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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: 1 hour 11 min ago

Folke Hammarqvist awarded with the Håkan Mogren Stipend

Wed, 13/09/2017 - 10:00
Folke Hammarqvist, Associate Professor in Surgery at Karolinska Institutet and Consultant at Karolinska University Hospital, has been awarded the Stipend for 2017 from the Håkan Mogren Foundation in recognition of and to support his efforts for human welfare.  “I am overwhelmed and happy! This award is of great importance, not least for the field in which I work, which is emergency surgery and traumatology, where assessment, interaction and empathy are all essential for providing the best quality care,” explains Folke Hammarqvist.  The award comprises a diploma and a personal prize to the winner of SEK 250,000.  To be eligible for the stipend, candidates must have established a reputation for looking after their patients with empathy and passion, and they should also be currently active, or planning to be active, in disseminating knowledge through lectures or the supervision of others. Folke Hammarqvist has been awarded the Stipend in honour of his professional skills and his empathic approach. Not only does he provide support and care for his patients and their relatives, he listens to his colleagues and creates a true team spirit. The justification for the award also highlights the fact that he is a role model within education where he is recognised for his major commitment and teaching skills. “Emergency surgery and traumatology require excellent team work, where optimal safety is achieved when patients, relatives and the entire team are all involved in the treatment. This is important within the modern health care, and cannot be replaced by technology. I have worked extensively in education, with practical medical work experience and together with others to reinforce the organisations involving emergency surgery and traumatology both in Sweden and abroad,” Folke Hammarqvist comments. Educated some 1,500 physicians and aims to continue Emergency surgery is an area that, together with traumatology, plays a central role in health care. Currently, the highest share of admitted patients arrive at hospital as emergency patients. Folke Hammarqvist is committed to education within the study programme in medicine and the education of younger physicians. He has been instrumental in developing national courses targeting emergency surgery and team and scenario training at emergency wards and operations involving trauma and emergency surgery.  “Working within education is so rewarding and you have the opportunity to keep abreast of developments. Every day, working in medicine involves elements of teaching, and we learn how to approach patients and their relatives in the way we work. Listening to the patients and their relatives is a natural part of medical work, and is necessary for us to be able to reach a diagnosis and provide help. One can gain important arguments by listening to what the patients and their relatives have to say, especially if the course of events has not been optimal, when making decisions about the structure of health care organisations that always in one way or another have an impact on our patients,” explains Folke Hammarqvist.  Over the years, around 1,500 younger physicians have taken part in courses held by Folke Hammarqvist, particularly within surgery. If we also count courses in for example team training, we find a further 2,000 students who have been able to benefit from Folke Hammarqvist’s knowledge. According to the man himself, this number is only set to increase. At the time of writing, he is teaching ATLS (Advanced Trauma and Life Support), a first-level course in the treatment of patients who have suffered accidents. He is also involved internationally in an accreditation programme for emergency and trauma surgeons in Europe. About the stipend The Håkan Mogren Foundation was established in 2012. Its purpose is partly to promote education and research within the medical field and partly to promote the education and training of classical musicians, particularly singers. The purpose of the stipend is to provide the opportunity for well-qualified, scientifically competent and clinically active physicians to improve themselves in a particular field of interest to them.

Relapse rare in young men after antireflux surgery

Wed, 13/09/2017 - 08:00
Surgery for severe heartburn has become less common after the turn of the millennium, due in part to the fear of relapse. Instead, most patients are treated with drugs that reduce the acidity of the stomach. However, a new study from Karolinska Institutet published in the distinguished journal JAMA shows that the risk of complications and relapse is not as high as feared, especially not in young, healthy males. Severe, recurrent heartburn, or reflux, affects between 10 and 20 per cent of the adult population. The most common treatment is medication that reduces the acidity of the stomach, which alleviate the symptoms for most people. Alternatively, sufferers can undergo antireflux surgery, whereby the contents of the stomach are prevented from entering the oesophagus by a mechanical valve implanted through keyhole surgery. However, such operations have declined since the turn of the 2000s due to the greater efficacy of the medications and to the risk of complications and relapse. Older studies of post-operative relapse have been small and provided conflicting results; some, however, have indicated a very high risk of relapse. Studied a large number of patients To obtain a clearer understanding of the risk of relapse after antireflux keyhole surgery, researchers at Karolinska Institutet have carried out a large study in which they followed up all adult reflux patients who underwent such an operation in Sweden between 2005 and 2014. They found that 18 per cent of the 2,655 patients had suffered a relapse, which is lower than in most of the earlier studies. Of these, 84 per cent were put on long-term medication, with the remainder having a second operation. Only 4 per cent of all included patients in the study suffered some form of complication, and those they did suffer were usually of low severity. The risk of reflux relapse was higher in women, elderly people and people with other diseases; the risk was lowest amongst healthy men below the age of 45. Possibly an under-used therapeutic alternative “This type of operation with a relatively low risk of complications is possibly an under-used therapeutic alternative, especially for young, healthy people with severe reflux,” says principal investigator Jesper Lagergren, professor at Karolinska Institutet’s Department of Molecular Medicine and Surgery. Medication is readily available and effective at alleviating symptoms, but does not treat the underlying disease. Medication is often lifelong, and long-standing treatment can eventually lead to complications such as osteoporosis, pneumonia and gastrointestinal infection. “The operation requires no lengthy hospitalisation and is a one-off, but it does carry a risk of complications and relapse,” says professor Lagergren. “Previous comparisons of medication and surgery have shown that life quality is better after surgery, and surgery is judged likely to be more cost-effective in the long run.” The study was financed by the Swedish Research Council. Publication “Association Between Laparoscopic Antireflux Surgery and Recurrence of Gastroesophageal Reflux” John Maret-Ouda, Karl Wahlin, Hashem B. El-Serag, Jesper Lagergren JAMA, online 12 September 2017, doi: 10.1001/jama.2017.10981

Strong emphasis on collaboration to tackle health challenges

Tue, 12/09/2017 - 18:00
Sweden holds a strong position in the field of life science. While at the same time we are facing serious health challenges and need to adapt to changes in the world around us, not least rapid digitalisation. Players in the Life Science sector met for an afternoon at Karolinska Institutet to discuss the need for interaction to be able to meet the challenges. “One of the biggest challenges is how research and education are to keep pace with the extensive changes that are taking place, not only in Stockholm but around the world. That challenge is enormous and requires us to cooperate in order for our society to have the beast health services and health and medical care in the future,” said Karolinska Institutet’s new vice-chancellor Ole Petter Ottersen as he welcomed participants to the seminar on health and life science in the Samuelsson Hall on September 6th. The seminar is part of a nationwide series of seminars on societal challenges based on the research policy bill that the government put forward in 2016. Helene Hellmark Knutsson, Minister for Higher Education and Research, attends the seminars where concerned players from academia, trade and industry and other parts of society come together to discuss how the initiatives in the bill can be translated into practice and do the most good.  Ole Petter Ottersen said that Karolinska Institutet has listed six main points in the university’s strategies for interaction: development of university healthcare, regional and national cooperation, more interaction with trade and industry, incentives for and financing of innovation, strategic cooperation with trade and industry, and international collaborations. The major infrastructural changes currently taking place at Karolinska Institutet need well-developed forms of interaction with, among others, Stockholm County Council, Sweden’s trade and industry and other prominent universities, both in Sweden and in other countries. Professor Ottersen emphasised that all the ongoing initiatives and investments are taking place in interaction with the health and medical care services in order to further integrate research with clinical operations and activities.  The research policy bill turned into practical action In her introduction to the seminar, Helene Hellmark Knutsson emphasised that now is the time to turn the research policy into practical action. The new research funds and research programmes have just been set in motion and it is time to implement the research policy in reality. “It feels good to see so many of those who are to help us tackle societal challenges participating here,” Hellmark Knutsson told her audience. She emphasised that Sweden has traditionally been a country that has invested in research, which is for example evident in the Times Higher Education’s ranking of universities around the world where three Swedish universities can be found among the world’s top 100. The research policy bill’s starting point is to tackle societal challenges through collaboration, she went on. In order to achieve this, basic appropriations are being raised and particular initiatives will be put into effect with among other things ten-year research programmes and measures to promote collaboration and innovation. She emphasised, however, that more research funding does not always mean higher quality of the research results. “We must announce more career-development positions in international competition. Well-defined, transparent career paths are important in order to attract the best researchers. Today, many have time-limited positions and too many are recruited internally. We have traditionally favoured ‘home-grown sons’, that is to say men from one’s own university,” Helena Hellmark Knutsson said. More research linkage in education programmes, better conditions for doctoral students and quality assurance also of research are further examples from the research policy bill that Helena Hellmark Knutsson emphasised. “We have world-leading research in some areas of Life Science. We have health and medical care that covers all patients. We have good registers and bio-banks. All of these could put us even further ahead. I look forward to collaborating with you all to make Sweden a leading research nation in Life Science.” Helena Hellmark Knutsson also emphasised her support for the proposal that the European Medicines Agency should be located in Sweden, before handing over to moderator Göran Stiernstedt, senior lecturer and member of the University Senate Council at Karolinska Institutet. Research projects with social linkages Seminar participants then watched presentations on the theme of health challenges from four researchers at Karolinska Institutet. Professor Kristina Johnell, Division Head of the Aging Research Center, spoke about the challenges of drug treatment in elderly people. Among other things she said that elderly people are often excluded from clinical trials and that sensitivity to drugs increases the older we become. Ylva Trolle Lagerros, senior lecturer at the Department of Medicine, described how digital technology can be used to promote health. We can among other things use our smartphones to register the amount of exercise we do, share exercise data with our care provider and together set common goals for better health. “The exciting thing about this is that 70 percent of the participants in the research project are older men, a group that is usually difficult to reach when it comes to health promoting research. And the digital care plan makes a difference. Almost all take that extra evening walk to reach their goal,” she said. Christian Giske, senior lecturer at the Department of Laboratory Medicine, spoke about resistant intestinal bacteria and showed worrying figures of the proportion of resistant intestinal bacteria in various parts of the world. He pointed out, however, the importance of not scaring people and exaggerating the risks, which he said the media, among others, contributed to. Professor Jan-Olov Höög from the Department of Medical Biochemistry and Biophysics gave his views on how university education programmes in Life Science should be designed to equip students for the future. Karolinska Institutet offers for example global master’s programmes that are taught in English and free university courses via the Internet (MOOC). Professor Höög also emphasised the need for innovations in the health sector and said that programmes and courses must meet the particular skills needs and the possible clashes of culture that may occur between a medical and a technical organisation as technical innovations increasingly pervade health and medical care.  The seminar ended with a panel discussion on how interaction can be effective and what thresholds and obstacles can make successful interaction difficult, in which Ole Petter Ottersen, Eric Vänerlöv, secretary of the National Coordination for Life Science study, Anna Sandström, Science Relations Director at AstraZeneca, Jenni Nordborg, director and head of the Health Department at Vinnova, and Malin Frenning, County Council Director for Stockholm County Council, took part.

Behaviour is considered more moral the more common it is

Mon, 11/09/2017 - 15:00
Is it less wrong to avoid tax if everyone else is doing it? A new study from Karolinska Institutet demonstrates that our view of what is morally right or wrong is shaped by how widespread a particular behaviour is. The results, which are presented in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, can improve our understanding of the psychological mechanisms behind attitudinal change in society. Social norms of right and wrong are vital to a well-functioning society. However, such moral standards are changeable and the psychological mechanisms driving this change are unknown. Now, researchers at Karolinska Institutet report that our view of selfish and altruistic behaviours changes depending on how common they are. The results are based on a combination of behavioural experiments, mathematical models and computer simulations. In the experiments, the participants first observed other people’s behaviour in a so-called “public goods game”, in which players receive a sum of money and then choose either to invest it to varying degrees so that it benefits everyone in the group, or to keep it for themselves. After every round, the participants were asked to judge the different choices as morally right or wrong, and whether the choices ought to be penalised with a reduction in how much the players gained. An idea based on flawed logic Altruistic behaviour was considered more morally right than selfish, but both behaviours were judged to be more moral and less deserving of penalty if the majority exhibited them than if they were uncommon. The commonness of the selfish behaviour also affected the participants’ willingness to themselves pay to punish selfishness. “Tolerance of selfish behaviour increased when the majority of the players kept the money for themselves, which surprised me,” says principal investigator Andreas Olsson, senior lecturer at Karolinska Institutet’s Department of Clinical Neuroscience. “The fact that a behaviour is common doesn’t automatically mean that it’s right – this idea is based on flawed logic that confuses facts with moral values.” The study shows our view of what is morally right and wrong has strong similarities with social conformity, in that we tend to adapt ourselves to the people around us and how they behave. This means that changes in our social environment can quickly alter our moral compass. Explains why moral attitudes change “This is interesting from several angles, and could explain why moral attitudes change over time, such as those towards public goods or legality,” says Björn Lindström, postdoc at University of Zürich and Karolinska Institutet’s Department of Clinical Neuroscience. The study was financed by Riksbankens Jubileumsfond, the European Research Council, the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation and Forte. Publication Björn Lindström, Simon Jangard, Ida Selbing and Andreas Olsson “The role of a ‘common is moral’ heuristic in the stability and change of moral norms” Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, online 11 September 2017

"Students a necessity at a university hospital"

Sat, 09/09/2017 - 10:53
In his new role as Vice-Dean for collaboration with Stockholm County Council (SCC) with particular focus on education at Karolinska University Hospital, Carl-Fredrik Wahlgren’s highest priority will be to try, in collaboration with others, to secure KI’s programmes and courses in the new healthcare landscape that is taking shape in Stockholm. Health and medical care in Stockholm is undergoing several extensive changes, where the reorganisation of Karolinska University Hospital is one of the things that will most impact KI’s possibilities to conduct clinical research and education. KI and SCC need to ensure that there are sufficient high-quality places for workplace-based education. “The question highest on my agenda is to try to secure the teaching and degree objectives that are under threat. This requires close cooperation between KI’s management team, the Board of Education, the unit for collaboration with the county council, representatives of the clinical departments, the education programmes and healthcare,” says Carl-Fredrik Wahlgren. An impact study, commissioned by the Vice-Chancellor and conducted by KI in spring 2017 as a result of Karolinska University Hospital’s new orientation, makes it clear that several degree and education goals are threatened. They concern for example medical students’ possibilities to meet patients with common diagnoses and several programmes’ possibilities to attain the goals in inter-professional learning.  Much of the outpatient care carried out at the hospital will be transferred outside, and new learning environments that enable inter-professional learning (meaning that students in different professions can learn from each other and together) and clinical training environments are needed. The availability of teachers and supervisors who are competent in both their subjects, science and pedagogics is also high on the list of priorities. Academic specialist centres a key issue As specialist outpatient care is moved out, an important issue will be to establish academic specialist centres, where clinical research and education can be carried on hand-in-hand with healthcare. For example, such a centre will be opened on Torsplan in December and will thereby be located close to KI and Karolinska University Hospital in Solna. Here, KI will collaborate with Stockholm Health Care services (an organization within the SCC) to develop and implement workplace-based education at basic level and advanced level. “The aim is to create a model for how education characterised by new approaches and innovative solutions with elements such as e-health and inter-professional learning can be carried on in specialist outpatient care. I believe that several such centres are needed if we are to ensure that places are available for KI’s workplace-based education”. Challenges but also opportunities In Carl-Fredrik Wahlgren’s opinion, collaboration should also be seen as a great opportunity to develop and improve clinical education still further. The aim is for the hospital to continue to be a central arena for KI’s clinical programmes and courses. There are still many research linkages with a great many researching teachers and good opportunities to, among other things, satisfy demands for inter-professional learning and internationalisation. “Transformation work at the hospital is also an investment intended to strengthen collaboration between care, research and education. A university hospital without students is not a university hospital. Close collaboration between the university and healthcare is a prerequisite for a quality-assured education where the students are happy and can achieve their learning and degree goals”.  Information meetings At two general information meetings, one in Flemingsberg on 11 September and one in Solna on 13 September, a summary will be given of KI’s impact study along with some proposed solutions. The meetings are open to everyone who is interested in the matter of education in collaboration with Karolinska University Hospital.

KI and Karolinska University Hospital in experience exchange with Mayo Clinic

Fri, 08/09/2017 - 15:29
Representatives of Mayo Clinic are on a visit to Karolinska Institutet and Karolinska University Hospital to exchange knowledge and experiences on a number of subjects covering everything from research, education and innovation to administration. A conference has been arranged for all parties on 6 to 8 September at both the university and the hospital. The USA’s Mayo Clinic is considered an international role-model when it comes to integrating research and clinical activity. This has long interested Karolinska Institutet and Karolinska University Hospital, which this week is taking part in the annual conference that has formed part of the Karolinska Institutet-Mayo Clinic partnership for the past 25 years. “We need to exchange experiences and ways of thinking to achieve a swifter transition from research to clinic, where the results of our research can benefit healthcare provision,” says Vice-Chancellor Ole Petter Ottersen during his opening conference address. “Mayo Clinic excels in this field and can serve as an example to us in our collaboration with the healthcare sector.” Melvin Samsom, director of Karolinska University Hospital, stressed the importance of a sustained and advanced partnership between academy and clinic at a time of radical changes in how healthcare in Sweden, the USA and elsewhere is governed and organised: “We’re facing huge structural changes and have similar challenges in how we organise healthcare to make it more integrated, cost-effective and sustainable.” The main scientific lectures on the conference’s first day gave proof of groundbreaking research projects that have managed with the help of technological innovations to improve diagnostic and therapeutic procedures for patients with rare and difficult-to-treat diseases. Professors Eric Wieben and Martin Schalling, who are the scientific coordinators of the partnership at Mayo Clinic and Karolinska Institutet, respectively, hope that it can continue to be a platform for the development of clinical. Another goal is to create a career path with dual institutional affiliation, in which researchers from one can claim credit for the time spent and work done at the other. The partnership between Karolinska Institutet and Mayo Clinic began as a modest research collaboration on diabetes and metabolism in the 1990s and has since grown to include over a dozen research disciplines, such as psychology and psychiatry, autoimmune diseases, regenerative medicine, cancer and cardiovascular diseases. It also covers administration, education and innovation, which was identified as a success factor in a recent evaluation.   Text: Maissa Al-Adhami

Smartphone screen technology used to trick harmful bacteria

Thu, 07/09/2017 - 13:04
Conducting plastics found in smartphone screens can be used to trick the metabolism of pathogenic bacteria, report scientists at Karolinska Institutet in the scientific journal npj Biofilms and Microbiomes. By adding or removing electrons from the plastic surface, bacteria may be tricked into growing more or less. The method may find widespread use in preventing bacterial infections in hospitals or improve effectiveness in wastewater management. When bacteria attach to a surface they grow quickly into a thick film known as a biofilm. These biofilms frequently occur in our surroundings but are especially dangerous in hospitals where they can cause life threatening infections. Researchers have now aimed to address this problem by producing coatings for medical devices made from a cheap conducting plastic called PEDOT, which is what makes smartphone screens respond to touch. By applying a small voltage, the PEDOT surface was either flooded with electrons or left almost empty, which in turn affected the growth of Salmonella bacteria. The bacteria cannot replicate “When the bacteria land on a surface full of electrons, they cannot replicate”, explains principal investigator Agneta Richter-Dahlfors, Professor at Karolinska Institutet’s Department of Neuroscience and Director of the Swedish Medical Nanoscience Center. “They have nowhere to deposit their own electrons which they need to do in order to respire.” On the other hand, if the bacteria encountered an empty PEDOT surface, the opposite happened, as they grew to a thick biofilm. “With the electrons being continually sucked out of the surface, bacteria could continually deposit their own electrons, giving them the energy they needed to grow quickly”, says Professor Richter-Dahlfors. Many implications for health and industry This left the research team in a position where, at the flick of a switch, they could either abolish bacterial growth or let it continue more effectively. This has many implications for both health and industry. “To begin with, we can coat medical devices with this material to make them more resistant to colonisation by bacteria”, says Professor Richter-Dahlfors. “However, if we look to industries like wastewater management that need a lot of beneficial biofilms to create clean water, we can produce surfaces that will promote biofilm production”, she continues. In the future the research team will work to integrate this technology into devices that could one day be implanted into patients to keep them safe when undergoing medical procedures or having devices implanted. The study was financed by the Swedish Research Council, Vinnova, Carl Bennet AB, and the Swedish Medical Nanoscience Center. Publication Salvador Gomez-Carretero, Ben Libberton, Mikael Rhen, and Agneta Richter-Dahlfors “Redox-active conducting polymers modulate Salmonella biofilm formation by controlling availability of electron acceptors” npj Biofilms and Microbiomes, online 4 September 2017. doi:10.1038/s41522-017-0027-0

ERC Starting Grants to two researchers at KI

Wed, 06/09/2017 - 12:34
KI researchers Erik Melén and Georgios Sotiriou have received starting grants from the European Research Council (ERC) for conducting their own independent research. The purpose of the ERC Starting Grants is to support talented early-career scientist, who have already produced excellent supervised work, into becoming independent researchers and the research leaders of tomorrow. The ERC Starting Grants are worth EUR 1.5 million, distributed over five years. In addition to that Georgios Sotiriou, who is the first KI grant recipient working within the field of physical science and engineering, receives EUR 312,500 to cover equipment costs. Read more in a press release from ERC New biomarkers for respiratory disease Erik Melén is a pediatric allergist and an Associate Professor at the Institute of Environmental Medicine (IMM). His ERC project, TRIBAL, aims to provide new knowledge for targeted prevention in children at risk of adult chronic lung disease, and to identify potential targets for new asthma and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) drugs using omics-based biomarkers. In children, asthma is the most common chronic disease and more than 300 million people are affected globally. There is no curative treatment available. Persistence of childhood asthma into adult life is associated with lung function impairment and increased risk of COPD. “If you want to prevent adult chronic disease, you need to start early. I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to receive ERC funding for this important work. Also, going through the ERC application process has been a very enriching experience for me as a scientist,” says Erik Melén.  TRIBAL is a follow-up project using data and repeated bio-sampling from the Swedish BAMSE study, a world-leading population-based birth cohort of 4,089 participants, also led by Erik Melén. Fighting antimicrobial resistance with nanoengineering Georgios Sotiriou, Assistant Professor at the Department of Microbiology, Tumor and Cell Biology, conducts research with the overall mission to develop nanobiomaterials, tools and methods for medicine using core engineering sciences. The key focus lies on flame aerosol engineering of smart nanoscale materials and devices for biomedical applications. The aim of his ERC project, PROMETHEUS, is to employ flame nanoengineering and develop the next generation of antibacterial medical devices to fight infections and antimicrobial resistance. Antimicrobial resistance constitutes one of the most serious public health threats with estimations to become the leading cause of human deaths in 30 years “I am extremely delighted and honored to receive this grant that will enable me to work on the exciting field of nanoengineering for medicine and try to tackle tomorrow’s global health challenges”, says Georgios Sotiriou. The approach of his and his colleagues’ research is multidisciplinary, combining expertise from material and process engineering, bioengineering and health sciences. This allows for the design of biomaterials and devices that exhibit the desired functionality in applications ranging from diagnostics (biosensors) to therapeutic interventions. Text: Selma Wolofsky

KI scores high in world rankings – but drops down THE table

Wed, 06/09/2017 - 08:19
In this year’s world university rankings, Karolinska Institutet retains its position as Sweden’s top ranking university but has fallen from number 28 to 38 in the Times Higher Education listing. In the so-called Shanghai ARWU (Academic Ranking of World Universities) league table released in August, KI ranks as number 44, the same position as 2016. Amongst its European counterparts, KI ranks as number 12. In the ARWU "Clinical Science" category, KI ranks as number 21 in the world and 5 in Europe, while in "Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences" KI ranks as number 7 in the world and 3 in Europe. In "Biological Sciences", KI’s position is number 14 in the world and 3 in Europe. Sweden has 11 universities in the top 500, and three in the top 100: KI at number 44, Uppsala University at 63 and Stockholm University at 74. Shanghai ARWU Britain’s Times Higher Education (THE) published today its own ranking of world universities. Here Karolinska Institutet ranks as number 38 (down from 28 in 2016) of all the world’s universities, regardless of specialisation. KI is the top ranking university in Sweden and the Nordic region, however, and ranks as number 11 in Europe. Times Higher Education (THE)

