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MIMS Spotlight Series: Meet Anne-Marie Fors Connolly

Text written by Nóra Lehotai and Anne Marie Fors Connolly. 

I had a chat with Anne-Marie Fors Connolly who joined MIMS as a Clinical Research Fellow in 2020. She is a true cosmopolitan, with Swedish and Danish nationalities and some Irish blood in her veins as well. She has lived in Denmark and Ireland before moving to Sweden, and now she is living with her husband, and they are hoping to soon welcome a dog in their lives.

AMFC in the lab reduced

Portrait picture of Anne-Marie Fors Connolly working in the lab. Credit: Mattias Petterson.

Can you tell us about your role at MIMS, what are you working on now?

I am a MIMS clinical research fellow. I finished my medical internship last year and I am currently specializing in Clinical Microbiology. Right now, I have several large projects ongoing in parallel ranging from in vitro studies in the laboratory, to clinical determinants of infectious disease outcome to large scale multi-register population studies. My research interests are focused on translational projects that are clinically relevant, since I like to feel I am contributing to society with the knowledge that is generated. My MIMS postdoc, Dr. Chloé Jacquet, is focusing on determining the cleaving factors of the endothelial glycocalyx during HFRS and COVID-19. My clinical project student, Hanna Jerndal, is visualizing the real-time thickness of the endothelial glycocalyx in COVID-19 patients. The principal research engineer Osvaldo Fonseca-Rodriguez is quantifying the risk of acute cardiovascular complications in all COVID-19 patients, together with Ioannis Katsoularis a medical doctor and PhD student. We have the help of a statistician, Erling Lundevaller, who works part-time in my group.

Read more: MIMS Spotlight Series: Meet Anne-Marie Fors Connolly

Malaria researchers at MIMS, Ellen Bushell and Oliver Billker, reflect on World Malaria Day (25 April)

Written by Nóra Lehotai, MIMS

During the World Health Assembly in 2007, the World Health Organization (WHO) Member States established 25th April as World Malaria Day. Fourteen years have passed, and malaria is still a global threat, claiming over 400, 000 lives every year, mostly killing children under 5 according to the WHO.

Malaria, an infectious disease, is caused by the unicellular protozoan Plasmodium parasites. These parasites infect the Anopheles mosquitos which become carriers of the parasites and transmit them to humans when the infected female Anopheles mosquito bites us. The parasites are injected from the mosquito’s salivary glands to the blood in the form of sporozoites, which travel to the liver (liver stage) where they multiply and transform into merozoites. The merozoite form invades our red blood cells (RBCs; blood stage), grows, and transforms into trophozoite, schizont and finally, into gametocyte form, which induces the malaria symptoms. The typical incubation period, from the bite until the first symptoms, is 11 days.

The Plasmodium life cycle A malaria infection begins with the transmission of a

Read more: Malaria researchers at MIMS, Ellen Bushell and Oliver Billker, reflect on World Malaria Day (25...

MIMS Spotlight Series: Meet Sarah Lundgren

Text written by Nóra Lehotai and Sarah Lundgren. Photo credits: Sarah Lundgren.

Sarah Lundgren joined MIMS in November 2020. She felt like coming home after living in the UK, Australia and Japan and nowadays she enjoys life in Umeå with her partner, Sam, and many more four legged friends. Enjoy the interview with Sarah!

Can you tell us about your role at MIMS, what are you working on now? 

SL profile pic

My main responsibility in the Oliver Billker’s lab here at MIMS, is the management of our insectary. We rear mosquito colonies for our malaria research, and I make sure that our scientists have access to mosquitoes for their various experiments. Besides running the insectary, I am also responsible for coordinating the logistics, and making sure that everything runs smoothly.

Read more: MIMS Spotlight Series: Meet Sarah Lundgren

MIMS Spotlight Series: Meet Barbara Forró

Text written by Nóra Lehotai and Barbara Forró. Photo credits: Csaba Guti.

I had a chat with Barbara, who is a postdoctoral fellow in Maria Fällman’s group. After living in Hungary and Canada, she moved to Umeå in August 2020. She shares her home with her husband and “never enough” number of plants.

BF portraitCan you tell us about your role at MIMS; what are you working on now?

My main project is about shedding light on the molecular mechanism of Salmonella enterica serovar typhimurium invasion and persistence. I am being fortunate to analyze a huge bulk of RNA seq data from an in vivo mice experiment, that would drive us closer to understand the mechanisms of the bacterial persistence in the host and, as always in science, would raise more fascinating questions regarding the topic. Outside of the main project, I am taking the time to learn more about mechanisms of Yersinia pseudotuberculosis invasion and persistence in the host.

