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Recruited fellows to Novo Nordisk Fellowship Programme at Karolinska Institutet

Sanna Hellberg

Dr Sanna Hellberg

I got my Bachelor’s degree in Health biosciences and Master’s degree in Drug development at University of Turku, Finland. During my PhD at Turku PET Centre, I focused on positron emission tomography (PET) imaging of inflammation in atherosclerosis. The evaluated PET radiotracers were targeted to macrophages in atherosclerotic lesions. I also studied the use of PET imaging for the assessment of therapy responses.

Currently I am starting the Novo Nordisk Fellowship in a project led by Assoc. Prof. Stephen Malin and Prof. Göran Hansson in Department of Medicine. Elevated blood cholesterol levels are associated with cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. The project will focus on evaluating the effects of rising cholesterol levels to glucose homeostasis, immune response in different tissues, as well as gene expression in vascular wall. In addition, the respective effects of hypercholesterolemia reversal will be evaluated. The studies will be conducted in mouse models that permit induced changes in blood cholesterol levels. Finally, the aim is to translate the concept to human disease by evaluating samples from patients with familial hypercholesterolemia.

Project title: The molecular and cellular consequences of acute hypercholesterolemia.

Kelvin Kwok

Dr Kelvin Kwok

I studied biochemistry at the University of Oxford. During my PhD studies at the University of Hong Kong, I investigated the role of visceral adipose tissue inflammation in the accelerated development of atherosclerosis in obese mice. Specifically, I examined how obesity-induced JNK activation in visceral fat promotes atherosclerotic plaque development in the aorta through the actions of adipokines.

In October 2017, I started my Novo Nordisk Fellowship under the co-supervision of Dr Carsten Daub from the Department of Biosciences and Nutrition, and Prof Mikael Rydén and Prof Peter Arner from the Department of Medicine. It has recently been demonstrated in humans that obese white adipose tissue exhibits a markedly altered insulin-induced gene expression regulation in vivo. My current project aims to comprehensively identify the responsible regulatory elements and to decipher the mechanisms that underlie this impairment in transcriptional regulation in response to insulin, in an unbiased manner using Cap Analysis Gene Expression (CAGE).

Project title: Elucidating the molecular mechanisms behind impaired insulin-induced transcriptional regulation in human adipose tissue.

Noah Moruzzi

Dr Noah Moruzzi

After my graduation in Human Feeding and Nutrition Sciences at the University of Perugia, I joined Karolinska Institutet as Ph.D. student in the Growth and Metabolism Group (Dept. of Molecular Medicine and Surgery, MMK), focusing on cell and mitochondrial metabolism during hyperglycemia in human primary cells. In the last part of my doctoral studies I relocated to the Helmholtz Zentrum München working on the primary cilium and its link with cellular metabolism before to finalize my thesis “Interplay between mitochondria, primary cilium, diabetes and its complications”. During the last year, I worked as a Quality Control and Data Management Consultant in the biotech image analysis company Definiens AG (Münich).

In October 2017, I came back to Karolinska as Novo Nordisk Postdoctoral Fellow in the section of Signal Transduction (MMK) as part of Ingo Leibiger´s group. The project I´m involved in is focusing on understanding the development and progression of beta cell insulin resistance and failure in diabetic mouse models to identify novel target and strategies for treatment of T2DM. Moreover, we will study the insulin receptor A and B isoforms using aptamers as tools to selectively activate/inactivate these receptors and thus study their biological significance in cells and tissues.

Project title: The role of insulin receptor isoforms in selective insulin signaling in pancreatic beta cell physiology/pathology.

Daniel Svensson

Dr Daniel Svensson

I completed my PhD in the group of vascular physiology at the department of Experimental Medicinal Science at Lund University Sweden in February 2017. My main research focus has been on the host defence peptide LL-37 and its effects on human cell viability. During my PhD and subsequent employment, I have also investigated cytotoxic and immunomodulatory properties by a number of other proteins and small molecules. My earlier academic background lies primarily in chemistry, where I worked with semi-synthesis and isolation/structure elucidation of natural products.