Funding from KAW gave the freedom to focus on complex research projects

Tue, 05/09/2017 - 10:27
This year, the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation (KAW), one of Sweden’s largest funders of research, celebrates 100 years. Festivities include a joint jubilee symposium arranged by KI, KTH and the University of Stockholm in the Aula Magna on 15 September. One of the invited speakers is KI researcher Marie Carlén. What is happening on 15 September? “At the symposium I will have the opportunity to present my research which has been funded by KAW and to meet other scientists who are supported by KAW. KAW have supported my work for the last ten years, and the Foundation has granted funds up until 2024." What will you be talking about? “I will be talking about the brain and will describe the strategies that we use in my field of neuroscience for understanding how the brain works. I will show how using optogenetics technology in experiments on mice, we have begun to understand how the brain performs higher mental functions, or cognitive functions. Optogenetics enables us to study how the various nerve cells contribute to the function of the brain and ultimately form our behaviour. One goal of my lecture is to make more people understand that progress in the treatment of mental illness necessitates an understanding of the brain’s fundamental structure and function, something we currently lack, but are working very hard to acquire." You were appointed Wallenberg Academy Fellow in 2012. What has the support from KAW meant for you? “The grant has embodied the KAW vision exactly, i.e. it has given the opportunity and freedom to work on risky and long-term projects. The project is risky because it requires methods and analyses at the leading edge of research, methods that we in the labs often must develop ourselves. We use many different types of equipment in our experiments, which is expensive. But with this support from KAW, we have not had to forgo any experiments. The grant is also a stamp of quality on our research, the proof that a review committee, comprised of the highest expertise, has evaluated that what we are doing can drive research forward, and should be invested in. For me personally, the grant has been a motivating factor in continuing to work with technically difficult projects with high potential, and an indication that I am on the right track with my scientific ideas." Several top scientists will be guests at the symposium. Is there any lecturer in particular you are looking forward to hearing/meeting? “I am looking forward to Svante Pääbo’s lecture. His research is very different to mine, but I am very interested in evolution, and in particular the evolution of the brain. Much of the research on the brain is conducted in the laboratory on a few animal species. If this research is to contribute to understanding the human brain and its diseases, we must have a clear picture of both the similarities and the differences in the organisation and function of the brain in various species. Evolution has driven the development of the brain, and understanding evolution can help us understand the brain."

New stamps with illustrations from the Hagströmer Library

Tue, 05/09/2017 - 10:24
Postnord has issued a new series of postage stamps with pictures of medicinal plants taken from the Hagströmer Medico-Historical Library, which this year celebrates its 20th birthday. In conjunction with the stamp release, the audience got to learn about the importance of the plants and the women's hidden contributions to the literature. The foyer of Postmuseum in Gamla Stan is packed on 24th August as visitors wait for the doors to the exhibition area to open. Several are already queuing in the museum shop to grab some of the new postage stamps that will be put out to sale the same day and get them stamped. Upstairs, Hjalmar Fors, Senior Lecturer of History of Science and Ideas and Head Librarian at the Hagströmer Library, is treating his audience to a historical overview of medicinal plants’ cultural, economic and medical importance from ancient times to the present day. “Medicinal plants, spices and herbs were considered vital. They symbolised wealth, health and good ethics and were regarded very effective as medicines. The wise men from the East presented the baby Jesus with gold, frankincense – a plant extract that was burned in the temple – and myrrh, an aromatic medicine. They were products that signified his high status,” Hjalmar Fors says. Food and medicine went together Until the 19th century, very little difference was made between medicinal plants and spices, cooking and medicine. Older medical theory was based on humoralism’s endeavour to create a balance between moistness, dryness, heat and cold. The healthy human was moderately moist, moderately dry, moderately hot and moderately cold. To cure imbalance, either a different diet or different medicines were prescribed. “The medicines were mostly made from plants and the plants could often also be used as spices. Strong-tasting spices and domestic herbs were considered to be dry and hot and therefore good if you were moist and cold. In theory, a chill was cured by eating something hot and a fever with something old. But in practice the system was much more sophisticated,” Hjalmar Fors says. He draws parallels between the attitude of the day, where medicines and cooking were considered to go together, and traditional Indian medicine, where these ideas still prevail today. In the west we instead differentiate between food, stimulants and medicines, where the last is to be strong and effective. That is why production of a medicine is often a matter of extracting the active substance from for example a plant. He draws parallels to Indian traditional medicine, where this approach prevails today. In the western world, we instead distinguish between foods, stimulants and medicine, the latter is to be strong and effective. That is why production of a medicine is often a matter of extracting the active substance from for example a plant. Voyages of discovery give more trade and knowledge about the plants From the end of the 15th century, Europeans began to discover new parts of the world, which led to herbs and spices becoming even more important both economically and culturally. Trade in spices, medicinal plants and stimulants like for example cardamom, pepper, Chinese rhubarb root, tobacco, chocolate, coffee and tea grew extensively and many people wanted to have a hand in defining how these substances should be used.  “I want to show people just how extensive and rich knowledge of medicinal plants was in Europe even before Linnaeus’ synthesis of botanical knowledge from the mid-1700s,” Hjalmar Fors continues. Linnaeus in fact used many of the methods that for example central figure Mathioli had designed 200 years earlier when he created a network of learned letter-writers across the whole of Europe who together built up the knowledge bank that resulted in the work Commentary on Dioscorides. “The creation of botanical images and catalogues was a collective process. There was a medically knowledgeable person and a traveller or correspondent who conveyed the knowledge. The person acting as coordinator gathered in new information from the network that was later published.” He says that research in recent years shows that many of those members of the network who provided information were women with a knowledge of medicine, also in the colonies in places like India and Jakarta. But when reading the publication in question, the women do not exist; they are totally invisible. “It is an important task for historians to reconstruct how this knowledge flowed and who was rewarded and not rewarded,” he says. Text: Stina Moritz The new stamps and the Hagströmer Library’s 20th birthday The thought of printing stamps with medicinal plant illustrations has been around for a long time, and now, as the Hagströmer Library celebrates its twentieth birthday, a series has finally been issued.  The Postnord illustrator were to choose between a number of illustrations from the Hagströmer Library. They chose three well-known local medicinal plants: Waybread, Saint John’s wort and the foxglove (Digitalis). The Hagströmer Library’s 20th birthday celebrations include special exhibitions and an Open House for Karolinska Institutet’s staff. The Hagströmer Medico-Historical Library is one of the world’s foremost libraries in the field of medical history with both Karolinska Institutet’s and the Swedish Society of Medicine’s collections of old books collected together under the same roof.

The language of science has become harder to understand

Tue, 05/09/2017 - 09:00
It is not always so easy to understand a scientific article. And with time it has become even harder, according to a new study from Karolinska Institutet published in the scientific journal eLife. Scientific articles are not known for being easy to read. But is it the research per se that is becoming increasingly impenetrable or the way that researchers describe it? To answer this question, four doctoral students at Karolinska Institutet have examined how readability has changed over time in over 700,000 abstracts published between the years 1881 and 2015 in twelve different disciplines, including medicine, psychology, biology and ecology. “We observed a strong trend showing that scientific texts have become more difficult to read since the 1800s,” says William Hedley Thompson, who carried out the study together with fellow doctoral students Pontus Plavén-Sigray, Granville Matheson and Björn Schiffler in their spare time from working in the Department of Clinical Neuroscience at Karolinska Institutet. “All twelve research fields displayed this trend, but there were differences in magnitude.” Readability was calculated using two different metrics: Flesch Reading Ease and New Dale Chall. They measure various factors that affect how difficult it is to read a text, such as the number of words per sentence and number of syllables per word. Opposite trend compared to US presidential speeches “These metrics have been used to study change in readability in many different fields and media,” says William Hedley Thompson. “One well-known example is that transcripts of US presidential speeches have become easier to read over time. But in research we see the opposite trend.” A possible reason for the increasing difficulty of scientific texts is that the research has become more niched and complicated. However, the study also shows that “general scientific jargon” – i.e. words that are used often by researchers but that are not technical terms, such as “robust”, “moreover” and “novel” – have gradually become more common. Clear communication is important “These findings indicate that science has become harder to understand in purely linguistic terms, and not only because of a more specialized subject matter,” explains William Hedley Thompson. “One can speculate that new researchers feel that the scientific jargon used by earlier generations sounds serious and scientific, which reinforces these aspects of their own writing.” ”Clear communication is an important part of the scientific process, as it allows results not only to be replicated by other researchers, but also to be better understood by the wider public,” William Hedley Thompson points out.  “Researchers should try to write as clearly and comprehensibly as possible, in order to maximise accessibility. This allows research findings to be spread and understood by more people and thus have a greater impact on society.” Publication “The readability of scientific texts is decreasing over time” Pontus Plavén-Sigray, Granville James Matheson, Björn Christian Schiffler and William Hedley Thompson eLife, online 5 September 2017

New conference brought Nordic PhDs together at KI

Sun, 03/09/2017 - 13:23
PhDs from the entire Nordic region gathered at KI in late August to attend the newly established NordDoc network’s first summit. The summit had an interdisciplinary thrust and focused on research strengths in medicine and health in the Nordic region, and how to build networks and a career. The NordDoc network was set up less than a year ago and today consists of 17 medical universities in the Nordic region. This year’s Nordic PhD Summit, “Health Sciences Across Borders”, was opened by KI’s new vice-chancellor Ole Petter Ottersen in the Aula Medica building and attracted over 250 delegates, most of them doctoral students from the various Nordic countries. “The summit’s objective was for doctoral students, who are of course naturally focused on their own specific research, to also have an opportunity to broaden their perspectives, expand their networks and get career advice. Our intention was also to bring together both junior and senior researchers and supervisors,” says Sandra Falck, one of the organizers and research coordinator at the Department of Biosciences and Nutrition. In addition to hearing lectures by researchers, the doctoral students also took part in small peer mentoring groups made up of participants from the same research field as themselves in the different Nordic countries. “Career speed dating” sessions were also held, led by twelve experts who gave advice on how to build an academic career. “The summit had a distinct interactive focus on the future, and we also held what we called “scientific breakout sessions” in small groups on six different topics such as cancer, neuroscience and diabetes. Three senior researchers formed a consensus on the topic beforehand and then jointly discussed the research field in general and where they think the field will be in five to ten years’ tine together with the doctoral students. This was a new concept and many more people than usual joined in the discussions,” says Sandra Falck. “The network is still awaiting the participants’ evaluations of the summit but we’ve already heard a great many positive comments on the programme,” she continues. The next summit will be held in Helsinki in 2018 and following that in Århus in 2019. Text: Helena Mayer

Research and innovation the topic for KI visit by China’s Minister of Science and Technology

Fri, 01/09/2017 - 09:52
China’s Minister of Science and Technology, Mr. Wan Gang and his delegation visited Karolinska Institutet on Thursday 31 August 2017 for a presentation of Chinese Research and Innovation, and a discussion on how to promote international collaboration. After the presentation followed a discussion with researchers from KI, KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Lund University and Uppsala University, and representatives from the Swedish Education department and the Swedish Embassy in Beijing. The discussion was led by The Deputy Vice-Chancellor for International Affairs of Karolinska Institutet Maria Masucci. It addressed important issues of Sino-Swedish collaboration including the reform of China’s health care systems and the need to promote synergy between research and innovation to improve quality of life and health care standards. The meeting was concluded with a lunch hosted by KI´s Vice-Chancellor Ole Petter Ottersen.

