Asian Correspondent » Karolinska Institutet Asian Correspondent Fri, 03 Jul 2015 10:16:16 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Unique summer initiative aims to attract overseas students Tue, 14 Feb 2012 17:01:36 +0000

[PRESS RELEASE 14 February 2012] A new Stockholm Summer School initiative will be arranged by Karolinska Institutet, KTH Royal Institute of Technology and Stockholm University. This unique collaboration between the three universities will offer students a range of courses and social activities, accommodation and a taste of life in Sweden. Set to begin in June, the courses will be arranged for international and Swedish students in association with the City of Stockholm. Teaching will be in English.

The Stockholm Summer School has been set up to offer courses in disciplines in which each university has a particularly strong international position and to promote Stockholm as an attractive place for advanced studies. Applications are open until 1 March for the courses, which deal with subjects ranging from the Swedish model and future energy technologies to global climate change, bioentrepreneurship and global health.

Ylva Olsson at Karolinska Institutet is coordinator of the summer school project.

“We’ll offer students not only courses in subjects in which we excel, but also a pleasant life experience,” says Ms Olsson. “We have a complete social programme covering the three or four course weeks and lectures at times that everyone can make. The idea is for students to be able to make friends from other courses.”

The courses are already being given by the universities, but their structure and schedule have been adapted to the requirements of the Stockholm Summer School. Alongside the courses will be lectures by two leading researchers from each university for all course participants.

Stockholm Summer School is being arranged at a time when Stockholm, nicknamed the Venice of the North, is at its most beautiful, with its many parks, waterfronts and lakes, and an archipelago of 20,000 islands just a short boat-ride away. The social programme includes a visit to Skansen to join in the midsummer celebrations, one of the absolute highlights of Swedens festive calendar.

The partnership between Karolinska Institutet, KTH Royal Institute of Technology and Stockholm University will make possible accommodation for all participants close to the campus. The remote courses will start on June 11, and the physical courses on June 18, when the rectors of the three universities will be at the Stockholm Summer School to welcome all participants.

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Ice hockey champ Mats Sundin donates over 2 million SEK to medical research Fri, 10 Feb 2012 17:01:29 +0000

[PRESS RELEASE 2012-02-10] Former national ice hockey captain and NHL professional Mats Sundin has made the initial contribution of 2.2 million SEK to establish an elite scientific exchange program between Karolinska Insitutet and the University of Toronto.

Mats Sundin och and Harriet Wallberg-Henriksson. President Karolinska Institutet.

Mats Sundin and KI President Harriet
Foto: Peter Kjeller

]]> 0 Donation opens new opportunities for more effective diabetes treatment Mon, 06 Feb 2012 17:01:23 +0000

[PRESS RELEASE 6 February 2012] Karolinska Institutet has received a grant of 1.6 million Euro from the Stichting af Jochnick Foundation for research into the fundamental causes of diabetes. The grant will make it possible to use unique methods to study how the release of insulin is regulated in living organisms – and this will create new opportunities for developing more effective drugs against diabetes.

Diabetes is an extremely common condition, and the number of people affected is increasing catastrophically all over the world. It has been calculated that in 2025, 300 million people will suffer from the disease, which not only causes major personal difficulties, but also places an enormous economic burden on the healthcare system. Professor Per-Olof Berggren at Karolinska Institutet has worked for many years mapping the signalling systems that regulate the release of insulin, and his research has led to several revolutionary discoveries.

“Diabetes is a global problem, and this means that it is vital that we understand the causes of the disease, in order to be able to offer more effective treatment. This is why we find it particularly important to support Professor Berggren’s innovative and creative research”, says Robert af Jochnick, who established the Jochnick Foundation together with his brother Jonas.

Diabetes arises when the body cannot regulate the sugar level in the bloodstream after eating. The level of sugar in the blood increases since there is insufficient insulin available, which is a hormone that normally reduces the blood sugar concentration and transports the sugar into cells. The support from the Jochnick Foundation will provide Professor Berggren and his group with the opportunity to use unique microscope technology to study, in detail and for long periods, how various signals control the release of insulin in living animals. This knowledge will not only be crucial to our understanding of the underlying causes of diabetes, but it will enable us to identify new targets for new, more specific and more effective drugs against diabetes.

“We are very grateful that the af Jochnick family has shown its confidence in us in this way. The generous grant will enable us to hold a long-term perspective in our research projects. This enables us to work with greater boldness, using more advanced technology in experiments in living organisms”, says Per-Olof Berggren.

The President of Karolinska Institutet, Professor Harriet Wallberg-Henriksson, welcomes the initiative:

“Karolinska Institutet has a long tradition of world-leading diabetes research, and it is for this reason particularly gratifying that we will now have the opportunity to take our successful research forwards. This very generous grant from the af Jochnick Foundation will give us this possibility.”

The Stichting af Jochnick Foundation is based in the Netherlands, and was established in 2004 by the af Jochnick family. The purpose of the Foundation is to contribute to the greater good by supporting projects that focus on children, youth, education and world health. To be closely involved in selected projects the Foundation has chosen to fund projects directly, rather than to donate to established charity organisations.

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[PRESS RELEASE 17 January 2012] The incidence of glioma – the most common form of brain tumour – is not increasing in the Nordic countries, contradicting the claim that mobile phone use is a cause of the disease. This according to a new study from Karolinska Institutet published in the scientific journal Epidemiology. The analyses presented by the researchers also show that the increased risks previously reported to be associated with mobile telephony in a few individual studies should have been observable in the general cancer statistics if mobile phone use had indeed been associated with a true risk increase.

