Integrative Molecular Phenotyping

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Emma Frans Voice of the Year at this year’s Swedish Grand Prize for Journalism awards

Wed, 29/11/2017 - 15:54
Emma Frans, researcher at the Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, was awarded the Swedish Grand Prize for Journalism in the Voice of the Year category on 23 November “for addressing the resistance to facts in such an entertaining manner and with scientific precision revealing the Internet's incessant myths”. 1. What does it feel like to have won the Swedish Grand Prize for Journalism in the Voice of the Year category? – I feel extremely happy and proud. And also a little bit surprised at winning the Swedish Grand Prize for Journalism because I don’t consider myself to be a journalist but a researcher. 2. Why do you think the prize went to just you? – I think I contribute to a unique perspective in the public dialogue that feels important and relevant in today’s society and times where it is becoming increasingly important to think scientifically. 3. What do you think the prize will lead to? – I hope this will send signals to academia that the third task needs to be prioritised and that researchers need to be more visible to the public. 4. How would you like to continue to work on/against resistance to facts? – I will continue to advocate a scientific attitude and emphasise the importance of science and facts in the public debate. But I also fight to win the public’s trust. We listen to those we have faith in and that is why we can counteract resistance to facts by ensuring that those who advocate facts have the people’s trust. 5. What is your best advice on how to separate fact from fiction in the torrent of information we live in today? – It’s important that statements have sources that can be traced and that are credible. Senders who are independent are more credible than people who are driven by financial or political interests. Then it’s important to check underpinning information as a whole and not just select the information that backs up what we already think or what we want to believe. 6. What can motivate researchers to prioritise popular scientific communications to the public? – The fact that I was awarded the Swedish Grand Prize for Journalism is extremely motivating for me personally, but I think it also sends signals to other researchers about how very much appreciated it is to have people who fight to reach out with knowledge. Emma Frans Emma Frans is a post-doc researcher at KI, researching in psychiatry and pharmaceutical epidemiology. She recently published the book Larmrapporten – att skilja vetenskap från trams [Scare Stories – Separating Science from Nonsense] (Volante).  

KI students team wins iGEM 2017

Wed, 29/11/2017 - 14:58
iGEM Stockholm 2017 has maintained the legacy of iGEM Stockholm by winning a gold medal for the third consecutive year. The 2017 team was additionally nominated as one of the best entrepreneurial projects. After ten months of intense work, iGEM Stockholm showcased their project at the Giant Jamboree which is the grand and final event of the The International Genetically Engineered Machines (iGem) competition in Boston, hosting over 300 teams of students from over 42 countries across the world. The teams compete with their innovative project ideas which all aim to solve real-world problems by using synthetic biology. This year, the team of iGEM Stockholm 2017 attracted many iGEMers, judges and company representatives, not only with their innovative and futuristic project, but also with their compelling presentation and well-designed poster. Additionally, iGEM Headquarters praised Stockholm’s high diversity and gender balance as that of an “exemplary iGEM team”. With leaps and bounds in a yearlong journey, the team succeeded not only with great research results, but also with a strong public outreach called “Democratic Biology” and a well executed fundraising strategy.

Two KI researchers to receive ERC Consolidator Grants 2017

Tue, 28/11/2017 - 14:02
For 2017, KI researchers Anca Catrina and Olov Andersson have been awarded the Consolidator Grants from the European Research Council (ERC), and will receive funding of 2 million euros in total for a project duration of five years. After evaluating 2,538 research proposals, the ERC announced on 28 November the awarding of Consolidator Grants that go to 329 top researchers across Europe. The funding, a part of the EU's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, is worth in total 630 million euro. Anca Catrina Project: Towards prevention of autoimmune diseases: the case of rheumatoid arthritis (PREVENT RA) The project aims to elucidate the early mechanisms by which systemic autoimmunity, which is triggered by environmental challenges at mucosal sites of genetic susceptible individuals, target the joints to induce chronic inflammation. This will allow efficient identification of RA-susceptible individuals and development of new tools for risk estimation in each of these individuals, as well as novel ways of intervention in order to delay, or in the best case prevent disease development. By shifting the time (to phases before joint inflammation occurs) and the ways of interventions (to drugs targeting early and previously unknown pathogenic mechanisms), expected results from the current project are beyond the current state of the art in RA. Anca Catrina profile page Anca Catrina research group Olov Andersson Project: In vivo drug discovery for cellular reprogramming to β-cells – towards a future regenerative therapy for diabetes Both type 1 and later stages of type 2 diabetes feature a reduction of functional β-cells, a key pathologic event that causes or exacerbates the dysregulation of glucose levels. The project will focus on identifying extracellular factors that can induce cellular reprogramming to β-cells and thereby increase the β-cell mass. First the researchers will screen for factors that can induce cellular reprogramming to β-cells in zebrafish, since it is important to investigate the signaling system in a living organism. Next is a follow up on the hits to assess their translational potential and gain further mechanistic insight into the reprogramming process and hopefully develop better drugs treating diabetes. Olov Andersson profile page Olov Andersson research group ERC Consolidator Grants  The ERC Consolidator Grants are awarded to outstanding researchers of any nationality and age, with at least seven and up to twelve years of experience after PhD, and a scientific track record showing great promise. Research must be conducted in a public or private research organisation located in one of the EU Member States or Assoiated Countries. The funding (maximum of €2 million per grant), is provided for up to five years and mostly covers the employment of researchers and other staff to consolidate the grantees' teams.

