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: 2 hours 12 min ago

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

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

KI researchers awarded Ragnar Söderberg fellowships 2017

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

Investigation into Paolo Macchiarini’s animal experiments

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

High risk of injury in young elite athletes

Wed, 18/10/2017 - 08:00
Every week, an average of three in every ten adolescent elite athletes suffer an injury. Worst affected are young women, and the risk of injury increases with low self-esteem, especially in combination with less sleep and higher training volume and intensity, a doctoral thesis from Karolinska Institutet shows. Even though thousands of young elite athletes participate in organised sporting events every year, knowledge of injury and its consequences is limited. A thesis by Philip von Rosen, researcher at the Department of Neurobiology, Care Sciences and Society, can help to address this problem. Some 1,200 young people in Sweden attend a national sports high school, where they combine their regular studies with elite sports in order to attain an international standard in their particular activity. Philip von Rosen’s studies include 680 elite athletes representing 16 different sports at 24 such schools around the country who have completed a series of surveys on injury occurrence and the volume and intensity of their training programmes. 75 per cent were seriously injured over a year “Our studies show that the incidence of injury is high in adolescent elite athletes,” says Mr Philip von Rosen. “During the average week, one in three of them was injured. Over a year, almost all of them had been injured at least once and around 75 per cent reported that they had been seriously injured at least once during the year.” Girls had highest rate of injury and remained injured for longer. To ascertain the possible risk factors behind the injuries, the participants were also asked every term about their self-esteem, nutrient intake and self-rated stress and sleep. The ones who increased the volume and intensity of their training while reducing the duration of their sleep showed a 100 per cent rise in risk of injury. Low self-esteem also increased the risk. An athlete with low self-esteem who increased the volume and intensity of his or her training while cutting back on sleep had three times the risk of injury compared to an athlete with average self-esteem who had not changed his or her training or sleeping habit. Negative psychological consequences In smaller research groups, students also talked about negative psychological consequences of injury, such as guilt, frustration and anger, and how injuries made them consider quitting elite sport altogether. “The high risk of injury in adolescent elite athletes shows that early-intervention injury-prevention strategies are needed in order to avoid long-term consequences of injury and to encourage continuing engagement in sport,” says Mr von Rosen. “We therefore recommend that medical teams are made available for all athletes at every national sports high school to reduce the unhealthy behaviour associated with being injured, to prevent new injuries and to help injured athletes return to sport.” Mr von Rosen will be defending his thesis “Injuries, risk factors, consequences and injury perceptions in adolescent elite athletes” at Karolinska Institutet on 20 October 2017.

Facebook founder supports research at Karolinska Institutet

Tue, 17/10/2017 - 15:25
The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is funding 38 pilot projects to help build tools and technologies for the international collaboration Human Cell Atlas. Two of the projects are based at SciLifeLab (Science for Life Laboratory), including one led by Professor Sten Linnarsson at Karolinska Institutet. The Human Cell Atlas is a global collaboration to map and characterise all cells in the human body, in regard to cell types, numbers, locations, relationships, and molecular components. The atlas aims to provide a three-dimensional map of how cell types work together to form tissues, knowledge of how all body systems are connected, and insights into how changes in the map underlie health and disease. The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, formed by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Dr. Priscilla Chan, has now announced the support of 38 different efforts to build new technologies, best practices, and data analysis techniques for the Human Cell Atlas. Aims to characterise cells in heart, brain and lung The two projects that are based in Sweden are led by Professor Sten Linnarsson at Karolinska Institutet/SciLifeLab and Associate Professor Emma Lundberg at KTH Royal Institute of Technology/SciLifeLab. Sten Linnarsson’s project aims to characterise cell types of heart, brain and lung tissue and develop robust tissue handling protocols. Sten Linnarsson is a part of the initiative’s steering group and is one of the researchers behind development of the techniques which enable the project. Emma Lundberg’s project focuses on pancreas and brain tissue as well as data integration and consistency of analysis results. Other organisations involved in the Human Cell Atlas project are the Wellcome Trust, the European Bioinformatics Institute (EBI), the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub, the Broad Institute, the Sanger Institute and UC Santa Cruz, among others.

