Karolinska Institutet

Karolinska Institutet (often translated from Swedish into English as the Karolinska Institute, the -et being a definite article, and in older texts often as the Royal Caroline Institute) is a medical university in Solna within the Stockholm urban area, Sweden, and one of Europe’s largest and most prestigious medical universities.

Could the abnormal expression of genes impact psychopathy?

The expression of many genes that have previously been associated with autism is abnormal also in violent psychopathy, a new study shows. The researchers used stem cell technology to analyse the expression of genes and proteins in the brain cells of psychopathic violent offenders. Published in Molecular Psychiatry, the findings may open up new avenues for

Could the abnormal expression of genes impact psychopathy?

Viruses can facilitate the formation of plaques characteristic of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease

New research from Stockholm University and Karolinska Institutet shows that viruses interact with proteins in the biological fluids of their host which results in a layer of proteins on the viral surface. This coat of proteins makes the virus more infectious and facilitates the formation of plaques characteristic of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Viruses can facilitate the formation of plaques characteristic of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease

A new inflammation inhibitor has been discovered

A multidisciplinary team of researchers led from Karolinska Institutet in Sweden have developed an anti-inflammatory drug molecule with a new mechanism of action. By inhibiting a certain protein, the researchers were able to reduce the signals that trigger an inflammation. The study is published in Science and was done in collaboration with the University of

A new inflammation inhibitor has been discovered

Stronger muscles in old age with stem cells?

As we grow older, our muscular function declines. A new study by researchers at Karolinska Institutet shows how an unexpectedly high number of mutations in the stem cells of muscles impair cell regeneration. This discovery may result in new medication to build stronger muscles even when in old age. The study is published in Nature Communications. It

Stronger muscles in old age with stem cells?

Conducting plastics can be used to trick the metabolism of pathogenic bacteria

Conducting plastics found in smartphone screens can be used to trick the metabolism of pathogenic bacteria, report scientists at Karolinska Institutet in the scientific journal npj Biofilms and Microbiomes. By adding or removing electrons from the plastic surface, bacteria may be tricked into growing more or less. The method may find widespread use in preventing bacterial

Conducting plastics can be used to trick the metabolism of pathogenic bacteria

Kilometer long threads of artificial spider silk

Being able to produce artificial spider silk has long been a dream of many scientists, but all attempts have until now involved harsh chemicals and have resulted in fibers of limited use. Now, a team of researchers from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and Karolinska Institutet has, step by step, developed a method that

Kilometer long threads of artificial spider silk

Artifical neuron mimicks function of human cells

Scientists at Sweden’s Karolinska Institutet have managed to build a fully functional neuron by using organic bioelectronics. This artificial neuron contain no ‘living’ parts, but is capable of mimicking the function of a human nerve cell and communicate in the same way as our own neurons do. Neurons are isolated from each other and communicate

Artifical neuron mimicks function of human cells

Ion pump gives the body its own pain alleviation

A small ion pump in organic electronics is giving new hope to people suffering from severe nerve pain. Researchers at Linköping University (LiU) and Karolinska Institutet (KI) are the first in the world with technology that can stop pain impulses in living, freely moving rats using the body’s own pain relief signals. The results of

Ion pump gives the body its own pain alleviation

The Latest Research from Karolinska Institutet

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Our Very Latest Posts

Which is more believable: hyper-realistic masks or human faces?

Some silicone masks are now so realistic they can easily be mistaken for real faces, new research suggests. Hyper-realistic masks are made from flexible materials such as silicone and are designed to imitate real human faces – down to every last freckle, wrinkle and strand of real human hair. In a study by the Universities

Which is more believable: hyper-realistic masks or human faces?

