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: 28 min 43 sec ago

SciLifeLab widens infrastructure offer

Thu, 28/05/2015 - 11:11
SciLifeLab strengthens its available infrastructure and offers further support to Swedish researchers with activities at universities in Gothenburg, Linköping, Lund and Umeå. To widen the range of technologies and competences that are available for Swedish researchers within Science for Life Laboratory (SciLifeLab) the board has decided to integrate technology competences from other Swedish universities into the center. These technology laboratories will complement the current center infrastructure and will be integrated into the SciLifeLab technology platform organization. At the SciLifeLab board meeting April 13 it was decided that six such facilities will be financed and integrated in the center as of 2016. ”The expansion of SciLifeLab with complementary technologies means that researchers from all over Sweden get access to additional technologies and competences. It also facilitates collaboration between research groups at the involved universities and strengthens Swedish research and makes it more competitive internationally”, said Göran Sandberg, Chair of the SciLifeLab board.  Read more about this effort in a press release from SciLifeLab

Conceptual confusion among researchers of value-based health care

Wed, 27/05/2015 - 14:14
A new study from Karolinska Institutet suggests that the management concept Value-Based Health Care (VBHC) is frequently misinterpreted and misunderstood by researchers. According to the study, which is being published in the journal BMJ Quality & Safety, this conceptual confusion may contribute to the carousel-like rapid replacement of management ideas in health care. Politicians and other decision-makers often apply different management theories to drive improvement projects in health and medical care. Six Sigma, Total Quality Management and Lean Management are just some examples that have found their way into health and medical care. Many theories are also linked to New Public Management (NPM), which has recently attracted considerable attention and criticism about the ways in which different management systems affect the public sector. ­­“One of the problems with these management concepts is that many are trend-driven. As soon as one health care organisation adopts a particular model, management decides that it's time to switch to the next. Many of these concepts essentially contain the same ideas but use different terminology. Research has labelled this phenomenon, which occurs in three- to five-year cycles, as Pseudo-Innovation,” says Carl Savage, senior researcher at Medical Management Centre, Karolinska Institutet. The most recent management concept to gain a foothold in health care is VBHC, which is aimed at measuring the effects of health care (rather than how much is produced) and comparing it with the costs. VBHC is currently being introduced at a number of hospitals in Sweden including the University Hospital in Uppsala and the Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Gothenburg. VBHC will also be a cornerstone at the future New Karolinska Solna Hospital. Identify a trend-starting article In the study, the researchers at the Medical Management Centre have scrutinised 199 scientific articles that reference VBHC. They have used a novel approach where they first identify a trend-starting article and then analyse how researchers cite that article. The results show that more than one-quarter of all researchers who cite the trend-starting VBHC article have failed to grasp the concept's key aspects. Furthermore, this understanding does not appear to have improved over time, which suggests that the researchers have not contributed to developing the concept. According to the researchers behind the study in question, this conceptual confusion among colleagues is cause for concern. If the supposed experts do not know what VBHC is, there is a big risk that neither will the decision-makers in health care. “A weak understanding of the implications of VBHC makes it difficult for decision-makers, supervisors and clinics to realise these ideas to their full potential. There is also a risk of resources going to waste if our dedication to improving health care is lost because we keep reaching for new trends instead of understanding, implementing and evaluating the management concepts to their fullest extent,” says Jens Jacob Fredriksson, MD, a PhD student and one of the researchers behind the study. The Medical Management Centre is part of the Department of Learning, Informatics, Management and Ethics at Karolinska Institutet. Publication Pseudo-understanding: an analysis of the dilution of value in healthcare Jens Jacob Fredriksson, David Ebbevi, Carl Savage  BMJ Quality & Safety, online 14 May 2015, doi:10.1136/bmjqs-2014-003803

New doctors and honorary doctors graduate in Stockholm City Hall

Wed, 27/05/2015 - 09:09
Some 900 guests, supervisors and families along with the KI management and honoured guests gathered in the Blue Hall of the Stockholm City Hall on 22 May to celebrate the graduation of 126 new doctors and four honorary doctors. Present were the new honorary doctors of medicine Tak W Mak, professor at Toronto University, Canada; Bertil Hållsten, doctor of economics and founder of the Hållsten Research Foundation; Barry Everitt, professor of neurological behavioural science at the University of Cambridge, UK; and Mariam Claeson, director of Maternal, Newborn and Child Health at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, USA. The four honorary doctors were presented with a hat and a diploma and honoured with a cannon salute from the City Hall quayside before the student ceremonial stewards led, in turn, each of the 126 new doctors by the arm to receive their own symbols of graduation, the hat and the diploma. Once the applause of the guests had faded amongst the spring flowers that decorated the hall, it was time to pass into the Golden Hall for the banquet. Tak W Mak held a speech on behalf of the honorary doctors and directed particular words of hope to the new doctors: “Thanks to you, beautiful blossoms are in the future”. Photo credit: Ulf Sirborn

Information on complaints concerning performed tracheal operations and their investigation

Wed, 27/05/2015 - 09:09
An ongoing case in which Karolinska Institutet is investigating alleged scientific misconduct has attracted considerable attention in the Swedish and international media. There are two parts to the case. Firstly, there are the scientific papers that had been published following three operations involving the grafting of a synthetic trachea. It is the responsibility of Karolinska Institutet’s vice-chancellor to investigate suspicions of scientific misconduct. Secondly, there are the operations that were carried out at Karolinska University Hospital, which are the subject of an inquiry led by the Health and Social Care Inspectorate. The Swedish Medical Products Agency (LMV) has received a complaint regarding a possible breach of the pharmaceuticals legislation. LMV has filed a report with a prosecutor to ascertain the legal situation. Find information on complaints concerning previously performed tracheal operations and their investigation.

