Division of Clinical Physiology

Clinical Physiology provides diagnostic methods for the detection and evaluation of functional disorders of various organs and systems in the body such as the heart, peripheral vessels, lungs, kidneys, gastrointestinal and urinary tract.


The focus of our research is to combat the increase in morbidity and mortality from prevalent human non communicable diseases by integrating clinical parameters with physiological measurements and molecular findings from various human tissues. At our division, we aim to bring pre-clinical and clinical researchers together when addressing pertinent scientific questions and translate our findings from bench to bed-side.

One of the main research topics at the division is on the importance of the skeletal muscle and the cardiovascular system with regard to physical work capacity in health and in disease. Especially we focus on situations where work capacity and muscle function has been shown to be important for function, disease progression or treatment side effects e.g. aging, heart failure and cancer. Furthermore, we strongly believe that an increased understanding of how aging and age-related diseases influence (skeletal) muscle mass and function will provide novel opportunities for intervention.

Within this broad theme, specific research projects examine 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 lack of activity, various exercise and nutrients regimes in both healthy and ill individuals. We address the research questions by 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 culture work.

A specific system that is scrutinized is the ubiquitin proteasome system (UPS). This system plays a pivotal role in most cellular processes.  Emerging data suggests roles for the UPS outside of the known housekeeping function in protein turnover, highlighting that more has to be done to understand the complex nature of the UPS and its functions in the cell including its involvement in human diseases, ranging from muscle atrophies to cancer. In addition, our efforts are concentrated on developing novel molecular, chemical, and biophysical technologies to gain insight into complex cellular processes, such as sensor systems for cellular target engagement to state-of-art molecular biology tools. A spin off with translational potential is to “hijack” the UPS for targeted protein degradation with small molecules or PROTACs (proteolysis-targeting chimeras), which have the potential to create novel therapeutic strategies.

The research projects are conducted in close co-operation with the Unit 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).

Division head

Thomas Gustafsson

Professor/senior physician
H5 Department of Laboratory Medicine

Division administrator

Moa Thorin

Division administrator
H5 Department of Laboratory Medicine

Research group leader/Thematic group leader

(for specific question see researcher)

Aging: Thomas Gustafsson/Brun Ulfhake

Cancer and exercise: Helene Rundqvist

Ubiquitin Biology and Targeted Degradation: Mikael Altun

Exercise/Unloading: Rodrigo Fernandez Gonzalo / Tommy Lundberg

Heart Failure/Cardiovascular Physiology: Eric Rullman / Patrik Sundblad

Transgender, Sex hormones and physiology: Anna Wiik / Amarjit Saini


The provided education (first and second cycle) includes courses in anatomy, biomedical laboratory science, physiology and clinical physiology as well as in chemistry, genetics, gene expression, research methodology, statistics and physical activity, diet and health. The provided courses remain mainly within the frames of study programmes for biomedical scientists (in laboratory medicine and in clinical physiology), nurses, occupational therapists, physicians, physiotherapists but also in study programmes for engineers. In addition, there is also a four years’ educational Ph.D. programme (third cycle) available.

Our teachers are all involved in research and most have a PhD. In the group there are teachers that have undergone the Karolinska Institutet special initiative “the future education leader, have received educational awards and are part of Karolinska Institutet teacher academy. Our teachers take part in educational development and attend educational conferences. We work with student-centered learning where, among other things, we have elements of flipped classroom, problem-based learning and team-based learning.

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

All staff at the division of Clinical Physiology

List of publications