Read more: MIMS Spotlight Series: Meet Barbara Forró

Prestigious postdoctoral fellowship for structural biology and infection research in Umeå

Text written by Himanshu Sharma and Nóra Lehotai. Photo: Himanshu Sharma by the Titan Krios cryo-electron microscope at the Umeå Centre for Electron Microscopy (UCEM). Credit: Kai Ehrenbolger. 

Himanshu Sharma by Kai EhrenbolgerHimanshu Sharma, a postdoctoral researcher in Jonas Barandun’s lab at MIMS and the Department of Molecular Biology, Umeå University, got awarded the prestigious Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) Individual Fellowship, giving him the opportunity to carry out the proposed research project with the financial support of 191 000 € over two years.

“I am exhilarated to have received this research funding. This fellowship gives me an opportunity to investigate the intriguing infection mechanism of microsporidia through cutting-edge methods in structural biology. Microsporidia are a class of obligate parasites that employ unique methods to infect almost all organisms, including bees, fish, farmed animals and humans. Apart from being an enormous environmental and healthcare challenge, these organisms also exhibit a range of evolutionarily distinctive cellular processes. To understand these interesting but understudied pathogens, I am going to combine my existing knowledge in RNA biology with cryo-EM to understand the critical events in the microsporidia lifecycle. Through these advancements, I aim to develop an understanding of potential drug targets to curb the growing menace of microsporidia infections.”- he commented. 

Read more: Prestigious postdoctoral fellowship for structural biology and infection research in Umeå

Identification of a protective protein that reduces the severity of COVID-19

Written by Elin Thysell

Researchers at Umeå University and their international collaborative partners have discovered that increased levels of the protein OAS1 are associated with reduced mortality and less severe disease requiring ventilation among patients with COVID-19. Using drugs that boost OAS1 levels could be explored to try to improve these outcomes. The findings were published on 26th February 2021 in Nature Medicine.

Elin Thysell reducedOur analysis shows evidence that OAS1 has a protective effect against COVID-19 susceptibility and severity,” explains Dr. Elin Thysell, researcher at Medical Biosciences and Deputy Project Manager for PREDICT. PREDICT is the newly launched initiative at the Medical Faculty with the goal of finding tools early that make it possible to prevent or alleviate diseases by developing the use of biobank samples in the healthcare area. “This is a very exciting development in the race to identify potential therapies to treat patients because there are already therapies in pre-clinical development that boost OAS1 and could be explored for their effect against SARS-CoV-2 infection.” says Johan Normark, specialist doctor in infectious diseases at Umeå University Hospital and principal investigator of the CoVUm study. This clinical study for COVID-19, carried out as a collaboration between Region Västerbotten and Umeå University, studies immunity and the course of the disease furthermore, why the disease strikes so hard on certain individuals.

Read more: Identification of a protective protein that reduces the severity of COVID-19

Finding a new way to uncover targets for future antibiotics

Text by Gabrielle Beans Picon

How do you take great ideas and turn them into innovative research? In this case the Integrated Science Lab, IceLab, offered up some help in the form of funding for a postdoc who could act as a bridge between computational and experimental research areas, launching a project by Professor Maria Fällman and Senior Research Assistant Kemal Avican, both at the Department of Molecular Biology and MIMS. 

Maria Fällman och Kemal Avican GBP 6867 1

Credit: Gabrielle Beans Picon

Data generation in a molecular biology lab, sampling of human specimens from clinics and data analysis in a computational lab – all these ingredients make Professor Maria Fällman’s and Senior Research Assistant Kemal Avican’s project interdisciplinary.

Collaboration and genuine interest in research taking place outside of your expertise are at the core of interdisciplinary research. Maria Fällman and Kemal Avican have been working together for a long time, aiming to uncover new targets for future antimicrobials to fight the threat of antibiotic resistance. Along the way, they established a database of stress responses of 32 clinically important human bacterial pathogens to twelve different conditions mimicking the human body.

Read more: Finding a new way to uncover targets for future antibiotics

Secret to how cholera adapts to temperature revealed

The Cava group and their international collaborators at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), Harvard Medical School and Ohio State University have discovered an essential protein in cholera-causing bacteria that allows them to adapt to changes in temperature, according to a study published today in eLife.

Text by Emily Packer, Media Relations Manager, eLife

Impact statement: A protein that helps Vibrio cholerae adapt to temperature has been identified, providing insights into how bacteria change their biology under different conditions.