Classics, folk music and jazz framed the installation ceremony

Tue, 17/10/2017 - 15:00
“As a professor, one is in a unique position to translate new knowledge into care, “ said Vice-Chancellor Ole-Petter Ottersen as he opened Karolinska Institutet’s annual installation ceremony for new professors and recipients of academic awards. Prizewinners, new professors, visiting professors and adjunct professors gathered together on Thursday 12 October in Aula Medica on Karolinska Institutet’s campus in Solna. Many of them had brought along their families and friends to take part in the ceremonial occasion.   KI’s Vice-Chancellor Ole-Petter Ottersen wished everyone a very warm welcome. “You will inspire and lead. At KI we have faced trials and setbacks during the recent crisis has put now it’s time to look ahead,” he said. The ceremony continued with Pro-Vice-Chancellor Karin Dahlman-Wright presenting the recipients of KI’s Grand Silver Medal. Senior Lecturer Tore Curstedt was rewarded for his innovative methods for treating premature babies with breathing difficulties. Professor Emeritus Marc Bygdeman received the medal for among other things having developed safe methods for abortions. “Every year, about 50,000 women die as the result of unsafe abortions. New methods have enormous importance for women’s health,” said Karin Dahlman-Wright. Awards and prizes for significant contributions in research Several awards and prizes were also presented for significant contributions in research and pedagogics. These concerned, among other areas, how DNA damage can lead to cancer and ageing, physical self-perception and technology to make the invisible visible in cell biology. Then followed the official welcoming of adjunct professors and visiting professors and the inauguration of 16 professors. “To be a professor is not a privilege for the few but a position to the benefit of the many. With academic freedom comes responsibility. We are to give patients, families and society at large hope,” said Ole-Petter Ottersen. Films for more personal portraits The new professors were presented in films that also showed the people behind the researcher role. Choir-singing, running, chess, cooking, painting, minimalistic music, reading and a little too few visits to the gym were some of their varied leisure activities. For many of them, there is a linkage between their professional and their private lives. “Chess is like research. It’s strategic and sometimes you have to accept failure and begin again,” said Helle Kieler, professor in Pharmacoepidemiology. Emily Holmes, Professor of Psychology, gave the inauguration speech on behalf the new professors. She presented her research on mental imagery. In one of her experiments, people who had been involved in a traffic accident or traumatic childbirth played a session of Tetris, a visually demanding computer game. This reduced the risk of flash-backs. The ceremony was framed by music; classical music, Swedish folk music and jazz, where singer Viktoria Tolstoy was one of the performers. Lilla akademien’s string ensemble of 16 young violinists were given an extra long round of applause. New professors at KI 2017 Prizes and awards The Grand Silver Medal 2017 was awarded to Marc Bygdeman and Tore Curstedt The Dimitris N. Chorafas prize was awarded to Arvid Guterstam The Erik K Fernström prize was awarded to Óscar Fernandez-Capetillo The Sven and Ebba-Christina Hagberg prize was awarded to Katja Petzold and Simon Elsässer Karolinska Institutet’s pedagogical prize was awarded to Ewa Ehrenborg The Håkan Mogren prize was awarded to Folke Hammarqvist The Malin and Lennart Philipson prize was awarded to Volker Lauschke The Medicine Doktor Axel Hirch prize was awarded to Nils Hansson The Lennart Nilsson Award prize was awarded to Xiaowei Zhuang   Text: Ann Patmalnieks Professor – The highest academic position The installation of professors is an academic ceremony where the university’s new professors are welcomed to the highest academic position. The inauguration has no formal significance, the professors having by this time already signed their employment contracts and been given tenures. The tradition of ceremonially inaugurating professors dates back to the early 1600s. The new professor would normally give an oration, a solemn speech. Music and bell-ringing framed the ceremony. It was for a long time customary for the professor to pay for a banquet for the university’s leaders, something that might put a severe financial burden on a researcher who did not have much money and was already in debt. “Karolinska Institutet’s vice-chancellor of the time decided in 1996 that the ceremony was to take place slightly differently than at other universities,” Master of Ceremonies Ylva Blomberg says. The new professors have since then been presented in films and a popular scientific publication.  Nowadays an inauguration speech is given at the end of the ceremony by one of the new professors, who represents the whole group. The professors lend a hood for the ceremony. “The hood and the hat are the outward symbols of being made a professor but the insignia in actual fact have more significance at doctoral degree conferment ceremonies,” says Ylva Blomberg. Source, in addition to Ylva Blomberg: Lagerkransar & logotyper. Torgny Nevéus

Two KI researchers accepted on new leadership programme in global health

Tue, 17/10/2017 - 11:49
Helena Nordenstedt and Tobias Alfvén have been accepted on the SIGHT Fellows leadership programme by the Swedish Institute for Global Health Transformation (SIGHT). The intention of the programme is to contribute to attain the UN’s global sustainability goals by actively developing leaders across sectoral borders. Helena Nordenstedt and Tobias Alfvén, both from the Department of Public Health Sciences, are two of a total of eight researchers who have been accepted on the SIGHT Fellows leadership programme. The programme includes mentoring by leading global health experts, study visits, lectures, participation in SIGHT’s activities and networks and contributions to individual development. “We believe that the leadership programme will strengthen these ambitious people in their work and also in Sweden’s explicit endeavour to attain the UN’s sustainable development goals (SDGs) where a focus on global health is a crucial factor for both sustainability and greater equality,” says Peter Friberg, who heads SIGHT, in a press release. SIGHT, which was founded in January 2017 at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, was made possible among other things by a donation from Bill and Melinda Gates. The purpose is to, on the basis of interdisciplinary approaches, promote Swedish research and education and offer scientific bases for policy work in the global health field, with a particular focus on women and children.

E-infrastructure project receives funding from VR

Fri, 13/10/2017 - 12:12
The National E-infrastructure for Aging Research (NEAR) has been awarded funding from the Swedish Research Council (VR). No later than December 2017 the special terms and conditions for the grants shall be signed. NEAR is a collaboration between six universities: Karolinska Institutet, Blekinge Institute of Technology, Gothenburg University, Jönköping University, Lund University and Umeå University. ARC will be the headquarter of NEAR, led by Professor Laura Fratiglioni, at the Deparmtment of Neurobiology, Care Sciences and Society. The aim for NEAR is to develop a technical platform for running and coordinating high quality population-based databases in Sweden, to give the researchers access to information in them, and thus to create the prerequisites for future high-quality research.