Heart failure drugs beneficial even in presence of kidney disease

Sat, 23/05/2015 - 11:11
A novel study from Karolinska Institutesuggests that RAS-antagonists, common drugs for patients with heart failure, may benefit also patients who have concomitant kidney disease, a group previously not studied. These drugs have proven effect in heart failure, but patients with kidney disease were excluded from clinical trials due to fear of kidney complications. While kidney complications are still a potential concern, this new study, which is presented at the annual congress of the European Society of Cardiology Heart Failure Association, and published concurrently in the European Heart Journal, suggests that the net effect may be beneficial. In the current study, a Swedish team comprising researchers at Karolinska Institutet, Linköping University, Stockholm South General Hospital, and Karolinska University Hospital analysed data from 24,000 patients from the nationwide Swedish Heart Failure Registry (SwedeHF). Patients with heart failure and chronic kidney disease who were treated with RAS-antagonists (ACE-inhibitors or angiotensin receptor blockers) had better survival than un-treated patients. Reduction in mortality The difference persisted after adjustment for a large number of other factors, such as patient age and measures of general health, and the final decrease in mortality was 24 percent. The reduction in mortality was similar to that in patients without kidney disease which was in turn similar to that in randomized trials. “This study was large and rigorous but cannot prove that RAS-antagonists are beneficial”, says Dr Lars Lund at the Department of Medicine, Solna, who led the study. “It provides a rationale for performing large-scale randomized trials with this inexpensive category of drugs for the common combination of heart failure and kidney disease. Indeed, Swedish health care and national population registries provide an ideal setting for a novel concept, so called registry-randomized trials.” The work was financed by the Swedish Research Council, The Swedish Heart-Lung Foundation, the Stockholm County Council and the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions. View our press release about this research Publication Association between renin-angiotensin system antagonist use and mortality in heart failure with severe renal insufficiency – a prospective propensity score-matched cohort study Lars H Lund, Lina Benson, Ulf Dahlström, Magnus Edner European Heart Journal, 23 May 2015

Karolinska Institutet launches new collaborations for innovation and research

Fri, 22/05/2015 - 08:08
Karolinska Institute’s wholly owned company, Karolinska Institutet Holding AB, has signed an agreement with Johnson & Johnson Innovation. The collaboration aims to strengthen innovation at Karolinska Institute and integrate it into product and business development, and implementation of health care. At the same time a research collaboration is established between Karolinska Institutet and Janssen Pharmaceuticals. As part of the collaboration, Johnson & Johnson Innovation will establish a life science innovation hub at Karolinska Institutet to work with Karolinska Institutet Holding AB, to support and drive the growth of life science companies rooted in academic medical research. Promising projects in the Nordic life science industry should be supported to develop services and products to support patients and consumers. The collaboration benefits between Karolinska Institutet Holding AB and Johnson & Johnson Innovation serves to meet the needs of entrepreneurs in the pharmaceutical, medical technology and healthcare sectors. It will include knowledge sharing, establishment of coaching and scouting programs, investments in developing ideas into finished concepts, and funding for start-ups. “One of the main missions of Karolinska Institutet is to help develop medical discoveries into innovations and products for the benefit of patients”, said Professor Anders Hamsten, vice-chancellor of Karolinska Institutet. “An important part of our strategy for the years to come is to establish collaborations with industry so as to strengthen innovation at our university and support corporate development from new discoveries and the implementation in health care. The collaborations with Johnson & Johnson Innovation and Janssen are an important step in that direction.” While launching this Karolinska Institutet collaboration with the pharmaceutical company Janssen Pharmaceuticals NV, one of the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of  Johnson & Johnson, a number of research posts have been created for observational studies (Real World Evidence). The focus of this cooperation is the follow-up and effects of disease and treatment, using routine data from health care ("Real World Data") and how they relate to effects in clinical trials, all while social and economic factors will be evaluated. The research will initially focus on method development, depression, prostate cancer, psoriasis, and cancers of the immune-system. The collaboration between Karolinska Institutet and Janssen will be led by Johan Askling, professor at the Department of Medicine in Solna. “We will, among other things, study the relationship between data from randomized trials and observational data from clinical practice, in order to increase understanding of how these can be made comparable, and how observational data can be used as an adjunct to clinical trial data” said Johan Askling.

