Swapna Upadhyay

Swapna Upadhyay

Senior Research Specialist | Docent
Telephone: +46852487930
Visiting address: Nobels väg 13, 17177 STOCKHOLM
Postal address: C6 Institutet för miljömedicin, C6 Integrativ toxikologi Palmberg, 171 77 Stockholm

About me

  • My research aims to elucidate the nanoparticles, air pollution/biomass and
    chemicals related toxicity of the lung and identification of naturally
    occurring bioactive compounds with protective effect.
    /PhD, ERT, Associate Professor (Docent)/
    I hail from the city of joy, Kolkata, India. I have completed my bachelors
    and master’s degrees from the University of Calcutta India. I obtained my
    PhD in the field of toxicology (toxicokinetics) from the Technical University
    of Munich, Germany followed by post-doctoral research (2006-2010) at the
    German Research Center for Environmental Health, Helmholtz Zentrum Munich,
    Institute of Lung Biology and Disease. Later, I joined the Department of
    Environmental and Occupational Health, University of Pittsburgh (2010-2012).
    Between 2012-2015, I worked at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras,
    India in the department of Biotechnology.
    Since 2015, I have been associated with the Institute of Environmental
    Medicine (IMM), KI.
    *Current Research Funding (as PI):*
    * Swedish Research Council (VR)
    * Swedish Heart Lung Foundation
    Other Research Funding :
    * Forska Utan DjurFörsök/ Do Research without animal
    * IMM Strategic Grant
    * Karolinska Institutet KID funding
    * European Respiratory Society
    * European Registered Toxicologist (ERT, 2019)
    * Long-term European Respiratory Society (ERS) research fellowship
    * Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)
  • Government of India,
    Senior Research Associate (2012-2015).
    *Commissions of Trust:*
    * The Nordic Expert Group for Criteria Documentation of Health Risks from
    Chemicals: 15X. Occupational chemical exposure and chronic obstructive
    pulmonary disease (COPD): Swapna Upadhyay and Lena Palmberg (Under
    *MSc* (2000): University of Calcutta, India
    *PhD* (2006): Technical University of Munich, Germany