Hormone therapy in the menopause transition did not increase stroke risk

Thu, 23/11/2017 - 15:40
Postmenopausal hormone therapy is not associated with increased risk of stroke, provided that it is started early, according to a report from Karolinska Institutet published in the journal PLOS Medicine. Roughly three in ten women in the menopause transition are afflicted by symptoms that seriously affect their wellbeing, such as hot flushes, dry mucosa and insomnia. However, although the symptoms can be treated effectively with female sex hormones, prescriptions have been low over the past 15 years as researchers have demonstrated a link between such therapy and an increased risk of certain diseases, including stroke. There is still, however, a need for more research on the issue, as the risk can be influenced by the time of the treatment and other factors, reasons Karin Leander, researcher at Karolinska Institutet’s Institute of Environmental Medicine. “New research shows us that hormone therapy actually has a positive effect on blood vessels if initiated early on in the menopause, but not if initiated late,” says Dr Leander. “So there was reason to re-examine whether hormone therapy is linked to the risk of stroke, taking, of course, the time of administering into consideration.” Data from several cohort studies Dr Leander and her colleagues have now analysed data on postmenopausal hormone therapy from five Swedish cohort studies covering a total of 88,914 women, combined with data from national registries on diagnoses and causes of death during a follow-up period. Hormone therapy was not linked to increased risk of stroke (ischemic and haemorrhagic stroke combined) if the therapy was initiated within five years of menopausal onset, regardless of means of administration (oral, via the skin or vaginal), type of therapy (combination or oestrogen only), active substance and treatment duration. In sub-analyses, however, there was an observable increase in risk for haemorrhagic stroke (the less common form) if the therapy contained the active substance conjugated equine oestrogens. Drugs containing oestradiol, on the other hand, were not associated with a higher risk. A higher risk was also seen for both ischemic and haemorrhagic stroke if the treatment was initiated later than five years after the onset of menopause and contained conjugated equine oestrogens. Stroke risk may be eradicable “The risk of stroke seems virtually eradicable if treatment commences early, but it’s naturally important to take account of the increase in risk that exists under certain circumstances,” says Dr Leander. “These results provide doctors with a better scientific base on which to take decisions on treatment for menopausal symptoms.” The study was financed by Karolinska Institutet, the Swedish Stroke Association, the Swedish Research Council, the Swedish Heart-Lung Foundation and Norrbotten and Västerbotten county councils. Publication: ”Postmenopausal hormone therapy and risk of stroke: A pooled analysis of data from population-based cohort studies” Germán D. Carrasquilla, Paolo Frumento, Anita Berglund,Christer Borgfeldt,Matteo Bottai, Chiara Chiavenna, Mats Eliasson,Gunnar Engström,Göran Hallmans,Jan-Håkan Jansson,Patrik K. Magnusson,Peter M. Nilsson,Nancy L. Pedersen, Alicja Wolk, Karin Leander. Plos Medicine, online 17 November 2017

Children with Alagille Syndrome have malformed bile ducts

Tue, 21/11/2017 - 12:54
Serious liver and heart problems can affect children with Alagille Syndrome early in life. While there is as yet no cure, researchers at Karolinska Institutet have discovered that the liver disease part of the syndrome is caused by specific malformations of the bile ducts. The results, which are published in the journal Gastroenterology, were discovered with the aid of a new mouse model that can now be used to develop and test new therapies. Every year, a handful of children are born in Sweden with the rare genetic disease known as Alagille Syndrome. Some of them become very ill with chronic liver and heart problems, sometimes so serious that they require a transplant. The liver problems can also give rise to severe itching. Other possible symptoms of the disease, which is usually caused by different mutations of the JAGGED1 gene, are deformities of the eyes or bones, and sometimes growth disorders. The children can also develop problems with other organs, such as the kidneys. Little is currently understood about how the disease can develop and each symptom is treated separately. Point mutation interferes with signaling system Using mice with a mutation in JAGGED1 and similar liver and heart problems, the researchers have discovered that the mutation not only affects the development of certain cell types, but also controls the actual formation of the liver’s bile ducts. By substituting a specific amino acid in a so-called “Notch ligand” encoded by JAGGED1, they found that this single point mutation can interfere with the important Notch signaling system and disrupt communication between the Notch ligand and the Notch receptors. The interaction with the Notch 1 receptor failed, while communication with the Notch 2 receptor was possible. “The discovery is important and opens up possibilities for new, more specific treatments,” says Emma Andersson, assistant professor at Karolinska Institutet’s Department of Biosciences and Nutrition. “We hope to be able to use our mouse model to understand the disease better, predict which children will need a transplant and ultimately find a cure.” Liver samples from patients The researchers also obtained liver biopsies from patients, which they studied using RNA sequencing. “The liver samples were the most important piece of the puzzle for our study,” says Dr Andersson. “Thanks to them, we were able to verify that the results from our mouse model and cell experiments were actually relevant to humans and patients. I’m extremely grateful for these donations. By comparing RNA sequencing with the Human Protein Atlas, we’ve also been able to identify new markers for the bile ducts that confirm the malformations that develop in patients with Alagille Syndrome.” The study was financed from several sources, including the Daniel Alagille Award (EASL), the Swedish Research Council, the European Research Council, the Swedish Cancer Society, the Swedish Brain Fund, the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation and the ICMC. Publication “Mouse Model of Alagille Syndrome and Mechanisms of Jagged1 Missense Mutations” Emma Rachel Andersson. Indira V Chivukula, Simona Hankeova, Marika Sjöqvist, Yat Long Tsoi, Daniel Ramsköld, Jan Masek, Aiman Elmansuri, Anita Hoogendoorn, Elenae Vazquez, Helena Storvall, Julie Netušilová, Meritxell Huch, Björn Fischler, Ewa Ellis, Adriana Contreras, Antal Nemeth, Kenneth C. Chien, Hans Clevers, Rickard Sandberg, Vitezslav Bryja, Urban Lendahl Gastroenterology, online 20 November 2017, doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2017.11.002

