Division of Clinical Physiology
Clinical Physiology provides diagnostic methods to detect and evaluate dysfunction of various organs and systems in the body such as the heart, peripheral vessels, lungs, kidneys, gastrointestinal tract and urinary tract.
Our research focuses on combating the increase in morbidity and mortality caused by common non-communicable diseases in humans by combining clinical parameters with physiological measurements and molecular findings from various human tissues. In our division, we try to bring together preclinical and clinical researchers when it comes to relevant scientific questions and translate our findings from the laboratory to the bedside.
One of the division's main research topics is the importance of skeletal muscle and the cardiovascular system for physical working capacity in health and disease. We focus on situations where working capacity and muscle function have been shown to be important for function, disease progression or side effects of treatment, e.g. ageing, heart failure and cancer. In addition, we strongly believe that a better understanding of how ageing and age-related diseases affect skeletal muscle mass and function will provide new opportunities for interventions.
Within this broad topic, specific research projects are investigating systemic and intrinsic factors, the influence of sex hormones on skeletal muscle, the role of inflammatory cells and anti-inflammatory treatment in regulating muscle mass, the role of lifestyle in health and disease, and the adaptive response to physical inactivity, different exercise and nutrient regimes in healthy and sick individuals. We address the research questions through traditional (and essential) metabolic and physiological measurements, combined with novel molecular and bioinformatic analyses in various tissue and blood samples, as well as in primary tissue cultures.
One specific system under investigation is the ubiquitin-proteasome system (UPS). This system plays a central role in most cellular processes. New data suggest that UPS plays a role beyond its known housekeeping function in protein turnover. This shows that more needs to be done to understand the complex nature of UPS and its functions in the cell, including its involvement in human diseases ranging from muscle atrophies to cancer. In addition, our efforts are focused on developing novel molecular, chemical and biophysical technologies to gain insights into complex cellular processes, such as sensor systems for cellular target engagement to cutting-edge molecular biology tools. One spin-off with translational potential is "hijacking" the UPS for targeted protein degradation with small molecules or PROTACs (proteolysis targeting chimaeras), which have the potential to develop new therapeutic strategies.
The research projects are carried out in close collaboration with the Department of Clinical Physiology at Karolinska University Hospital, but also with other departments at Karolinska Institutet as well as with the Royal Institute of Technology and numerous international universities (see publications).
Research about changes in the skeletal muscle and immune system by the lack of gravity
Rodrigo Fernandez Gonzalo at the Division of Clinical Physiology received an exciting funding of 4,5 MSEK from the Swedish National Space Agency for his project investigating the mechanisms behind the changes in the skeletal muscle and the immune system induced by the lack of gravity.
The provided education (first and second cycle) includes courses in anatomy, biomedical laboratory science, physiology and clinical physiology, as well as chemistry, research methodology, statistics and physical activity, nutrition and health. The courses offered are mainly in degree programmes for biomedical scientists (in laboratory medicine and clinical physiology), nurses, occupational therapists, physicians, physiotherapists, but also in study programmes for engineers. There is also a four-year Ph.D. programme (third cycle).
Our teachers are all active in research and most of them have a doctorate. There are teachers in the group who have participated in the Karolinska Institutet special initiative "the future education leader", have received education awards and are part of the Karolinska Institutet teacher academy. Our teachers participate in educational development and attend educational conferences. We work with student-centred learning, using elements of flipped classroom, problem-based learning and team-based learning, among others.
We teach at the following courses or programmes at Karolinska Institutet:
Anatomy and physiology: Occupational therapists Biomedical laboratory scientists, Nursing.
Clinical physiology: Biomedical laboratory scientists, Disease and illness 2, Heart failure.
Scientific methodology: Scientific methodology.
Freestanding courses and executive education; Statistics, Clinical physiology: Exercise Physiology and Cardiopulmonary Exercise Test, Cardio Vascular Diagnostics in Clinical Practise, Vascular Diagnostics, Diet and Exercise as medicine; Advanced Exercise Physiology.
Responsible for education at the division
Maria Westerståhl: Deputy Head of the division.
Karin Bouma: Deputy Program Director Biomedical Scientist Program.
Anna Wiik: Promotor of Educational Development.
Research group leaders/Thematic group leaders
(for specific questions, see researcher)
Cancer and exercise: Helene Rundqvist
Ubiquitin Biology and Targeted Degradation: Mikael Altun
Transgender, Sex hormones and physiology: Anna Wiik