Unexpected finding in the cell’s power plant

Fri, 13/10/2017 - 09:00
Researchers at Karolinska Institutet have discovered that the protein complex RNase P in the cell’s mitochondria behaves differently than previously thought. The findings, published in Nucleic Acids Research, give important new clues on how certain mutations cause mitochondrial disease. Almost all of the cell’s energy is produced in the cell’s own power plant, the mitochondria. The inability of mitochondria to function properly leads to mitochondrial disease, affecting about one in 4 000 individuals. Genetically related mitochondrial diseases generally arise from errors in the expression of encoded proteins in the mitochondrion’s genome. When the mitochondrial genome is transcribed, long RNA strands are formed. These need to be cut down and processed to release the mature mitochondrial RNAs which are essential for the mitochondrion’s internal protein synthesis. The processing of RNA begins in regions that encode mitochondrial transfer RNAs (tRNAs). Studies of this processing at a molecular level can give important clues about mitochondrial diseases because they are often caused by mutations in tRNA components. Previous research has shown that cutting at the front end (referred to as the 5´-end) and at the rear end (the 3’-end) of the mitochondrial tRNA strand is catalysed by different components. The mitochondrial protein complex RNase P comprise three components (MRPP1, MRPP2, and MRPP3) that cut the 5´-end of the tRNA, whereas a single protein (ELAC2) cuts the 3´-end of the tRNA. Several unexpected findings Researchers at Karolinska Institutet have now found that two of the proteins from the RNase P complex, MRPP1 and MRPP2, surprisingly remain bound to the tRNA even after the initial 5´-processing. Even more surprisingly, these two proteins were also necessary for ELAC2 to cut in the 3´-end of the tRNA. The results explain why mutations in tRNA components that were previously believed to only be important in the initial 5´-processing can also strongly affect 3´-processing and other downstream steps in tRNA maturation. “This novel functionality of MRPP1 and MRPP2 is important when evaluating both the molecular and physiological effects of the mutations found in patients suffering from mitochondrial disease”, says Martin Hällberg, senior researcher at Karolinska Institutet’s Department of Cell and Molecular Biology and the Centre for Structural Systems Biology (CSSB) in Hamburg who led the study. The research was financed by the Swedish Research Council and the Röntgen Ångström Cluster. Publication “The MRPP1/MRPP2 complex is a tRNA-maturation platform in human mitochondria” Linda Reinhard, Sagar Sridhara and B. Martin Hällberg Nucleic Acids Research, online 13 October 2017

Preliminary investigation closed

Thu, 12/10/2017 - 15:13
COMMENTARY: The prosecutor decided on Thursday to terminate the preliminary investigation into Paolo Macchiarini concerning the transplantation of artificial tracheae and other operations performed at Karolinska University  Hospital, where he had been employed as a surgeon. The preliminary investigation covered five operations on four plaintiffs during the period 2011−2013. “The only comment that KI can and should make on the decision of the Public Prosecution Office is that it has been a complex and painstaking investigation,” says pro-Vice-Chancellor Karin Dahlman-Wright.

Agneta Richter-Dahlfors gets the new award "Nyttiggörandepriset"

Wed, 11/10/2017 - 15:48
"Nyttiggörandepriset" is awarded to researchers funded or recently funded by the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research and who have contributed with excellent research that impacts on society during the last two years. The prize is a personal grant of an amount of 50' to 100' SEK. This year's winner is Agneta Richter-Dahlfors, Professor at the Department of Neuroscience at Karolinska Institutet and Director of the Swedish Medical Nanoscience Center. When analyzing the results from various experiments she has developed new methodologies and technologies and used the resources for patenting, products and companies, in accordance with SSF's goals and guidelines. One of her innovations has enbabled researchers to observe how, when bacteria attach to a surface, they quickly grow into a biofilm. Professors Johan Elf from Uppsala University and Malin Lindstedt from Lund University share the second prize. Johan Elf has developed a microfluid technique to meet the need for fast diagnostics of antimicrobial reistance, especially in urinary track infections. Malin Lindstedt has developed a range of tests called GARD test, for instance "GARDpotency", an integrated testing strategy for skin sensitization to predict how highly allergenic a chemical is. The award ceremony will take place on November 21, 2017 in Stockholm.