Method for testing combinations of antibiotics awarded EU funds

Tue, 21/11/2017 - 09:15
A new method that evaluates how effective different combinations of antibiotics are against resistant bacteria is to be tested at several universities in Europe, including Karolinska Institutet. Christian Giske, a researcher at the Department of Laboratory Medicine, is Academic Lead for the EU-funded study, which will last for at least two years. Antibiotic resistance is a major global problem. In Europe, more and more patients develop sepsis caused by intestinal bacteria and which is very difficult to treat. “In Sweden, too, we come across bacteria that are very difficult to treat. We try to overcome this by using combination treatment; in other words, we give more than one antibiotic at the same time. The problem is that two preparations can sometimes affect each other negatively and cause side effects,” says Christian Giske. Now he is to collaborate with researchers at universities in a number of EU countries to test a new and rapid analysis method for demonstrating which antibiotic combinations are effective. Kill a given bacteria “It is important to know whether two preparations actually work or not. At the moment, when faced with an infection we have to guess how the preparations could work together. There are methods that evaluate whether several preparations together can kill a given bacteria, but these methods are time-consuming and you have to have access to research animals. The new method involves measuring the energy production in the bacteria to determine whether they are alive or dead. We expect that this new method will enable us to more quickly and more accurately predict whether the preparations will work,” he comments. The analysis method and associated test equipment to be tested have been produced by company Symcel which, together with the researchers, has received a total of EUR 3.6 million from Horizon 2020, an EU-financed research and innovation program. As well as Karolinska Institutet, universities in Denmark, Italy and Spain will also be taking part. “Together we have access to a variety of bacteria collections. We need a broad collection if we are to determine how robust the analysis method is. The laboratory in Denmark will focus on animal studies in mice which will act as a reference,” Dr Giske says. Patients with severe infections  The researchers will test not only how different types of antibiotics act two and two, but also in combinations of three antibiotics. They will also test antibiotics singly. Just four to eight hours’ analysis will answer whether the tested antibiotic combination is effective or not. “We will choose preparations that we normally use to treat patients. We will simulate what happens in patients with severe infections such as sepsis, even though the model is not specific for sepsis,” he comments. If the method turns out to be effective, it will benefit the thousands of patients in Europe who are affected by resistant bacteria every year. The hope is that the analysis method, if it is effective and robust, can be applied in practice at the major hospitals in Europe and other parts of the world. Text: Maja Lundbäck (in translation from Swedish)

Enterovirus vaccine prevented type 1 diabetes in mice

Mon, 20/11/2017 - 13:00
In a study published in Diabetologia, researchers at Karolinska Institutet and the University of Tampere, Finland, report that an enterovirus vaccine can protect against virus-induced diabetes in a mouse model for type 1 diabetes. A vaccine for human use is now under development by the Finnish company Vactech Ltd. and its American collaborator Provention Bio. Type 1 diabetes is the most common, chronic, life-threatening disease in children, and continues to increase worldwide. Finland and Sweden have the highest incidence of type 1 diabetes in the world with more than 1 in 200 sufferers in Sweden. To date, the exact causes of the disease are not known. One of the environmental factors that has been touted as a potential cause is infection with common cold viruses known as enteroviruses. However, no firm evidence exists proving their role. No severe side effects In this study, the researchers have used an experimental mouse model to determine the involvement of these viruses through testing of the efficacy of a novel prototype vaccine in preventing type 1 diabetes after enterovirus infection. The vaccine prevented virus-induced type 1 diabetes and protected against other signs of virus infection without any severe adverse effects. “These results indicate the potential that such a vaccine has for elucidating the role of enteroviruses in human type 1 diabetes. If they prove to be involved, vaccination with an enterovirus vaccine would provide a viable preventative treatment for virus-induced type 1 diabetes”, says Professor Malin Flodström-Tullberg at Karolinska Institutet’s Department of Medicine, Huddinge, whose research group was responsible for the preclinical studies. Important step before studies in humans The study was done in collaboration with researchers at the University of Tampere who produced the prototype vaccine. Work is currently ongoing at the University of Tampere to develop a vaccine that targets a greater number of viruses, all of which have been implicated in causing type 1 diabetes. The model that was established together with researchers at Karolinska Institutet will be used as a platform to test further enterovirus vaccines in so-called proof-of-concept studies. These studies are necessary before progress to a clinical set-up in humans. Novel enterovirus vaccines for clinical use in humans is currently under development by Vactech Ltd., Finland, and its collaborator Provention Bio, USA. The research was supported by Tekes (Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation) and by Barndiabetesfonden (the Swedish Child Diabetes Foundation). The Tekes-funded consortium Therdiab includes, besides University of Tampere and Karolinska Institutet, several Finnish Biotech companies including Vactech Ltd. This news article is based on a press release from the University of Tampere. Publication “A Coxsackievirus B vaccine protects against virus-induced diabetes in an experimental mouse model of type 1 diabetes” Virginia M. Stone, Minna M. Hankaniemi, Emma Svedin, Amirbabak Sioofy-Khojine, Sami Oikarinen, Heikki Hyöty, Olli H. Laitinen, Vesa P. Hytönen, Malin Flodström-Tullberg Diabetologia (the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes [EASD]), online 18 November 2017

