 2010 Relocation to existing premises in the Haga Tingshus building 2010 Exhibition at Valdemarudde, marking Karolinska Institutet's 200 years anniversary.   2017 The Hagströmer Library celebrates its 20th birthday and to mark the occasion three postage stamps are issued with illustrations from the library. The same year Ove Hagelin is awarded His Majesty the King’s Medal (earlier known as the Court Medal) for outstanding services as a bibliographer. Activities associated with the 20th anniversary The celebration began on 24 August with a lecture by First Librarian Hjalmar Fors, who held a lecture about medicinal plants from ancient times until today. The lecture was held at Postmuseum in connection with PostNord's release of three stamps with illustrations from Hagströmerbiblioteket. Anniversary Visions for KI staff will be held on three occasions: September 21, October 20 and November 28, 11-12. Pre-registration is required at: A book exhibition, with medicinal plants illustrations, is on display throughout the fall in the large dining room at Haga Tingshus, and available for pre booked guided tours.. On 15 December, an open house will be held, mainly for KI's employees, researchers and students. During the day, short guided tours, lectures, book sales and coffee are on the agenda.

Marc Bygdeman and Tore Curstedt receive the Grand Silver Medal 2017

Wed, 13/09/2017 - 21:35
The Grand Silver Medal 2017 from Karolinska Institutet is awarded to Tore Curstedt and Marc Bygdeman in special recognition of the outstanding contributions they have made to medical research and Karolinska Institutet. Safe and effective abortion methods Professor Emeritus Marc Bygdeman has been awarded The Grand Silver Medal for outstanding contributions to research, education and healthcare and for significant involvement in the World Health Organisation’s work in fertility and family planning. He has dedicated his entire professional life to developing safer and more effective methods of abortion. During this time he has also worked unstintingly for the introduction and defence of the current abortion legislation. Under Professor Bygdeman’s leadership, research at Karolinska Institutet’s WHO centre has resulted in development of the medically-induced abortion, which today is well-established and is preferred by more than 90 percent of Swedish women as it minimizes the risks compared with surgical intervention. Every year, about 50,000 women around the world die as the result of unsafe abortions. Effective, safe and accepted abortion methods are essential for reproductive health. Changed abortion methods, which are more accessible, accepted and safe, thus have enormous importance for women’s health.  The medicine which has saved the lives of half a million children Associate Professor Tore Curstedt at the Department of Molecular Medicine and Surgery at Karolinska Institutet has been awarded the Grand Silver Medal for the work he and his colleague Bengt Robertson, who died in 2008, have done on their innovative treatment for preterm babies with respiratory distress syndrome (RDS). RDS has been the leading cause of death among preterm babies for decades.  It has been known since the 1950s that premature babies die due to the lack of surfactant, the substance which surrounds the inside of the lung alveoli. Attempts to synthesize the substance started in the 1960s, but these failed. However, when Pathologist Bengt Robertson and Clinical Chemist Tore Curstedt joined forces, they managed to extract the active ingredients from porcine lungs and develop a drug, Curosurf, which is used in more than 90 countries and is estimated to have saved more than half a million preterm babies.  Tore Curstedt has together with a colleague also developed a synthetic surfactant which is in clinical trials in United States and Europe. Unlike Curosurf the synthetic drug can be produced in large amounts and enables future treatment of adults suffering of lung diseases associated with inactive surfactant. He has received the Stockholm County Council Prize for Breakthrough in Clinical Research and His Majesty The King´s Gold Medal of the 12th size on a blue ribbon.