KI one year after the action plan

Tue, 10/10/2017 - 20:38
Karolinska Institutet (KI) has implemented a number of initiatives aimed at dealing with the flaws in the organisation brought to light by the Macchiarini case. For example, recruitment procedures have been tightened and a new procedure introduced for cases of suspected scientific misconduct. In some cases, the work to implement these initiatives has taken longer than planned and further efforts are required. Approximately one year ago, KI management prepared an action plan designed to rectify the flaws highlighted by the inquiries into KI’s handling of the Macchiarini case.  This action plan was based on the recommendations in KI’s audit of the department in which Macchiarini worked, as well as on the report presented by external investigator Sten Heckscher. This report criticized KI for, among other things, a nonchalant attitude towards regulations, flawed research documentation and handling of public documents, as well as flawed recruitment procedures. The points to be addressed affect almost every area of KI’s organisation. The work is being led and implemented by management and at KI’s internal boards and administrative departments.  A coordination and monitoring committee was appointed to support and coordinate the implementation of the action plan. This committee has now presented its report describing the situation as of the end of the second quarter 2017. “All activities have either been implemented or are the subject of a long-term plan detailing how they are to be resolved. However, this has often required greater consideration than initially planned, meaning that implementation has taken longer than scheduled,” says Sven-Erik Dahlen, professor at the Institute of Environmental Medicine and chair of the Coordination and Monitoring Committee. Strategic assignment for the new ethics committee One of the activities is the implementation by KI of new procedures for handling cases of suspected misconduct in research. This work was underway before the action plan was prepared, and since spring 2016 the Pro-Vice-Chancellor and the Legal Office have had a clearer division of responsibility. The spring also saw a strengthening of resources in the form of a specific and academically highly competent administrator to assist in the investigation. A proposal for a new ethics committee has been drafted. This committee will not investigate misconduct cases but rather work strategically on issues regarding research ethics. Committee members are yet to be appointed but this will take place during the autumn. “This is an important element in KI’s ongoing work to create a solid ethical platform for the organisation. There is no reason to delay further,” says Karin Dahlman-Wright, Pro-Vice-Chancellor. If the ethics committee is almost ready for implementation, work on KI’s inner life – its work environment, leadership, employeeship – demands a considerably longer time horizon, explains Karin Dahlman-Wright. “We have begun to implement certain components; improving communication to the organisation and investigating laboratory environments for example. However, the big picture is far from complete,” she says. The review of KI also revealed flaws in the documentation of research. Since 2010, KI has employed a system for electronic research documentation. However, the use of this system has not been obligatory. A decision has now been made to make electronic research documentation mandatory at KI from 2019 and an implementation plan is in place. After stern criticism of how KI handled the recruitment of Macchiarini, administrative routines for reviewing application documentation have been improved. Improved procedures for obtaining references and checking CVs have been developed and the responsibilities of the Recruitment Committee have been clarified. Certain flaws appear to be obvious, such as not routinely checking candidates' references. Why haven’t these been addressed previously?  “Yes, it is strange. But as long as things are running smoothly it doesn’t occur to anyone that change is needed. However, procedures for obtaining references were in place before the action plan was adopted,” says Karin Dahlman-Wright.  The division of responsibility between KI and Karolinska University Hospital has been clarified. A common certificate of responsibility for clinical research is now in use, signed by the operational manager of the specific hospital department, the researcher leading the project and the head of department. “This is not new but now there is a stronger commitment. KI and the Hospital have also entered into more in-depth discussions on clinical research through our joint working groups, although more such cooperation between KI and healthcare is required on several issues,” says Sven-Erik Dahlen.  Great importance placed on leadership  The action plan also focuses on leadership. KI’s guidelines for leadership development are under revision and will be ready this year. An overview of leadership training with regard to ethics and compliance is underway and a new, obligatory course for new heads of department and heads of administration will begin in 2018. However, according to the Coordination and Monitoring Committee this may not suffice. They believe that new training initiatives for research-group leaders should also be a priority. “We recommend that compulsory training be introduced for all research-group leaders in the form of regular, repeated online courses,” says Sven-Erik Dahlen.  They would also like to see the further development of introductory courses for new employees and that these be made compulsory for everyone irrespective of background. From the autumn, new researchers will be offered one-day courses focusing on research documentation, data management and ethics – although this will not be compulsory. Rules for affiliating external researchers have been revised and it has been made clearer that all such affiliations to KI must be approved by the head of department. New guidelines for secondary occupations have been adopted, although the coordination group would like to see more systematic monitoring and also believe that external employees should also be required to report secondary activities. The investigation into KI also highlighted deficiencies in delegation rules. Work to rectify this has begun but the task has grown into a larger review of internal regulations. According to University director Per Bengtsson, this is expected to be completed during the current year. Work on a new procedure for case management is another activity that is not fully complete. “We have addressed the immediate flaws uncovered by the Heckscher investigation; such as departmental case management and the handling of public documents. However, with regard to the overall procedure, there is more to do,” says Per Bengtsson. He explains that training initiatives have been focused on departmental administrative managers and registrars in order to meet the need for knowledge of regulations relating to public documents, the principle of public access, documentation and case management. Initially, these measures may lead to increased administration for certain employees in the form of new regulations and systems. If so, according to operations controller and Coordination and Monitoring Committee team coordinator Björn Forslöw, this is a temporary problem. “In the long-run, we are convinced that if the system is wisely crafted it will make the work easier,” he says. In order to make regulations and aids easily available, the coordination team recommends that a new, user-friendly regulations website be created. This has been duly noted by Vice-Chancellor Ole Petter Ottersen: “There is a need for developed support for staff in order to simplify the running of the organisation in accordance with applicable regulations. It is not more regulations and guidelines that are required but rather an ethical attitude to research,” he says. How can we ensure that the mistakes that have been made are not repeated? ”This is a long-term project in which we should work with equal diligence to achieve excellence and high levels of ethical awareness in our work culture, and excellence in education and research. This is a responsibility that rests not only with the academic leadership but with all members of staff, and is an insight that must permeate the entire organisation,” says Ole Petter Ottersen. It was initially expected that work on the action plan would continue during 2017. The Coordination and Monitoring Committee now recommend that situation be reviewed again at the end of the second quarter 2018. Text: Sara Nilsson