Mapping biological functions of NUDIX enzymes

Thu, 16/11/2017 - 14:42
In a large multidisciplinary project, researchers at Karolinska Institutet have explored different properties of an enzyme family called NUDIX hydrolases. The study, published in Nature Communications, reveals novel insights into their biological functions in human cells. The NUDIX enzymes are involved in several important cellular processes such as cellular metabolism, homeostasis and mRNA processing. Although highly conserved throughout all organisms, their individual structural, biochemical and biological properties remain largely unclear. To address this, Professor Thomas Helleday and Assistant professor Jordi Carreras-Puigvert at Karolinska Institutet’s Department of Medical Biochemistry and Biophysics and Science for Life Laboratory (SciLifeLab) initiated a collaborative study with researchers at Uppsala University, Stockholm University, the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia, and members of the Human Protein Atlas. Comprehensive enzyme profile map The collaboration has resulted in comprehensive data on individual properties and interrelationships of 18 human NUDIX enzymes, revealing four major structural classes. Using a novel algorithm, the researchers integrated all data creating a comprehensive NUDIX enzyme profile map. “This map reveals novel insights into substrate selectivity and biological functions of NUDIX hydrolases and poses a platform for expanding their use as biomarkers and potential novel cancer drug targets”, says Jordi Carreras-Puigvert. The multidisciplinary project included analyses in biochemistry, structural biology, functional genomics, gene expression, protein expression and bioinformatics. It was supported by the European Union–Marie Curie-FP7-People programme, the Torsten and Ragnar Söderberg Foundations and the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation, among others. Publication “A comprehensive structural, biochemical and biological profiling of the human NUDIX hydrolase family” Jordi Carreras-Puigvert, Marinka Zitnik, Ann-Sofie Jemth, Megan Carter, Judith E. Unterlass, Björn Hallström, Olga Loseva, Zhir Karem, José Manuel Calderón-Montaño, Cecilia Lindskog, Per-Henrik Edqvist, Damian J. Matuszewski, Hammou Ait Blal, Ronnie P.A. Berntsson, Maria Häggblad, Ulf Martens, Matthew Studham, Bo Lundgren, Carolina Wählby, Erik L.L. Sonnhammer, Emma Lundberg, Pål Stenmark, Blaz Zupan & Thomas Helleday Nature Communications, online 16 November 2017

"Green Light" introduced to ensure quality in doctoral education

Thu, 16/11/2017 - 10:53
The doctoral supervision training programme introduced at Karolinska Institutet (KI) in 2008 has proved successful. A comparison of exit polls conducted since 2008 shows that doctoral candidates are increasingly satisfied with their education. Now, directors of doctoral studies are to provided with their next quality-assurance tool: At the turn of the year, Green Light will be introduced. “Our work is ongoing and we leave no stone unturned. Exit polls have been of great help,” says Marianne Schultzberg, Dean of Doctoral Education at KI. In June, a longitudinal study was presented comparing exit polls conducted on doctoral students between 2013-2016 with those from 2008-2012. The study clearly shows increased satisfaction among doctoral students. Of those responding between 2013-2016, 93 per cent agreed entirely or in part that overall they had received a good education. This compares with 89 per cent between 2008-2012. Dissatisfaction decreased from 12.8 per cent in the earlier period to 8.6 per cent. The response frequency to exit polls has increased to 83 per cent (from 75 per cent). “It is most gratifying to find that our work is paying off. Both with regard to how doctoral candidates assess their supervisors and the support they receive from study directors, supervisors and others, as well as the quality of doctoral education courses,” says Marianne Schultzberg. At the turn of the year, a new structural initiative will be introduced to ensure the quality of doctoral education throughout KI; Green Light. This means that, prior to recruiting new doctoral candidates, every department must assess whether the preconditions exist for a high quality doctoral education – including sufficient time and expertise for supervision, as well as adequate financing. “Even if in the vast majority of cases these preconditions exist, we believe that the simple fact of raising the issue will have an effect. Departments have had the autumn to prepare their Green Light procedure,” says Marianne Schultzberg. Obligatory supervisor course It is currently obligatory for those researchers wishing to recruit and supervise doctoral students to take either KI’s Introductory Doctoral Supervision Course, introduced in 2008, or an equivalent course. “This has proved to be an excellent initiative. KI’s supervisor course is in great demand and always fully subscribed,” Marianne Schultzberg says. According to Marianne Schultzberg, KI’s researchers demonstrate enormous enthusiasm and commitment when it comes to doctoral supervision. “This represents four years of collaboration. It is a rewarding process to see someone develop,” she says. Doctoral students also confirm that expertise and dedication among supervisors have increased since the introduction of the course. According to the exit-poll study, 80 per cent would recommend their own supervisor to prospective doctoral candidates – an increase from 74 per cent between 2008-2012. The supervision problems demonstrated by the exit polls – the lack of discussion at theoretical level and about the candidate’s postdoctoral future – have also seen improvement since the last measurement. Equal treatment remains a problem Another area that has improved marginally is inequality, discrimination and harassment, although management still feels that there remains much work to do. Last year, 2016, 14.3 per cent of respondents to the survey stated that they had been subjected to such treatment at sometime during their doctoral studies (compared to 16.5 per cent during the period 2008-2012). However, considerably fewer experienced any such behaviour on the part of their own supervisor. “Green Light is a further initiative to come to grips with this,” explains Marianne Schultzberg. Equal treatment is one of the factors that Matti Nikkola, study director at the Department of Cell and Molecular Biology, would also like to see improved going forward. “KI is a university that works to improve health. We must be good at this,” Matti Nikkola says. Just like Marianne Schultzberg, Matti Nikkola considers exit polls to be a great help in this work: “KI has developed an entire toolbox to provide us with excellent support and metrics,” he says. The adoption of a four-year period allows the anonymized breakdown of the information to departmental level, so that study directors can use it to develop their own doctoral courses. Michael Fored, study director at the Department of Medicine, Solna, and a member of the Board of Research Education, sees this as an important activity.  “Educating researchers is an important task for KI. A great deal of KI’s research is carried out by doctoral candidates and sometimes a supervisor may be driven by something other than simply educating their future colleagues. For example, one can’t become a professor without first having doctoral students,” Michael Fored says. He feels that it is important to safeguard the educational component of any doctoral course, rather than viewing it as primarily a staffing issue. “We need to create a common culture and research morality for KI. Doctoral education is a good place to do so.” Text: Ulrika Fjällborg

The Swedish Cancer Society grants KI researchers SEK 180 million

Thu, 16/11/2017 - 10:48
Three researchers at Karolinska Institutet receive the maximum grant as the Swedish Cancer Society distributes 454 million kronor in research funding. In total, 83 researchers at KI receive more than SEK 180 million, of which almost SEK 73 million in new grants. Yihai Cao, professor at the Department of Microbiology, Tumor and Cell Biology, researches in tumours’ blood vessels with the aim of improving the effect of drugs that inhibit the formation of new vessels that tumours need to be able to grow. He is granted 2.25 million kronor a year for three years. Joakim Dillner, professor at the Department of Laboratory Medicine, researches in human papilloma virus, HPV, with the aim of preventing those forms of cancer that are caused by HPV by among other things optimising screening for cervical cancer. He is granted 2.25 million a year for three years.   Jussi Taipale, professor at the Department of Medical Biochemistry and Biophysics, researches in processes that control the growth of cancer cells, knowledge that in the long term might be able to be used to develop new drugs. He is granted 2.25 million a year for three years.

