Research group Lena Palmberg

Lena Palmberg

Research Group Leader, Professor

Our research focuses on patho-physiological mechanisms behind the development of chronic bronchitis and COPD, the 3rd leading cause of death world-wide. Both tobacco induced and non-tobacco causes, including use of electronic cigarettes, air pollution, exposure to nanoparticles, biomass smoke exposure, occupational exposure such as farming etc are included.  Our research objectives are attained through human cohort-based studies and advanced in vitro lung models.

By using advanced 3D-models with human primary bronchial epithelial cells of both a normal and a chronic bronchitis-like mucosa and combine those with immune effector cells, mechanisms behind development of chronic bronchitis and COPD can be evaluated in more details and different treatment strategies can be evaluated.

Reliable human airway exposure systems will most likely replace animal experiment in future toxicity assessment studies of inhaled agents (3R).

Mechanisms behind Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and chronic bronchitis

Both chronic bronchitis and COPD are conditions associated with cigarette smoking, but also occupational exposure like farming environment increases the risk for developing the diseases.  The main focus of this project is to study the role of innate immunity and disease development. The research includes patient cohorts with farmers and smokers with and without chronic bronchitis and COPD. Further, advanced lung-mucosa models, both normal and chronic bronchitis-like models including primary bronchial epithelial cells have been developed. The research program may in the long term lead to improved preventive measures and treatment for chronic bronchitis, and reduced risk for development of COPD.

Research Support

  • Swedish Heart Lung Foundation
  • Karolinska Institutet
  • Swedish Research Council (VR)
  • Forska Utan Djurförsök/ Do Research without animal

Contact person

Toxicological risk assessment of electronic cigarette (e-cig) use

Exponential increase in the popularity of electronic cigarette (e-cig) particularly among adolescents and youth is a cause for concern with limited knowledge about their effect due to long term use. We aim to develop a basis for pulmonary risk assessment of e-cigs by assessing molecular toxicological analysis of different flavors of e-liquid following in vitro exposure experiments. This is achieved by using our established physiologically relevant multicellular bronchial- and alveolar mucosa models developed in air-liquid-interface along with particle characterization and chemical composition of the e-liquid aerosols. We further aim to assess the pulmonary and systemic effect of e-cig use in young Swedish population through a clinical study comparing e-cig users and non-users. As a third approach, we will together with Docent Anna Bergström and all co-workers within Bamse cohort to estimate the prevalence of E-cig users in a young population by using the well-established BAMSE birth cohort (followed until age 24 years) and investigate the association with the use of ordinary cigarettes and Swedish snus, as well as exposure to parental smoking, demographic factors and respiratory symptoms.

Research Support:

  • Swedish Heart Lung Foundation
  • Karolinska Institutet
  • Swedish Research Council (VR)
  • Forska Utan Djurförsök/ Do Research without animal

Contact persons

Biomass smoke induced adverse lung health outcome among women and children

Biomass smoke exposure is considered as a global risk factor for COPD in the same order of magnitude as tobacco smoking. The use of biomass fuel is closely linked to gender inequality. Women and young girls are exposed for the longest duration because they spend more time in proximity to the biomass smoke while cooking (4-6h/day). Children also get exposed since birth as they stay with their mothers while cooking. In this project, we aim to investigate the adverse lung health outcome among children and women due to biomass smoke exposure in collaboration with the Mysuru study on Determinants of Health in Rural Adults (MUDHRA) in Karnataka, India.

Research Support

  • Swedish Heart Lung Foundation
  • VINNOVA, Sweden’s Innovation Agency
  • IMM Strategic Grant

Contact person

Computational modeling of diseased lung

In silico models are widely used to understand the deposition, distribution, and clearance of inhaled particles and aerosols in the human lung. Epidemiological evidence associated exacerbations of COPD to increased particulate matter related air pollution episodes. Most of the freely available computational modeling tools however were developed for the healthy adult  lung. Diseased lung, such as those in case of COPD undergo profound functional, anatomical and structural changes. Therefore, the particle deposition, distribution and clearance in case of COPD lung will be different than that of the healthy lung. In this project we aim to incorporate the various structural and functional alterations of a COPD lung for modeling particle deposition that may explain the increased susceptibility.

Research Support:

  • Swedish Heart Lung Foundation
  • VINNOVA, Sweden’s Innovation Agency
  • IMM Strategic Grant

Contact