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Published: 2019-12-10 12:30 | Updated: 2019-12-10 12:55

Two KI researchers awarded the ERC Consolidator grant

Myriam Aouadi (left), senior researcher at the Department of Medicine, Huddinge, and Camilla Svensson (right), professor at the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology.

Myriam Aouadi and Camilla Svensson have been awarded the European Research Council’s Consolidator grant 2019 for research on the role of macrophages in liver disease and how autoantibodies contribute to chronic pain, respectively.

The ERC Consolidator grants are awarded to outstanding researchers in Europe with seven to twelve years of experience after PhD, and a scientific track record showing great promise. The total funding 2019 is EUR 600 million, on average EUR 2 million per grant provided for up to five years. Two researchers/projects at Karolinska Institutet were awarded this year:

Macrophages and NASH

Principal investigator: Myriam Aouadi, senior researcher at the Department of Medicine, Huddinge

Project title: Revealing the contribution of liver macrophage populations to NASH in insulin resistance (MacinNASH)

Summary: Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is a life-threatening liver disease that often occurs in obese individuals in the absence of excessive alcohol consumption. Despite an estimated 10 million people affected in Europe and a rapidly increasing prevalence, there are currently no approved treatments for NASH. The Aouadi research group at Karolinska Institutet has recently disproven the prevailing paradigm that immune cells could damage the liver and eventually induce NASH in obese individuals through the production of inflammatory cytokines. The researchers discovered that macrophages can regulate liver function independently of their inflammatory status. In her newly funded ERC Consolidator project, Myriam Aouadi will apply cutting-edge technologies, including her patented technology to manipulate gene expression in macrophages in a tissue specific manner, to overcome the many challenges that have so far hampered a better understanding of NASH progression. With this project she hopes to enable the development of novel therapeutic strategies for NASH.

More about Myriam Aouadi’s research

Autoantibodies and chronic pain

Principal investigator: Camilla Svensson, professor at the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology

Project title: Autoantibodies and chronic pain - Unraveling new mechanisms contributing to pain in rheumatic disease (ANTIBODYPAIN)

Summary: About 20 percent of the population suffer from chronic pain, which is a leading cause of disability and decreased quality of life. The project focuses on chronic pain in two common diseases: rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia. Recently Camilla Svensson and her colleagues discovered that autoantibodies can activate pain-sensing neurons independent of immune cell activity. In addition, they found that antibodies from not only rheumatoid arthritis, but also fibromyalgia patients, increase the excitability of sensory neurons. In the project funded by ERC, the research group will investigate the cellular and molecular mechanisms by which autoreactive antibodies from rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia patients activate pain neurons and alter their function long-term. For this the researchers will use patient samples, mouse models, and state-of-the-art cell-based systems. The aim is to advance novel concepts of how antibodies induce and sustain chronic pain. Such understanding will hopefully lead to new diagnostic tests and novel strategies for pain relief.

More about Camilla Svensson’s research

Next round of funding

Researchers who would like to compete for an ERC Consolidator grant have until 4 February 2020 to apply for the next round of funding.