KI placed 15th among the world’s best universities for medicine

Tue, 14/11/2017 - 16:10
Times Higher Education (THE) places Karolinska Institutet at number 15 among the world’s best universities for medicine (pre-clinical, clinical studies and health sciences) in this years ranking. Among European universities, KI finished in 5th place. THE also ranks universities in the field of life science, where KI is in 25th place worldwide and 7th in Europe.   This year, THE presented a new field of psychology and here KI was ranked 19th worldwide and 3rd in Europe. “THE’s new field of psychology shows an exciting result on KI’s part, although this is a relatively small field and a longer series of results is required to better interpret the significance,” says Björn Forslöw, Controller of Operations at Karolinska Institutet.

Apartments for students and researchers are being built

Tue, 14/11/2017 - 08:06
On 7 November, construction began on the new student and researcher accommodation at Campus Solna. The project has been ten years in the planning and is now finally about to be realised. The sun shone as the start of construction on the new accommodation at Campus Solna was celebrated. “This is a vitamin injection; a living and thriving campus needs students and researchers. The housing market in Stockholm is extremely tough and, if we are to attract the best talent, we must be able to offer accommodation.” So says Ole Petter Ottersen, Vice-Chancellor at Karolinska Institutet (KI) who, together with representatives from KI Housing, the Stockholm Federation of Student Unions (SSCO) and Akademiska Hus, presided over the commencement ceremony. The new residential area, which will go under the name KI Residence Solna, is located in the north of Campus Solna on the street Fogdevreten. Occupancy of the 322 apartments, housing 400 students and researchers, is planned to take place between August 2019 and January 2020. Accommodation to be offered to both students and researchers The project comprises three buildings in the form of a letter A, designed to withstand the noise generated by the nearby motorway. The majority of the housing will be studio apartments, although two and four-room apartments will also be built. The homes will be offered to both students and researchers initially in accordance with KI’s prioritisation model and then in queue-order. The hope is that the new accommodation will strengthen Stockholm’s role as a student city. “The lack of available housing in Stockholm is a betrayal of those students who are unable to find accommodation. Today however, we are taking a step towards making this a little easier for them. An investment in student accommodation is the soundest investment Stockholm can make,” says Johan Blixt, chair of SSCO. The close proximity of the new accommodation to the university is an important element of the project. “Studies demonstrate that on-campus accommodation has an large impact on students’ results,” says Kerstin Lindberg Göransson, President of Akademiska Hus. KI is one big construction site The Campus Solna construction project is only one of many ongoing building investments at KI. “Although it may be somewhat frustrating that KI appears to be one big construction site, these new buildings represent our future. This project is only one of many that will make KI preeminent,” says Ole Petter Ottersen. The KI Residence Solna project has a long history. In 2000, temporary apartments were constructed on the site where the new buildings are now being built, with planning of the permanent apartments getting underway in 2007. The problem of noise pollution has been a recurring challenge and building plans have been appealed on several occasions, but now the project is finally being realised. “This is a great day for everyone who has worked so tirelessly on the project. It’s good to see the initiative taken by former director for innovation and infrastructure Rune Fransson ten years ago come to fruition,” says Ole Petter Ottersen. Text: Karin Montgomery KI Residence Solna In total, 322 apartments will be built with room for 400 students and researchers. Occupancy is planned between August 2019 and January 2020. The majority of apartments, 263, will be 23 m2 studio apartments, while the remainder will be two or four-room apartments. The project is a collaboration between Akademiska Hus, KI Housing and KI. KI currently has approximately 400 housing units throughout the Stockholm region. These are managed by KI Housing, a fully-owned subsidiary of Karolinska Holding AB, which is charged with providing accommodation for visiting international researchers and exchange students on behalf of KI.  

Harder for T cells to fight cancer in absence of VEGF-A

Tue, 14/11/2017 - 08:00
Contrary to what was previously believed, the immune system’s cancer-killing T cells are more effective in a tumour’s anoxic environment when they have access to growth factor VEGF-A. In a study from Karolinska Institutet published in Cancer Cell, the researchers show how the T cells not only survive in this oxygen-depleted micro-environment with the help of transcription factor HIF-1a but also become more effective at killing cancer cells inside it. Cytotoxic T cells are important for the immune system in their ability to kill tumour cells. When the T cells enter a tumour, they are thought to exploit transcription factor HIF, which like all transcription factors is a protein that regulates gene expression and thus the function of the cell. Transcription factor HIF is also especially able to help the T cells to adapt to the tumour’s anoxic micro-environment. The researchers now show that it is the variant HIF-1a that enabled the T cells to adapt to this oxygen-depleted environment and thus succeed in killing the tumour. After having analysed the variant HIF-2a they found that it was less important than HIF-1a for the T cells’ ability to adapt to the lack of oxygen and fight the tumour. “We observed that the T cells detect oxygen, and by adapting to a limited amount of oxygen they can enter anoxic tumours, survive within them and then effectively kill them,” says Professor Randall Johnson at Karolinska Institutet’s Department of Cell and Molecular Biology, who led the study. Loss of growth factor resulted in larger tumours The researchers also used mouse models to try to knock out VEGF-A (a growth factor that makes blood vessels grow and one of HIF’s target genes) from their T cells. “Doing this, we found that the tumours grew and that the formation of new blood vessels changed,” explains Professor Johnson. “This is interesting because it was previously thought that tumours starve when you reduce VEGF-A. Our research shows that things are more complex than this. I hope that our discovery will lead to better tumour therapy that maximises the effect of the T cells.” The study was financed by the Wellcome Trust Research Fellowship, the Swedish Cancer Society, the Swedish Childhood Cancer Foundation, the Swedish Research Council, the US National Institutes of Health and the Marie Curie IEF fellowship. Text: Maja Lundbäck Publication “An HIF-1α/VEGF-A Axis in Cytotoxic T Cells Regulates Tumor Progression” Asis Palazon, Petros A. Tyrakis, David Macias, Pedro Velica, Helene Rundqvist, Susan Fitzpatrick, Nikola Vojnovic, Anthony T. Phan, Niklas Loman, Ingrid Hedenfalk, Thomas Hatschek, John Lövrot, Theodoros Foukakis, Amanda W. Goldrath, Jonas Bergh, Randall S. Johnson Cancer Cell, 13 November 2017, doi: 10.1016/j.ccell.2017.10.003

