Combining clinical and molecular research for better treatment of cardiovascular disease
Atherosclerosis and valvular heart disease are common causes of heart conditions. Magnus Bäck is researching the molecular mechanisms which cause atherosclerosis and valvular heart disease, and how they can be turned to clinical benefit.
Magnus Bäck’s research focuses on how ischemic heart disease and valvular heart disease occur and how knowledge of the disease mechanisms can be used in a clinical setting. The research in his group is translational and includes experimental trials, studies on patient samples and epidemiological cohorts along with clinical studies.
“We are combining clinical know-how of cardiovascular disease with knowledge of the disease at a molecular level,” Magnus Bäck explains. “The aim is to bridge the gap between experimental vascular biology and clinical cardiology. I’m a cardiologist and meet these patients in my clinical activities on a regular basis.”
A key component of Bäck’s research is to understand how lipid mediators – a group of substances which the body creates from fatty acids – are involved in atherosclerosis and valvular heart disease.
“Both atherosclerosis and valvular heart disease are chronic inflammation processes, and we have made significant discoveries in the role that various lipid mediators play in this inflammation,” Magnus Bäck says. “There are lipid mediators which create inflammation, and those which prevent it.”
His hope is that in the long term, based on these discoveries, the group can create new treatments or other clinical benefits.
“Improved treatments is our primary goal, but we also want to contribute to new methods for diagnostics and prognosis, and therefore conduct research into potential markers,” he says.
Bäck’s group conducts its research in its own studies, in internal collaboration at KI – not least with epidemiologists – as well as in international networks.
Professor of Cardiology at the Department of Medicine, Solna
Magnus Bäck was born in Köping in 1972. He was awarded his medical degree at KI in 1998 and since then has primarily been clinically active at Karolinska University Hospital. He defended his PhD at KI in 2001 and in 2003–2004 was a postdoc in Göran K Hansson’s group at CMM, the Center for Molecular Medicine.
Between 2006 and 2008 Magnus Bäck worked as a visiting researcher and cardiologist at Hôpital Bichat in Paris, France. After returning to Sweden, he created a research group at CMM. He became a Specialist in Cardiology in 2009 and a Docent in 2010. On 1 December 2016, Magnus Bäck was appointed Professor of Cardiology at Karolinska Institutet.
Text: Anders Nilsson, translated from Swedish, first published in “From Cell to Society” 2017.