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Personal profile

Research areas

Development and regeneration

It is important to understand development in order to understand neurodegenerative disease and regeneration of the nervous system. Our research focuses on neural and glial development. We are especially interested in neuron-glia communication and the molecules used by the different cells to understand each other when differentiating and growing. The research we carry out is mostly based on primary cell cultures of glia and neurons from both the central nervous system (CNS) and the peripheral nervous system (PNS). In the cultures it is possible to investigate different aspects of communication, such as proliferation, migration, axon and dendrite elongation, synapse formation and myelination, using different molecular methods. Current projects:

1. GABA and GABA B receptors in glial development: We are currently investigating the role of GABA and its receptors in the PNS. We have found that GABA is generated by the neurons, and Schwann cells of the PNS and that GABA acting via its B-receptors may be essential for myelination in the nervous system. The project is a collaboration with Drs. Mikael Corell, Grzegorz Wicher and Robert Fredriksson at Uppsala University, Sweden, Duygu Daglikoca, Bogazici University, Turkey, Valerio Magnaghi and Eirikur Benedikz from SDU.

2. Nerve regeneration in the adult PNS: Every day people are involved in accidents that cause nerve damage. Nerve injuries to the peripheral nervous system (arms and legs) are the most common type of nerve injury. The existing procedure used to repair such injuries are not sufficient since only about 40% of the patients regain some movement and sensation in the injured limb. Together with hand surgeons, neurologists and material scientists (from Denmark and Sweden) we are currently working on a new and better method to improve the healing of such injuries. My group work with Schwann cells, essential glial cells, needed for the regeneration process. The work includes understanding how the glial cells react after injury, how we can make the patients own cells proliferate enough and how the cells will work together with axons and new biomaterials used for the healing. Active partners: Professors Søren Overgaard and Zsolt Illes Odense University Hospital (OUH), Denmark, Dr. Anders Lorentsen, OuH, Denmark, Dr. Ole Vilholm, Vejle Sygehus, Sygehus Lillebælt, Professor Lars Dahlin Lund University, Skåne University Hospital, Sweden, Professor Jöns Hilborn, Uppsala University Sweden

3. The role of MIF in glial development: It has recently been discovered that the protein Macrophage Migration Inhibitory Factor (MIF) is up-regulated in several neurological diseases such as multiple sclerosis, but also in stroke and nerve injury. The function of MIF in the nervous system is not clear. We have found that in particular glial cells express MIF and that the expression varies during development. We are currently working to better understand what MIF does in glia during development, to get a better idea of what it does in neurodegenerative disease. This is done first by investigating the over all expression of MIF in the nervous system, during development. Finding new binding partners to MIF to understand what cell signaling MIF is involved in and finally to block or overexpress the function of MIF in cells and animals. This work is a collaboration with Dr. Malin Andersson, University of Uppsala, Sweden and Eirikur Benedikz at SDU.


1. Timeline:
a. 2009-present: Associate professor, Neurobiology Unit at the Institute of
Molecular Medicine, University of Southern Denmark (SDU), Odense, Denmark.
b. 2008: Docent: Uppsala University, Sweden.
c. 2003-2008: Assistant professor, funded by the Swedish Research Council-M (VR-M), first at the
Dept. of Physiology, Lund University, then at the Dept. of Neuroscience,
Uppsala University (2004-2008).
d. 1999-2003: Post-doctoral fellow, Mt Sinai School of Medicine, New York, NY, USA. Mentor:
Professor David Colman.
e. 1999: PhD, Dept of Animal Physiology, Lund University, Sweden. Thesis: “Regulation of injury
induced Schwann cell proliferation”, Supervisor: Professor Martin Kanje (12th May 1999).

2. Honors and commissions of trust:

A. Awards:
i. “The Limbic prize 2008” annually awarded pedagogical prize, nominated by the students in
biomedicine in Uppsala.
ii. Swedish Brain Foundation 2000 (postdoctoral grant for 2000-2001).
iii. Swedish Institute, June 1999 (postdoctoral grant for 1999-2000)
iv. Fulbright Grant for Scholars, May 1999 (postdoctoral grant for 1999-2000).

B. Invited Speaker
i. Dys-Spas-Bot 2013, Middelfar, Denmark, June 7-9, 2013.
ii. University of Bergen, Norway: 12 December 2012
iii. Psykiatrifonden, Psykiatri-Uge i Odense, 28 November 2012
iv. Conference: Peripheral Nerve 2012, Middlefart, Denmark 8-10 June 2012
v. Department of Pharmaceutical Biosciences, Uppsala University, Sweden 30 May 2012
vi. Bilkent University, 2 Day symposium, Ankara, Turkey, 21-22 April 2012
vii. Bogazici University, Istanbul, Turkey May 2010
viii. Danish Stem Cell Research Doctoral School (DASCDOC)and Danish Society for Stem Cell
ix. Research, Sandbjerg, Sønderborg, Danmark Nov 2008.
x. "Understanding biomolecule interactions at interfaces", Stockholm, Sweden (2007).
xi. "At the surface of biotechnology". Biophysical Society symposium, Baltimore, USA (2007).
C. Peer-Review:
1. Member of the interdisciplinary panel of the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research, SSF
(2006-2007: The panel was put together to lay out a new strategy for SSF's funding of proposals in
translational research (now implemented).
2. Evaluator of education programs in Biomedicine in Sweden for The Swedish National Agency for Higher Education, Universitetskanslerämbetet (2009 and 2013) (www.uk-ambetet.se).
3. Grant reviewer for the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research (2010) (www.stratresearch.se).
4. Grant reviewer for, the Swedish foundation for Research without animal experiments (Forska utan
djurförsök) 2007-2012 (www.forskautandjurforsok.se).
5. Grant reviewer for The German Research Foundation 2012 (http://www.dfg.de/en/).
6. Journal Review: Journal of Neuroscience Res. (2003-2012), Neuron Glia Biology (2008-2011),
Cellular and Molecular Biochemistry, Journal of Neuroscience Res. 2010, British Journal of
Nutrition 2011, Neuroscience letters 2012.
7. PhD committee member and external reviewer: Ph.D. Thesis, University of Oulu, Finland (2008), Ph.D. Thesis at Århus Univ. Denmark, 2010 & 2012, Ph.D thesis Rome TRE Univ. Italy, 10 Ph.D thesis at Univ Uppsala, Sweden, 2007-2012, Ph.D thesis, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm Sweden, 2011, PhD thesis Lund Univ. Sweden 2012, Univ. of Gothenburg 2013.

