Researching health effects of nitrogen oxides

Mattias Carlström researches the beneficial effects of nitric oxide on the body, including the cardiovascular system and kidneys, in order to understand the biological mechanisms and pave the way for the clinical use of different forms of nitrate that can increase concentrations of nitric oxide.

Portrait on Mattias Carlström
Mattias Carlström is a professor at the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology. Photo: Stefan Zimmerman.

What are you researching? 

“I research the association between nitric oxide, NO, and health in order to ascertain the part nitric oxide deficiency plays in cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and kidney disease, and how nitrate, which can be converted to nitric oxide in the body, can prevent disease. Nitric oxide has many different important functions in the body – so important that discoveries in this field were awarded the Nobel Prize in 1998. It was long believed that circulating nitrate was merely an inert breakdown product of nitric oxide, but research has shown that nitrate can be reconstituted into nitric oxide in the body, thus preventing nitric oxide deficiency.” 

How are you going about this? 

“One aspect of my research is experimental, to understand mechanisms and what happens at cell and organ level; another is clinical, mainly on the health effects of a nitrate-rich diet. Amongst other things, we’re preparing a large randomised study to examine if nitrate supplements improve the health of women with pre-eclampsia. We have previously shown that pre-eclampsia is associated with reduced nitric oxide levels. Unlike, say, conventional blood-pressure medicines, a nitrate-rich diet can be given to pregnant women with no risk to foetal health. If nitrate supplements prove effective against pre-eclampsia, it would fill an important gap. 

We’ve also shown that dialysis patients are deficient in nitrate and nitric oxide, which could be a reason why they have greatly elevated risk of heart attack and stroke. We will therefore be running a new study in which we give dialysis patients nitrate supplements and monitor their health.” 

What do you hope for in the long term? 

“I hope that we’ll get a better understanding of how nitric oxide is produced and signals in the body, and facilitate the development of new preventative or therapeutic strategies able to restore the nitric oxide balance in different disorders.” 

About Mattias Carlström 

Professor of Cardiorenal Physiology at the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology 

Mattias Carlström was born in Karlshamn in 1978. He graduated from the pharmacist programme at Uppsala University in 2002, earning his PhD from that same university in 2008. 

Mattias Carlström did his postdoc research at KI from 2008 to 2009 and at Georgetown University, USA, from 2009 to 2011. He was appointed adjunct assistant professor at Georgetown University in 2011. 

Carlström returned to KI in 2012. He was made docent in 2015 and has been awarded several prizes, including the Heart-Lung Foundation’s Prince Daniel Research Grant for promising junior researchers in 2018 and the 2019 Novo Nordic Foundation Prize for excellent research leaders in endocrinology and metabolism.  

Mattias Carlström was appointed Professor of Cardiorenal Physiology at Karolinska Institutet on 1 March 2022.