Maria Feychting
Photo: Stefan Zimmerman

“People living in the Nordic countries were quick to adopt mobile phone technology and mobile phones have been used by a very large percentage of the population,” says Professor Maria Feychting of the Institute of Environmental Medicine at Karolinska Institutet. “All Nordic countries have cancer registries of a very high quality, which provide excellent opportunities for studying changes in the incidence of brain tumours.”

The present study shows that there has been no increase in glioma in the Nordic countries since the introduction of mobile phones, and that the risk increases reported in a few individual studies are inconsistent with the cancer statistics. The paper is an update of a previous study on the incidence of glioma in the Nordic countries. The analyses now cover the years up to 2008 and still show no sign of an increase in the disease in the age groups that have been using mobile phones.

The researchers also analyse how likely it is that a potential risk increase associated with mobile telephony would be detectable in the Nordic cancer statistics. Their results show that the increased risks reported in a few studies would definitely have been seen in the statistics if such risk increases were real. The increased risk reported among the approximately ten per cent heaviest mobile phone users (>1,640 hours total use) in the Interphone study would have been observed in the cancer statistics with a 98 per cent probability. Since no upward trend was found in the cancer statistics, it strongly challenges the validity of the increased risks reported in a few studies, the researchers conclude.

“However, these analyses do not give information about potential risk increases after 20 or 30 years or longer, which makes it necessary to continue to monitor brain tumor incidence trends in cancer registries” says Professor Feychting. “The WHO, EU and other bodies have recommended that this type of trend analysis of national cancer data be conducted and compared with changes in mobile phone use; other types of study designs have been shown to have major methodological problems and need to be complemented with such trend analyses”

]]> 0 Back at KI and greeted with a week of statistics Sun, 15 Jan 2012 19:45:58 +0000

Happy (belated) New Year everyone! :)

I hope you all had a wonderful and rejuvenating holiday. I had a lovely Christmas on the west coast of Sweden with my boyfriend and his family. And what made this Christmas extra nice were the gifts. Yes, perhaps that was a slightly materialistic and not-the-point-of-Christmas statement–but… as a Harry Potter obsessed fan, I was over the moon with joywhen I unwrapped one of my gifts and found THIS:

From my boyfriend, who knows me only too well.

Anyway, I came back to Stockholm last Sunday from Berlin and jumped straight into a week of statistics. Berlin was beautiful, but Stockholm is even more so and I’m glad to be back. This year Stockholm is experiencing a warm winter (1 deg C instead of -10 deg C). It was a not-so-pleasant surprise when we realized that Berlin’s weather was frostier than Sthlm. So during our first day in Germany, we walked around with frozen fingers and toes and took shelter in various cafes to defrost. And for some reason, my we could not understand the subway/tram system in Berlin. I think the weather froze our cognitive functioning as well as our fingers because every time we got on a train, we had to backtrack because we took the wrong line. We felt deeply and utterly incompetent. So, it was nice to be back in the “warm” city of Sthlm (and the familiar and understandable SL system).

I am so grateful for the week of statistics. We are by no means biostatisticians, but at least we now have a better grasp on how to build a model and what the outputs mean. It was an intense week because everything and I mean Everything was important this week during lectures. Usually, there’s a little bit of repetition of topics and this allows students to relax from paying full attention from time to time during lecture (and this happens to even the best of students). But that was not the case this week. So by the end of the day, our class trailed out of the classroom mentally exhausted but intellectually content. Now it is time to officially start working on our thesis projects full time. My plan is to do some descriptive analysis first to understand the variables I will be looking at, recode some data, and then start to construct a statistical model. If you’ve been following my blog, you probably know by now that epidemiology is certainly focused on understanding the etiology of diseases and health outcomes (so it helps if you have a biological/medical/public health background). But statistics plays a huge role as well because the determination of the cause of disease is built upon statistical analyses.

Now, I will attempt to take down the Christmas lights from my balcony because apparently Friday was the last day to do so. But I think I’ll leave my adventsljusstakar out until the days get a little brighter.


]]> 0 Processed meat may increase pancreatic cancer risk Fri, 13 Jan 2012 17:01:27 +0000

[NEWS 13 January 2012] According to new research published in the British Journal of Cancer, eating too much processed meat may increase the risk of pancreatic cancer.

Susanna Larsson

Susanna Larsson. Foto: Ulf Sirborn

The study, funded by the Swedish Cancer Foundation and Karolinska Institutet, found that for each 50 grams of processed meat eaten every day – equivalent to a sausage or two rashers of bacon – there was a 19 per cent rise in the risk of pancreatic cancer compared to those who ate no meat.

The evidence for red meat was inconclusive with an increase in risk for men but not for women. The results showed that there was a 29 per cent increase in pancreatic cancer risk for men who ate 120 grams per day of red meat compared to those who ate no meat. This may be because men in the study tended to eat more red meat than women.

The researchers analysed the results of 11 studies involving over 6,000 people with pancreatic cancer.

Associate Professor Susanna Larsson, study author based at Karolinska Institutet said: “Pancreatic cancer has poor survival rates. So as well as diagnosing it early, it

]]> 0 Expectant mothers on SSRIs risk newborns with high blood pressure in the lungs Fri, 13 Jan 2012 17:01:21 +0000

[PRESS RELEASE 13 January 2012] Mothers who take SSRI anti-depressants during pregnancy are more likely to give birth to children with high blood pressure in the lungs, so called persistent pulmonary hypertension. This according to a study lead by researchers at Karolinska Institutet, and now published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).

Helle Kieler
Photo: privat

The study’s authors acknowledge that the figures are small and that the risks of persistent pulmonary hypertension was as low as three infants per 1000 exposed with similar risks between the assessed drugs, but if an anti-depressant was taken in late pregnancy the risk seems to be more than doubled in comparison with non-exposed cases. In conclusion, caution was advised when treating pregnant women with SSRIs.

Persistent pulmonary hypertension is a condition with high blood pressure in the lungs leading to difficulties in breathing. It is a rare, but severe disease with strong links to heart failure.

The study, carried out by researchers from the five Nordic countries at the Centre for Pharmacoepidemiology at Karolinska Institutet, looked at 1.6 million births in total between 1996 and 2007 in babies born after 231 days (33 weeks) in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden. A total of 1,618,255 singleton births were included in the study. Approximately 11,000 of the mothers filled out a prescription for anti-depressants in late pregnancy and approximately 17,000 in early pregnancy. A further 54,184 mothers were identified as having previously undergone psychiatric diagnosis but were not currently taking any medication. The uses of several drugs were analysed which included fluoxetine, citalopram, paroxetine, sertraline, fluvoxamine and escitalopram.

The study’s results found that out of 11,014 mothers who used anti-depressants in late pregnancy just 33 babies (0.2%) were born with persistent pulmonary hypertension and out of 17,053 mothers who used anti-depressant drugs in early pregnancy, just 32 babies (less than 0.2%) were diagnosed with persistent pulmonary hypertension. A total of 114 babies whose mothers had previously been diagnosed with a mental illness were found to be suffering from the disease.

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Lower risk of breast cancer occurrence but higher mortality amongst low-educated and immigrant women Tue, 10 Jan 2012 17:01:22 +0000

[PRESS RELEASE 10 January 2012] Low-educated and immigrant women run a lower risk of breast cancer occurrence than highly educated women and women born in Sweden. However, the risk of dying from breast cancer is higher for those low-educated and immigrant women that do get the diagnose – a development that has occurred in Sweden during the last ten years. This according to a new study from the Karolinska Institutet based on the records of some 5 million women between 1961 and 2007.

Tahereh Moradi

“Before the year 2000 all women in Sweden were running the same risk of dying from breast cancer”, says study leader Associate Professor Tahereh Moradi at the Institute of Environmental Medicine, Karolinska Institutet. “But then something happened. Low-educated and immigrant women who got their diagnose between 2000 and 2007 have for some reason a higher mortality.”

Breast cancer incidence continues to increase and fatality continues to fall in Sweden among native Swedes and immigrants. The researchers believe that the better survival rate is most likely attributable to improved therapies and earlier diagnosis via screening programmes. However, the risk of developing and dying of breast cancer varies with level of education, age, country of birth and, if an immigrant, age of arrival and length of residency.

The results, published in the scientific journal Breast Cancer Research, show that women with the longest education, as an indicator for higher socio-economic position, have 20 to 30 per cent higher incidence of breast cancer but better breast cancer survival compared with women with lowest educational level irrespective of country of birth. The results also show that immigrant women run a lower risk of developing breast cancer than women born in Sweden. The differences in risk between immigrants and Sweden-born women were greater at older age at diagnosis and in more recent years. Women born in China, South Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, Turkey and Chile had the lowest risk, and almost half that of native Swedes.

The researchers say that this is most likely an outcome of differences in lifestyle factors. Moreover, the risk of developing breast cancer seems to decrease in inverse proportion to the age of arrival in Sweden, and the immigrant women who have lived in Sweden for less that 30 years run a 10 per cent lower risk than those who have lived in the country for longer than 30 years.

The notion that a change in lifestyle factors affects the risk of developing breast cancer is also corroborated by the finding that Swedish-born daughters of immigrant women run the same risk as native Swedes. Such factors include number of pregnancies, age at first completed pregnancy, age at menopause, obesity, and the use of screening and the healthcare services.

The study also shows that immigrant women who are diagnosed after the age of 50 and immigrant women whose cancer was diagnosed in more recent years run a higher risk of dying from the disease than their native-born peers. This disparity might be due to lack of absorbance in screening program among older and recently arrived immigrants.

“Our results indicate the importance of designing and implementing active interventions in order to reduce incidence and particularly case fatality in susceptible sub-groups of the female population”, says Dr Moradi. “The lower risk of breast cancer amongst immigrant women also shows how important it is to find out more about how the lifestyle factors in immigrant women with a low breast cancer risk differ from those for Swedish-born women, so that preventative measures may be implemented.”

The study was carried out using the Migration and Health database, which has been built through linkages between national registers and designed to enable the study of diseases amongst socially disadvantaged groups, immigrants and their offspring in Sweden.

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Impaired quality of life: a warning signal after oesophageal cancer surgery Wed, 04 Jan 2012 17:01:22 +0000

[PRESS RELEASE 2012-01-04] A new study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology shows that most patients who survive for at least five years after oesophageal cancer surgery recover an average quality of life. However, quality of life deteriorates significantly for one in six patients to a level that remains much lower than the average population in the five years after surgery. This suggests, say the researchers, that hospitals must be better at identifying this patient group.