I will begin my Novo Nordisk fellowship in January 2018 during which I will be working with Hjalmar Brismar and Anita Aperia at the Pediatric Cell and Molecular Biology lab of the Department of Women’s and Children’s Health. Diabetic nephropathy is a common complication for diabetic patients which often results in chronic kidney disease. I will investigate an early event in the nephropathy pathogenesis in which glucose and/or albumin triggers apoptosis of mesangial and proximal tubular cells. Additionally, a Na,K-ATPase-signaling cascade which attenuates the cell death will be investigated, in order to gain mechanistic understanding of the apoptosis and its medical significance.

Project title: A novel concept for origin and treatment of diabetic nephropathy.

Vladimir Shavva

Dr Vladimir Shavva

After my graduation from the Saint-Petersburg State University, I studied as a PhD student at the Institute of Experimental Medicine in Saint-Petersburg, Russia. My main research focus has been on the genes involved in atherosclerosis development. I have studied the influence of pro- and anti-atherosclerotic stimuli on the expression of various genes (such as C3, apoA-I and ABCA1) as well as protein production in human hepatoma cells and human macrophages. During the project I have discovered signaling cascades and characterized new protein complexes between important metabolic transcription factors, involved in these processes.

I will begin my Novo Nordisk fellowship in September 2018 in a project led by Dr. Peder Olofsson in Department of Medicine. The project will focus on the role of TChAT cells in human vascular inflammation and atherosclerosis, as well as their function in integrating immune and nervous systems. To this end, TChAT cells will be identified in lesions and markers for their isolations will be found. This will allow us to isolate human TChAT and functionally characterize them. The next step of the project will involve unveiling mechanisms of TChAT differentiation and activation. Regulation of ChAT expression will be studied. The low resolution undirected network representation of the differentially expressed ChAT T-cell genes and their most frequent interactors will be identified and used to test for potential disease relevance.

Project title: Neural regulation of inflammation in atherosclerosis.

Lars Paeger

Dr Lars Paeger

I studied biology at the University of Cologne and started to work as an electrophysiologist during my diploma thesis where I analyzed ion channels of interneurons in the antennal lobe of the cockroach Periplaneta Americana. During my PhD studies, I took the opportunity to work in the field of the neuronal control of energy homeostasis. Specifically, I am interested in the intrinsic mechanisms, which define the excitability of neurons in the hypothalamus controlling food intake and energy expenditure and how these are altered by neuromodulation or by chronic alterations, i.e. when animals are exposed to a high-fat-diet and subsequently develop diet-induced obesity. I found that the activity of satiety signaling POMC neurons is decreased in obese animals, in part as a consequence of changes in Ca2+ handling in these cells. Further, I could identify the catecholamine noradrenalin as new modulator of cells in the hypothalamus controlling energy homeostasis. After my PhD I stayed as a postdoc in Cologne and continued and expanded my research in this particular system.

In the beginning of 2019 I started in the lab of Christian Broberger after being awarded with a Novo Nordisk postdoctoral fellowship. Particularly, we aim to characterize somatostatin expressing neurons in the periventricular nucleus of the hypothalamus, a population that has not been described in detail yet. Since these cells are major components of the growth hormone axis we want unravel the contribution to glucose metabolism specifically and energy homeostasis in general. To this end, we will use electrophysiological tools in-vitro and in-vivo combined with behavioral analysis and assessment of metabolic parameters in mice. The knowledge obtained within this project helps to further understand the central regulation of metabolism and may open new targets and strategies in the pharmacological treatment of metabolic disorders and obesity.

Project title: The central control of growth hormone release – electrophysiology and functional role of neuroendocrine somatostatin neurons.

Thomas Ebert

Dr Thomas Ebert

I am a Clinician Scientist working on adipocytokine crosstalk linking obesity and diabetes mellitus with cardiometabolic complications. I graduated from Medical School at the University of Leipzig, Germany and obtained my M.D. in 2010. In my research, I have focused on the effects of adipose tissue-secreted proteins especially on diabetic kidney disease using human studies, as well as animal experiments. In 2018, I finished my Habilitation thesis on adipocytokines as predictors of cardiometabolic diseases.

In 2019, I started my Novo Nordisk Fellowship at Karolinska Institutet in the Division of Renal Medicine at the Department of Clinical Sciences, Intervention and Technology (CLINTEC). I work in the group of Peter Stenvinkel and Annika Wernerson investigating novel genes and proteins that are involved in development and progression of chronic kidney disease and its vascular complications. In more detail, we focus on the identification of pathways contributing to early vascular ageing frequently observed in patients with chronic kidney disease. The overall aim of my work is to establish potential therapeutic targets aiming on treatment of chronic kidney disease but also its cardiometabolic and vascular comorbidities and complications.

Project title: Chronic kidney disease – exploration of novel diagnostic, preventive and therapeutic targets for an emerging public health priority.

David Rizo Roca

Dr David Rizo Roca

I studied biology at the University of Barcelona and conducted my PhD studies in its Cell Biology, Physiology and Immunology department. My research aimed at elucidating the effects of intermittent hypobaric hypoxia and aerobic exercise on the recovery from eccentric exercise-induced muscle damage in trained rats. Specifically, I analyzed the time-course of myofiber histomorphological and metabolic alterations. Moreover, I conducted a pre-doctoral and a post-doctoral research stay at the University of Porto, where I delved into the use of physical exercise as a non-pharmacological tool to counteract mitochondrial dysfunction associated to drug therapies, high-fat diets and Alzheimer’s disease.

In October 2019, I started my Novo Nordisk Postdoctoral Fellowship under the supervision of Professor Juleen Zierath and Professor Anna Krook at the Integrative Physiology group of the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology. Our aim is to unravel the complex regulation of the communication between liver, skeletal muscle and adipose tissue and to understand how these processes are perturbed in Type 2 diabetes. To address that, we will identify novel factors secreted by liver, skeletal muscle and adipose tissue from Type 2 diabetes patients. Subsequently, we will determine whether these candidate factors mediate in the crosstalk between the abovementioned tissues and their impact on whole-body metabolism and insulin sensitivity in Type 2 diabetes by using both in vitro and in vivo models.

Project title: Metabolic crosstalk and the regulation of insulin sensitivity in Type 2 diabetes.

Katharina Herzog

Dr Katharina Herzog

I studied Nutrition Sciences (Bsc) at the Christian-Albrechts University (Kiel, Germany) and Molecular Biosciences (MSc) at the University of Southern Denmark (Odense, Denmark). During my PhD fellowship as a Marie Curie Early Stage Researcher at the Academic Medical Center (University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands), I focussed on the diagnosis of genetic metabolic diseases and studied their functional consequences. In particular, I performed functional lipidomics studies in fibroblasts and plasma samples from patients with a peroxisomal disorder, and investigated novel biomarkers for these diseases. Since I obtained my PhD in December 2017, I translated my research interests into the field of obesity and Type 2 Diabetes (T2D). At Lund University (Sweden), I studied the effect of interventions such as diet and gastric bypass surgery on the plasma metabolome of obese patients, as well as the prediction of future disease using metabolic markers in a prospective cohort study.

I started my Novo Nordisk Fellowship in October 2019 joining a project that focuses on a common, but understudied form of autoimmune diabetes called Latent Autoimmune Diabetes in Adults (LADA) at the Institute of Environmental Medicine under the supervision of Associate Professor Sofia Carlsson. By using data from large population-based studies, I will investigate factors associated with the risk of developing LADA and T2D in relation to individual lifestyle factors and their interaction with genetic factors. Furthermore, I will study the risk of macro- and microvascular disease in LADA and T2D patients and the prognostic role of treatment and lifestyle, as well as metabolic, clinical, and genetic factors.