Checking to see if immunotherapy is working using artificial intelligence

Case Western Reserve researchers use AI with routine CT scans to predict how well lung cancer patients will respond to expensive treatment based off changes in texture patterns inside and outside the tumor. Scientists from the Case Western Reserve University digital imaging lab, already pioneering the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to predict whether chemotherapy

Checking to see if immunotherapy is working using artificial intelligence

How machine intelligences and human users work together on Wikipedia

New study looks at the ways machine intelligences and human users work together to improve and expand the world’s largest digital encyclopedia Since launching in 2001, Wikipedia has evolved into a sprawling repository of human knowledge, with 40 million collaboratively-written articles and almost 500 million monthly users. Maintaining that project requires more than 137,000 volunteer

How machine intelligences and human users work together on Wikipedia

Electronic tags on sharks, penguins, turtles and other species could help monitor the oceans

Sharks, penguins, turtles and other seagoing species could help humans monitor the oceans by transmitting oceanographic information from electronic tags. Thousands of marine animals are tagged for a variety of research and conservation purposes, but at present the information gathered isn’t widely used to track climate change and other shifts in the oceans. Instead, monitoring

Electronic tags on sharks, penguins, turtles and other species could help monitor the oceans

The computing power needed to train AI is growing alarmingly

An updated analysis from OpenAI shows how dramatically the need for computational resources has increased to reach each new AI breakthrough. In 2018, OpenAI found that the amount of computational power used to train the largest AI models had doubled every 3.4 months since 2012. The San Francisco-based for-profit AI research lab has now added new

The computing power needed to train AI is growing alarmingly

A new covering can help seeds grow in unproductive soils

A specialized silk covering could protect seeds from salinity while also providing fertilizer-generating microbes. Providing seeds with a protective coating that also supplies essential nutrients to the germinating plant could make it possible to grow crops in otherwise unproductive soils, according to new research at MIT. A team of engineers has coated seeds with silk

A new covering can help seeds grow in unproductive soils

Using existing smartphones to predict and curb the spread of infectious diseases in sub-Saharan Africa

via Imperial College London

A new Imperial-led review has outlined how health workers could use existing phones to predict and curb the spread of infectious diseases.

The review, published in Nature, outlines how healthcare workers in low-income countries, like those in sub-Saharan Africa, could use existing smartphones to diagnose, track and control infectious diseases in low-income countries.

There are already initiatives focused on using established mobile technologies like text messages and calls to connect healthcare workers and patients to each other, and to test results.

Now, this new Imperial College London-led review suggests that smartphones could also help people to test themselves and receive results and support in their own homes.

This would make it easier for people to look after their own health – particularly in rural regions, where clinics can be too far away to travel.

This is an exciting opportunity for researchers and policy makers to develop new tools and systems that could drastically improve human health and wellbeing in the future.Professor Molly Stevens Departments of Bioengineering & Materials

In addition, patients worried about a potential HIV infection might be more inclined to get tested if they could do it at home and avoid the stigma of attending a clinic.

Many smartphones have sensors built in that could aid diagnosis, such as a heart rate monitor and an oximeter, as well as a camera and microphone that can be used to analyse images and sounds like a person’s breathing.

In addition, simple testing technologies are being developed that can be linked into a phone, via a USB stick or wirelessly. In theory, a person could test themselves using an easy to collect sample, such as a pinprick of blood, and the results would be scanned onto mobile apps.

The apps would send the results to local clinics before being uploaded to a central online database – instead of patients having to attend in person.

Lead author Professor Molly Stevens, from Imperial’s Departments of Bioengineering and Materials, said: “People increasingly use smartphones to manage their money and connect with the world. It makes sense that phones can also play an even larger role in healthcare than they already do.”

The bigger picture

Smartphones are increasingly used in sub-Saharan Africa. By 2020, one in two mobile phone connections in the region will be via smartphone – a similar figure to worldwide smartphone adoption.

The researchers say this presents a prime opportunity to harness the existing technology where clinics in rural areas can be scarce.

Approaches outlined in the review include apps that use the phone’s camera to interpret test results, send findings to local clinics or healthcare workers, and host virtual follow-up appointments with healthcare workers. The authors say these approaches might help increase rates of disease testing in regions with limited facilities.

Combined, the test results would build a picture of symptoms across a region to help predict and fight current and future outbreaks.

Health on the move

Co-author Dr Chris Wood, who conducted the work at Imperial’s Department of Materials and Sweden’s Karolinska Institute, said: “By developing mobile health interventions, we address a number of challenges in healthcare and public education. Connected diagnostic tests for diseases have the ability to improve and build on these in new and exciting ways.”