Globally, oesophageal cancer is the eighth most common form of cancer. The prognosis is a poor one, and only 10 per cent of patients survive five years after diagnosis. The disease is often discovered in a late stage after symptoms such as swallowing difficulties and weight loss appear. The only established curative treatment includes extensive surgery, often of the abdomen, chest and throat. Some 30 per cent of patients survive the operation at least five years. The purpose of the current study was to establish if the quality of life among five-year survivors of surgery for oesophageal cancer is on a par with that of the average population.

The study included 117 patients who had undergone surgery for oesophageal cancer in Sweden between 2001 and 2005, and survived at least five years. The patients were asked to answer a quality of life questionnaire that measured a range of functions (e.g. physical, social and emotional) and symptoms (e.g. pain, fatigue and eating difficulties). To obtain an idea of what their quality of life was like before the operation, the researchers had a group of 4,910 randomly selected individuals answer the same questions. The replies were then re-calculated as points on a 0-100 scale, where high scores for functions and low ones for symptoms were good. The analyses were adjusted for age, sex and medical state of health.

What they found was that most patients had an unchanged or even improved quality of life, and one that was comparable with that of the normal population. However, one in six patients experienced a considerable deterioration in quality of life, which was persistently much lower than that of the normal population at five years post-surgery. Physical function, for example, had remained unchanged or improved in 86 per cent of the patients, whose score on this factor was 87 five years after surgery, compared to 88 for the normal population; the corresponding score for the 14 per cent of patients who had deteriorated over the five years was 56.

The patients who show early signs of impaired quality of life should be identified and helped through a more intensive follow-up to avoid a persistently low quality of life, says principal investigator Pernilla Lagergren, professor of surgical care sciences at the Department of Molecular Medicine and Surgery at Karolinska Institutet. Depending on the problems identified by the patients, targeted intervention is often possible. For example, a patient with particular nutritional problems can be referred to a dietician with specialist knowledge of this patient group.

Pernilla Lagergren and Maryam Derogar.

Health-related quality of life among 5-year survivors of esophageal cancer surgery – a prospective population-based study.

Journal of Clinical Oncology. Published online before print January 3, 2012, doi: 10.1200/JCO.2011.38.9791

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Year 2011 wrap up and happy new year! Mon, 02 Jan 2012 11:30:54 +0000

Gott nytt år (happy new year) ! So year 2011 is officially over! It was one other hectic year for me; I could conclude my year with three things: study, job hunting and dance.

Study had of course occupied a lot of my time last year, but it was also very much rewarding since I have really learnt a lot of practical business knowledge, be it classroom education or some other interesting projects we worked on, not to mention the two practical placements that I participated! That was one of the main attractions for me to join the program from the beginning, and it had not let me down. It was really good to get some hands-on experience by interning in the companies.

Job hunting, on the other hand, has been harsh. Just like a lot of other international students, I realized that the key to it is all Swedish, Swedish and Swedish. There is almost no way to get around with it unless you are really really lucky. I would say that I have had some setback when it comes to finding technical jobs here but it’s also been a good opportunity to reflect on myself, and they say “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” right? I am just being patient while at the same equipping myself with better Swedish. So hopefully I can seize some opportunity with half a year more staying in Sweden.

Dancing, I would say, is one thing that kept me going during the past year. I would know what I would have been without it. I explored an entirely different dancing scene compared to Hong Kong and it simply got some sooo indulged in it. It helped me, for quite a few times, go through all the disappointments I encountered throughout the year. I am definitely going to keep doing it in 2012!

So it was my first time to spend the new year in Stockholm (last year I went to Paris). There was some change of plans for me since originally I decided to go to a party with my girlfriend at a friend’s place, but the transportation was soo crazy and eventually we were out in Slussen to watch fireworks for the countdown instead. It was the most people I have seen during a public occasion in Stockholm cause the streets were basically fully occupied with people! (Well… this bit reminded me so much of Hong Kong!). The fireworks were real nice and we also saw a lot of lanterns in the sky which was amazing! One thing though, here in Stockholm everyone can buy or play fireworks (it is banned in Hong Kong). On our way we saw some accidents happening where the fireworks just exploded in the middle of the crowd and it just got so dangerous to stand there in the crowd, so my girlfriend and I were excited but worried about “the fireworks” at the same time!

A concert going on before the countdown!

Fireworks all around the harbour! Sorry about the blurry photos =(


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Surgery affects concentration and memory Fri, 30 Dec 2011 17:01:24 +0000

[NEWS 30 December 2011] Patients undergoing surgery and anesthesia can develop a decline in memory and learning a long time afterwards. This has been called postoperative cognitive decline and is a significant problem for patients having surgery. Researchers at Karolinska Institutet and Karolinska University Hospital, in collaboration with groups from the U.S, have now mapped the signal pathways from the peripheral surgical lesion and into the parts of the brain involved in memory and learning, and have gained a better understanding of how to prevent postoperative cognitive decline

Lars I Eriksson
Photo: Bildmakarna

Postoperative cognitive decline is particularly common in the first week after surgery, but in ten per cent of adult patients it can persist even longer, that is for up to three months. Although the reason for this impairment of memory and learning capacity remains unclear, it is known that patient-related factors such as age, morbidity and pre-existent cognitive impairments are a significant risk factor.

“In recent years, animal studies have shown that surgery itself can cause distinct changes in the parts of the brain involved in cognitive functions, as the inflammatory response to surgery leads to neuroinflammation-related disruption to cognitive abilities,” says Lars I Eriksson, professor of anaesthesiology and intensive care at Karolinska Institutet’s Department of Physiology and Pharmacology and doctor at Karolinska University Hospital.