Subconscious learning shapes pain responses

Fri, 22/05/2015 - 08:08
In a new study led from Karolinska Institutet, researchers report that people can be conditioned to associate images with particular pain responses – such as improved tolerance to pain – even when they are not consciously aware of the images.  The findings are being published in the journal PNAS. Previous studies have shown that a person’s pain experience can be increased or decreased by associating a specific cue, such as an image, with high or low intensity pain. However, until now it has been unclear if it is necessary to be consciously aware of the cue in order to learn the association. In this recent study, Dr. Karin Jensen and colleagues tested whether unconscious learning affected pain responses, by using subliminal images and training participants to associate a certain image with high pain and another image with low pain. The study involved 49 participants in all, randomly assigned into four experimental groups that would elucidate the impact of different levels of conscious awareness during the experiment. All participants were generally healthy, with no chronic illnesses or psychiatric diagnoses. None of the participants reported receiving any medication apart from hormonal contraceptives. In the experiment, images of different faces were presented on a computer screen. To some of the participants the images were shown so quickly that they could not be consciously recognized. For each image exposure, participants were subjected to pain stimulation and asked to rate the pain according to a specific scale. As each image was repeatedly associated with either high or low pain, it turned into a high pain cue or a low pain cue that would affect the participants’ expectations. Without conscious awareness The results suggest that pain cues could be learned without conscious awareness, as participants reported increased pain when shown the high pain image and reduced pain when shown the low pain image during identical levels of pain stimulation, regardless of whether or not the images were shown subliminally,  “These results demonstrate that pain responses can be shaped by learning that takes place outside conscious awareness, suggesting that unconscious learning may have an extensive effect on higher cognitive processes in general”, says Karin Jensen. This work was funded by the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at Karolinska Institutet, and support was also provided by a NCCIH/NIH Grant. The study was conducted by researchers from the Osher Center at the Department of Clinical Neuroscience at Karolinska Institutet, Sweden and from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School, USA. View our press release about this study Publication Classical conditioning of analgesic and hyperalgesic pain responses without conscious awareness Karin Jensen, Irving Kirsch, Sara Odmalm, Ted J. Kaptchuk, and Martin Ingvar PNAS, published ahead of print May 15, 2015, doi:10.1073/pnas.1504567112

Thomas Helleday elected to EMBO

Thu, 21/05/2015 - 15:15
As the only researcher active in Sweden out of a total 58, professor Thomas Helleday has been elected as a new member of EMBO 2015. EMBO – the European Molecular Biology Organization – is a very highly regarded European organisation which promotes quality in research in the field of life science. More than 1,700 leading researchers have been elected thus far, of which 50 are Swedish, and 24 of these from Karolinska Institutet. Read the press release from EMBO

Study questions beneficial effects of a Nordic diet on cardiovascular events

Thu, 21/05/2015 - 08:08
A new study led from Karolinska Institutet shows that although individual components of a healthy so-called Nordic diet previously have been linked to beneficial effects on cardiovascular health, as well as to other health effects, there is no evidence of an association with cardiovascular events in a general population. The study, which was conducted in in over 40,000 Swedish women, is being published in the Journal of Internal Medicine. Cardiovascular disease, such as heart attack and stroke, is a leading cause of death worldwide, and it has long been known that dietary factors have an important influence on cardiovascular health. Previous studies have shown beneficial effects of a healthy Nordic diet – comprising whole grain bread and oatmeal, fruit (apples/pears), vegetables (root vegetables and cabbage) and fish – on short-term markers of cardiovascular health, for example lower blood pressure and weight loss. Several studies have also showed beneficial effects of individual components included in the Nordic diet on cardiovascular events. However, the current study is the first to investigate the overall, long-term association between a healthy Nordic diet and the incidence of cardiovascular disease in the general population. The study was conducted in 43,310 middle-aged Swedish women. The participants answered questions in 1991/92 about their food intake, and the incidence of cardiovascular disease was recorded through the Swedish registries over approximately 20 years until the end of 2012. During the follow-up period, nearly 20% of the women developed cardiovascular disease. However, unexpectedly given the results of previous studies, the beneficial effect of a healthy Nordic diet did not register when looking at the incidence of concrete, cardiovascular events in the general population. “The reason for this for this discrepancy could be that previous studies showing effect of a healthy Nordic diet were intervention trials, which means participants had a very high adherence to this particular diet and also were selected, high-risk persons in relation to developing cardiovascular disease, whereas the present study expected a lesser degree of adherence, and looked and a group of overall healthy women”, says first author Nina Roswall, PhD, at the Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Karolinska Institutet. Alcohol consumption or smoking An additional goal for the research team was to determine whether any relationship between the healthy Nordic diet and cardiovascular disease is modified by age, weight, alcohol consumption or smoking. Their results show that alcohol intake, weight (BMI) and age did not have any significant affect. “We did manage to show a beneficial effect of this diet among former smokers”, says Professor Elisabete Weiderpass, PhD, who supervised the study. “However, this may be due to the fact that smoking cessation is associated with dietary changes towards a healthier lifestyle, which may have affected the results. It is also important to point out that further investigation is required to confirm these findings.” Research organizations involved in this study, other than Karolinska Institutet, were the Danish Cancer Society Research Center, University of Auckland, New Zealand, Harvard School of Public Health, USA, Folkhälsan Research Center, Finland, The Cancer Registry of Norway, The Arctic University of Norway, and University of Tromsö, also in Norway. The investigation was supported by a grant from the Swedish Research Council. Publication No association between adherence to the healthy Nordic food index and cardiovascular disease among Swedish women – a cohort study Roswall Nina, Sandin Sven, Scragg Robert, Löf Marie, Skeie Guri, Olsen Anja, Adami Hans-Olov, Weiderpass Elisabete Journal of International Medicine, first published online 19 May 2015, DOI: 10.1111/joim.12378