The authors added that these ideas are not without challenges. Although rapid technological advances have improved access to testing, more than 35 per cent of the world has no access to mobile phones. It is also easier to accurately collect and analyse samples in a healthcare setting, where there are trained staff and the environment is designed to be sterile, than in a person’s home.

Safeguarding measures must be put in place to protect privacy and confidentiality of patient data, the authors say. These measures must also be fully explained to users to build trust in and encourage adoption of these new healthcare services.

Still, the report’s authors remain optimistic. In 2016, global smartphone adoption reached 51 per cent and is predicted to keep growing – particularly in resource limited settings such as sub-Saharan Africa.

This means more and more of the world’s population will equipped with a powerful pocket computer that can connect patients and share healthcare data.

Professor Stevens said: “This is an exciting opportunity for researchers and policy makers to develop new tools and systems that could drastically improve human health and well being in the future.”

Learn more: Smartphones could help diagnose infectious diseases in sub-Saharan Africa

 

 

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A natural human enzyme can biodegrade graphene

Human lungs in color background

A natural human enzyme can biodegrade graphene, scientists from the Graphene Flagship have announced.

Degradation of pristine graphene occurs in the human body when interacting with a naturally occurring enzyme found in the lung, announced Graphene Flagship partners; the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), University of Strasbourg, Karolinska Institute and University of Castilla–La Mancha (UCLM).

Graphene based products are being designed to be interfaced with the human body within the Graphene Flagship, including flexible biomedical electronic devices.  If graphene is to be used for such biomedical applications, it should be biodegradable and thus be expelled from the body.

To test how graphene behaves within the body, Alberto Bianco and his team at Graphene Flagship partner CNRS, conducted several tests looking at if and how graphene was broken down with the addition of a common human enzyme. The enzyme in question, myeloperoxidase (MPO), is a peroxide enzyme released by neutrophils, cells that are responsible for the elimination of any foreign bodies or bacteria that enter the body, found in the lungs. If a foreign body or bacteria is detected inside of the body, neutrophils surround it and secrete MPO, thereby destroying the threat. Previous work by Graphene Flagship partners found MPO to successfully biodegrade graphene oxide [Small, 20151; Nanoscale, 20182]. However the structure of non-functionalized graphene was thought to be more degradation resistant.  To test this, Bianco and his team looked at the effects of MPO, ex vivo, on two graphene forms; single- and few-layer.

Bianco explains, “We used two forms of graphene, single- and few-layer, prepared by two different methods in water. They were then taken and put in contact with myeloperoxidase in the presence of hydrogen peroxide. This peroxidase was able to degrade and oxidise them. This was not really expected because we thought that non functionalized graphene was more resistant than graphene oxide.”

Rajendra Kurapati, first author on the study, from Graphene Flagship partner CNRS, said, “The results emphasize that highly dispersible graphene could be degraded in the body by the action of neutrophils. This would open the new avenue for developing graphene-based materials.”

With successful ex-vivo testing, in-vivo testing is the next stage. Bengt Fadeel, Professor at Graphene Flagship partner Karolinska Institute, “Understanding whether graphene is biodegradable or not is important for biomedical and other applications of this material. The fact that cells of the immune system are capable of handling graphene is very promising.”

Prof. Maurizio Prato, leader of Work Package 4, dealing with Health and Environment impact studies,  based at Graphene Flagship Partner University of Trieste, said, “The enzymatic degradation of graphene is a very important topic, because in principle, graphene dispersed in the atmosphere could produce some harm. Instead, if there are microorganisms able to degrade graphene and related materials, the persistence of these materials in our environment will be strongly decreased. These types of studies are needed. What is also needed is to investigate the nature of degradation products. Once graphene is digested by enzymes, it could produce harmful derivatives. We need to know the structure of these derivatives and study their impact on health and environment.”

Learn more: Biodegradable Graphene

 

 

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Stronger muscles in old age with stem cells?

via Quora

As we grow older, our muscular function declines. A new study by researchers at Karolinska Institutet shows how an unexpectedly high number of mutations in the stem cells of muscles impair cell regeneration. This discovery may result in new medication to build stronger muscles even when in old age.

The study is published in Nature Communications.

