Published: 03-12-2015 11:17 | Updated: 03-12-2015 14:40

Stem cell researcher appointed Wallenberg Academy Fellow

The stem cell researcher Dr. Petter Woll was today appointed Wallenberg Academy Fellow at Karolinska Institutet. He receives SEK 8,1 millon over five years to examine the sick stem cells that drive the blood cancer called myelodysplastic syndrome. The long-term aim is to find a treatment that can specifically destroy these stem cells and thus cure the patient.

Myelodysplastic syndrome is a blood cancer that often affects people aged 60-75. Each year more than 300 cases are diagnosed in Sweden, and many people with the disease die within a few years due to lack of effective and curative treatments.

In his examination of the disease, Dr. Petter Woll, recently recruited to Karolinska Institutet from University of Oxford, has shown that myelodysplastic syndrome develops from a unique group of blood-forming stem cells in the bone marrow.

One problem appears to be that the sick cells have changes in genes that govern mRNA splicing. This is a fundamental process in the cell in which copies of genes, known as messenger RNA, are made ready for translation when the gene copy is used as a template for creating functional proteins in the cell.

To find a cure for myelodysplastic syndrome, Petter Woll will study how changes to mRNA splicing may lead to cancer. He will investigate how the cancer-driving stem cells work in mouse models of the disease, as well as in affected patients.

As a Wallenberg Academy Fellow, Petter Woll will be based at Karolinska Institutet.

Petter Woll. Foto: Markus Marcetic © Knut och Alice Wallenbergs Stiftelse/Kungl. Vetenskapsakademien“It’s a fantastic opportunity for me to be able to this research at Karolinska Institutet” says Dr. Petter Woll. “The long-term aim is to find a way to specifically destroy the cancer cells and spare the healthy cells, so that the patients are cured. “

The programme Wallenberg Academy Fellows was established by the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation in close cooperation with five royal academies and 16 Swedish universities. The universities nominate researchers for the programme, the academies evaluate the candidates and present the most promising researchers to the Wallenberg Foundation, which then makes the final selection. After this, the universities take long-term responsibility for the selected researchers’ activities.

“We are truly grateful that Karolinska Institutet to such extent and over so many years receives generous research funding from the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation” says vice-chancellor Anders Hamsten. “The support is very important to our university and to the researchers selected by the foundation.”

Read more about the programme and the research of the Wallenberg Academy Fellows

Knut and Alice Walleberg Foundation
Wallenberg Academy Fellows