The first Silvia doctors receive their diplomas from the Queen

Tue, 19/05/2015 - 15:15
“Now you can help to raise the life quality of these vulnerable patients and like flashing beacons spread your knowledge of dementia care,” said Karolinska Institutet’s vice-chancellor Anders Hamsten as he congratulated the first ever six doctors able to call themselves Silvia doctors. “I hope you all feel pride in what you’ve achieved.” Queen Silvia herself presented the diplomas to the six doctors who will now be bearing her name. The doctors have all taken a one-year’s Master’s programme in dementia care held jointly by Karolinska Institutet and the Silviahemmet Foundation, and received their diplomas at a degree ceremony at Drottningholm’s slottsteater. Also present was Minister for the Elderly, Åsa Regnér. In this unique 18th century theatre, with its orchestra in period garb and an audience from all over the world, the Queen talked of her own mother’s dementia and of how the difficulties giving and receiving proper care made her start the Silvia home, which has always trained Silvia sisters – nursing auxiliaries specialising in dementia – and Silvia nurses. Now there are also the first Silvia doctors, amongst them Moa Wibom, consultant and specialist in public health at Ängelholm Hospital. “These two years will be of benefit to us and our patients throughout our careers and our lives,” she says.   Text: Sara Nilsson Photo: Gustav Mårtensson

New knowledge about how type 2 diabetes develops

Tue, 19/05/2015 - 08:08
An international research team, led from Sweden’s Karolinska Institutet, have presented new knowledge about what happens when type 2 diabetes develops. By studying the insulin-producing beta cells in mice in real time, they have managed to identify a key part of the process that leads to the death of beta cells. The study is being published in the journal PNAS. Type 2 diabetes is characterised by two main events in the body. At the initial stage the cells become insulin-resistant, i.e. insensitive to insulin. At the next stage, the insulin-producing beta cells, which are located in the islets of Langerhans in the pancreas, die. Exactly how the disease develops is still unknown, but investigators at Karolinska Institutet and colleagues from Singapore and the USA have added another piece of the jigsaw. Ten years ago researchers at Karolinska Institutet discovered that blood levels of apolipoprotein CIII (apoCIII) become elevated in diabetes. This causes certain specific calcium channels in the beta cell wall to be overactivated which produces excessive calcium levels inside the beta cells. This has a toxic effect and results in beta cell death. However, the effect of apoCIII can be prevented by blocking the calcium channels. In the study in question, researchers have used insulin-resistant mice with type 2 diabetes. Because of the disease, the mice had elevated levels of apoCIII in their blood. This apoCIII was mainly produced in the liver although the islets themselves could also produce apoCIII as a consequence of local islet insulin resistance. Beta cell function and survival in real time The researchers then used a self-developed technique to transplant islets of Langerhans to the anterior eye chamber – a technique that makes it possible to study beta cell function and survival in real time. Normal islets of Langerhans which produce apoCIII were transplanted to one eye while genetically modified, non-apoCIII-producing islets were transplanted to the other eye. The researchers' main finding was that the beta cells reacted differently in each case. Despite the islets in both eyes being exposed to elevated levels of apoCIII circulating in the blood stream, only the apoCIII-producing islets showed an inflammatory reaction and, thereby, cell death. In the case of the genetically modified, non-apoCIII-producing islets, the beta cells survived. “This shows that local production of apoCIII has damaging effects on beta cells. Circulating apoCIII had no direct damaging effect on the beta cell under type 2 diabetic conditions,” says Lisa Juntti-Berggren, chief physician and professor at the Rolf Luft Research Center for Diabetes and Endocrinology, Department of Molecular Medicine and Surgery at Karolinska Institutet. Blocking the production of apoCIII locally The researchers are currently proceeding with animal studies to investigate the possibilities of blocking the production of apoCIII locally in islets of Langerhans. “Our goal is to develop a treatment strategy where you can prevent type 2 diabetes from developing in individuals with a high risk of the disease; people with insulin resistance, for example,” says Per-Olof Berggren, professor at the Rolf Luft Research Center for Diabetes and Endocrinology, Department of Molecular Medicine and Surgery at Karolinska Institutet. The study in question is funded by the Swedish Diabetes Association, Karolinska Institutet, Swedish Research Council, Novo Nordisk Foundation, Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation, Skandia insurance company, Diabetes Wellness Foundation, Bert von Kantzow Foundation, The Family Erling-Persson Foundation, The Swedish Diabetes Foundation, Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, Nanyang Technological University Start-Up Grant, The Stichting af Jochnick Foundation and Diabetes Research Institute Foundation. Our press release about this study Publication Apolipoprotein CIII links islet insulin resistance to β-cell failure in diabetes Karin Åvall, Yusuf Ali, Ingo B. Leibiger, Barbara Leibiger, Tilo Moede, Meike Paschen, Andrea Dicker, Elisabetta Daré, Martin Köhler, Erwin Ilegems, Midhat H. Abdulreda, Mark Graham, Rosanne M. Crooke, Vanessa S. Y. Tay, Essam Refai, Stefan K. Nilsson, Stefan Jacob, Lars Selander, Per-Olof Berggren and Lisa Juntti-Berggren PNAS, 4 May 2015, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1423849112

