Mauro D’Amato (group leader)

I started my scientific career in 1990 for my undergraduate studies at the University of Rome La Sapienza, where I developed an interest in autoimmune and inflammatory diseases. This later led me to move to different labs in Italy, UK and Sweden, and to collaborate with scientists involved in these research areas across the globe. Building on this experience, in the last 10 years I have been carrying out highly focused research on the genetic predisposition to gastrointestinal disease such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), microscopic colitis and others. Because of a poor understanding of their pathophysiology, great is the need to translate genetic findings into novel therapeutic strategies for these diseases. I strive to identify risk genes and their causative variants by applying molecular, genetic and functional genomic approaches. I believe the breadth and the translational nature of my research, the available infrastructure and logistic resources, and the outstanding collaborative network I have established, altogether constitute an excellent platform for the development of junior scientists and clinical researchers.

Ferdinando Bonfiglio (postdoc)

I obtained a MS degree in Medical Biotechnology in 2010 at the University of Naples “Federico II”, Italy. In 2011 I joined the PhD program in Computational Biology and Bioinformatics at the same University, and completed my PhD studies in 2014 with a thesis focused on new meta-analysis strategies applied to transcriptomics data. Since June 2014 I am a postdoc researcher in the MDA group at KI, where I am involved in the establishment of computational pipelines, specifically directed to post-genomic applications in inflammatory bowel disease. The overall goal of the project is to open up a new avenue to develop novel diagnostic and therapeutic strategies, and my research is initially focused on the bioinformatic integration of eQTL, GWAS, epigenomic, transcriptomic and proteomic data from different sources.

Anna Reznichenko (postdoc)

I received my MD degree, summa cum laude, from Dnipropetrovsk State Medical Academy in Ukraine in 2008. While studying medicine, I developed an interest in biomedical scientific research. From 2008 to 2012 I have been a PhD student at the University Medical Center Groningen, The Netherlands, where I defended my doctoral thesis in genetic epidemiology “Translational Renal Genetics”. I have then pursued my research career as a post-doctoral associate at The Jackson Laboratory (Bar Harbor, ME, USA), where I performed functional genetic studies in kidney disease and aging until May 2014. I joined the MDA group in June 2014 as a senior postdoctoral researcher aiming to further elucidate the genetic architecture of complex diseases.

Helga Westerlind (postdoc)

I have a background in computer science and engineering through a Master of Science from the Royal institute of technology (KTH), Stockholm, Sweden. In 2009 I joined Jan Hillert's group at Karolinska Institutet, and I started my PhD studies during 2010. This resulted in my Thesis "Modeling genetics susceptibility to Multiple Sclerosis" that I defended during 2014. Shortly thereafter I joined IMM and Henrik Källberg as a postdoc in the Unit of Cardiovascular Epidemiology, where we continue our collaboration KIRC. The focus of KIRC lies on development of data driven methods to better understand complex diseases. During the fall of 2014 I joined the MDA group as a part time postdoc (20% allocated time) working with the genetics of microscopic colitis and irritable bowel syndrome. 

Tahmina Akhter (PhD student)

I am a PhD student in MDA lab since November 2013. I have a general background of computer science (Bachelor degree) and completed my Masters in Computational and Systems Biology at KTH (The Royal Institute of Technology) in Stockholm. I worked as a research engineer at the department of Computation Biology at KTH and was involved in a project concerning parallelism in neural network using Blue Gene Super Computer. Since late 2013 I am registered as PhD student at BioNut under Mauro D’Amato’s supervision, and my project focuses on inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), for the identification of diagnostic biomarkers and disease predictive scores, and the establishment of a bioinformatic pipeline for drug repositioning based on computational methods. I have programming skills (R, C++, Python, Java etc.), use different algorithms and bioinformatic software, I have research experience in the field of computational biology, and previous professional experience in software development. I am highly motivated to do research, and my strength is my dedication to work.

Ghazaleh Assadi (PhD student)

I obtained my master degree in Biomedicine in December 2007, at the Department of Biosciences and Nutrition, Karolinska Institutet (KI). The primary focus of my research was the regulation of the SLE susceptibility gene, MAMDC1. After completion of my master program, prior to starting my PhD, I worked as laboratory engineer and project manager at the Mutation Analysis Facility, MAF, at Karolinska University Hospital-Huddinge. During this period I acquired excellent knowledge and expertise in molecular genetics and genotype data analysis. I joined the MDA group in December 2011, when I started my PhD in the field of Inflammatory Bowel Disease, IBD. The focus of my research is functional characterization of novel genes associated with Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis. I am currently trying to functionally characterize a gene, LACC1, which is associated to Crohn’s disease. Since 2013, I participate to the KI-based Clinical Research School in Chronic Inflammatory Diseases, which has a specific research and educational focus on inflammatory diseases.

Fatemeh Hadizadeh (PhD student)

I am a medical doctor from Iran and have been a member of Isfahan Integrated Functional Gastrointestinal Research Center (IFGRC) and EastSages Research Company. I have authored 18 articles in peer reviewed journals and 7 book chapters. I joined Karolinska Institutet in 2013, working under the supervision of Prof Joseph Rafter and Associate Professor Mauro D’Amato at the Department of Biosciences and Nutrition. My PhD thesis focus on “Understanding the interplay between gut microbiota, gut function and host genes in the generation of gastrointestinal symptoms and disease”. My research activities are mainly focused on the gastrointestinal tract, and in particular on Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Irritable Bowel syndrome, the role of intestinal microbiota in development of these two disorders, and the contribution of human genes in determining gut microbial composition.

Maria Henstrom (PhD student)

I am a nutritionist with a special interest in the gastrointestinal tract; how it functions in health and disease, and particularly in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). I began working in the MDA research group for my master thesis in collaboration with the Institute of Environmental Medicine. My thesis was an epidemiological association study of FODMAP-related dietary factors and self-reported irritable bowel syndrome in two large cohorts. My PhD research project, which I started in November 2013, is on the Genetics of Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Associated Gastrointestinal Symptoms, and the aim is to identify risk genes which can help us understand the complex and poorly characterized pathophysiology behind this extremely common gut disorder. In addition, I also have a pedagogic interest and enjoy giving lectures to others. I give lecture on nutrition for horse racing, on the physiology of digestion to bachelor nutritionist students, and help out with other nutrition-related courses at the department.

Tenghao Zheng (PhD student)

I obtained an MD degree from the Zhengzhou University of China, July 2012.  Then I pursued the Master’s program on Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology at the same University, and graduated with a Master of Medicine in July 2014.  Now I have been awarded a scholarship from China Scholarship Council (CSC) to pursue my PhD studies at Karolinska Institutet under Mauro D’Amato’s supervision. I joined the MDA team in September 2014, and my current research focus is on genetic and molecular studies of common gastrointestinal diseases such as Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).




Luca Mazzurana (graduate student)

I obtained my bachelor’s degree in human nutrition in May 2013 from the University of Hawaii at Manoa, US. After completion of my bachelor’s degree, I started the master program in nutrition at Stockholm University/Karolinska Institutet, which I am currently attending. I joined Mauro D’Amato’s group in July 2014, and I am currently involved in the functional characterization of a Crohn’s disease associated gene, which also constitutes the primary focus of my master thesis.


Gastrointestinal diseases