Published: 07-04-2017 11:31 | Updated: 07-04-2017 12:35

Karolinska Institutet in EU initiative for vascular diseases

The first of March 2017 marked the start of INTRICARE, an international EU-financed consortium in which 15 doctoral projects at three European universities have been earmarked for research to find new treatments for vascular diseases. Karolinska Institutet is the host of four of the projects.

Professor Johan FrostegårdThe doctoral projects are so-called European Joint Doctorates (EJDs), whereby the students are educated at two universities. This is the first time that Karolinska Institutet has received EU funding for this type of project. The consortium is financed with a grant from Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) and is coordinated by CARIM Maastricht University in the Netherlands. Universitätsklinikum Aachen in Germany is the third participating university.

An exciting journey for the students

“I think it’s good for Karolinska Institutet to be on board,” says Johan Frostegård, professor at Karolinska Institutet’s Institute of Environmental Medicine and supervisor of one of the projects. “It’s something of a mark of quality. Above all, it’ll be an exciting journey for the students.”

The other three projects are supervised by professors Magnus Bäck (Department of Medicine, Solna), Ulf Hedin (Department of Molecular Medicine and Surgery) and Peter Stenvinkel (Department of Clinical Science, Intervention and Technology). Previous collaborations with Maastricht University and Universitätsklinikum Aachen paved the way for Karolinska Institutet’s participation.

“Some groups at Karolinska Institutet have collaborated with researchers at Maastricht and Aachen on previous projects, including on vascular calcification, vitamin K and premature vascular ageing,” says Professor Stenvinkel. “This is why Karolinska Institutet is involved in this project.”

Different approaches to find new therapies

Peter Stenvinkel's project will look into why the vessels in patients with advanced kidney failure age so quickly. Johan Frostegård’s project will study how specific fats can be used immunologically to develop vaccines against vascular calcification; Magnus Bäck’s project will examine how inflammation makes vesicular calcification instable and how it can be treated; and Ulf Hedin’s project will focus on which genes can contribute to the calcification of the vesicular wall musculature.

“We hope, of course, that these projects will eventually give rise to new therapeutic methods to target vascular disease in an ever-ageing European population,” says Professor Stenvinkel. “This opportunity to combine studies of European patient groups while having access to the fantastic infrastructure and methods that exist in Maastricht and Aachen means that this research consortium.can excel vascular research at Karolinska Institutet”

Doctoral students are currently being recruited to the projects, which will run for four years.

Text: Mårten Göthlin