Thorough analysis reveals immune system dynamics

Wed, 30/08/2017 - 08:00
By combining new system-biological analyses and advanced data analysis, researchers at Karolinska Institutet have been able to monitor the maturation process of the immune system of leukaemia patients who have undergone stem cell transplantation. The technique, which reveals complex interactions between cells and proteins, can be used for other diseases to generate new knowledge about the regulation and dysregulation of the immune system, which can eventually give rise to new, improved immunological therapies. The study is published in Cell Reports. Immunotherapy is a rapidly growing field in which the immune system of patients is manipulated in order to fight disease, and in which considerable progress in the treatment of cancer, above all, has been reported in recent time. One of the best-established and most effective immunological therapies is allogeneic stem cell transplantation for leukaemia, in which the patient’s own diseased bone marrow is replaced by healthy donor material. In some patients, however, the grafted immune system fails to mature properly, which can cause serious infection, undesired attacks on healthy tissue or a cancer relapse. Complex interaction between cells Using advanced analytical tools, researchers at Karolinska Institutet have now studied the maturation process of the immune system in 26 leukaemia patients receiving treatment at Karolinska University Hospital. They monitored the patients for one year after completed stem cell transplantation and used mass cytometry to study the different cell types of the immune system and the ProSeek method for simultaneous protein analysis. The analyses were then combined with modern machine learning techniques for data analysis, which enabled the integration of all data and global analyses of the entire immune system in blood. “Previously, research has focused heavily on individual components, but the immune system is incredibly complex, involving many specialised cell types, and we think the important thing is precisely the interaction between these cells,” explains Petter Brodin, doctor and researcher at the Science for Life Laboratory (SciLifeLab) and Karolinska Institutet’s Department of Medicine in Solna. “Although such dynamic processes have been difficult to study due to technical limitations, it’s now possible thanks to breakthroughs in technology.” Can lead to more individualised treatments Dr Brodin has led the present study, which has been able to identify patterns that can be linked to clinical complications in the patients. The technique is also applicable to other diseases involving the immune system, such as autoimmune diseases, allergies and infections. It is hoped that more and larger studies of the dynamics and regulation of the immune system will provide new clues that open doors to new therapies and more individualised treatments. “This study can be seen as the first example of how extensive analyses and advanced data analysis, a concept we call precision immunology, can help us understand the function and dysfunction of the immune system and make the outcome of other immunological therapies more predictable,” he says. The study was financed by the Swedish Research Council, the Swedish Society for Medical Research, the Swedish Cancer Society, the Swedish Society of Medicine, the Swedish Childhood Cancer Foundation and Karolinska Institutet. Publication “Mass cytometry and topological data analysis reveal immune parameters associated with complications after allogeneic stem cell transplantation” Tadepally Lakshmikanth, Axel Olin, Yang Chen, Jaromir Mikes, Erik Fredlund, Mats Remberger, Brigitta Omazic, Petter Brodin Cell Reports, online 29 August 2017

Anti-inflammatory drugs can inhibit muscle growth

Mon, 28/08/2017 - 16:27
The long-term use of over-the-counter (OTC) anti-inflammatory drugs can inhibit muscle growth in young, healthy individuals engaging in weight training, according to a new study from Karolinska Institutet, reporting on the effects of ibuprofen on the skeletal muscles and published in Acta Physiologica. Most mild analgesic and antipyretic OTC drugs, apart from paracetamol, are of the NSAID (non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) kind. These drugs are some of the most widely consumed in the world, and they all inhibit the so-called COX enzymes. In the present study, healthy 18 to 35-year-old men and women were randomly assigned to two groups, one that took a relatively high dose of NSAID (1,200 mg ibuprofen, which is a normal 24-hour dose) and one a relatively low dose (75 mg acetylsalicylic acid) every day for eight weeks. During the same period, the participants also engaged in supervised weight-training exercises for the thigh muscles two to three times a week. The researchers then measured certain variables, such as muscle growth, muscle strength and anti-inflammatory markers in the muscles. Commonly used by athletes It was found that after eight weeks, the increase in muscle volume, as measured by MR imaging, was twice as large in the low-dose aspirin group as in the high-dose ibuprofen group. “The results are extremely interesting since the use of anti-inflammatory drugs is so globally widespread, not least amongst elite athletes and recreationally active individuals,” says principal investigator Tommy Lundberg, researcher at Karolinska Institutet’s Department of Laboratory Medicine. “We chose to look at the effect of ibuprofen as it is the most well-studied anti-inflammatory drug on the market, but we believe that high doses of all types of OTC NSAIDs have similar effects.” Muscle strength was also impaired with high doses of anti-inflammatory drugs, but not to such a pronounced extent. Analyses of muscle biopsies showed that classical markers for inflammation were inhibited in the muscles of the ibuprofen group. Partly contradicts studies in older populations “This suggests that muscular inflammation processes when combined with weight training are beneficial to the long-term development of new muscle mass, at least in the young,” says Dr Lundberg. “Our results suggest that young people who do weight training to increase their muscle mass should avoid regular high doses of anti-inflammatory drugs.” The results partly contradict studies in older populations, which have indicated that anti-inflammatory drugs can protect against age-related muscle-mass loss. The researchers think, therefore, that the mechanism regulating muscle mass differs between the old and the young. The study was financed by the Swedish Research Council for Sport Science, the Lars Hierta Memorial Foundation and the Swedish Research Council. Publication “High-doses of anti-inflammatory drugs compromise muscle strength and hypertrophic adaptations to resistance training in young adults” Mats Lilja, Mirko Mandić, William Apró, Michael Melin, Karl Olsson, Staffan Rosenborg, Thomas Gustafsson, Tommy R Lundberg Acta Physiologica, online 21 August 2017. doi: 10.1111/apha.12948