Kerstin Tham proposed as new vice-chancellor of Malmö University

Mon, 18/05/2015 - 09:09
KI’s pro-vice-chancellor, Kerstin Tham, has been put forward as the new vice-chancellor of Malmö University, the only candidate to be considered by the university board following recommendation by its selection committee.   Kerstin Tham, who was made professor of occupational therapy at the Department of Neurobiology, Care Sciences and Society in 2009 and Karolinska Institutet’s pro-vice-chancellor in January 2013, is the selection committee’s proposal for Malmö University’s new vice-chancellor. The consultative assembly and union representatives at the university both unanimously recommend Kerstin Tham out of the three final candidates to have been selected through interviews and tests from a starting field of 69. Malmö University will be holding an extraordinary board meeting to decide the matter on 22 May, after we go to press. It is then up to the government to consider the university’s proposal and officially announce the appointment, although no final date has been given for when this will happen. This means that after two and a half years as pro-vice-chancellor of KI, Professor Tham has to make a decision on taking up a new office and that KI will probably need to start looking for her replacement. “I’ve learnt an incredible amount in my 20-years and more at Karolinska Institutet and now feel that it’d be interesting to put my experience and knowledge to use in a new context,” she says. “Malmö University is really Sweden’s largest university college, and I’m convinced that my experience from KI will come in useful in its ambition to obtain full university status.” The incumbent vice-chancellor, Stefan Bengtsson, will be leaving in August to become president and CEO of Chalmers University in Gothenburg.

Tuberculosis drug can improve effect of CBT

Mon, 18/05/2015 - 09:09
A new study from Karolinska Institutet shows that the effect of internet-based CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) for people with people with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) may be boosted with a drug called d-cycloserine, which has long been used to treat TB. According to the results, which are published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, this enhancing effect is counteracted by antidepressants. “These types of drugs are sometimes called cognitive enhancers, as they affect specific brain processes that can speed up and boost the effects of psychotherapy,” says Dr Christian Rück, psychiatrist and researcher, who conducted the study with his colleagues at Karolinska Institutet’s Department of Clinical Neuroscience. “You could say that it’s to CBT what spinach is to Popeye.” The active therapeutic component of CBT is based on the concept of exposure or extinction, whereby the individual puts him/herself in feared situations that evoke feelings of discomfort or anxiety and remains there until the sensation wanes. D-cycloserine (DCS) is an old tuberculosis drug that also affects one of the brain’s most common receptors, the NMDA receptor. Previous studies have shown, for example, that DCS can amplify the effect of CBT if taken just prior to exposure to the fear-inducing stimulus. In the present study, the researchers tried adding DCS to online CBT for people with OCD. Previous research had shown that DCS can speed up the therapeutic effect of CBT for this disorder, but no study had been large enough to demonstrate lasting effects once the therapy has finished. The study randomly assigned 128 people with an OCD diagnosis to either a DCS or a placebo group. Also taking antidepressants The initial analysis indicated that while there was no difference between DCS and placebo, the effect of online CBT was considerable. In their subsequent analysis, the team therefore took into account whether the participants were also taking antidepressants. Doing so, they found that those not on antidepressants responded much better to DCS. “This tells us that the mechanism for DCS can be affected by antidepressants or vice versa and that it might one day be possible to use DCS and similar substances to boost the effect of CBT,” says Dr Rück. “Our study is the largest to date on DCS and OCD, but more research needs to be done to substantiate these positive effects and to fully understand and utilise the biological mechanisms behind effective CBT therapy.” The study’s first author is Erik Andersson, PhD. It was financed by grants obtained from the Swedish Research Council and through the ALF agreement between KI and the Stockholm County Council. More about the Rück lab Publication D-Cycloserine vs Placebo as Adjunct to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Interaction with Antidepressants; A Randomzed Clinical Trial Erik Andersson, Erik Hedman, Jesper Enander, Diana Radu Djurfeldt, Brjánn Ljótsson, Simon Cervenka, Josef Isung, Cecilia Svanborg, David Mataix-Cols, Viktor Kaldo, Gerhard Andersson, Nils Lindefors, Christian Rück JAMA Psychiatry, online 13 May 2015, doi: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2015.0546

Student from KI receives the Global Swede Award

Wed, 13/05/2015 - 19:19
Adeeb Tawseef, a student from the master's programme in bioentrepreneurship, is one of about 20 foreign students being given the Global Swede Award. The award ceremony will take place on 12 May with the awards handed out by the Minister for Enterprise and Innovation Mikael Damberg, together with the Swedish Institute' Director-General Annika Rembe. This is the fifth year in which this award has been given to foreign students studying in Sweden who have distinguished themselves within the fields of innovation and entrepreneurship. Adeeb Tawseef is studying for a master's degree in bioentrepreneurship at Karolinska Institutet and has previously gained a degree from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. "What is especially significant for me is that it is not just Karolinska Institutet, but also the Government, that wants to highlight the contribution international students make to entrepreneurship and innovation. Karolinska Institutet has always encouraged me and the other students to get involved in these activities and I feel very honoured to be acknowledged like this", says Adeeb Tawseef. The number of students studying in other countries is increasing. In 2015, the number of international students in the world is estimated to be 4.3 million. "International exchanges and contacts mean a lot to Karolinska Institutet. While they are studying in Sweden these students also contribute to Swedish students' international perspective. International students also form relationships and networks that are important to both themselves and the contexts in which they will later be working", says Annika Östman Wernerson, Dead of Higher Education at Karolinska Institutet. The Global Swede Awards ceremony is a collaboration between the Swedish Institute and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs that aims to encourage the students to be ambassadors for Sweden. "The Global Swede Award is a way of promoting Swedish exports. By acknowledging top international students, valuable contacts are made which will benefit Swedish foreign trade in the long-term", says Minister for Enterprise and Innovation Mikael Damberg in a press statement. For more information, please view the Government offices website