The protein, BipA, is conserved across bacterial species, which suggests it could hold the key to how other types of bacteria change their biology and growth to survive at suboptimal temperatures.
Vibrio cholerae (V. cholerae) is the bacteria responsible for the severe diarrhoeal disease cholera. As with other species, V. cholerae forms biofilms – communities of bacteria enclosed in a structure made up of sugars and proteins – to protect against predators and stress conditions. V. cholerae forms these biofilms both in their aquatic environment and in the human intestine. There is evidence to suggest that biofilm formation is crucial to V. cholerae’s ability to colonise in the intestine and might enhance its infectivity.

V. cholerae experiences a wide range of temperatures, and adapting to them is not only important for survival in the environment but also for the infection process,” explains lead author Teresa del Peso Santos, a postdoctoral researcher at the Laboratory for Molecular Infection Medicine Sweden (MIMS), Umeå University, Sweden. “We know that at 37 degrees Celsius, V. cholerae grows as rough colonies that form a biofilm. However, at lower temperatures these colonies are completely smooth. We wanted to understand how it does this.”

Read more: Secret to how cholera adapts to temperature revealed

Today, we celebrate women and girls in science

International Day of Women and Girls in Science MIMS 2021It is the 11th  of February, marking the International Day of Women and Girls in Science.

 

 

 

This day allows us to direct more attention to the still ongoing inequalities between genders in academia, andcontinue working together towards day when gender biases and discrimination are defeated worldwideOn a global level, women in STEM positions (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) are still rare and according to the UN, only 30% of researchers are women. They publish lessget paid less and their careersalso progress slower and often not as far as for men. Scientists at MIMS were asked to fill out a survey, anonymously, on what it means for them to be a female scientistand more than half of the participants answered that I am a scientist, no matter which gender.While others thought:

“It means I appreciate all female scientists that have broken down the barriers before me and given me a seat at the table. I am also aware of the work we still have to do, the mentoring of young female scientists to ensure that e.g., faculty positions become much more gender balanced.” 

“I never thought that gender played a role in being good at a certain career, but I learned that subconsciously kids can be conditioned to think that jobs are for a certain gender just because if you google 'scientist' mostly photos of men come up. If me being a female scientist can encourage a child to be one, then that's amazing.” 

Read more: Today, we celebrate women and girls in science

Targeted Gene Modification in Animal Pathogenic Chlamydia

Guinea pigg cell with Chlamydia caviae

[2019-11-07] Researchers at Umeå University (Sweden), in collaboration with researchers at the University of Maryland and Duke University (USA), now for the first time successfully performed targeted gene mutation in the zoonotic pathogen Chlamydia caviae.

The human pathogenic bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis is the most common sexually transmitted bacterial pathogen worldwide. It is estimated to infect more than 100 million people each year and is a frequent cause of infertility. Moreover, Chlamydia trachomatis also causes eye infections and represents the most frequent infectious cause of blindness in developing areas of the world.

Less widely known is that Chlamydia affects not only humans, but also animals. By causing disease in farm animals, such as in cows, sheep, pigs and chicken, Chlamydia can cause significant economic damage. Moreover, Chlamydia also infects pet animals, such as cats, guinea pigs, and parrots. While the Chlamydia species that infect animals are biologically different from the human pathogen Chlamydia trachomatis, some animal pathogenic Chlamydia can occasionally also infect humans. These zoonotic infections in which the bacteria are transmitted from an infected animal to a human can be severe and life-threatening.

In a collaborative study published in the journal PLOS ONE, researchers from the University of Maryland Baltimore (USA), Duke University (USA), and Umeå University (Sweden), joined forces to adapt a novel genetic tool for zoonotic Chlamydia.

Read more: Targeted Gene Modification in Animal Pathogenic Chlamydia

Emmanuelle Charpentier took the Nobel Prize in Chemistry

Emmanuelle has been awarded jointly with Jennifer Doudna the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for discovering the groundbreaking CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing technology. She is a former group leader at MIMS, honorary doctor at Umeå University and former visiting professor at UCMR.

Movie by Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation (https://kaw.wallenberg.org/)

Battling antibiotic resistance

movie by Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation, with participation of scientists from MIMS and UCMR:
Or watch the original movie on:
https://kaw.wallenberg.org/

Research about infectious diseases:

Oliver Billker in movie of Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation:
Or watch the original movie on:
https://kaw.wallenberg.org/

footer all slides 2014-02-06


Copyright © 2019 by The Laboratory for Molecular Infection Medicine Sweden (MIMS). All rights reserved.