  • Our research activities orient around understanding the molecular mechanism
    of nanoparticles, air pollutants (gaseous mixtures, diesel exhaust
    particles), biomass smoke, and inhalable chemicals (eg. acrolein, diacetyl)
    related pulmonary toxicity using human bronchial-and alveolar mucosa models
    cultured at air-liquid-interface. We are engaged in developing
    physiologically relevant advanced in vitro lung models for toxicity testing
    with the aim to put in practice more rigorously the 3R principles in
    respiratory research. Another important area of our research is the
    identification of naturally occurring protective phytochemicals against air
    pollution induced adverse pulmonary effects (eg. oxidative stress,
    inflammation extracellular matrix degradation) under normal and predisposed
    (eg. chronic bronchitis) conditions.
    *Identification of putative naturally occurring bioactive compounds to
    protect against biomass particle exposure induced lung injury*
    Biomass smoke (BMS) due to e.g. indoor cocking/heating causing household air
    pollution is a large public health problem and directly linked to poverty.
    Deaths due to household air pollution (3·5–4 million per year worldwide)
    are highly concentrated in several Asian and African countries. Biomass
    smoke exposure has been implicated in the development of chronic obstructive
    pulmonary disease (COPD) in the same order of magnitude as tobacco smoking.
    Biomass particles (BMP) are a major component of biomass smoke. In this
    project we aim to investigate the molecular mechanisms involved in BMP
    mediated pulmonary injury. Additionally, we will screen naturally occurring
    phytochemicals present in regular diet for their potential protective effect
    by reversing/reducing BMP induced oxidative stress and/ or inflammation.
    *Assessment of pulmonary toxicity and risk due to multi-flavoured
    electronic cigarette use*
    According to a Eurobarometer survey, about 30 million adults in the 27
    European Union member states used or had used electronic-cigarette (E-cigs)
    in 2012. The use of E-cigs has increased tremendously since the millennium
    shift, and today there are hundreds of E-cig devices and more than seven
    thousand flavor variations on the market. Use of e-cigs are considered to be
    of potential health burden, particularly lung. Since the e-cig products are
    relatively new and evolving there exists an urgent need to establish a
    neutral integrative risk assessment strategy for evaluating the safety of
    E-cigs and e-liquids. The primary aim of this project is to develop a basis
    for pulmonary risk assessment of E-cigs combining epidemiological and
    molecular toxicity assessment following in vitro exposure experiments.
    Additionally, we will estimate the prevalence of E-cig users in a young
    population by using the well-established BAMSE birth-cohort and compare the
    use of E-cigs with the use of ordinary cigarettes and Swedish snus in its
    24-years follow-up where E-cigs use is included in the questionnaire.
    *Molecular mechanism of air pollutant (diesel exhaust particle, NO2 and SO2)
    mediated chronic pulmonary effects: treatment strategies for chronic
    obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and chronic bronchitis (CB).*
    Ambient air pollution is an established cause of morbidity and mortality –
    like tobacco smoke. Even more than passive smoking, air pollution is not a
    lifestyle choice but a ubiquitous involuntary environmental exposure, which
    can affect the population, from womb to death. WHO 2012, estimates that more
    than 6 million premature deaths were caused due to increased air pollution.
    Six common ambient air pollutants are particulate matter (PM: PM10, PM2.5 and
    ultrafine particles), ozone (O3), sulphur oxide (SOx), nitrogen oxides (NOx),
    carbon monoxide (CO), and lead. Epidemiological evidence suggests that air
    pollution contributes to the large global burden of chronic and acute
    respiratory diseases including asthma, chronic bronchitis (CB), COPD,
    pneumonia etc. However, detail molecular mechanism leading to onset of
    chronic respiratory (e.g. COPD) diseases still remains unclear or under
    explored. This study aims to mimic the real life exposure scenario by
    repeated exposure of bronchial and alveolar mucosa model to either or
    combination of both diesel particles and gaseous air pollutants (NOx and
    Sox). Additionally, we aim to evaluate details molecular mechanism of CB and
    COPD and the mechanisms of action of established and/or newly developed
    treatment strategies (anticholinergic drugs, phosphodiesteras inhibitor,
    15-lipoxygenase-1 inhibitor).
    *Diacetyl exposure and popcorn lung diseases: *
    Diacetyl (2, 3 butanedione), is a volatile α-diketone, formed naturally in
    dairy products and as a by-product during fermentation by yeast and bacteria.
    Due to its characteristic butter like aroma, diacetyl has been extensively
    used as an artificial butter flavouring agent in food products such as
    microwave popcorn confectionery, baked goods and currently in flavoured
    electronic cigarette liquids. Occupational exposure of workers to diacetyl
    has been associated with a severe, irreversible pulmonary disease called
    bronchiolitis obliterans or popcorn lung. Despite the increasing recognition
    of diacetyl toxicity, the patho-mechanisms associated with diacetyl mediated
    pulmonary toxicity remain poorly understood. We hypothesize that exposure to
    diacetyl may alter expression of key oxidative stress, pro-inflammatory and
    tissue injury/repair markers. Therefore, in this project we are investigating
    the potential inflammatory and toxicological effects of diacetyl on human
    lung mucosa models. The results might contribute to increase the knowledge on
    molecular mechanisms of diacetyl and its toxicity as well this knowledge will
    be used for risk assessment.
    *Publications: (Please refer to the attached file below for complete list)*
    *Google Scholar:*


  • * Problem Based Learning (PBL) tutor in organ toxicology (2016-present):
    Heart and lung toxicology as well as air pollution.
    * Activity based teaching: Climate Change and Cardio-pulmonary Health Impact
    * Journal Club Tutor (2016-present)
    * Laboratory Technique (2017-present): Application of molecular biology
    methods in toxicological research
    * Master thesis supervision (7)


All other publications


  • Senior Research Specialist, Institute of Environmental Medicine, Karolinska Institutet, 2022-

Degrees and Education

  • Docent, Karolinska Institutet, 2021

News from KI

Events from KI