Karolinska Institutet creates a new professorship in innovation and entrepreneurship

Wed, 13/05/2015 - 08:08
Karolinska Institutet has received a donation of 4 million USD, approximately 35 million SEK, for the creation of a professorship in innovation and entrepreneurship. The new professorship is financed by the 95-year-old doctor, researcher, innovator and business leader Professor Endre A. Balazs and his wife Dr Janet L. Denlinger. The “Endre A. Balazs Professorship in Innovation and Entrepreneurship” will now be advertised broadly. “The future incumbent could be a scientist, or an innovator and business leader with a PhD in the life science field,” says Dean of Research Hans-Gustaf Ljunggren. “We’re open to evaluate all kinds of candidates with strong profiles in the field.” The professor, who will be selected from an international field of competing applicants, will be expected to devote his or her time to research and education in the field of innovation and entrepreneurship. “An innovation culture is strategically important for Karolinska Institutet and for Swedish life science,” says the university’s vice-chancellor Anders Hamsten. “It’s part of our mission to help turn medical discoveries into innovations and products of use to the healthcare sector. We’re therefore extremely grateful for Endre Balazs’s generosity, as his donation opens up new, very exciting possibilities in this field.” Endre A. Balazs was a visiting researcher at Karolinska Institutet between 1947 and 1950, when he laid the foundation of a successful career as a scientist and entrepreneur. His ability to translate his research into commercial products has made him a wealthy man. In the 1940s, he managed to synthesize hyaluronic acid in large amounts from rooster combs. The substance is the base of a number of medical products, including Healon, which is an invaluable aid in lens transplants in cataract patients. Healon was licensed to Pharmacia in the early 1970s and was the company’s biggest product during the 1980s and 1990s. An estimated 300 million patients around the world have undergone cataract operations in which Healon and similar hyaluronic acid-based substances are used. Balazs and Denlinger later started the company Biomatrix and launched a product based on hyaluronic acid, which has been used for millions of patients suffering from arthrosis and other diseases of the joints.

How cancer tricks the lymphatic system into spreading tumours

Mon, 11/05/2015 - 12:12
Swollen lymph nodes are often the earliest sign of metastatic spread of cancer cells. Now cancer researchers and immunologists at Sweden’s Karolinska Institutet have discovered how cancer cells can infiltrate the lymphatic system by ‘disguising’ themselves as immune cells (white blood cells). The researchers hope that this finding, which is published in the scientific journal Oncogene, will inform the development of new drugs. The main reason why people die of cancer is that the cancer cells spread to form daughter tumours, or metastases, in vital organs, such as the lungs and liver. A route frequently used by cancer cells for dissemination is the lymphatic system. Upon entering lymphatic vessels, they migrate to nearby lymph nodes, which then swell up, and from there, to other organs via the blood. The details of how and why cancer cells use the lymphatic system for spread are, however, relatively unknown. “It’s not clear whether there are signals controlling this or whether it’s just random,” says principal investigator Jonas Fuxe, cancer researcher and Associate Professor at Karolinska Institutet’s Department of Medical Biochemistry and Biophysics. “However, in recent years it has become evident that inflammation is a factor that can promote metastasis and that anti-inflammatory drugs may have a certain inhibitory effect on the spread of cancer.” The study is based on an interdisciplinary collaboration between cancer researchers and immunologists, which the researchers point out has has contributed to the new, exciting results. What they discovered was that an inflammatory factor known as TGF-beta (transforming growth factor-beta) can give cancer cells properties of immune cells by supplying the surface of the cancer cell with a receptor that normally only exists on the white blood cells that travel through the lymphatic system. New treatment models Equipped with this receptor, the cancer cells are able to recognise and migrate towards a gradient of a substance that is secreted from the lymphatic vessels and binds to the receptor. In this way, the cancer cells can effectively target lymphatic vessels and migrate on to lymph nodes, just like immune cells. According to the researchers, their results link inflammation and cancer in a novel way and make possible the development of new treatment models. “With this discovery in our hands, we’d now like to try to find out which additional immune-cell properties cancer cells have and study how they affect the metastatic process,” says Jonas Fuxe. “The possibility of preventing or slowing down the spread of cancer cells via the lymphatic system is an attractive one, as it could reduce the risk of metastasis to other organs.” Mikael Karlsson, Associate Professor and group leader at the Department of Microbiology, Tumour and Cell Biology at Karolinska Institutet was in charge of the immunological aspects of the study. In addition to the researchers at Karolinska Institutet, the study involved researchers from Umeå University, Sweden, Louisiana State University Health Sciences Centre and Princeton University in the USA and Nihon University School of Medicine in Tokyo, Japan. The study was financed by the Swedish Research Council, the Swedish Cancer Society, the Children’s Cancer Foundation, the Swedish Society for Medical Research (SSMF), Karolinska Institutet’s strategic research programme in cancer (StratCan), and the Nordic Cancer Union. Our press release about this research Publication  GF-β1-induced EMT promotes targeted migration of breast cancer cells through the lymphatic system by activation of CCR7/CCL21-mediated chemotaxis  Mei-Fong Pang, Anna-Maria Georgoudaki, Laura Lambut, Joel Johansson, Vedrana Tabor, Kazuhiro Hagikura, Yi Jin, Malin Jansson, Jonathan S. Alexander, Celeste M. Nelson, Lars Jakobsson, Christer Betsholtz, Malin Sund, Mikael C. I. Karlsson & Jonas Fuxe Oncogene advance online publication 11 May 2015; doi: 10.1038/onc.2015.133

