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Helena Karlström

Researcher

About me

I am a research group leader, supervisor and co-supervisor for a research group, which right now consists of two PhD students and a postdoc/lab manager. In addition to supervising, I am as a researcher involved in teaching at both the masters, advanced and doctoral level and is also a course director for a course in Neurodegeneration here at the department of NVS. Furthermore, I am Head of the Division of neurogeriatrics, which is composed of 85 employees and 14 research group leaders. I am a research representative in the Committee for Doctoral Education at KI and assignments such as member of the KID-steering group, Teaching and Learning steering group. These roles give me a lot of input and knowledge on how KI is working on many levels and how we all can impact our common future. I also have a big interest in leadership and have been part of KI's supervisor and leadership courses for many years. This has given me important reflections on my own leadership style and also I meet a lot of interesting people at KI and SLL, which is a benefit for my research career.

Research description

In the Karlström lab we focus on CADASIL (cerebral autosomal-dominant arteriopathy with subcortical infarcts and leukoencephalopathy), the most common familial form of small vessel disease. The condition leads to a series of increasingly severe strokes and dementia. CADASIL is linked to the Notch3 protein which is an important signaling protein allowing cells to communicate with one another. Mutations in the NOTCH3 gene result in misfolded Notch3 accumulating around small and middle-sized arteries throughout the body. At present how these Notch3 deposits affect the surrounding tissues is unclear. The disease mechanisms may be further complicated due to altered Notch3 signalling. A number of genetic disorders such as familial Alzheimer’s disease are directly linked to protein misfolding, which strongly suggest that abnormal protein accumulation and deposits play a direct cytotoxic rile in the disease. 

We aim to better understand the molecular mechanisms of this condition in order to develop therapeutics to tackle CADASIL. We hypothesise that if we can harness the immune system to clear the Notch3 deposits we can halt or potentially reverse CADASIL progression.

A successful treatment for CADASIL would provide a much-needed cure for many individuals and would pave the way for new small vessel disease therapeutics. Our inter-disciplinary project team has clinical and preclinical expertise in CADASIL, and vaccine development and drug discovery competence.

 

Another part of my research is related to Alzheimer disease (AD). In my group we look specifically at the cellular and biochemical processes that lead to the disease. There is a common theme for both SVD and AD and also for many other neurodegenerative diseases, that is formation of aggregated peptides. It is a challenge to inhibit the formation of these aggregates, since other important signaling pathways can be disturbed, which could lead to serious side effects. Our aim is to come around this by knowing in more detail how it works and hopefully lead to development of better and safer medicines for treatment of CADASIL and Alzheimer disease.

Teaching portfolio

2013 –  Course leader for master-and PhD course in Frontiers in Neuroscience master block: “Neurodegenerative disorders I – from molecule to treatment” 1 week/year.

2010 – 2020  Course leader for Karolinska Institutet’s supervisor introductory course and Leadership course for research group leaders (40%).

Education

Education:

1985-1989: BSc inMicrobiology and Chemistry Stockholms University, Sweden

1996 – 2002 Ph.D Department of Cell and Molecular biology, Karolinska Institutet, Sweden.

Thesis: Notch processing and CNS disease 

 

Postdoctoral training

January 2004 - December 2005 Department of Neurobiology, Garvan Institute of Medical Research, Sydney, Australia (Advisor: Professor Peter Schofield). 

 

January 2006-June 2007 KI-Alzheimer Center, Department of Neurobiology, Care Science and Society, NVS, Karolinska Institutet (Advisor: Professor Bengt Winblad). 

 

Docent

2011 in Neurobiology, Karolinska Institutet

                                                                    

 

Current position:

2019 – Head of Division of Neurogeriatrics (85 employees/14 research groups)

2009 –Research group leader, Associate Professor at the Division of Neurogeriatrics, Department of Neurobiology, Care Science and Society, NVS, Karolinska Institutet

Stockholm.

 

Previous positions:

1988 –1996 Research lab manager Unit for Bioscience, R&D, Pharmacia & Upjohn Inc., Stockholm.

2007 – 2009Researcher, KI-Alzheimer center, Department of Neurobiology, Care Science and Society, NVS, Karolinska Institutet

 

Supervision – Graduate students:

Johanna Wanngren (2007- 2012), Annelie Pamrén (2007 – 2012)

Daniel Oliveira (2016 - present), Jenny Frånberg (2005-2010-co-supervisor), Zhi Tang (2010-2014-co-supervisor), Nuno Leal (2014-2019, co-supervisor), Mahmod Panahi (2015-2019, co-supervisor), Johanna Mayer (2020 – present, co-supervisor).

 

Supervison- Postdocs:

Anindita Bose (2011-2012)

Silvia Maioli (2012-2012)

Tobias Weber (2012-2014)

Kirsten Coupland (2015-2018))

ShaoBo Jin (2018 – present)

Undergraduate students: 

18 students at BSc and MSc level (2007 - present

 

Professional Activities and Commissions of Trust:

 

2006–  Half time committee för approx 20 PhD students at KI and and 7 dissertation committees at KI, Uppsala University, Linköpings University and opponent for a PhD student atUniversité catholique de Louvain, Brussels. 

2013 –  Course leader for master-and PhD course in Frontiers in Neuroscience master block: “Neurodegenerative disorders I – from molecule to treatment” 1 week/year.

2010 – 2020  Course leader for Karolinska Institutet’s supervisor introductory course and Leadership course for research group leaders (40%). 

2007- 2019 Member of the registration committee at Department of Neurobiology, Care science and Society, NVS, KI.

2018– Teacher representative in Work-health group at Neurobiology, Care science and Society, NVSinstitutionen, KI.

2015 – Member of the nomination committee for researchers at Karolinska Institutet 

2007 -Reviewer and examinor of approx 25 scientific papers in peer-review-journals, approx. 15 BSc-och MSc-thesis and for KI grants (KID-grants).

2019 - Assignment from Swedish Alzheimer Foundation for writing their Research report

2019 -Teacher representative in Committee for Doctoral Education, KI, including KI-doctoral grants (KID) steering group and Teaching and Learning (UoL) steering group

2019– Head of Division of Neurogeriatrics, NVS department

 

Maternity leave:

1998 - 1999 and 2003 - 2004

Academic honours, awards and prizes

2004-2005 Recipient of two years postdoctoral fellowship from WennerGren Foundation.

2005 Recipient of Soroptimist International Prize for Women in Career.

2006-2007 Recipient of one year postdoctoral fellowship from Loo and Hans Ostermans stiftelse.

2009 – 2012 Recipient of a three year fellowship from Riksbankens Jubileumsfond ”Erik Rönnbergs stipendium för vetenskapliga studier av åldrande och åldersrelaterade sjukdomar”.

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