It has already been established that natural ageing impairs the function of our skeletal muscles. We also know that the number and the activity of the muscles’ stem cells decline with age. However, the reasons for this has not been fully understood. In a new study, researchers at Karolinska Institutet have investigated the number of mutations that accumulate in the muscle’s stem cells (satellite cells).

“What is most surprising is the high number of mutations. We have seen how a healthy 70-year-old has accumulated more than 1,000 mutations in each stem cell in the muscle, and that these mutations are not random but there are certain regions that are better protected,” explains Maria Eriksson, Professor at the Department of Biosciences and Nutrition at Karolinska Institutet.

The protection declines with age

The mutations occur during natural cell division, and the regions that are protected are those that are important for the function or survival of the cells. Nonetheless, the researchers were able to identify that this protection declines with age.

“We can demonstrate that this protection diminishes the older you become, indicating an impairment in the cell’s capacity to repair their DNA. And this is something we should be able to influence with new drugs,” explains Maria Eriksson.

The researchers have benefited from new methods to complete the study. The study was performed using single stem cells cultivated to provide sufficient DNA for whole genome sequencing.

Complex mutational burden

“We achieved this in the skeletal muscle tissue, which is absolutely unique. We have also found that there is very little overlap of mutations, despite the cells being located close to each other, representing an extremely complex mutational burden,” explains the study’s first author, Irene Franco, Postdoc in Maria Eriksson’s research group.

The researchers will now continue their work to investigate whether physical exercise can affect the number of accumulated mutations. Is it true that physical exercise from a young age clears out cells with many mutations, or does it result in the generation of a higher number of such cells?

Can result in new exercise programmes

“We aim to discover whether it is possible to individually influence the burden of mutations. Our results may be beneficial for the development of exercise programmes, particularly those designed for an ageing population,” explains Maria Eriksson.

Learn more: Stem cell study may result in stronger muscles in old age

 

The Latest on: Muscle stem cells

 

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Salamander genome sequenced: May provide clues to rebuilding complex tissue and even body parts

via Saint Louis Zoo

Researchers at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden have managed to sequence the giant genome of a salamander, the Iberian ribbed newt, which is a full six times greater than the human genome.

Amongst the early findings is a family of genes that can provide clues to the unique ability of salamanders to rebuild complex tissue, even body parts. The study is published in Nature Communications.

This is the first time that an entire newt genome has been sequenced, an achievement that can give rise to new discoveries on the amphibian’s ability to recreate brain neurons as well as entire body parts. Amongst the first findings are a multitude of copies of a certain microRNA group, which in mammals is mainly found in embryonic stem cells, but also in tumour cells.

“It will be exciting to figure out how regeneration in the adult organism re-activates embryonic genes,” says study leader Professor András Simon at Karolinska Institutet’s Department of Cell and Molecular Biology. “What’s needed now are functional studies of these microRNA molecules to understand their function in regeneration. The link to cancer cells is also very interesting, especially bearing in mind newts’ marked resistance to tumour formation.”

Even though the abundance of stem cell microRNA genes is quite surprising, it alone cannot explain how salamanders regenerate so well. Professor Simon predicts that the explanation lies in a combination of genes unique to salamanders and how other more common genes orchestrate and control the actual regeneration process.

One of the reasons why salamander genomes have not been sequenced before is its sheer size – six times bigger than the human genome in the case of the Iberian newt, which has posed an enormous technical and methodological challenge.

“It’s only now that the technology is available to handle such a large genome,” says Professor Simon. “The sequencing per se doesn’t take that long – it’s recreating the genome from the sequences that’s so time consuming.”

“We all realised how challenging it was going to be,” recounts first author Ahmed Elewa, postdoctoral fellow at the same department. “But the very fact that it was such a challenge made it all the more exciting.”

The group at Karolinska Institutet is now engaging with other researchers to discover what can be learned from the newt genome and test new hypotheses through systematic comparisons with mammals.

“We showed ten years ago that salamanders can recreate all the cells that die in Parkinson’s disease in the space of four weeks,” says Professor Simon. “We can now delve deeply into the molecular processes underlying this ability. Although we’re doing basic research, our findings can hopefully lead to the development of new regenerative strategies for humans.”

Learn more: Salamander genome gives clues about unique regenerative ability

 

The Latest on: Regenerative medicine

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