Researchers had long thought that the natural killer cells, NK cells, found in the body’s various organs all had the same properties, but it has recently become clear that they are a mixed bag of cells that may even have different origins.
As a doctoral student, Dr. Niklas Björkström studied the blood’s NK cells. In the project he is currently running at Karolinska Institutet, he is investigating the NK cells found in the liver. As a Wallenberg Academy Fellow he will find out how they develop, how their activity is regulated and the role they play in steatohepatitis, a chronic liver disease in which the liver is fatty and inflamed, and during the development of tumors.
Niklas Björkström will also map the development of inflammation and cancer in the bile ducts. In order to study the immune cells of the bile ducts, which are deep in the body, he has developed a sensitive analysis technique that only requires a few thousand cells from his patients. More detailed knowledge of what governs inflammation in the liver and the bile ducts is necessary to be able to develop treatments for a number of fatal diseases.
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Read more about Niklas Björkström at ki.se
Photo: Markus Marcetic