Nanna Svartz Scholarship for Outstanding Research in Rheumatology 2020 - News
Nanna Svartz Scholarship for Outstanding Research in Rheumatology 2020
The Nanna Svartz scholarship for outstanding research in rheumatology 2020 is awarded to Marie Wahren-Herlenius, Professor of Experimental Rheumatology at Karolinska Institutet and Group Leader at CMM and to Sven-Erik Sonesson, Professor Emeritus of Pediatric Cardiology at Karolinska Institutet.
They are awarded for their many years of research collaboration on congenital heart block (CHB), a serious condition that can affect children to mothers that suffer from rheumatic diseases such as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and Sjögren’s syndrome.
In utero, the children are exposed to pathological antibodies originating from the mother, which, by inducing inflammation that destroys the AV-node in the fetal heart, interfere with its ability to conduct electrical impulses and produce contractions. CHB is most often discovered between week 18 and 24 of pregnancy and it is a condition with a high mortality, reaching 20-30%, in its natural course.
Marie Wahren-Herlenius and Sven-Erik Sonesson have developed their research in close contact and collaboration with the patients. Their work has led to several findings, most importantly to the identification and characterization of the autoantibodies transmitted from mothers to fetuses that develop CHB, as well as the development of new methods for measuring the electromechanical function of the fetal heart. Marie and Sven-Erik used this knowledge to create a clinical monitoring program offered to pregnant women with high risk of having a child with CHB. The program has been very successful, leading to early discovery of the AV-blocks and the possibility to apply treatment at the appropriate time point in order to restore a normal heart rate in the fetus. Thanks to this program the mortality due to CHB was decreased to less than 4%.
Marie Wahren-Herlenius has in collaboration with Sven-Erik Sonesson and others, recently made several significant findings related to the immunological mechanisms involved in CHB. They discovered an activation of the type I interferon system in the autoantibody-exposed fetuses and expansion of NK cells. These results open up new possibilities for prevention and treatments that are more precise.
The awardees received the scholarship consisting of SEK 150 000 during the anniversary event of the Swedish Rheumatological Association (Svensk Reumatologisk Förening) on September 25th 2020.
Reumatikerförbundet home page (Swedish)
YouTube videos explaining Marie Wahren-Herlenius' research:
Marie Wahren-Herlenius and Sven-Erik Sonesson
Photos: Saga Rebecka Herlenius and private