Ion pump gives the body its own pain alleviation

Mon, 11/05/2015 - 09:09
In a recent study, published in the journal Science Advances, researchers at Karolinska Institutet and Linköping University present a small ion pump in organic electronics that can stop pain impulses in living, freely moving rats by using the body’s own pain relief signals. This innovation gives new hope to people suffering from sever nerve pain for which no other cure yet has been found. The research team describes the implantable ion pump as a kind of pacemaker for alleviating pain, and estimate that it could be in clinical use in five to ten years.  However, while a pacemaker sends electrical impulses to the heart, the ion pump sends out the body’s own pain alleviator – charged molecules of what are known as neurotransmitters – to the exact place where the damaged nerves come into contact with the spinal cord. This means that the pain impulses never reach the brain. Organic electronics is a class of materials capable of easy translation between electronic and biochemical signals. In the current study, the device delivered the neurotransmitter γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA), whose natural task is to inhibit stimuli in our central nervous system. An electric current through the ion pump is all that is needed for the GABA neurotransmitter to be spread as a thin cloud at these exact locations on the spinal cord. So far, the pain alleviation has had no negative side effects, according to the researchers. The ion pump project is a part of a the OBOE multidisciplinary research center within organic bioelectronics, which includes ten research groups from Linköping Unviersity, Karolinska Institutet and Acreo Swedish ITC. Principal investigator at Linköping University was Professor Magnus Berggren, and head of the preclinical part of the project at Karolinska Instiutet was professor Bengt Linderoth. This work was funded by VINNOVA, the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation, and the Swedish Research Council, amongst others. Read more in a press release from Linköping University Publication Therapy using implanted organic bioelectronics Amanda Jonsson, Zhiyang Song, David Nilsson, Björn A. Meyerson, Daniel T. Simon, BengtLinderoth, Magnus Berggren Science Advances 8 May 2015, Vol. 1 no. 4 e1500039, DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1500039

Her mission: the world

Fri, 08/05/2015 - 14:14
She is the new deputy vice-chancellor for international affairs at Karolinska Institutet and wants to make KI’s global role more prominently defined, both internally and internationally. Meet Maria Masucci in interview with KI News. “Globalisation brings exciting developments in all areas, so it’s obvious that the university has an important part to play,” says Maria Masucci, professor of virology at Karolinska Institutet and the university’s deputy vice-chancellor for international affairs since May 1. Above all, she wants to contribute to the initiative that the university management launched in its Strategy 2018, which has a strong focus on internationalisation. Sweden is a small country, but research knows no national borders. Collaboration is possible thanks to new technology and communication, says Professor Masucci, as well as student exchanges, which must be made easier and more effective. “There are already many different initiatives at KI and I’m not intending to reinvent the wheel,” she says, adding that these initiatives can, however, be made more structured in order to provide an overview of the situation. It must be made clear where KI can be found in the world, and that the world can be found at KI.     Read more in a pressrelease.