Project title: LADA-latent autoimmune diabetes in adults, risk factors and prognosis. 

Osman Ahmed

Dr Osman Ahmed

I graduated from Medical School at University of Khartoum - Sudan conferring the degrees of Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS). After graduation, I was employed as a teaching assistant at the Department of Biochemistry. I completed my internship and started my clinical career by working at specialized diabetic center. During this time, I was also conferred a master´s degree (MSc) in Medical Biochemistry. I obtained my PhD at Karolinska Institutet in May 2019, focused on the role of cholesterol metabolism in hepatic steatosis and glucose tolerance.

In November 2019, I started my Novo Nordisk fellowship at Karolinska Institutet in a project led by Assoc. Prof Peder Olofsson and Ass. Prof Stephen Malin at Department of Medicine. In our project we will investigate the lipid-loading effects on individual cells, how this can lead to pro and anti-inflammatory responses in the liver and how the cell types of the liver respond to the onset of NAFLD. Moreover, we will study how neural signals in the inflammatory reflex could regulate inflammation in NAFLD and whether acetylcholine-producing T cells (TChAT) are involved in NAFLD pathogenesis.

Project title: Neural control of inflammation and metabolism in liver disease

Alison Ludzki

Dr Alison Ludzki

My undergraduate and Master's research focused on the effects of exercise training on muscle mitochondrial function and whole body insulin sensitivity. After this, I completed a PhD at the University of Michigan studying the effects of diet and exercise on factors regulating adipose remodeling. My training has focused broadly on applied human metabolism.

I joined the Lipid Laboratory in January, 2020, to explore the role of adipose tissue biology in the development of cardiovascular disease. My projects are investigating the molecular regulation of fat cell structure and function in the context of obesity and insulin resistance. This will provide novel understanding of mechanisms to reduce insulin resistance and metabolic disease in obesity.

Project title: Identifying the role of human white adipose tissue for the development of cardiovascular complications in type 2 diabetes. 


Dr Pauline Vercruysse

Postdoctoral Fellow 2016-2017

Project title: Can diet-induced metabolic disease trigger neurodegeneration when combined with impaired SNARE protein function?

PI: Christina Bark


Dr Ester Bachar-Wikström

Postdoctoral Fellow 2016-2018

Project title: Accelerating regeneration of β-cells and restoration of normoglycemia by reinforcing the gut-pancreas axis in zebrafish.

PI: Olov Andersson


Dr Soile Tuomela

Postdoctoral Fellow 2016-2018

Project title: Gene-environment interaction studies for the identification of novel disease mechanisms and therapeutic targets in Type 1 diabetes – focus on single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in beta cell express genes.

PI: Malin Flodström-Tullberg


Dr Lars Ketscher

Postdoctoral Fellow 2016-2018

Project title: Exploring myo-exosomes in health and disease.

PI: Jorge Ruas


Dr Montserrat Visa

Postdoctroal Fellow 2016-2019

Project title: In vivo imaging of pancreatic β-cell Ca2+ signaling in health and disease.

PI: Per-Olof Berggren


Dr Nicole Schmitner

Postdoctoral Fellow 2016-2019

Project title: Drug discovery in zebrafish for promotion of transdifferentiation to β-cells – and thereby potentiation of β-cell regeneration.

PI: Olov Andersson


Dr Lucile Dollet

Postdoctoral Fellow 2016-2019

Project title: Immuno-metabolic modulation of skeletal muscle insulin sensitivity.

PIs: Anna Krook and Juleen Zierath


Dr Isabel Cordero Herrera

Postdoctoral Fellow 2016-2019

Project title: Modulation of adenosine receptor signalling provides novel therapeutic strategies in Type 2 diabetes.

PI: Mattias Carlström


Dr Alastair Kerr

Postdoctoral Fellow 2016-2019

Project title: Impact of fat cells expressed long non-coding RNAs on human insulin resistance.

PI: Ingrid Dahlman