The study, which is now published in the scientific journal Annals of Neurology was initiated by Lars I Eriksson and Niccolo Terrando, and conducted in association with researchers at the University of California, San Francisco in the USA. By studying the neuroinflammatory changes and seeing how they are affected by the introduction of substances that stimulate acetylcholine-dependent inflammatory reflex paths in the peripheral and central nervous system, the researchers have found that one of the side-effects of surgery is damage to the blood-brain barrier.

“We show how the peripheral surgical intervention increases inflammatory proteins, which in turn damage the blood-brain barrier, thus enabling activated immunocompetent blood cells, or macrophages, to pass into the parts of the brain involved in cognitive processes,” says Professor Eriksson.

Professor Eriksson also cites studies on genetically modified animals that lack the ability to activate peripheral macrophages, in which no damage to the blood-brain barrier or infiltration of macrophages into the brain has been observed – something that also demonstrates the importance of these cells for the signal pathways to the brain.

“If you give an acetylcholine-like substance with an affinity for an alpha-7 protein, part of the natural anti-inflammatory reflex pathway, prior to surgery, you significantly decrease the levels of inflammatory proteins and the consequent damage to the blood-brain barrier, and thus prevent the infiltration of macrophages into the brain,” he says.

The present study also shows that treatment with this selective stimulation of an endogenous inflammatory pathway leads to an almost total normalisation of cognitive capacity during the postoperative period. It thus indicates that the use of new molecular anti-inflammatory mechanisms can prevent postoperative neuroinflammation and the attendant decline in cognitive abilities.

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Link between brain injury and violent crime Wed, 28 Dec 2011 17:01:23 +0000

[NEWS 28 December 2011] Epilepsy does not cause criminal tendencies, as has previously been claimed. Brain injury after a severe blow to the head, however, does double the risk of violent crime later in life, according to a new study from Karolinska Institutet and Oxford University.

Martin Grann
Photo: Kriminalv

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No higher risk of acute leukaemia in close relatives Thu, 15 Dec 2011 17:01:43 +0000

[PRESS RELEASE 15 December 2011] Parents, siblings and children of patients with the most common form of acute leukemia do not run a higher risk of developing the disease as was once believed, according to a new study from the Swedish medical university Karolinska Institutet.

Every year, some 400 people in Sweden are diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML), the most common form of acute leukemia. Just like for other forms of the disease, the causes of AML are largely unknown and are probably a combination of hereditary and environmental factors. According to earlier studies, first-degree relatives (parents, siblings and children) of patients with AML run three times the normal risk of developing the disease.

However, a joint study conducted by researchers at Karolinska Institutet and the USA’s National Institutes of Health (NIH) has now shown that this is not the case.

The teams studied over 20,000 first-degree relatives of AML patients and compared the results with over 90,000 relatives of a control group and found no higher risk for AML or other blood tumour diseases with the exception of polycythemia vera, a disorder leading to the over-production of red blood cells.

“Our results show that close relatives of AML patients can feel reassured that they run no higher risk than normal of developing AML,” says Magnus Bj

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Few allergies in unstressed babies Mon, 12 Dec 2011 17:01:51 +0000

[NEWS 12 December 2011] A new study from Karolinska Institutet shows that infants with low concentrations of the stress-related hormone cortisol in their saliva develop fewer allergies than other infants. Hopefully this new knowledge will be useful in future allergy prevention. The study is published in the December paper issue of Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The incidence of allergies in children has increased over the past few decades, especially in the West. In Sweden, 30 to 40 percent of children have some kind of allergy. A combination of environmental and lifestyle factors during pregnancy and early infancy are thought to be responsible for the sharp rise in allergic diseases.

“Psychosocial factors and the stress hormone cortisol are associated with allergic diseases,” says Dr Fredrik Stenius of the Department of Clinical Research and Education at Stockholm South General Hospital. “Our study found that children with low salivary cortisol levels as infants have a lower prevalence of allergies during the first two years of life, compared to other children.”

The team has previously described a link between a lower prevalence of allergies in school children and an anthroposophic lifestyle.

“And now we’ve found the same link in infants from families that follow anthroposophic lifestyles, and that they have relatively low levels of cortisol,” adds Dr Stenius, who earned his PhD earlier in the year with a thesis on the subject.

The researchers believe that factors related to stress regulation also influence the development of infant allergies and will now monitor the infants from the neonate period and into childhood.

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Blood protein EPO involved in origin and spread of cancer Mon, 05 Dec 2011 17:01:47 +0000

[PRESS RELEASE 5 December 2011] Researchers at Karolinska Institutet have demonstrated that a growth hormone, PDGF-BB, and the blood protein EPO are involved in the development of cancer tumours and that they combine to help the tumours proliferate in the body. These new preclinical findings offer new potential for inhibiting tumour growth and bypassing problems of resistance that exist with many drugs in current use. The results are published in the scientific journal Nature Medicine.

Yihai Cao
Photo: John Sennet

Angiogenesis is the formation of new blood vessels from pre-existing ones, and is one of the most important research fields in the treatment of such diverse conditions as cancer, metastases, obesity, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and chronic inflammation. The process is also important in healthy individuals for wound healing, the menstrual cycle and other normal processes. Professor Yihai Cao and his team are researching into angiogenesis and its links to cancer and other diseases, and in the present study show the significant role played by a growth factor, PDGF-BB.