New doctors and jubilee doctors honoured in the Blue Hall

Mon, 13/11/2017 - 14:23
During a festive and solemn ceremony in the City Hall, Karolinska Institutet's new doctors and jubilee doctors were celebrated on 10 November. In his speech, the new vice-chancellor Ole Petter Ottersen, emphasized the importance of knowledge and critical thinking for the university and society as a whole.  

Older people with bowel disease receive older medicines

Mon, 13/11/2017 - 13:09
Inflammatory bowel disease is common amongst older people and there are big differences in the choice of treatment for different age groups. Patients over the age of 60 often receive cortisone drugs instead of more modern medicines that target the immune system. This according to a large registry study from Karolinska Institutet published in Gastroenterology. Inflammatory bowel disease includes Crohn’s disease, which can affect the whole intestine, and ulcerative colitis, which affects the colon and rectum. Symptoms include blood in the stool, diarrhoea and stomach pain. Treatment consists of anti-inflammatory drugs and surgery to remove the damaged part of the intestines. The most common age of onset is 20–30, and previous studies have claimed that it is uncommon for the disease to debut over the age of 60 and when it does, it is less severe. “We therefore sought to ascertain the incidence of inflammatory bowel disease in older age groups and if there is any difference in how they are treated and how they use the healthcare services,” says Åsa Hallqvist Everhov, researcher at Karolinska Institutet’s Department of Clinical Science and Education, Stockholm South General (Söder) Hospital (KI SÖS) and colorectal surgeon at the same hospital. More than one in five were over 60 The study included all new cases of inflammatory bowel disease in Sweden between 2006 and 2014. The resulting group of just under 28,000 patients was split into three sub-groups depending on year of onset: childhood (<18), adult (18-59) and old adult (≥60). Data were sourced from the National Board of Health and Welfare’s patients and prescribed drugs registers, subject to a maximum monitoring period of nine years. The researchers compared the patients’ healthcare consumption with that of a matched group selected from the general population. Just over one fifth of the participants were over 60. The study also shows that this group consumed more healthcare than the two younger groups and more than their matched peers without inflammatory bowel disease. They were also operated on more often and sooner after disease onset, often already within the first year. “It’s common, in other words, for the disease to onset after the age of 60 and we found no evidence that when it does, the disease progress is milder,” says Dr Hallqvist Everhov. Big difference in medication between age groups One important finding was the big difference in medication between the age groups. More younger patients received modern immunomodulating drugs and TNF inhibitors, whereas older cortisone drugs were more commonly given to the older patients. “We don’t know the reason for this, but it could be due either to under-prescription to older sufferers or to prudent choice, since the newer drugs carry certain risks and side-effects,” continues Dr. Hallqvist Everhov. “Older patients often already have other potent drugs.” The researchers plan to examine the causes of the treatment discrepancies in a new study. The study was conducted in association with Söder Hospital. Linköping University, Örebro University, the University of Nottingham, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and Sachs’ Children and Youth Hospital. The research was supported by the Swedish society of medicine, Mag­–tarmfonden, the Jane and Dan Olsson foundation, the Mjölkdroppen foundation, The Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research, The Swedish Research Council, The Swedish Cancer Society, The Bengt Ihre research fellowship in gastroenterology, The Bengt Ihre foundation, Karolinska Institutet foundations, the regional agreement on medical training and clinical research between Stockholm County Council and Karolinska Institutet (ALF). The study also received an unrestricted grant by Janssen Pharmaceutica NV. The authors declare no conflicts of interest. Publication “Incidence and treatment of patients diagnosed with inflammatory bowel diseases at 60 years or older in Sweden” Åsa Hallqvist Everhov, Jonas Halfvarson, Pär Myrelid, Michael C Sachs, Caroline Nordenvall, Jonas Söderling, Anders Ekbom, Martin Neovius, Jonas F Ludvigsson, Johan Askling, Ola Olén Gastroenterology, online 1 November 2017

