Research group - Helen Kaipe

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We are interested in the immune regulatory functions in the human placenta during pregnancy.  Our primary aim is to understand how the tolerance-inducing mechanisms at the fetomaternal interface can be utilized in medicine to treat inflammatory conditions, such as acute graft-versus-host disease and autoimmune disorders.

During pregnancy, the maternal immune system must tolerate the developing semiallogeneic fetus. The placenta and the maternal decidua are important for the development and maintenance of fetomaternal tolerance. The maternal immune cells are in close contact with fetal tissues at two sites. Firstly, in the decidual layers that consists of stromal cells and infiltrating immune cells. Secondly, in the intervillious space where maternal blood flows into the placenta to provide nutrients and gas exchange. To prevent infections during pregnancy, the maternal immune system must also maintain an anti-microbial immune response at the fetomaternal interface in the placenta.     

Stromal cells have previously mainly been considered to provide tissue integrity, but it has become evident that they also play an active role in directing and controlling immune responses. We and others have previously shown that placental stromal cells have an immunoregulatory capacity and can suppress T cell responses. This inspired us to use decidual stromal cells to treat inflammatory conditions, such as acute graft-versus-host disease after allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation.

Ongoing projects

Many of the ongoing projects are performed in close collaboration with other researchers at Karolinska Institutet, but also at Linköping University and the University of Gothenburg. 

  1. Decidual stromal cells as immune regulators 
    • The mechanisms behind the immunoregulatory capacities of decidual stromal cells on T cells
    • Effects of decidual stromal cells on monocyte/macrophage differentiation 
    • Treatment of inflammatory diseases, such as acute graft-versus-host disease and inflammatory neurological diseases 
    • Immunological surveillance of  immune cell subsets, cytokines and tryptophan metabolites in patients after decidual stromal cell treatment  
    • Characterization of decidual stromal cells from healthy and complicated pregnancies, such as pre-eclampsia
  2. Phenotypic and functional mapping of maternal immune cells from placental tissues
    • Characterization of the composition of immune cell subsets in decidua and intervillous blood 
    • Functional  effects of maternal cells from the above mentioned compartments in response to microbial stimulation, including MAIT cells and virus-specific CTLs 
    • Placental immune cells in spontaneous preterm delivery

Research group leader Helen Kaipe

Senior researcher

Helen Kaipe

Phone: +46-(0)8-585 825 59
Organizational unit: Clinical research center

Group members

Laia Gorchs R&D trainee
Helen KaipeSenior researcher
Martin SoldersPhD student

Research techniques

  • Multicolor flow cytometry
  • Cell culture
  • Cell separation from tissues
  • Fluorescence microscopy
  • PCR   

External funding

The Swedish Research Council, The Swedish Cancer Foundation, The Foundation for Childhood Cancer, The Cancer Foundation in Stockholm, Stockholm County 

Teaching assignments

Programme in Biomedical Laboratory Science, Immunology courses I and II, Master's/Bachelor’s Degree Programme in Biomedicine, Medical students


Selected publications

Immunogenicity of decidual stromal cells in an epidermolysis bullosa patient and in allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation patients.
Kaipe H, Carlson L, Erkers T, Nava S, Molldén P, Gustafsson B, et al
Stem Cells Dev. 2015 Jun;24(12):1471-82

Treatment of severe chronic graft-versus-host disease with decidual stromal cells and tracing with (111)indium radiolabeling.
Erkers T, Kaipe H, Nava S, Molldén P, Gustafsson B, Axelsson R, et al
Stem Cells Dev. 2015 Jan;24(2):253-63

Stromal cells-are they really useful for GVHD?
Kaipe H, Erkers T, Sadeghi B, Ringdén O
Bone Marrow Transplant. 2014 Jun;49(6):737-43

Decidual stromal cells promote regulatory T cells and suppress alloreactivity in a cell contact-dependent manner.
Erkers T, Nava S, Yosef J, Ringdén O, Kaipe H
Stem Cells Dev. 2013 Oct;22(19):2596-605

Fetal membrane cells for treatment of steroid-refractory acute graft-versus-host disease.
Ringdén O, Erkers T, Nava S, Uzunel M, Iwarsson E, Conrad R, et al
Stem Cells 2013 Mar;31(3):592-601

Stromal cells from term fetal membrane are highly suppressive in allogeneic settings in vitro.
Karlsson H, Erkers T, Nava S, Ruhm S, Westgren M, Ringdén O
Clin. Exp. Immunol. 2012 Mar;167(3):543-55

Immuno TherapyImmunology