Oxygen therapy has no effect on patients with suspected heart attack

Mon, 28/08/2017 - 15:47
Oxygen therapy has been used to treat patients with suspected heart attack for decades despite the lack of scientific evidence. A new study by researchers at Karolinska Institutet reveals that oxygen therapy does not improve survival in patients with heart attack symptoms and normal oxygen levels in the blood. The study is published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) and was presented today at the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) Congress. This prospective, randomised, open-label trial enrolled 6 629 patients with suspected heart attack from 35 hospitals across Sweden. Half of the patients were assigned to oxygen given through an open face mask and the other half to room air without a mask. The researchers found that the mortality rate one year after randomisation, the risk of a new heart attack or the risk of heart muscle injury was not statistically different between the two groups. Using the Swedeheart registry, this study is the first large-scale randomised trial of oxygen therapy in patients with suspected heart attack to be large enough to reveal meaningful findings on mortality and morbidity. Could change the recommendations worldwide The European Society of Cardiology (ESC) guidelines recommend oxygen for patients who are breathless, hypoxic, or have heart failure. They add that the systematic use of oxygen in patients without heart failure or dyspnoea (shortness of breath) “is at best uncertain”. ESC guidelines have gradually shifted towards more restrictive use of oxygen. However, the general use of oxygen therapy in all patients with symptoms of a heart attack is still widespread in the world. Therefore, the study results will likely have an immediate impact on clinical practice and future guidelines. First author of the study is Robin Hofmann, medical doctor and researcher at Karolinska Institutet’s Department of Clinical Science and Education, Södersjukhuset (KI SÖS). The research was supported by the Swedish Heart–Lung Foundation, the Swedish Research Council and the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research. Publication “Oxygen Therapy in Suspected Acute Myocardial Infarction” Robin Hofmann, Stefan K. James, Tomas Jernberg, Bertil Lindahl, David Erlinge, Nils Witt, Gabriel Arefalk, Mats Frick, Joakim Alfredsson, Lennart Nilsson, Annica Ravn-Fischer, Elmir Omerovic, Thomas Kellerth, David Sparv, Ulf Ekelund, Rickard Linder, Mattias Ekström, Jörg Lauermann, Urban Haaga, John Pernow, Ollie Östlund Johan Herlitz, and Leif Svensson The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), online 28 August 2017

Coronary artery bypass surgery effective in patients with type 1 diabetes

Mon, 28/08/2017 - 14:48
Coronary artery bypass surgery (CABG) is the best method of treating artherosclerotic coronary arteries in diabetes patients with multivessel disease, even in the presence of type 1 diabetes, a new study from Karolinska Institutet reports, clearing up a question in the current recommendation. The study is published in Journal of the American College of Cardiology (JACC). International guidelines recommend coronary artery bypass surgery (CABG) over the use of balloon catheters (in a process called percutaneous coronary intervention, or PCI) to widen artherosclerotic coronary arteries in diabetes patients with two or more diseased coronary vessels. However, since the underlying research has not differentiated between patients with type 2 diabetes and the less common type 1 diabetes, it has been unclear whether the recommendation applies to both types. “Since type 1 diabetes is a different disease with different complications, it’s never been given that the treatment should be the same as with type 2 diabetes,” says Martin Holzmann, researcher at Karolinska Institutet’s Department of Medicine in Solna. Dr Holzmann and his colleagues have now followed up all patients with type 1 diabetes who underwent so-called revascularization of two or more narrowed coronary vessels, a procedure for improving blood circulation in the heart, in Sweden between the years 1995 and 2013. Increased risk of heart disease Their results show that patients who underwent revascularization using PCI ran a 45 per cent higher risk of fatal heart disease and a 47 per cent higher risk of myocardial infarction during the average 10-year follow-up time than patients who were treated with CABG. They were also five times more likely to need further PCI or CABG treatment. “The results suggest that CABG should also be the preferred procedure for patients with type 1 diabetes and two or more diseased coronary vessels, as currently stated in guidelines for diabetes patients” says Dr Holzmann. Could impact on medical practice The researchers also found that the relative number of CAGB procedures declined dramatically over the study period. Between 1995 and 2000, CAGB accounted for 58 per cent of revascularizations in patients with type 1 diabetes and at least two diseased coronary vessels, a figure that was down to only 5 per cent between 2007 and 2013. Dr Holzmann hopes that their findings will impact on medical practice. “PCI is easier to perform and isn’t so invasive for the patient, so there are arguments in favour of this method too,” Dr Holzmann explains. “But both randomised studies and registry studies have shown unequivocally that CABG is the best revascularization method for diabetes patients with at least two diseased coronary vessels. We’ve now found corroborating evidence for this and confirmed that it applies to all diabetes patients.” The study received no specific financing. Dr Martin J Holzmann holds a research position financed by the Swedish Heart and Lung Foundation and has received consultancy honoraria from Actelion and Pfizer. Publication PCI Versus CABG in Patients With Type 1 Diabetes and Multivessel Disease.  Thomas Nyström, Ulrik Sartipy, Stefan Franzén, Björn Eliasson, Soffia Gudbjörnsdottir, Mervete Miftaraj, Bo Lagerqvist, Ann-Marie Svensson and Martin J. Holzmann. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, online 26 August 2017.

Karolinska Institutet falls in reputation survey

Wed, 23/08/2017 - 15:41
For the second year running, Karolinska Institutet’s (KI’s) placement in a reputation survey conducted by the research agency Kantar Sifo has fallen from (a score of) 59 to 47, where where 100 signifies an excellent reputation and 0 a weak reputation. “It’s not at all good that the general public have low confidence in us. But at the same time this result was not entirely unexpected. KI has been going through a very turbulent period during which the Macchiarini case has overshadowed the university’s operations and activities and all the excellent research and education that have been going on here. We take the result most seriously and our focus is on continuing to proceed systematically with measures to rectify previous shortcomings,” says new Vice-Chancellor Ole Petter Ottersen in a comment on the survey. Kantar Sifo agree that it is probably the turbulence in the media around Paolo Macchiarini that has had an impact and continues to do so this year. The survey also indicates that by far the most important channel for the general public to find information about KI is in fact the picture painted by the media and the survey’s respondents perceive the publicity given to the university as distinctly negative. “When the public spotlight goes out, KI nevertheless has good prerequisites to recover – but the journey back will probably take time,” says Kantar Sifo opinion survey manager Toivo Sjörén.

KI research projects in European innovation competition final

Wed, 23/08/2017 - 14:40
The finalists in the EIT Awards competition have been announced and among them are two medical engineering projects from KI. The finalists from KI are the projects “Stockholm3”, a test (blood sample) that makes it possible to detect the risk of aggressive prostate cancer, and “MULTI-MODE”, an e-health tool for predicting and preventing dementia in risk patients. The prize is awarded by the European Institute of Innovation & Technology (EIT) for projects that advance European innovation and tackle global challenges in the areas of climate change, digitalisation, energy, health, food and raw materials. The two projects are nominated in the “Venture” category, where the prize is worth EUR 50,000. The awards ceremony will be held in Budapest on 16 October during EIT’s annual innovation forum, INNOVEIT. Three of the 21 finalists are from Sweden. In addition to the two KI projects, “ICARO-EU” from KTH Royal Institute of Technology is also competing.

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