Gene variant determines early or late onset of Huntington’s disease

Tue, 05/05/2015 - 08:08
Researchers at Karolinska Institutet and the University of British Columbia, Canada, have identified a gene variant that influences whether Huntington’s disease breaks out earlier or later than expected. The findings, which are published in the scientific journal Nature Neuroscience, can contribute to improved diagnosis and disease-modifying therapies. A typical symptom of the inherited, progressive, neurodegenerative Huntington’s disease is involuntary movements. While the symptom normally debuts in middle-age, there is wide individual variation in how the disease manifests itself, and even though two people carry the exact same genetic mutation that codes for the huntingtin protein, there can be up to a 20-year difference in onset. Scientists have now discovered a small genetic change just outside the huntingtin gene that exchanges one base in the DNA molecule for another and that they think plays an important part in this phenomenon. “We’ve identified for the first time a gene variant that affects the onset of the disease,” says principal investigator Dr Kristina Bečanović from Karolinska Institutet’s Department of Clinical Neuroscience. “What’s interesting is that we managed to show that it can both delay and accelerate the development of the disease depending on which gene copy it sits on.” Most people who develop Huntington’s disease have a normal and a mutated huntingtin gene. In the present study, the researchers found that when the gene variant was on the gene copy that codes for the normal huntingtin protein, the patients developed motor symptomson average four years earlier than expected; on the other hand, the gene variant had a protective effect when sitting on the gene copy that codes for the mutated protein, which is toxic for the brain. These patients developed their motor symptoms on average ten years later than expected. Explains the differences The researchers also found that a transcription factor, NF-kappaB , activates the huntingtin gene, but also that the gene variant makes it harder for NF-kappaB to activate the expression of huntingtin. The study suggests that the gene variant therefore leads to lower levels of the normal or the mutated protein depending on which gene copy it sits on, and that this explains the differences in disease onset. “Our findings are extremely important to the development of disease-modifying treatments, which not only reduce the symptoms but also protect the brain,” says Dr Bečanović. “For example, much research has gone into silencing the expression of the huntingtin protein, something that will be tested in patients within the near future. Our work is the first to support the claim that this type of therapy could help people with Huntington’s disease by slowing the progress of the disease.” “The study offers a smorgasbord of ideas for new therapies, and is the very successful outcome of a genuinely translational and international collaboration between preclinical researchers and clinicians,” says Dr Ola Hermanson from Karolinska Institutet’s Department of Neuroscience, one of the co-authors. The study was financed with grants from several bodies, including the Swedish Research Council, and involved researchers from Karolinska Institutet, the University of British Columbia (Canada), Copenhagen University (Denmark), University College London (UK) and the University of Iowa (USA).  View our press release about this study Publication A SNP in the HTT promoter alters NF-kB binding and is a bidirectional genetic modifier of Huntington disease Kristina Bečanović, Anne Nørremølle, Scott J Neal, Chris Kay, Jennifer A Collins, David Arenillas, Tobias Lilja, Giulia Gaudenzi, Shiana Manoharan, Crystal Doty, Jessalyn Beck, Nayana Lahiri, Elodie Portales-Casamar, Simon C Warby, Colúm Connolly, Rebecca A G DeSouza, REGISTRY Investigators of the European Huntington’s Disease Network, Sarah J Tabrizi, Ola Hermanson, Douglas R Langbehn, Michael R Hayden, Wyeth W Wasserman & Blair R Leavitt Nature Neuroscience, online 4 May 2015, doi: 10.1038/nn.4014

New insights into ‘DNA parasites’ and genomic stability

Mon, 04/05/2015 - 17:17
A study led by newly recruited faculty Simon Elsässer at Karolinska Institutet/SciLifeLab shows that a specialized histone protein, one of the abundant molecules responsible for packaging our DNA in the cell nucleus, maintains genomic stability by silencing 'parasitic' DNA-elements. The study was published in Nature. Simon Elsässer joined Karolinska Institutet and the SciLifeLab in the beginning of 2015, from the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, UK. In his research, he focuses on applying new synthetic and chemical biology methods to understand chromatin structure and function. Publishing in Nature, together with colleagues at the Rockefeller University in New York, USA he has now elucidated the mechanism of how certain DNA elements in mouse cells are silenced. These 'parasitic' DNA elements called transposons can jump and multiply within a host genome and have played an active role in animal evolution, facilitating genetic variation and adaptation. But their activity represents a threat to the host genome and thus they are almost always actively repressed, or silenced, by various proteins and regulatory RNAs produced by the host genome. Simon Elsässer’s team has found a new factor that is used to mark specific DNA elements that should be silenced. It is a protein called histone H3.3, a variant of the canonical histone H3. Histones are proteins that wrap our DNA like strings on beads and facilitate packing of DNA 10 000 fold to fit in the cell nucleus. Through this packaging mechanism, researchers think that histone proteins are the key to regulating access to the genetic information by making different parts of the DNA accessible to factors that express the gene, so-called epigenetic regulation. “Histone proteins carry a large number of distinct hemical modifications or ‘marks’, providing a verbose epigenetic language,” says Simon Elsässer. “As a field, we have only started to appreciate the intricate complexity of this histone code. It has been appreciated in the last decade that, just like errors in the genetic language itself, failure to maintain the epigenetic information can cause human disease, such as developmental disorders or cancer". Exceptionally strong signal H3.3 has been intensely studied in other processes, but until now no one has looked at transposable elements. Unexpectedly, the current study shows that a large fraction of H3.3 occupies transposable elements in the mouse embryonic stem cells and that it is required to permanently silence the underlying DNA elements. The combination of H3.3 and a known silencing mark – histone H3 lysine 9 trimethylation (which in no other instance are found together) – provides an exceptionally strong signal to the cell to 'not read from this genomic region'. When Simon Elsässer’s team deleted all H3.3 genes, they found that certain previously silenced transposable elements were reactivated and continued to multiply in the genome; the result is the appearance of new genetic alleles and chromosomal abnormalities, both are familiar early events in the formation of tumors. The researchers think that, while different types of transposable elements are prevalent in humans, the same mechanism may be in action in human cells. Over the last few years a number of cancer types have been found to harbor frequent and recurrent mutations in the histone variant H3.3.  The study has been funded by grants from the Rockefeller University Fund, the Tri-Institutional Stem Cell Initiative, and the Cambridge University Herchel Smith Fund. Read more about this research on the website of SciLifeLab  View a press release from Rockefeller University Publication Histone H3.3 is required for endogenous retroviral element silencing in embryonic stem cells Simon J. Elsässer, Kyung-Min Noh, Nichole Diaz, C. David Allis, Laura A. Banaszynski Nature, online 4 May 2015, doi: 10.1038/nature14345

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