The first projects to start at the new research center MedTechLabs

Tue, 10/10/2017 - 16:10
MedTechLabs is now open – the research centre formed by a close collaboration between Karolinska Institutet (KI), the Royal Institute of Technology (KTH) and Stockholm County Council (SLL). The objective of the centre’s first project is to develop technology to improve diagnosis and treatment of patients who have, for example, suffered a stroke. MedTechLabs shall work with advanced research into medical technology. The centre will be located in the BioClinicum in Karolinska University Hospital. Researchers from KI and KTH will work there together to develop technology and methods that can be implemented into health care. A pilot project has already been implemented, led by Staffan Holmin, Professor at the Department of Clinical Neuroscience at KI and Consultants and R&D Managers at R&D neuroradiology at Karolinska University Hospital, together with Mats Danielsson, Professor at the Clinic for Physics of Medical Imaging at KTH. The two Professors are together with Jan Andersson, Director of Research and Innovation at SLL, the instigators for the new research centre. The aim of the pilot project is to develop technology that can be utilised for diagnoses and treatment of cardiovascular diseases including strokes and cancer. Spectral CT is an advanced X-ray method with high resolution and a completely new functionality that improves the security of diagnosis and treatment. Endovascular technology is utilised to navigate around the body’s vessels, using X-ray images, to extract blood clots, for example. The technology also allows samples to be taken or medicines to be injected or deposited locally in organs that are difficult to access. “Medical technology has a major impact on the outcome for patients. Many lives have been saved by technology,” confirms Staffan Holmin. Where advanced technology and the needs of patients meet  MedTechLabs shall focus on the needs of the major groups of patients, but the main starting point for the centre is technical innovations, according to Staffan Holmin. “We have to find a match between advanced technology and the needs of health care.” Staffan Holmin has collaborated with KTH for several years. “Engineers have an entirely different way of thinking and can solve problems I did not believe were possible, and in an organised fashion. On the whole, it is very positive to form teams of persons who have varying expertise.” In total, the pilot project will employ around 12 persons. Prominent researchers making their mark will be recruited from Sweden and abroad. MedTechLabs also aims to educate health and medical care personnel, so that they can subsequently make use of the methods in healthcare. Proximity to health care is essential It was very important that the centre could be located nearby the hospital, according to Staffan Holmin. “We wanted a test lab for new medical technology in an environment where patients were fully safe and where we have access to a full range of medical personnel, from anaesthetists to intensive care personnel,” he says. From SLL's perspective, the investment in MedTechLabs is largely the result of a need to in a safe manner test medical technology innovations. “For many decades, we have had a polished processes for evaluating the safety of pharmaceuticals and vaccines. Now, as the first facility in Europe, we are able to evaluate similarly how safe medical technology is, in so-called phase one trials, before continuing on evaluating its medical effect. In addition, we get better documentation of the entire development process," says Jan Andersson. Anders Gustafsson, Dean of Research at KI, tells us that the main reason why KI is taking part in MedTechLabs is the rapid development within medical technology. “Medical technology is of increasing importance, and KI does not have a proper organisation for this field. We can also benefit from increasing our collaboration with KTH, and naturally we are very happy to have the financial support of the County Council. Both health care and research are increasingly technological, so this is obviously a win-win situation,” confirms Anders Gustafsson. What are KI’s long-term goals for MedTechLabs? “We hope this collaboration will increase survival rate and quality of life for patients. It will also generate new and interesting research. Prominent clinical research centres around the world, such as John Hopkins and Mayo, have a similar working method and produce quality research that is rapidly implemented to benefit patients.” Additional projects to be launched Scheduled opening of premises in BioClinicum is 2018-2019. Until then, the pilot projects will be run from premises at KTH and Karolinska University Hospital. KTH will be the principal for MedTechLabs. The centre has a steering group with four committee members from the County Council, and two members each from KI and KTH. Activities are financed by all three parties. Symposiums and seminars will also be held at MedTechLabs. Further projects will be implemented during the first four years. After four years, activities will be subject to evaluation. Text: Ann Patmalnieks Foto: Erik Flyg

