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Hanna Björck

Senior research specialist

About me

I’m a senior research specialist and team leader within the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, Dept of Medicine, Solna. I’m involved in several research projects at Karolinska Institutet and the Karolinska University Hospital with the overarching aim of understanding the underlying pathological and molecular mechanism of aneurysmal disease. I did my Ph.D. with Professor Toste Länne at the Department of Medical and Health Sciences at Linköping University where I focused on vessel wall integrity in relation to flow-disturbances and genetics. I have continued along this path and today, I'm specifically interest in mechanisms underlying endothelial integrity and flow-dependent vascular effects in the pathology of ascending aortic aneurysm.

Research description

The long-term interest of my team is to investigate the pathological and molecular mechanism underlying aneurysmal disease. Specifically, we focus on ascending aortic aneurysms (AscAA), both degenerative forms and aneurysm occurring in association with bicuspid aortic valve disease, with specific interest in endothelial integrity and flow-dependent vascular effects. Our studies are translational and includes epidemiological studies on a large and unique patient cohort, combined with molecular in vitro using modern techniques.

Ascending aortic aneurysm (AscAA) is a silent disease and a potentially fatal condition if aortic wall rupture or dissection occurs. AscAA entails destructive changes of the medial layer of the aortic wall but the precise pathogenic mechanism behind its development is unclear. The most significant risk factor for AscAA formation, however, is being born with a bicuspid aortic valve (BAV), with as many as 50% of all BAV patients requiring ascending aortic surgical repair at some point during their lifetime. BAV is the most common congenital heart malformation with a prevalence of 0.5-1.5%.

A unique clinical cohort is the basis for our research, which aims to clarify the disease mechanisms underlying aortic aneurysm formation. Our biobank includes >2100 patients undergoing valve replacement and/or repair of the ascending aorta, and today, our cohort is one of the largest and most comprehensive in the world. The biobank consists of DNA, plasma, serum, and tissue biopsies from all patients. Uniquely, we have collected biopsies from multiple tissues from the same individual of the first 600 patients (ascending aorta, internal thoracic artery, heart, and liver). Also, smooth muscle cells and endothelial cells from patient ascending aortas have been isolated for functional in vitro studies. We integrate multiomic analysis, epidemiology, and genetics to identify candidategenes and pathways. Functional evaluations are performed using cell culture and in vitro analyses.

Teaching portfolio

Course director, "Molecular Medicine - Cardiometabolic and Infectious Diseases” (1BI048),

Lecturer on undergraduate and PhD courses at the Department of Medicine, Solna.

Main supervisor for of Ph.D. students.

Education

Postdoctoral Fellow. Atherosclerosis Research Unit, Department of Medicine Solna, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden. March 2012 – 2016.

Ph.D. in Physiology, January 2012. Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, Department of Medical and Health Sciences, Linköping University, Linköping, Sweden.

M.Sc. in Molecular Biology, 2006, Uppsala University