A growing focus on diseases of the brain
The brain, the nerves and the psyche together make up one of the largest research fields at Karolinska Institutet.
We have long held a leading position in experimental neuroscience with research on neuronal signalling and networks, how nerve cells develop from stem cells and what can go wrong when diseases strike. This research lies at the heart of all future advances in the field.
Today, research is largely devoted to increasing our knowledge about the biological causes of certain mental illnesses. Here, Sweden’s population registries, coupled with our own twin and multigenerational registries, are unique resources that constitute a goldmine of scientific data, which can reveal great insights about how heredity and environment contribute to disease.
One area in which we have been particularly successful is Parkinson’s disease. Research at the cellular and genetic level has opened completely new windows to the underlying causes of the disease. Our stem cell researchers are working hard towards the goal of eventually cultivating and transplanting new dopamine-producing cells into the brains of people with Parkinson’s.
Another promising research area is schizophrenia, where it is hoped that a number of recently-identified risk genes will provide clues to the disease’s causes and lead to new cures. There is also an increasing research focus on mental health and its manifestation in depressions, addictions and suicide. An internet-based therapy is under intensive development.
The brain is our most important organ, and neurological and mental diseases have serious, lasting consequences for those affected.
Neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, stroke, tumours, Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy or infections of the nervous system can cause considerable pain and seriously impair mobility, consciousness or cognition.
Mental illness includes diseases like schizophrenia, psychoses and depression as well as other kinds of disorders and disabilities like autism, ADHD, dependency, eating disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorder.