Heela Sarlus

Heela Sarlus

Research Specialist
Visiting address: L8:04, CMM Karolinska Universitetssjukhuset Solna, 17176 Stockholm
Postal address: K8 Klinisk neurovetenskap, K8 Neuro Harris, 171 77 Stockholm

About me

  • My research focus is to study the role of microglia in the context of
    neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's disease, amyotrophic lateral
    sclerosis and multiple sclerosis with the aim to develop novel therapy for
    these diseases.
    Svenska läkare sällskapet (SLS) travel grant – 2019
    Nominated and selected to participate in global young scientist summit in
    Singapore - 2015
    2015 - PhD degree in Medical Science, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm,
    2008 - MSc in Molecular Biology, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden


  • I am investigating the potential of amniotic epithelial cells (AECs), a type
    of stem cell derived from human placenta, as a cellular therapy for
    neurodegenerative diseases, in collaboration with Dr. Gramignoli at
    Karolinska Institutet. Currently, there is no cure for amyotrophic lateral
    sclerosis (ALS), Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and progressive states of
    multiple sclerosis (MS). These neurodegenerative diseases are characterized
    by excessive inflammation in the brain and compromised microglial function.
    AECs are present in the placenta at the interphase between the maternal and
    fetal tissue, possessing strong anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory
    properties. By transferring AECs in the disease model of ALS, AD and MS
    respectively, we aim to reduce inflammation in brain, and promote
    regenerative responses.
    I am also investigating microglia replacement therapy in the context of
    neurodegenerative diseases using /in vivo/ and /in vitro/ models. We remove
    dysfunctional microglia from the central nervous system using genetic and
    pharmacological approaches and repopulate the brain with healthy donor
    microglia-like cells that we develop/ in vitro/.
    Inflammation and changes in bioenergetics are closely interrelated processes.
    In ALS, metabolic changes in liver including giant mitochondria with
    accumulation of crystalline like structure were described three decades ago.
    Moreover, increased levels of liver derived acute phase proteins in ALS
    patients which correlate with disease progression is indicative of ongoing
    inflammation in the liver. Considering the role of liver as a major metabolic
    organ regulating important functions in carbohydrate, fat and protein
    metabolism, it is highly plausible that metabolic changes in liver will
    impact CNS function in and vice versa. We aim to study the metabolic profile
    of ALS microglia/macrophages in the liver and brain respectively to identify
    whether metabolic changes in the liver macrophages and CNS microglia are
    mirrored. We expect to identify inflammatory or metabolic drivers of CNS
    dysfunction in the liver of ALS mice with the long term goal to identify
    peripheral therapeutic targets for neurodegenerative diseases.


  • 2020 - current
    Teaching biochemistry in Scandinavian Chiropractor institute, Stockholm,
    2018 – 2020
    Different teaching activities: Lectured the autonomic nervous system,
    laboratory work involving the hearing and vestibular lab and seminars
    including motor functions to medical students at Karolinska Institutet.


All other publications


  • Research Specialist, Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Karolinska Institutet, 2022-

Degrees and Education

  • Degree Of Doctor Of Philosophy, Department of Neurobiology, Care Sciences and Society, Karolinska Institutet, 2015

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