Published: 16-11-2015 16:28 | Updated: 17-11-2015 10:38

New Professor in Type 1 diabetes

Malin Flodström- Tullberg, research group leader at CIM, has been appointed Professor in Type 1 diabetes at the Department of Medicine, Huddinge.

- It is great! Especially that the professorship is in research on Type 1 diabetes, a common disease that we despite considerable research efforts, know very little about, says Malin Flodström- Tullberg.

Malin and her research group at CIM study the etiology of Type 1 diabetes and how the disease can be prevented. Type 1 diabetes is one of the most common chronic diseases in children and affects more than 0,5 % of the Swedish population.

The research group also has an interest in Cystic Fibrosis, which is a disease that affects the body´s mucus producing glands in a negative way leading to lung and intestinal problems. Patients with Cystic Fibrosis also have an increased risk of developing diabetes and Malin has been particularly interested in how the disease affects the insulin producing beta-cells and the host defense against virus infections.

The group´s current main focus is on enteroviruses, a common group of viruses that usually only leads to a cold, but in rare cases can cause more serious diseases including myocarditis and pancreatitis. Infections with these virus types have also been associated with the development of Type 1 diabetes.

- We want to establish whether there is an association between enterovirus infections and Type 1 diabetes, and that requires understanding in how the infection affects the infected cells and how our immune system responds to the infection.

- We also work in collaboration with the University of Tampere in Finland to develop new prototype vaccines against a sub-group of viruses within the enterovirus family, says Malin.

In the beginning of 2015 Malin Flodström- Tullberg was appointed visiting Professor at the University of Tampere in Finland, where she collaborate with different research groups to develop the vaccine against enteroviruses. The collaboration is of strategic relevance and complementary in nature since the researchers in Finland have expertise in vaccine development and Malin’s group has specialized in experimental models for preclinical testing of the novel vaccines.

Why do you think that the department announced a professorship in research on Type 1 diabetes right now?

- Karolinska Institutet wants to strengthen its already strong research in diabetes, and this is a strategy to increase research also in Type 1 diabetes. It is also in line with the recent initiatives within research in metabolism, taken by the Department of Medicine Huddinge.

Why do you become interested in research on Type 1 diabetes?

- I have through others experienced how difficult it can be to live with type 1 diabetes and also seen what nasty complications it can lead to. In high school I did a small literature study on the disease and found it quite surprizing that a cure or preventative treatment had not been disovered. When I studied at the Biomedicine Programme at the Uppsala University I had the great luck to start my Ph.D. studies with an excellent mentor (Decio Eizirik), who was at that time working on type 1 diabetes and Nitric oxide, the latter a very interesing molecule that I had come across during my studies (Molecule of the Year in 1992 and its discovery awarded the Nobel Prize in 1998).

What is the difference between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes?

- There are several differences, for example Type 1 diabetes develops at an early age while Type 2 diabetes more often appears later in life. Type 1 diabetes has less to do with obesity and overweight, and is considered to be more directly related to an insufficient insulin production by the pancreatic beta cells. Type 2 diabetes is more common, but since Type 1 affects younger people, the years with the disease is longer. We also know that a large group of people with Type 2 diabetes can be helped with better diet and increased physical activity. In contrast, we know nothing about how to prevent Type 1 diabetes and there is currently no cure for the disease.

About Malin Flodström- Tullberg
Employed as: Professor and research group leader at CIM, Visiting Professor at the University of Tampere, Finland
Family: Husband and two children.
Background: Grew up in Västerås and took her doctoral degree at Uppsala University. During her thesis studies spend one year at the Free University in Brussels. She was a postdoctoral fellow at The Scripps Research Institute in the US between 1998 and 2003. She started at KI in 2003.
Interests: Would argue that research is more than a job, it is an interest. Malin also likes to travel, learn about new cultures and try new food. “With small children you are privileged to try many new fun things!”