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2016: Associate Professor in Toxicology at the Institute of Environmental Medicine (IMM)

2006: Dr.Med.Sci., Karolinska Institutet. Scientific field: Medicine/ Environmental medicine. Thesis title: Particularly Harmful Particles? - A study of airborne particles with a focus on genotoxicity and oxidative stress. 

2001: M.Sci. Chemistry from Karlstad University. Main subjects: Chemistry (Karlstad University), Environmental Sciences (Karlstad University), Human Biosciences/Biology (University of Newcastle, Australia) Toxicology (Karolinska Institutet)


Research description

Toxicity of particles with a focus on nanotoxicology

The introduction of nanotechnology has led to an increased likelihood of exposure to nanoparticles for workers and consumers. In addition, workers in occupations not related to nanotechnology are also frequently exposed to elevated levels of airborne metallic particles and ambient particles in cities often contain metals. My research is focused on understanding lung cell toxicity of metal-containing particles and one main aim is to find out which particles that are most toxic as well as understanding the underlying mechanisms. Specifically, there is a focus on the ability of particles to cause DNA damage and oxidative stress. A challenge with my research is to develop and use in vitro methods that better resembles the real exposure situation in the lung. This includes e.g. to expose lung cells to an aerosol of particles in the “air-liquid interface”. Oxidative stress and DNA damage arising from the particles can lead to mutations that are critical for cancer development. Furthermore, it has become clear that many toxic agents including metals can affect the DNA in other ways. Epigenetics is the study of heritable changes in gene expression or cellular phenotype caused by mechanisms other than changes in the underlying DNA sequence. On-going research also aims at studying epigenetic effects as a consequence of nanoparticle exposure. In all, these projects will be important for hazard identification and risk assessment of nanomaterials with the overall goal to prevent negative health effects following exposure to nanoparticles. 

Selected recent publications

Gliga AR, Skoglund, S, Odnevall Wallinder, I, Fadeel, B and Karlsson HL (2014). Size-dependent cytotoxicity of silver nanoparticles in human lung cells: the role of cellular uptake, agglomeration and Ag release. Particle and Fibre Toxicology.  Feb 17;11(1):11.

Karlsson HL, Cronholm P, Hedberg Y, Tornberg M, De Battice L, Svedhem S and Odnevall Wallinder I. (2013). Cell membrane damage and protein interaction induced by copper containing nanoparticles - importance of the metal release process. Toxicology, 8;313(1):59-69

Cronholm P, Karlsson HL, Hedberg J, Lowe TA, Winnberg L, Elihn K, Wallinder IO, Möller L. (2013). Intracellular uptake and toxicity of Ag and CuO Nanoparticles: A Comparison Between Nanoparticles and their Corresponding Metal Ions. Small. Apr 8;9(7):970-82.


Stoccoro A, Karlsson HL, Coppedè F, Migliore L. (2013). Epigenetic effects of nano-sized materials. Toxicology. 313(1), 3-14.

Elihn K, Cronholm P, Karlsson HL, Midander K, Odnevall Wallinder I and Möller, L (2013). Cellular doses of partly soluble Cu particle aerosols at the air-liquid interface using an artificial lung system. J Aerosol Med Pulm Drug Deliv. Apr;26(2):84-93.

Shi J, Karlsson HL, Johansson K, Gogvadze V, Xiao L, Li J, Burks T, Uheida A, Garcia-Bennett A, Muhammed M, Mathur S, Morgenstern R, Kagan V, Fadeel B. (2012). Microsomal Glutathione Transferase 1 Protects against Toxicity Induced by Silica Nanoparticles but not by Zinc Oxide Nanoparticles. ASC Nano, 6(3):1925-38. 

 Karlsson HL (2010). The comet assay in nanotoxicology research. Anal Bioanal Chem. 398(2):651-66.

Academic honours, awards and prizes

Receiver of stipend from ”Konung Carl XVI Gustafs 50-årsfond för vetenskap, teknik och miljö”, 2012

Main funding

FORTE. Project title: “Nanoparticle-induced toxicity: focus on genotoxic and epigenetic effects in lung cells” (2012-2015)

Karolinska Institutet KID funding: “Nanoparticle-induced toxicity: focus on genotoxic and epigenetic effects in lung cells” (2012-2015)

IMM Junior Faculty Grant (2013-2014)

VR. Project title: “Nano-Cell interactions: DNA damage of well characterized metal and metal oxide nanoparticles investigated by using high-throughput comet assay and reporter cell lines” (2015-2018)

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