D. Leadership:
i. Selected as head of one of the evaluation groups evaluating the quality of biomedical educations in Sweden during 2013 by The Swedish National Agency for Higher Education, Universitetskanslerämbetet (www.uk-ambetet.se)
ii. Project leading course 2013, University of Southern Denmark
iii. Course leader: 5Ects masters course in Neurobiology, 5Ects Bachelor course Anatomy and Neurobiology.
iv. Study director (2007-2009), Biomedical education program at Uppsala University, Sweden
v. Leadership Courses: 2003 Lund university, 2008 Uppsala university, Sweden
vi. Initiator and leader of Uppsala University’s Junior Faculty organization for the Faculties of Medicine and Pharmacy (2004-2008).
vii. Member of the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research (SSF) Interdisciplinary Panel 2006-2007.
viii. Secretary and member of the board of SULF Uppsala (Swedish Association for University Teachers 2006-2008).
ix. Member of the Uppsala University’s Faculties of Medicine and Pharmacy Gender Equality Committee (2007-2008).
x. Convener of Junior Faculty Uppsala Founding Conference and Workshop (Sept 2005).
xi. Organizer and moderator of the panel debate “How to design a predictable, functional and fair
academic career track in Swedish academia” (SULF and Uppsala University, Dec 2006).
xii. Organizer and panel member of the SULF conference “Ways and Visions; the academic career in
Sweden” at Uppsala university (2008).
xiii. Board member of ESTIV, European Society of Toxicology in Vitro, 2010-2013.

D. Public science policy debate:
i. Debate articles in newspaper Expressen (2005), and in Tentakel, (magazine of the Swedish
Science Council (2005 and 2006), Uppsala Nya Tidning (UNT) 2006 and 2008.
ii. Invited panelist at the SACO (The Swedish Confederation of Professional Associations)/Swedish
Association of Scientists’ Conference “The Future of Scientific Research”, 2006.

3. Graduate and postgraduate supervisor:

PhD students, Uppsala University:
1. Nadine Rabe (PhD 26th February, 2010)
2. Mikael Corell (PhD 14th October 2011)
3. Jimmy Sunblom (PhD 13th January 2012)

PhD students, University of Southern Denmark:
4. Katja Hvid Christensen (co-supervisor)
5. Solveig Beck Nielsen (co-supervisor)
6. Nellie Ann Martin (co-supervisor)

Postdocs, Uppsala University:
1. Grzegorz Wicher (2007-2009).
2. Marcus Sjööblom: (2006-2008).

4. Teaching experience:
• Lecturer at Univ. Southern Denmark: 300 hours (2009-2012).
• Approx: 250 h lecturer in Lund and Uppsala Sweden (1998-2009).
• Total of 600 h lab teaching (labs at all levels), at Lund University (1992-1999).
• Total of 100 h as a PBL (problem based learning) “tutor”/supervisor at Uppsala and Lund
Universities (2003-2009).

Research information

Research techniques:
Primary cell culture (rat and mouse):
A, Fetal dissociated CNS: cerebellum, cortex, spinal cord.
B. Fetal and adult dissocated PNS: dorsal root ganglia fetal and
C. Fetal and adult dissociated ENS: myenteric nervous system
D. Cultures of single cell species (rat and mouse): Schwann cells-precursors-adult Schwann cells, oligodendrocytes astrocytes neurons (PNS and CNS).
E. Stem cells: cortex (mouse) , neural crest stem cells (mouse).

Toxicological investigations of primary cultures:
C.differentiation: synapseformation, axonal length, sprouting, myelination.
D.Stem cell differentiation assays.

•In situ hybridization
•Immunochemistry-combined with in situ hybridization
•Protein analysis and western blot
•Confocal microscopy

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Research Output

Absence of miRNA-146a Differentially Alters Microglia Function and Proteome

Martin, N. A., Hyrlov, K. H., Elkjaer, M. L., Thygesen, E. K., Wlodarczyk, A., Elbaek, K. J., Aboo, C., Okarmus, J., Benedikz, E., Reynolds, R., Hegedus, Z., Stensballe, A., Svenningsen, Å. F., Owens, T. & Illes, Z., 5. Jun 2020, In : Frontiers in Immunology. 11, 21 p., 1110.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

Open Access
  • 18 Downloads (Pure)

    Cladribine modifies functional properties of microglia

    Jørgensen, L. Ø., Hyrlov, K. H., Elkjaer, M. L., Weber, A. B., Pedersen, A. E., Svenningsen, F. & Illes, