Published: 30-09-2009 00:00 | Updated: 29-02-2016 19:15

The Sven and Ebba-Christina Hagberg prize to go to doctors Kirsty Spalding and Jonas Muhr

The 2008 Sven and Ebba-Christina Hagberg prize is to be awarded to Kirsty Spalding of the Department of Cell and Molecular Biology for her research into the formation of new brain cells, and to Jonas Muhr of the Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research at Karolinska Institutet for his study of the regulation of stem cells in the brain.

Dr Kirsty Spalding has developed a new technique for studying the formation of cells in the human brain. Previous to this, researchers had to resort to animal studies, the results of which were not always reliably translatable to humans, partly on account of the fact that the human lifespan is much longer than that of the laboratory animal.

Dr Spalding's technique makes it possible to ascertain the age of a human brain cell using a carbon dating method on its DNA molecule.

"I'll be using the technique to study when and where new neurons are incorporated into the adult human brain, and to determine whether brain diseases or injuries are caused by irregularities in cell formation," she says.

Dr Jonas Muhr's research deals with how stem cells are converted into nerve cells and how they can help scientists understand how the dysregulation of neural stem cells can give rise to brain tumours. The foetal brain comprises only stem cells, many of which differentiate later into nerve cells. Dr Muhr has discovered that a number of proteins from the Sox family regulate different stages of this conversion process.

"My research is important to our understanding of how the nervous system and brain are formed, and can teach us how stem cells can be used therapeutically for degenerative diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's," says Dr Muhr. "The results are also central to our understanding of how brain tumours arise, since there are stem cells in these tumours, and many proteins are the same as in the nervous system."

The prize will be awarded at a ceremony to coincide with the installation ceremony for new professors at Karolinska Institutet at the Berwald Hall on 28 October 2009.