Closing of the course for future education leaders at KI

Tue, 10/10/2017 - 11:20
The Future Education Leaders course, a program to highlight and develop the skills of Karolinska Institutet’s (KI) educational leaders, will conclude on 10 October. Participants will be holding a poster presentation in Aula Medica and KI PRIME recipient Brian Hodges will be giving a lecture. “This is a hybrid between a pedagogical and leadership course. An important element is that participants build networks with each other,” explains Sari Ponzer, course project manager. This is the second time that the course has been held. The project was initiated by the Board of Higher Education with the overall aim of ensuring the future supply of scientifically qualified educational leaders within the teaching organisation. “We have two core activities at KI, research and education, and it is therefore self-evident that those who choose to become educators must be offered the opportunity to be assigned to leading positions. Specific skills are required of educational leaders,” says Annika Östman Wernerson, Dean of Higher Education.  The requirements for participants, who are nominated by their heads of department, are that they must have a PhD and documented pedagogical experience. They must also be employed at KI within education or research, or affiliated to the university as a researcher, teacher or clinician. Interest in participation was high and the total number of applications was approximately twice the 20 available spaces.  “The participants come from a very wide range of professional backgrounds and disciplines, as well as from various departments within the educational organisation,” says Sari Ponzer. Course lecturers have included Carola Lemne, Director General of the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise, and Brian Hodges, recipient of the 2016 Karolinska Institutet Prize for Research in Medical Education (PRIME). Hodges will also be closing the course with a presentation on the theme of leadership.   Networking an important component of successful leadership The content of the course focuses on the regulatory frameworks of educational activities, formal and informal decision-making structures and KI’s core values and ethical code of conduct. An important element of the course is the building of personal networks prior to a continued career at KI, something that, according to the course evaluation, has proved successful.   “Surveys carried out during the course have shown that participants are positive, with a general feeling that they have learnt from one another and gained a useful network,” says Sari Ponzer. Ann-Helen Patomella, deputy head of division in the Division of Occupational Therapy and one of this year’s course participants, concurs with this positive feedback. In addition to establishing networks, the course has also contributed other insights.  “The importance of having someone with whom one can discuss leadership issues, as well as the vital role of communication in providing a clear leadership.” The Future Education Leaders course will not be held the upcoming years, but the issue will not be allowed to fall by the wayside, declares Annika Östman Wernerson. “I believe that the course may be held again in a couple of years, although no decision has yet been made. Now it’s important that those who have taken the course are provided with the opportunity to develop their leadership within the organisation, and we will be monitoring their future progress.  Closing in Aula Medica  This year’s course participants will be presenting their final projects in a poster exhibition on 10 October from 3 pm-5 pm on the 4th Floor of Aula Medica. The exhibition will be preceded by a presentation on the theme of leadership by PRIME award winner Brian Hodges, 2 pm-3 pm at the same venue.

Maria Kasper receives Gold Award from the LEO Foundation

Mon, 09/10/2017 - 20:16
Maria Kasper, Senior researcher at the Department of Biosciences and Nutrition at Karolinska Institutet, is awarded the LEO Foundation Gold Award 2017 of DKK 1 million. She is rewarded for her exceptional advances within dermatology research. The LEO Foundation Gold Award is awarded to young scientists whose work contributes in an extraordinary way to medical research. The chairman of the foundation says that Maria Kasper's research has increased the understanding of skin diseases and that her research can lead to improved treatments. “My friends often call me ‘skin nerd’ since I love everything about skin. Thus, it’s such a happiness and great honour for me to receive this prestigious prize”, says Maria Kasper in an article on the LEO Foundation’s website.  

Peter Ueda reaches Researchers’ Grand Prix final

Mon, 09/10/2017 - 19:07
Peter Ueda, postdoc at Karolinska Institutet’s Department of Medicine, Solna, won the Researchers’ Grand Prix Stockholm during Researchers’ Friday 29 September. As Stockholm’s most inspiring research presenter 2017, he will now go on to the national final on 28 November. During his four-minute presentation, Peter Ueda explained how he uses large data files containing millions of observations to discover how treatments for a wide range of illnesses can be improved. He also carries out research into the side-effects of pharmaceuticals and how well they actually work, as well as finding new ways to identify patients with a high or low risk of illness (for example myocardial infarction) or adverse reactions, so that treatment can be tailored to the individual. During the Researchers’ Grand Prix (Forskar Grand Prix), researchers compete to present their work in the most entertaining and informative manner possible in only 4 minutes. The winner is decided by the audience together with a panel of expert judges.  