“It’s a member of the PDGF family and significantly contributes to blood vessel development, which is one of the characteristic signs of cancer, says Professor Yihai Cao. Our preclinical findings suggest that PDGF-BB causes systemic effects in the body, which is to say that rather than being active locally it goes into the blood and interferes with the function of several organs so that the entire body is affected.”

Their studies are carried out on mice, and in the present study they were able to show that when the growth factor PDGF-BB binds to its receptors, it stimulates the blood protein EPO (Erythropoietin), which, in turn, controls the production of red blood cells, that provide more oxygen for tumor growth and metastasis.

“EPO has several functions,” says Professor Yihai Cao. “It produces more blood and stimulates angiogenesis, and we have revealed the underlying mechanism. It also stimulates tumour angiogenesis by directly stimulating the proliferation, migration and growth of endothelial cells and their ability to form the so-called epithelial tube. PDGF-BB promotes the stimulation of extramedullary haematopoiesis, enlargement of the liver and spleen, which increases oxygen perfusion and protection against anaemia.”

The introduction of PDGF-BB in mice thus boosts erythropoietin production and the haematopoietic parameters. In addition, EPO may directly act on tumor cells to promote their growth and metastasis.

“We believe that the increase in EPO might be responsible for tumoural resistance to anti-angiogenetic drugs, which only target PDGF ligands. The combination of drugs targeted at both PDGF and EPO has potential superior therapeutic benefits and might circumvent today

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Antioxidant-rich diet may reduce stroke risk in women Fri, 02 Dec 2011 17:01:50 +0000

[PRESS RELEASE 2 December 2011] Women who ate an antioxidant-rich diet containing fruits, vegetables and grains had fewer strokes regardless of whether they had a previous history of cardiovascular disease, according to a new study by researchers at Karolinska Institutet. The findings are reported in Stroke, scientific journal of the American Heart Association.

Susanne Rautiainen
Photo: IMM

“Eating antioxidant-rich foods may reduce your risk of stroke by inhibiting oxidative stress and inflammation,” says Susanne Rautiainen, a doctoral student at the Institute of Environmental Medicine, Karolinska Institutet, and first author of the current study. “This means people should eat more foods such as fruits and vegetables that contribute to total antioxidant capacity.”

Oxidative stress is an imbalance between the production of cell-damaging free radicals and the body’s ability to neutralize them. It leads to inflammation, blood vessel damage and stiffening. Antioxidants such as vitamins C and E, carotenoids and flavonoids can inhibit oxidative stress and inflammation by scavenging the free radicals. Antioxidants, especially flavonoids, may also help improve endothelial function and reduce blood clotting, blood pressure and inflammation.

For the study, the researchers used the Swedish Mammography Cohort to identify 31,035 heart disease-free women and 5,680 women with a history of heart disease in two counties. The women were 49-83 years old. Researchers also identified 1,322 strokes among cardiovascular disease-free women and 1,007 strokes among women with a history of cardiovascular disease from the Swedish Hospital Discharge Registry.

Dietary data where then collected through a food-frequency questionnaire. The researchers used a standard database to determine participants’ total antioxidant capacity (TAC), which measures the free radical reducing capacity of all antioxidants in the diet and considers synergistic effects between substances. The researchers then categorized the women according to their TAC levels – five groups without cardiovascular disease and four with previous cardiovascular disease.

For women in the highest quintile, fruits and vegetables contributed about 50 percent of TAC. Other contributors were whole grains (18 percent), tea (16 percent) and chocolate (5 percent).

The study found that women without cardiovascular disease in the highest quintile of dietary TAC had a statistically significant 17 percent lower risk of total stroke compared to those in the lowest quintile. Further, that women with history of cardiovascular disease in the highest three quartiles of dietary TAC had a statistically significant 46 percent to 57 percent lower risk of hemorrhagic stroke compared with those in the lowest quintile.

“Women with a high antioxidant intake may be more health conscious and have the sort of healthy behaviors that may have influenced our results,” says Susanne Rautiainen. “However, the observed inverse association between dietary TAC and stroke persisted after adjustments for potential confounders related to healthy behavior such as smoking, physical activity and education.”

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Risks of cardiovascular diseases increase with severity of prematurity Tue, 29 Nov 2011 17:01:36 +0000

Mothers who deliver low-birth weight infants are at increased risks of cardiovascular diseases (CVD) later in life. This according to a new study at Karolinska Institutet, published online in the science magazine Circulation.

Previous studies show that low birth weight is associated with an increased risk of later maternal cardiovascular disease (CVD). Earlier studies also indicate that preterm delivery (ie, before 37 weeks) may be associated with an increased maternal CVD risk.

Researchers at Karolinska Institutet examined the association between severity of preterm birth, fetal growth restriction, and later maternal incident hospitalization or death from coronary heart disease, heart failure, and cerebrovascular events taking measured potential confounders into account. The study included 923 686 Swedish women giving their first singleton birth between 1983 and 2005.

After accounting for maternal age, birth year, income, education, smoking, hypertension, and diabetes mellitus, researchers found that the risk for CVD was more than doubled in women delivering very or extremely preterm (before 32 and 28 weeks, respectively) compared with women delivering a term, non-small-for-gestational-age infant. In women delivering a small-for-gestational-age infant, the CVD risk was doubled if the infant was born at 32 to 36 weeks and tripled if the infant was born before 32 weeks of gestation compared with women delivering a nonsmall infant at term.

