My post graduate degree is in Veterinary Medicine from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU). After a short period of clinical work, I decided to get a PhD. My project concerned finding a way to produce artificial spider silk for medical applications and started with me going on an “adventure trip” to South Africa to collect 100 spiders from the wild. Since then, I have been captivated by this fascinating and impressive material and the spiders that produce it.
In 2007 I received my PhD, and soon after we started the company Spiber Technologies AB to commercialize our research findings, and I was CEO until 2012. In 2011, I received a position as Assistant Professor (forskarassistent) at Karolinska Institutet, and since 2012, I have been Senior Lecturer/Extension Specialist in Translational Veterinary Medicine at SLU.
In 2013 I was appointed Associate Professor.
RESEARCH AND AREA OF EXPERTISE
My research area and area of expertise include translational medicine, regenerative medicine, molecular biotechnology, protein misfolding diseases and medical biochemistry.
We can artificially synthesize spider silk fibers that have the same strength as tendons, are bio-compatible and degrade as new tissue is formed in the body. The material has the potential to be used in a range of medical fields. We focus on regenerative medicine (tissue repair), mainly cultivation of stem cells, which is a relatively new area of research. The ultimate goal is to be able to replace or restore damaged organs and structures.
In another project we study a specific part of the spider silk protein (NT), which increases the solubility of the spider silk proteins when they are stored in the spider’s silk glands. The solubility enhancing properties of NT also apply when the NT is fused to other proteins of low solubility. Therefore, we use NT to produce drugs, which today are difficult or impossible to manufacture. Based on a technology in which we use NT we can produce large amounts of lung surfactant to low costs, why we currently develop surfactants with enhanced properties. We are also looking at novel ways to deliver drugs to the alveoli by using sufactant as a drug carrier. Local treatment of several different lung conditions would be preferable compared to systemic administration of the drugs.
NT also accelerates the formation of spider silk fibers in the passage of the spider silk gland, a property that we study and use in innovative projects in biotechnology.
Amyloid is a specific type of protein aggregates that is linked to several severe and chronic diseases (eg AA-amyloidosis, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Diabetes mellitus). Recent evidence show that mice develop systemic amyloidosis much quicker if they are fed amyloid fibrils in the drinking water. We are investigating the prevalence of systemic amyloid disease in animals that go to human consumption.
My research has four main focuses:
1. To use spider silk to regenerate damaged tissue and to be able to culture stem cells under defined conditions.
2. To use Nature’s own solubility increasing domain (NT) to develop poorly soluble proteins (drugs).
3. To develop novel drug delivery systems to the lungs based on synthetic lung surfactant.
4. Determine the prevalence of systemic amyloid disease in food-producing animals.
• Can spider silk be used as a 3D matrix when culturing adult and embryonic stem cells?
• Can artificially produced spider silk be used as implants to replace damaged tissues and organs?
• Can the spider silk proteins’ N-terminal domain be used as a general solubility enhancing domain for the production of proteins with low solubility?
• Can we use the lung surfactant we produce for treatment of respiratory distress syndrome and drug delivery applications?
• What is the prevalence of systemic amyloid disease in Swedish food-producing animals? Does consumption of amyloid fibrils from these animals represent a potential risk for humans?
FELLOWSHIPS AND AWARDS
2012 Medal of Merit in Silver from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Sweden
2012 Nicholson Award. Rockefeller University, USA
2013 Best Presentation Award, 1st Annual International Conference on Advances in Veterinary Research, VETSCI 2013, Singapore
2013 Best Paper Award. Materials.
2008 Winner of VINN NU competition. VINNOVA, Sweden.