AI and Global Health in focus during departmental visit

Mon, 09/10/2017 - 15:25
When vice-chancellor Ole Petter Ottersen visited the Department of Public Health Sciences during his tour of Karolinska Institutet (KI), two issues took centre stage – artificial intelligence and global health. He also opened the way for changes to the incentives system in order to strengthen education. During the autumn, KI’s management will join new vice-chancellor Ole Petter Ottersen in visiting every department, in order to meet staff and students within the organisation. The Department of Public Health Sciences presented a number of research projects, as well as their students in the Master’s Programme in Global Health. PhD student Nora Döring presented her research project “Primary Prevention of Childhood Obesity”, an attempt to identify methods and treatments for preventing childhood obesity. Studies carried out in the project demonstrated that those methods tested had failed to make any significant impact, and now researchers must follow up on why. Ole Petter Ottersen took the opportunity to emphasis the importance of also presenting negative research results. “In general, negative data receives too little attention and it requires a degree of tenacity to get this type of data published,” said Ole Petter Ottersen. Nora Döring was pleased after the vice-chancellor’s visit. "It feels very good that the vice-chancellor comes here and listens to us, and he makes us feel that the work we do in global health is important. It is also great that he has a clear picture of what to do, and is full of enthusiasm and energy, she says. During the visit, Ole Petter Ottersen highlighted that KI is a university characterised by strong competition, and that the creation of a system of rewards for everyone working to strengthen, improve and contribute to teaching is one of the important issues that management needs to address. “It is true that there is a great deal of competition within KI, but its not always negative. But it’s important that there is room for 'failed results' or rather 'null-results' and explore the reasons, if we are to make progress,” Nora Döring says. Global migration and the spread of TB KI’s management also had the opportunity to look at postdoc Anna-Karin Danielsson’s research project on alcohol, tobacco and drugs. Knut Lönnroth, professor and senior physician, spoke about the effect of global migration on the spread of TB, and visiting professor Johan Lundin presented research on how artificial intelligence can simplify diagnosis and treatment globally. Afterwards, the vice-chancellor reflected on the importance of ensuring access to data in healthcare and noted his appreciation of the department’s focus on the global perspective, especially bearing in mind KI’s strategic work aimed at 2030, in line with the timetable for the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Discussion of the UN’s 17 SDGs continued during the vice-chancellor’s meeting with students from across the world participating in the Master’s Programme in Global Health. Goal number three, specifically dealing with good health and wellbeing, naturally falls within the scope of KI’s own vision, although Ole Petter Ottersen pointed out that all of the goals are linked to global health. The goals of eradicating poverty and hunger, along with the goal of achieving a world in which all people have access to clean water and sanitation, are indivisible. Student and doctor Prithviraj Thumaiah from Mauritius trained in Pretoria and currently works in the KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa. He acknowledged the UN goals but offered a reminder of the realty of the situation. “Most of us will work with the SDGs in the future, but it is difficult for systems to change. How will we deal with systems that counteract our work?” Ole Petter Ottersen’s replied that it will demand collaboration and alliances in order to succeed, and unexpected ones at that. “As academics, everything we do must be based on scientific fact but for many of you, a political reality awaits,” he said. “In order to succeed where their is opposition we must build alliances, for example with NGOs but also with industry and the private-sector. Many companies today realise that, in future, it will no longer only be the ‘bottom line’ in their financial statement that counts.” Text: Andreas Andersson

Safe to treat dementia patients with clot-busting drugs

Mon, 09/10/2017 - 08:00
Stroke patients with dementia treated with intravenous thrombolysis using powerful clot-busting drugs are at no higher risk of brain haemorrhage or death than other patients receiving the same treatment, a study from Karolinska Institutet published in the journal Neurology reports. Ischemic stroke is the most common form of stroke and is caused when a blood clot blocks the blood flow to the brain. Treatment with intravenous thrombolysis (IVT) using powerful clot-busting drugs within 4.5 hours of onset can greatly improve the prognosis and reduce the likelihood of patients losing the ability to speak or walk. “Hospitals have tended to shy away from giving powerful clot-busting drugs to patients with dementia in the belief that such patients, especially those with Alzheimer’s disease, are more prone to brain haemorrhages,” says Sara Garcia-Ptacek, postdoc at Karolinska Institutet’s Department of Neurobiology, Care Sciences and Society. “We wanted to find out how great this risk really was.” Both expected and unexpected results By studying data from the Swedish Dementia Registry (SveDem) from the years between 2010 and 2014 and cross-referencing them with the Swedish Stroke Registry, the researchers found 1,300 stroke patients with a previous diagnosis of some form of dementia. They then studied what percentage of the patients had received thrombolysis treatment for their stroke and how they had subsequently fared compared to a control group with stroke but without dementia. Doing so, they found that people under the age of 80 with dementia and stroke were not given intravenous thrombolysis as often as patients with stroke but no dementia. “Yet we also saw that dementia patients over 80 suffering from a stroke received thrombolysis treatment as often as non-dementia patients with stroke, which was unexpected,” says Dr Garcia-Ptacek. The researchers then examined the therapeutic outcomes for both groups that had received thrombolysis treatment to ascertain whether or not the risk of complications varied. Sudden bleeding not more common in dementia patients “It’s important to stress that sudden bleeding in the brain, what we call an intracerebral haemorrhage, a well-known complication that can arise in combination with thrombolysis treatment, was no more likely in people with dementia and stroke than in non-demented people with stroke when both groups received IVT ,” says Maria Eriksdotter, professor in geriatric medicine at the same department. The researchers also studied the risk of death after treatment and found that there was no difference between patients with dementia and those without who received IVT. They did, however, find worse functional outcome in dementia patients with stroke three months afterwards. These patients were also more likely to be discharged to nursing homes compared to stroke patients without dementia. “Our study indicates that thrombolysis treatment is just as safe for dementia patients as for other patients with the same physical status and that the risk of treatment complications is no higher,” says Professor Eriksdotter. “Thus, IVT treatment can be considered in stroke patients with dementia.” The study was financed with grants from the Swedish Stroke Association, the Swedish Order of St John, the Swedish Society for Medical Research, the Swedish Research Council and the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions. Publication “Thrombolysis in acute ischemic stroke in patients with dementia: a Swedish registry study” Eva Zupanic, Mia von Euler, Ingemar Kåreholt, Beatriz Contreras Escamez, Johan Fastbom, Bo Norrving, Dorota Religa, Milica G. Kramberger, Bengt Winblad, Kristina Johnell, Maria Eriksdotter, Sara Garcia-Ptacek Neurology, online 6 October 2017