Swedish Research Council awards SEK 37 million to KI researchers

Fri, 10/11/2017 - 14:10
The Swedish Research Council has finalised funding for the Natural Sciences and Technology as well as the Humanities and Social Sciences. A total of 13 researchers at Karolinska Institutet will share more than SEK 37 million. The Natural Sciences and Technology grants Kristian Dreij, Department of Environmental Medicine, will receive a total of SEK 3.2 million over four years for the research project Biologiska effekter av felaktig transkription [Biological effects of incorrect transcription]. Victoria Menendez-Benito, Department of Biosciences and Nutrition, will receive a total of SEK 3.2 million over four years for the research project Kartläggning av jästproteomets nedärvning i syfte att utforska mekanismerna bakom åldrande och föryngring [Mapping inheritance of the yeast proteome to study mechanisms underlying aging and rejuvenation]. Rolf Ohlsson, Department of Microbiology, Tumour and Cell Biology, will receive SEK 800,000 in 2018 for the development of methods for analyses of dynamic chromatin structures in single cells. Ute Römling, Department of Microbiology, Tumour and Cell Biology, will receive a total of SEK 3.25 million over four years for the research project Cykliskt di-GMP signalering i Salmonella typhimurium [Cyclic di-GMP signalling in Salmonella typhimurium]. Jesper Tegnér, Department of Medicine, will receive a total of SEK 4.15 million over four years for the research project On the Geometry of Cells – Manifold Learning, Dynamical Systems, and Single Cell Genomics. Roman Zubarev, Department of Medical Biochemistry and Biophysics, will receive a total of SEK 3.454 million over four years for the research project Jonisering, protonisering, radikalisering och icke-ergodisk fragmentering av proteinjoner i gasfas [Ionisation, protonisation, radicalisation and non-ergodic fragmentation of protein ions in gaseous phase]. The humanities and social sciences grants Lisa Berlin Thorell, Department of Clinical Neuroscience, will receive a total of SEK 2.205 million over three years for the research project Relationen mellan emotionsreglering och ADHD i ett longitudinellt perspektiv [Relationship between emotional regulation and ADHD from a longitudinal perspective]. Lars Bäckman, Department of Neurobiology, Care Sciences and Society, will receive a total of SEK 4.6 million over four years for the research project Kognition, hjärna och åldrande: Longitudinella analyser [Cognition, brain and aging: Longitudinal analyses]. Henrik Ehrsson, Department of Neuroscience, will receive SEK 1.05 million in 2018 for the research project Sambandet mellan kroppsupplevelse, visuell varseblivning och minne: experimentella studier och biopsykologiska processer [Relationship between body awareness, visual perception and memory: experimental studies and biopsychological processes]. Armita Golkar, Department of Clinical Neuroscience, will receive a total of SEK 2.046 million over three years for the research project Social reglering av stress och rädsla [Social regulation of stress and fear]. Erika Laukka, Department of Neurobiology, Care Sciences and Society, will receive a total of SEK 2.4 million over three years for the research project Longitudinella luktförändringar i åldrandet. Vad predicerar ett försämrat luktminne? [Longitudinal olfactory changes in aging. What predicts an impaired olfactory memory?] Johan Lundström, Department of Clinical Neuroscience, will receive a total of SEK 4 million over four years for the research project Har luktsinnet en kritisk period? [Does the sense of smell have a critical period?]

Emma Frans nominated for Swedish Grand Prize for Journalism

Fri, 10/11/2017 - 13:41
Emma Frans, researcher at the Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, at Karolinska Institutet, has been nominated for the Swedish Grand Prize for Journalism in the Voice of the Year category. The jury explained the nomination as follows: “For addressing the resistance to facts in such an entertaining manner and with scientific precision revealing the Internet's incessant myths.” Emma Frans is a postdoctoral researcher at KI studying psychiatry and pharmaceutical epidemiology. She recently published the book Larmrapporten – att skilja vetenskap från trams [Scare Stories – Separating Science from Nonsense] (Volante). The winners of each category will be revealed at the prize ceremony at Bonniers Konsthall in Stockholm on 23 November.  

Genes influence what we choose to look at

Fri, 10/11/2017 - 08:44
How we explore our world with our eyes can influence everything from social interaction to learning. In a study published in Current Biology researchers at Karolinska Institutet show that our eye movements are partly governed by our genes. What we look at in a situation determines the visual information we access as well as the information we miss. Differences in viewing behaviour can therefore have a significant impact on how we interact socially, how we act in traffic or what we learn from the situations in which we find ourselves.  To discover more about how such differences can arise, researchers at Karolinska Institutet, Indiana University and Uppsala University studied 223 twins between the ages of 10 and 14, half of whom were identical. The researchers showed the participants 80 images of varying content while studying their eye movements in the three seconds for which each image was shown.   “The images had either social or non-social content, as we wanted a representative selection of environments that people encounter in life,” says Terje Falck-Ytter, researcher at Karolinska Institutet’s Center of Neurodevelopmental Disorders (KIND). Identical twins had similar eye movements When the researchers analysed how the participants’ eyes moved over the images, they found that the viewing behaviour of the genetically identical twins was more similar than that of the fraternal twins, in terms of both what part of the picture was viewed and at what point in time.  “For instance, when one twin looked at a certain face for a certain length of time, if the other twin was identical there was a greater probability that he or she would do the same,” says Dr Falck-Ytter. The researchers conclude that genetic factors influence how people use their gaze to receive information. According to Dr Falck-Ytter, people move their eyes several times a second when awake, far too often for it to be due exclusively to conscious decision. “Our results suggest that our genes influence which part of the visual environment is instantaneously selected in every new situation,” adds Dr Falck-Ytter. “These processes are constantly at work and have major consequences for our actions.” Can provide new clues about autism The results can improve understanding of neuropsychiatric disorders like autism, one of the characteristics of which is aberrant viewing behaviour in everyday situations. However, as Dr Falck-Ytter says, they also add to basic knowledge of how our genes affect the way we take in the world around us and how we therefore shape our own living environment. “Children use their viewing behaviour to create their own visual environment, which in turn has a profound impact on their development and the reactions of the people around them,” explains Dr Falck-Ytter. The study was financed by Indiana University, the National Institutes of Health, Stiftelsen Riksbankens Jubileumsfond, the Swedish Research Council, EU, the Strategic Research Area Neuroscience at Karolinska Institutet (StratNeuro), Sällskapet Barnavård, and the Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare. Publication “Genetic Influence on Eye Movements to Complex Scenes at Short Timescales”. Daniel P. Kennedy, Brian M. D’Onofrio, Patrick D. Quinn, Sven Bölte, Paul Lichtenstein, and Terje Falck-Ytter Current Biology, online 9 November 2017 Illustrative examples: Similar gaze of identical twins         The videos show how two identical twins in the study looked at one of the pictures. Each moving dot represents the gaze of one of the twins. The examples show that there was a clear resemblance between the two children in the twin couple, both in terms of where they look and when they move their eyes. The looking patterns of fraternal twins were generally less similar than those of identical twins, but more similar than the gaze of unrelated individuals. This suggests that genetic factors play a role in how children use their eyes when they scan new visual environments. The videos are illustrative examples of cases where the similarity between identical twins was particularly clear, but still reflect the main outcome of the study. (MZ = Monozygotic twins)

