Niklas Björkström group

Our group performs translational immunological research studying tissue-resident natural killer cells in the human liver and uterus.

A key focus of the group is to gain insights into the basic biology of tissue resident NK cells in liver and uterus. Through unique collaborations with clinical units at the Karolinska University Hospital, we receive a high number of tissue samples. With respect to the uterus, key questions of interest include detailed characterization of the uterine NK cell KIR receptor repertoires, functional studies of uterine tissue resident NK cells, as well as trying to elucidate the ontogeny of uterine NK cells. In the liver we have a specific focus on human tissue-resident CD49a+ intrahepatic NK cells and study their phenotype, function, development, and role during liver diseases.

Moreover, we have an interest in the role of natural killer (NK) cells in the pathogenesis of liver diseases such as primary sclerosing cholangitis, steatohepatitis (NASH), and hepatitis virus infections (HBV, HCV, HDV). These diseases strongly predispose for tumor development in the human liver and we are also performing tumorimmunological studies evaluating the capacity of NK cells to recognize hepatocellular carcinoma and cholagiocarcinoma. Outside the liver, we also have an interest in NK-cell function during hemorrhagic fever virus infections.

Our studies include phenotypic and functional assessments of NK cells with a focus on differentiation, education, and functional and transcriptional regulation. We work with high-dimensional 22-parameter flow cytometry, CyTOF, microscopy techniques, and new tools for visualization and analysis of highly complex flow cytometry data including SPADE, SNE, and Citrus.
 

We function in close collaboration with other groups at Karolinska Institutet, including groups at the Center for Infectious Medicine. We participate in Karolinska Institutet - Hannover Medical School exchange program, in the International PSC Study Group network, and have multiple national and international collaborations. 

Selected publications from the Björkström lab

Members

Niklas Björkström, Group Leader, MD PhD, Associate Professor

Niklas received his M.D. and Ph.D. degrees from Karolinska Institutet in 2011. He completed postdoctoral training at the National Institutes of Health (Bethesda, Maryland, USA). Niklas established an independent laboratory at CIM, Karolinska Institutet in 2013 and is an associate professor at Karolinska Institutet since 2016. His research focuses on human tissue-resident NK cells with a particular emphasis on uterine and liver NK cells. In his spare time he enjoys fly fishing and playing golf.

Martin Cornillet, PhD, postdoctoral fellow 

Martin finished his PhD in 2014 that concerned the study of specific autoantibodies in Rheumatoid arthritis (Toulouse, France). He is now focusing on the development of Mass Cytometry to analyse immune cells, and particularly NK-cell phenotype and function in different contexts relating to liver physiology/pathophysiology. He likes cooking, practicing sports (karate, tennis, football...) and is interested in art and music discovering.

Lena Berglin, PhD, postdoctoral fellow

Lena received her Masters degree in Molecular Cell Biology from Södertörns Högskola, Huddinge, in 2007 and her PhD from Karolinska Institutet in 2015. Her work focuses on understanding how the immune system contributes to the pathogenesis of primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC). One of the goals is to use immunohistochemistry to characterize immune cells and inflammatory proteins in livers from PSC patients. In her spare time she likes to be in the countryside, to cook and to read crime novels.

Martin Ivarsson, PhD, postdoctoral fellow

Martin has a MScEng from Uppsala University and received his PhD from Karolinska Institutet in 2014. Since then he is affiliated with the group but is currently conducting postdoctoral studies in the group of Ashley Moffett at University of Cambridge, UK. He studies uterine and decidual NK cells in the healthy woman and in different pregnancy disorders. When not at work, he's a dedicated Manchester United-fan.

Christine Zimmer, PhD student

Christine received her Masters degree in Molecular Life Sciences from Stockholm University, Stockholm, in 2013. She is interested in understanding the capacity of natural killer cells to recognize and eliminate cholangiocarcinoma cells. When not at work, she enjoys sports, especially running and hiking.

Benedikt Strunz, MD, PhD-student

Benedikt graduated 2014 as a MD and additionally accomplished a Bachelor's degree in Biology (University of Tuebingen, Germany). His work so far was on the influence of chemotherapeutic drugs on NK cell reactivity, whereas now he focuses on the role of liver resident NK cells in HCV infected patients as well as phenotyping uterine NK cells. In his spare time he likes sports like cross country skiing and rowing, enjoys music and jazz concerts and loves the cinema.

Julia Hengst, PhD student

Julia received her Masters degree in Molecular Medicine from the Georg-August University in Göttingen, Germany in 2012. She is currently a PhD-student out of Hannover Medical School through the International Research Training Group Program. Her research focus is NK-cells during hepatitis virus infections as well as methods development for analysis of limited numbers of immune cells by flow cytometry. When not at work, she enjoys sports, especially soccer and gymnastics.

Natalie StiglundMD, PhD-student

Natalie received her M.D. from Karolinska Institutet in 2016 and is currently a PhD-student. She is studying the role of NK-cells in fatty liver disease and development of steatohepatitis and hepatocellular carcinoma. In her spare time, she enjoys playing tennis, reading, and travelling.

Jonna Bister, MD-student. E-post: jonna.bister@stud.ki.se

Jonna is currently attending medical school at the Karolinska Institutet and will finish in 2017. She did her medical thesis in the group and will continue with PhD-studies. She's interested in studying uterine NK cell development as well as factors regulating KIR repertoire formation in the uterus.

Erik Bergquist, MD-student. E-mail: erik.bergquist@stud.ki.se

Erik is currently studying medicine at Karolinska Institutet and is due to graduate in 2020. Except for medical studies, he's also attending the research-preparatory program FoLÄK and has been working in the group since the summer of 2016. He is involved in optimizing phosflow protocols and to use these for immunological studies of liver tumors. On his time off he likes to cook, garden and hang out.

Previous members 

Sanna Nyström, now postdoc at University of Tokyo

Kimia Maleki, master-student, now PhD-student at Karolinska Institutet

Sebastian Lunemann, now postdoc at University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf

     

 

Open positions

We are constantly looking for exceptionally talented post docs with an ambition to explore new and unique aspects of human NK cells, liver immunology, and related questions. 

Tweets from Björkström lab

Infectious Disease Medicine