Published: 10-07-2017 10:07 | Updated: 10-07-2017 10:15

Christer Betsholtz receives the Anders Jahre major medical award

Christer Betsholtz, Professor in vascular and tumour biology, receives the Anders Jahre major medical award for his research into the formation and function of blood vessels. The research is important in terms of being able to treat specific disorders, e.g., brain tumours and psychoses. Betsholtz’ research group is based at Uppsala University, but at KI he is more well-known as director of the Integrated Cardio Metabolic Centre.

Congratulations on the award! What does this mean for you?

– Being paid to perform research is just a real privilege, and I agree with those people who say that researchers have the best job in the world. At the same time the work is relentless and full of highs and lows, where you often wonder whether the exhaustion and payments to the tax office are worth the effort.

​– Now, the Jahre committee and their experts have decided that my group achieved something meaningful in the field of cardiovascular research. Of course, it’s a fantastic acknowledgement. It’s exciting, a real buzz! Says Christer Betsholtz.

Can you tell us about your research?

– Our smallest blood vessels are specifically adapted to their location, and they differ from organ to organ. Among other things, they are differently permeable to fluids, molecules and cells. The blood-brain-barrier is one such specialization, the filtration apparatus in the kidneys is another. One of our main hypotheses is that problems with these specializations plays an important role in the incidence and development of different illnesses - in the brain and the kidneys, as well as in other organs.

What are you working on in your research group at the moment?

– On a major project, where we are learning more about the blood-brain-barrier, which is a collective term for a complex of many different cells and molecular functions. We are mapping the cells in the barrier using, among other things, a new technique whereby we interpret the genetic expression of individual cells. By studying thousands of cells, we get a high resolution map and a reference work, which then paves the way for more specific research questions and research projects. We have completed the work on how the blood-brain-barrier looks in the healthy brain, and are now going on to study how it develops and changes in diseases such as Alzheimer’s, stroke and brain tumours.

What will you do with the prize money?

– Part of the money is a personal award, and for that I try and think of suitable charities and a fun activity (travel) with the family. The other part is a research grant. For that, I try and organise a symposium within our own area of research, where we invite people who they, by which I mean my research group, would like to hear speak, and to learn from the world’s best researchers.

You are a researcher at Uppsala University, are director of ICMC, and live in Gothenburg – do you have any tricks for organising your time?

– A clear advantage is the fact that my three workplaces, Uppsala University, ICMC/MedH at Karolinska, and AstraZeneca in Gothenburg, are located on the same train line. The train is an underrated office! I see a trip between Stockholm and Gothenburg as three hours of uninterrupted – and undisturbed – time for work; mostly to write, read and think. The fact that I’m sitting on a train right now, which is two hours late, is – therefore – not a big problem. But I have to admit that I’m always struggling to be more efficient by delegating and prioritizing.