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Daniella Rylander Ottosson named as Wallenberg Academy Fellow

Photo of Daniella Rylander Ottosson. Photo: Johan Persson.
Daniella Rylander Ottosson. Photo: Johan Persson.

Using methods for reprogramming human glia cells top create specialised nerve cells, interneurons, researcher Daniella Rylander Ottosson aims to lay the foundations for future treatments of diseases such as schizophrenia and epilepsy.

Of the 27 new Wallenberg Academy Fellows, two are at Lund University: Daniella Rylander Ottosson, who is conducting research into regenerative neurophysiology at the Faculty of Medicine, and Hannah Strømmen, currently at the University of Chichester in the UK, who will be coming to the Faculties of Humanities and Theology in Lund to investigate the role the Bible has played in the development of a secular Europe.

Daniella Rylander Ottosson, Faculty of Medicine.
People with schizophrenia, epilepsy or autism spectrum disorder often lack functioning interneurons. These are special cells that control nerve signals in the brain. Most of the interneurons in our brain inhibit nerve signals, so that the brain is not overstimulated. In many neurological disorders, however, the interneurons appear to malfunction, which upsets the balance in the brain.  

Wallenberg Academy Fellow (WAF) Daniella Rylander Ottosson is developing methods to make it possible to restore the function of interneurons. By injecting modified viruses into the brains of mice, she has succeeded in introducing genes into the glial cells of mice and converting them into interneurons. She has also shown that it is possible to reprogramme human glial cells to create interneurons in cell cultures.

– My research focuses on restoring the plasticity of the brain in neurological diseases, by reprogramming support cells to create interneurons, and it’s my hope that this can result in a future cell therapy where the patient’s brain becomes self-healing. As with all ambitious projects, there will be challenges, for example in creating appropriate disease models, combining advanced techniques and analysing complex data.

Daniella Rylander Ottosson will now refine the reprogramming method and investigate whether it is possible to shape new, fully functional human interneurons in a model of human brain tissue and in mice. With the support of the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation, she is optimistic about the future.

– This year is the first time that a Wallenberg Academy Fellowship has come to neuroscience in Lund, and I’m very happy and proud. It means such a lot to me, especially because it creates the long-term security needed to be able to drive an ambitious research project forward, says Daniella Rylander Ottosson, continuing:

– I now look forward to hiring the key people and setting up the infrastructures needed to be able to effectively drive this research project forward. Being a part of the WAF programme and interacting with other researchers, and participating in leadership programmes, will also be very developmental for me personally, while at the same time contributing to the success of the project.

Hannah Strømmen, Faculties of Humanities and Theology.
In Europe, religion and politics are usually kept apart. According to some schools of thought, one reason for this is that the texts in the Bible support a division between church and state. But is this the case? Wallenberg Academy Fellow Hannah Strømmen will investigate the Bible’s role in the development of a secular Europe.

Hannah Strømmen, currently at the University of Chichester in the UK, conducts research in the field of theology and religious studies, and will be exploring the impact that texts in the Bible have had on the relationship between church and state in Europe. She will also be examining the significance of Christian heritage in our contemporary view of Europe, and the right-wing populist notion that Islam poses a threat to secular society.

As a Wallenberg Academy Fellow, Hannah Strømmen will be working at Lund University, something she is looking forward to.

– I’m honoured to have been named a Wallenberg Academy Fellow. Lund University has an excellent and exciting research environment, not least the Centre for Theology and Religious Studies, which is where my research into Bible texts and secularism will be conducted. I’ve collaborated previously with research colleagues in Lund, and I’m really looking forward to developing this collaboration. The appointment as a Wallenberg Academy Fellow represents an amazing opportunity to do just that.

The Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation has appointed 27 new Wallenberg Academy Fellows – outstanding young researchers who, with the support of a five-year grant worth between SEK 5 and 15 million per researcher, can extend and develop their research in their respective fields.

Link to press release from the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation

Wallenberg Academy Fellows represent the biggest private investment in young researchers in Sweden. In addition to providing the most prominent young researchers with long-term resources, which enables them to concentrate on their research, the programme contributes to an increased internationalisation of the Swedish research environment.

The programme was established in 2012 by the Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation in close collaboration with five royal academies and 16 Swedish universities. The universities nominate researchers for the programme, the academies evaluate the candidates and present the most promising researchers to the Foundation, which then makes the final selection. The universities then assume long-term responsibility for the activities of the selected researchers.