18 post-docs at KI awarded scholarships by SSMF

Fri, 06/10/2017 - 09:19
Eighteen research scholarships in medicine have been awarded to Karolinska Institutet by the Swedish Society for Medical Research (SSMF) this year. A total of 34 post-docs at six Swedish universities will share close to SEK 80 million. “Post-doc education is an absolute necessity to be able to continue to pursue a successful career in research. A scholarship from SSMF allows a researcher to not only gain important experience in a new research setting but also establish a network of his or her own for continued collaborations,” says professor Mats Ulfendahl, who chairs the SSMF, in a press release. The post-docs at Karolinska Institutet who have been awarded the two-year scholarship are Julio Aguila Benitez, Andreas Björklund, Melissa Borg, Stephanie Böhm, David Conradsson, Sara Garcia-Ptacek, Anna-Maria Georgoudaki, Shawon Gupta, Anna Karin Hedström, Hildur Helgadottir, Anders Näsman, Marc Panas, Maria Peleli, Elin Rönnberg Höckerlind, Eric Thelin, Kaisa Thorell, Peter Ueda and Ferdinand von Walden.

Key component of respiratory centre identified

Thu, 05/10/2017 - 15:58
Star-shaped cells called astrocytes are much more than simple support cells in the brain. In a new study on mice, researchers at Karolinska Institutet demonstrate that they also play a key part in the respiratory centre of the brainstem and release inflammatory molecules that regulate breathing. The results, which are presented in eLife, can provide important clues as to the causes of respiratory disease and the sudden unexpected postnatal collapse of newborn infants (SUPC). The control of breathing is essential for life. Without an adequate response to increased carbon dioxide levels, people can suffer from breathing disturbances, sickness, and panic. In a worst-case scenario, it can lead to premature death, as in sudden infant death syndrome. While it is known that respiration is regulated by the brainstem, just how this occurs remains very much a mystery. It is known that there are control mechanisms that cause the body to react to changing blood concentrations in CO2, thereby preventing death. Eric Herlenius’s research group at Karolinska Institutet has previously shown that the molecule prostaglandin E2 (PGE2), which is normally released during inflammation and fever, is triggered in the brainstem at high levels of CO2, influencing the pattern and characteristics of respiration. The group has now shown that so-called non-neuronal astrocytes in the respiratory centre of the brainstem secrete this molecule. Not just the brain's glue “Astrocytes were once viewed just as a kind of glue that holds everything in place in the brain. Then they were considered as mere housekeepers providing structural and metabolic support for neurons. However, new research shows that they are involved in several vital processes, including respiration,” says Eric Herlenius, professor of paediatrics at the Department of Women’s and Children’s Health. “Our study shows that the astrocytes play an important part in the regulation of breathing by affecting the neurons and their network activity.” To study the role of astrocytes in respiration, the researchers used an in-house developed technique in which part of the brainstem of a mouse is kept alive in a special culture dish. For several weeks neurons and astrocytes continue to be interconnected, and can transmit signals and generate rhythmic motor neuron activity as if they were “breathing”. The mice astrocytes were labelled with a fluorescent molecule, and contained a receptor that the researchers could stimulate in order to activate them. While most of the astrocytes seemed not to participate in rhythm generation, some of them formed their own functional network in the respiratory centre, displaying rhythmic activity similar to the neurons. These astrocytes integrated with the neurons, influencing their activity and consequently respiration. Inflammatory molecules involved “We knew that the astrocytes have the capacity of signalling just before inspiration but not that there’s this kind of connection from the astrocytes to the neurons,” says the study’s lead author David Forsberg, doctoral student at the same department. “Our hypothesis is that the astrocytes adjust the respiratory process with the help of the inflammatory molecule PGE2, and in doing so links breathing with the inflammatory system.” Interestingly, the role of astrocytes seemed to differ between the two brainstem respiratory centres that were studied. In one, astrocyte activation caused an increase in neuronal activity, whilst in the other, neuronal activity remained unaffected. This suggests the presence of different types of astrocytes, and a diverse distribution of them in the brainstem. Could explain life-threatening breathing problems Activation of the astrocytes also caused raised levels of PGE2 and weakened the respiratory centre’s reaction to high CO2 concentrations, suggesting that the astrocytes become fatigued. Since PGE2 is released during inflammation and fever, the researchers suggest that these conditions disrupt normal physiological reactions to CO2, which can lead to potentially life-threatening breathing problems. “We now want to find out if astrocyte fatigue can explain phenomena like SUPC, when newborn babies suddenly develop respiratory problems,” says Dr Forsberg. “Birth triggers a powerful stress reaction in the baby, which gives rise to high PGE2 levels. This has beneficial effects on newborns but we think this can be dangerous in combination with high levels of CO2.” The study was financed by several bodies, including the Swedish Research Council, Stockholm County Council, Karolinska Institutet, the Swedish Brain Fund, the Marianne and Marcus Wallenberg Foundation and the Heart and Lung Foundation. Eric Herlenius is a coinventor of a patent application regarding biomarkers and their relation to breathing disorders. The other authors have not reported any competing interests. Publication “Astrocytes release prostaglandin E2 to modify respiratory network activity” David Forsberg, Thomas Ringstedt and Eric Herlenius eLife, online 4 October 2017, doi: 10.7554/eLife.29566

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