In analyses restricted to women for whom prepregnancy body mass index data were available (N=670 934), additional adjustment for body mass index did not attenuate the CVD risk. Findings suggest that a preterm or small-for-gestational-age birth is an early indicator of later maternal CVD risk. If primary cardiovascular prevention measures are undertaken in women with a history of a preterm or small-for-gestational age birth, it might lower their CVD risk and improve the outcome of the next pregnancy.

Anna-Karin Edstedt Bonamy, Nisha I. Parikh, Sven Cnattingius, Jonas F. Ludvigsson and Erik Ingelsson.

Birth Characteristics and Subsequent Risks of Maternal Cardiovascular Disease: Effects of Gestational Age and Fetal Growth.

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Karolinska Institutet and Mayo Clinic strengthen their cooperation Mon, 28 Nov 2011 17:01:54 +0000

[PRESS RELEASE 28 November 2011] The scope of Karolinska Institutet’s cooperation with one of the world’s leading health organisations, Mayo Clinic, is now being extended through a formal contract. A delegation from Mayo Clinic is coming to Stockholm, and the cooperation is being marked by a major international conference.

Journalists are welcome to attend the Mayo-KI Meeting conference, where the cooperation contract will be signed and world-leading research in regenerative medicine, diabetes and metabolism will be presented. It will also be possible to interview Dr Robert Rizza, who is Executive Dean for Research at Mayo Clinic, and Dr. Terrence Cascino, Mayo’s Executive Dean for Education.

Dr Robert Rizza

The conference will run from Thursday 1 December to Saturday 3 December. For precise times and venue, please see the attached programme.

Harriet Wallberg-Henriksson

Mayo Clinic is an American organization in the fields of medicine and health, a model for its clinical research and organization of healthcare. More than a million patients receive care through Mayo Clinic every year, and the organization contains a five-school medical college, hospitals, tertiary, secondary and primary care facilities and laboratories across the United States.

“Mayo Clinic has succeeded in combining world-leading research with world-leading care, and we have much to learn from them organizationally and administratively, how to adapt our activities to first-class healthcare while conducting point-of-care research. They can learn from us too. We have a long tradition of clinical research here, and it is more common for doctors to carry out research and have research training here than it is the United States,” says Harriet Wallberg-Henriksson, President of Karolinska Institutet.

Karolinska Institutet is one of the world’s most renowned medical universities, recently ranked fifth in Europe for its high quality. The cooperation with Mayo Clinic forms part of a new strategy to increase exchange with other countries in order to give Karolinska Institutet a further boost in international competition. The objective is to cooperate with a small number of strong partners.

“The cooperation with Mayo Clinic will be broader than usual. As well as exchanges of undergraduates and doctoral students, there will be cooperation between administrative staff and innovation platforms. It is likely that this cooperation will grow deeper with time,” says Harriet Wallberg-Henriksson.

“We look forward to working with our colleagues at the Karolinska Institutet to advance the science of health care for everyone,” says Robert Rizza, M.D., Kinney Executive Dean for Research. Far beyond a simple academic agreement, this is an historic framework by which we will transform medicine, and for us at Mayo Clinic, extend our humanitarian mission to the world.”

“Karolinska Institutet and Mayo Clinic will be working together to share and develop innovations in education and train the next generation of health care providers and scientists, worldwide,” says Terrence Cascino, M.D., Juanita Kious Waugh Executive Dean for Education. “This agreement is an exciting and significant milestone.”

It is natural for the two organizations to come closer together. It was around 15 years ago that the first contacts were made between Karolinska Institutet and Mayo Clinic in the areas of diabetes and nutrition. The scope of this is now being extended, and an exchange in the area of regenerative medicine, where both Karolinska Institutet and Mayo Clinic have prominent researchers and educators, is being added. One of these clinician/scientists is Professor Andre Terzic of Mayo Clinic, who has done much to increase understanding of the molecular mechanisms of the heart and will be coming to the conference to speak on regenerative solutions for heart failure.

Robert Rizza and Terrence Cascino will be attending the conference, as will Harriet Wallberg-Henriksson. One of the initiators of the original cooperation, Professor Sree Nair of Mayo Clinic, will also be present. His research focus is on the effects of aging on muscles.

Please visit the Mayo Clinic's website

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An unexpected player in a cancer defense system Mon, 28 Nov 2011 17:01:50 +0000

[PRESS RELEASE 28 November 2011] Researchers of Karolinska Institutet and the University of Cologne, Germany, have identified a new protein involved in a defense mechanism against cancer. The VCP/p97 complex is best known for its role in protein destruction and is involved in a type of familial dementia and ALS. In a novel study the researchers now describe how this complex also plays an important role in regulating the recruitment of the tumor suppressor protein 53BP1 to damaged DNA – suggesting an important role for VCP/p97 in our body’s defense against cancer.

Nico Dantuma
Photo: Ulf Sirborn

Damage of DNA is potentially very dangerous and linked to the development of cancer. Since DNA damage is unavoidable, our cells are equipped with a sophisticated defense system that activates repair mechanisms. This process is initiated by binding of sensor proteins to the damaged DNA that in turn bind and activate other proteins responsible for repairing the damage. During the last decade, it has become clear how many of those proteins are recruited to the damaged DNA, but the mechanism by which the tumor suppressor 53BP1 finds its way has been puzzling.