Karolinska Institutet comments on the UKÄ decision on the Macchiarini case

Thu, 09/11/2017 - 17:12
Comment: The Swedish Higher Education Authority (UKÄ) has today levelled serious criticism at Karolinska Institutet in a supervisory decision delivered to the Board of Karolinska Institutet, regarding issues relating to Paolo Macchiarini’s activities at KI during the period 2013-2016. UKÄ has reviewed a number of issues that fall within the Authority’s remit. In its decision, UKÄ confirms that KI has failed to fully investigate Macchiarini’s secondary activities, failed to investigate a number of suspicions regarding misconduct in his research, been deficient in those investigations into research misconduct that have actually been instigated into Macchiarini, and extended one of his appointments in contravention of Karolinska Institutet’s appointments procedure. As a result of these failures, during 2018 UKÄ will monitor KI’s work on the action plan, review governance documents and cases in selected areas and conduct specific sampling. Overall, UKÄ presents criticisms raised in the external investigation commissioned by the Board of Karolinska Institutet in February 2016, following the massive criticism directed at KI in connection with SVT’s television documentary Experimenten (the Experiment). This external investigation, led by Sten Heckscher, presented its findings in September 2016. The recommendations contained in Heckscher’s report, as well as the internal audit conducted at CLINTEC, form the basis for the action plan presented by the then vice-chancellor in October 2016. Mikael Odenberg, chair of the Board of Karolinska Institutet, today commented on UKÄ’s decision: “Karolinska Institutet and the Swedish Higher Education Authority are in full accord with regard to KI’s management of a number of issues related to Paolo Macchiarini’s activities. It is apparent that control was lost in the pursuit of scientific excellence and that serious mistakes and errors were made at KI. Under the leadership of KI’s vice-chancellor, comprehensive efforts are now underway to implement the action plan based on the recommendations made by Sten Heckscher at the behest of the Board. This work is intended to quickly rectify the obvious flaws in, among other things, internal regulations and their application and working practices,” says Mikael Odenberg, who continues: “I welcome the fact that during 2018, UKÄ intends to monitor this work and the implementation of the action plan. We see this as welcome support for our continued efforts. However, the action plan is only a small part of the necessary measures. In the long term, it is a matter of changing our culture and attitudes, of raising ethical issues to a higher level in both education and research, and of ensuring good regulatory compliance and a greater ethical awareness throughout the organisation. The fact that the judiciary did not consider it possible to bring Macchiarini to account further underlines the responsibility that rests with academia to keep its own house in order.” Ole Petter Ottersen, vice-chancellor of Karolinska Institutet, also welcomes UKÄ’s decision: “This decision will be followed up and will complement all of the other work we are doing to ensure regulatory compliance and ethical awareness within the organisation. UKÄ’s scrutiny will also be linked to our new Strategy 2030, work on which is already underway. Now is the time to look to the future. KI must emerge stronger from this crisis,” says Ole Petter Ottersen.

Breast cancer recurrence risk lingers longer than expected

Thu, 09/11/2017 - 06:00
Even 20 years after a diagnosis, women with oestrogen receptor-positive breast cancer still face a substantial risk of cancer returning or spreading, according to a new analysis from an international team of investigators published in The New England Journal of Medicine. The results could influence decisions about long-term endocrine therapy. Standard treatment for oestrogen receptor-positive, or ER-positive, breast cancer includes five years of the endocrine-based treatments tamoxifen or aromatase inhibitors. Researchers from the Early Breast Cancer Trialists’ Collaborative Group, EBCTCG, including researchers from Karolinska Institutet, analysed data from 88 clinical trials involving almost 63,000 women with ER-positive breast cancer. The patients all received endocrine therapy for five years and were free of cancer when they stopped therapy. Over the next 15 years, a steady number of these women saw their cancer spread throughout the body, as late as 20 years after the initial diagnosis. The risk of recurrence was directly tied to the original tumour’s size and characteristics, and to the number of lymph nodes that were cancerous. Women with large tumours and four or more involved axillary nodes had a 40 per cent risk of a distant cancer recurrence by year 20. Women with small, low grade cancers and no spread to the nodes had a 10 per cent risk of distant spread during the same period. Long-term endocrine therapy could be more effective Recent studies have suggested that 10 years of endocrine therapy is even more effective than five years, sparking the question of whether every woman should continue on this therapy for 10 years. Life-threatening side effects are rare with these therapies, but they might impact patients’ quality of life by mimicking menopausal symptoms. Aromatase inhibitors can cause osteoporosis, joint pain or carpal tunnel syndrome. “Our results show that ER-positive breast cancer should result in a discussion between the physician and the patient where they together weigh the benefit against the risks of continuing the anti-oestrogen therapy beyond five years”, says Jonas Bergh, Professor at Karolinska Institutet’s Department of Oncology-Pathology, senior physician at Radiumhemmet and co-chairman of EBCTCG. To assess 20-year risks, the researchers had to study women who received their breast cancer diagnosis many years ago. Treatments have improved since then, so recurrence rates are expected to be somewhat lower for women who were diagnosed more recently. The research was financed by Cancer Research UK, the British Heart Foundation, the University of Oxford and the Medical Research Council, UK, among others. This news article is based on a press release from the University of Michigan. Publication “20-Year Risks of Breast-Cancer Recurrence after Stopping Endocrine Therapy at 5 Years” Hongchao Pan, Richard Gray, Jeremy Braybrooke, Christina Davies, Carolyn Taylor, Paul McGale, Richard Peto, Kathleen I. Pritchard, Jonas Bergh, Mitch Dowsett & Daniel F. Hayes. The New England Journal of Medicine, online 9 November 2017