Published: 27-10-2023 15:34 | Updated: 27-10-2023 15:34

"We want to know more about the immune system in the airways"

Portrait of Anna Smed Sörensen in the lab.
Anna Smed Sörensen, immunologist and research group leader at the Department of Medicine, Solna. Photo: Ulf Sirborn.

Meet Anna Smed Sörensen, research group leader at the Division of Immunology and Allergy, Department of Medicine, Solna.

My research group consists of a mixture of doctoral students, students, and postdocs with different backgrounds (doctors, biomedical engineers, engineers) and from different parts of the world. Together, we conduct translational, experimental immunological research with the aim of understanding respiratory viral infections, such as influenza and covid-19, and inflammatory lung diseases such as sarcoidosis.

One question we ask ourselves is why some people become more seriously ill than others when they are infected with the same virus or are having the same disease. To understand diseases that begin in and/or affect the airways, we believe that part of the answer can be found by studying the immune system not only in the blood but also in the airways.

The picture shows two PhD students dressed in protective clothing before meeting COVID patients.
The PhD students Björn Österberg and Sara Falck-Jones are dressed to go in and sample COVID patients for our studies, March 2020. Photo: Sindhu Vangeti.

A unique COVID cohort

I am proud of our research efforts during the COVID pandemic. For many years, we have studied immune responses to influenza to understand what dictates disease severity. Among other things, we had previously started a study where, during the flu season, we take blood and respiratory samples from people with suspected or confirmed viral infection. This allowed us to quickly start enrolling and sampling COVID patients when they replaced flu patients in the winter-spring of 2020. We have built a unique COVID cohort that covers the full range of disease severity and from which we have been able to take blood and airways samples for two and a half years now. It has required an incredible amount of work from my entire research group and from our colleagues, but it has also been very rewarding!

Being a research group leader

For me, being a research group leader means defining research projects together with my group and leading them from start to finish. What drives me is that I am constantly learning new things while I at the same time get to see people and projects grow and develop.

Read more on the research group’s web page: Research group Anna Smed Sörensen - Respiratory and systemic immune responses in human pulmonary viral infection and inflammation.