The surprising finding of this study, presented in the scientific journal Nature Structural & Molecular Biology, is not only the identity of the new player but also how it is doing the job. By following proteins in cells with DNA damage, the researchers found that the VCP/p97 complex is among the proteins that are being recruited to DNA damage. This was unanticipated since VCP/p97 is known to be primarily involved in the destruction of defective proteins. VCP/p97 is doing this by unwinding them so that the waste proteins can be chopped in pieces by dedicated enzymes. This important function also explains its involvement in a type of familial dementia and ALS since this kind of waste proteins typically pile up in these diseases.

It turns out that VCP/p97 is doing something similar at damaged DNA although with a very different outcome. The work shows that VCP/p97 facilitates the binding of 53BP1 by removing a protein that occupies the places where 53BP1 can bind. So instead of unwinding a protein to prepare it for destruction, VCP/p97 pulls a protein out of the way for 53BP1. The researchers also show that worms that have less of this complex are very sensitive to DNA damage supporting an important and evolutionary conserved role of VCP/p97 in DNA damage control. This new mechanism of recruiting a protein by removing another one that gets in the way sheds new light onto how the tumor suppressor 53BP1 finds damaged DNA. An important question that remains is if VCP/p97 plays similar roles in other processes.

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Amateur Photography in winter Sun, 27 Nov 2011 20:31:15 +0000

Photography is an art of vision. A good photographer can take an excellent image even with a crappy camera. This is because of visualizing the reality through lens of a camera. I love nature photography. It is always good to see how nature decorates itself by the law of nature. Obviously, light is very crucial and play the key role in all kinds of photography. I keep my camera always with me except when the sky is dark and gloomy.

Picture location: Karolinska Institute, Solna Campus and taken by me.

Now the question is why we do photography? We would like to capture the rare moments of our life and want to have that with us in future. We also want to share our moments with our friends and family. I simply do because I love nature and try to visualize the nature as much as possible. In this blog, I attached some rare winter picture in Stockholm most of them are near our University campus (Karolinska Institute,Solna). I do not want to describe all these picure even a single word since a picure is more than thousands word.  The more I see the picture the more I amazed. How beautiful the nature is! Winter is very unusual to me in this year.

Picture location: Karolinska Institute, Solna Campus and taken by me.

Few days ago, I just opened my photography folder and suddenly I found some very beautiful rare snow picture. The sky is very gloomy since couple of weeks. I don’t think to carry my camera will be meaningful anymore. Today is 27th November and still I did not see snow in Stockholm. Wow! It is something beyond my expectation.

Picture location: Karolinska Institute, Huddinge Campus and taken by me.

Still, I can remember my first year in Stockholm, observed winter with a great interest and excitation. Definitely, people have always more excitation and fascination about new things. Falling snow from the sky, I only watched in the Hollywood movie before coming to Sweden. Now, I am part of it. I tried even ski at flottsbro in last year. It was quite exciting and adventurous for me. First time huh!

Picture location: Karolinska Institute, Huddinge Campus and taken by me.

If anyone tried for the first time especially from top hill, you definitely understand what it means to be. Full one week I got pain in every jinn joints of my body. I am definitely sure that new comers student in Sweden are long waiting to see the snow but I am now just waiting for snow and light for taking some good photos this year as well.



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Swedish Visa experiences !! Sun, 27 Nov 2011 19:30:50 +0000

My Exchange program at University of Heidelberg had put the Migration board in big confusion where they refused to grant me an extension to my Swedish visa. Like every one I had to wait for my Swedish visa for several months. I applied for the visa extension in June and have been waiting for visa in September. Some time in mid September I got a letter from the Migration board asking for an explanation for bulk transactions I made in my Swedish bank account which I showed for Visa extension. I had to do the bulk transactions to deal with two visa’s one is German and other one is Swedish. At this point of time I have submitted my explanation to the board explaining clearly that I will be going to Germany for exchange studies for 6 months and the bulk transactions were made for German visa. With this, the migration board came to a conclusion that I am not a student of Sweden anymore and I need not be given a Swedish visa extension. So finally I got my letter of visa rejection to Swedish embassy in Berlin in October. I got an adrenaline rush in to my nerves as soon as I saw it. I was not aware of the reason for the rejection. I didnot get it with the e-mail I got from Berlin as they can only post it to my address. I started the process of fixing this problem and called the migration board for exact reasons and I am thank full to the female with whom I spoke, she gave complete information about the rejection and also immediately sent an e mail with the reasons of rejection. There I found the exact reason, the board doesn’t see me as student of Sweden of anymore because I am doing my studies in Germany at the moment. They failed to realize that the exchange program, which I do here, is part of the master studies in Sweden.

I have contacted the International coordinator and all people at Karolinska Institutet who can handle this issue . I should say that this is one of best helps I got from Karolinska Institutet. We were able to track the case officer who handled my case and discussed clearly about the scenario. I was asked to appeal against the decision with all the supporting documents stating clearly that I am still a registered student of Karolinska and my Germany program gives me credits to accredit at Karolinska. Along with this I was resubmitting the bank funding documents to make sure everything is correct. Finally I appealed to the board and not within two days I got my Swedish visa….It was a moment of relief and cheer as soon as I heard it. During this process, we came to know that all the students from Sweden who are going abroad for the exchange studies are facing the same problem and the migration board is in the process of making a policy with regards to this issue.

First of all I would like to thank all the people from Karolinska Institutet who helped me resolve this issue especially International coordinator of my program who had put all her effort in making this positive. It has been grateful effort from them in trying all possible sources to actually discuss the issue and many times to contact the migration board whenever it is necessary. Karolinska, once again proved that it could be the best in taking care of students problems.

Thanks a lot my KI !!


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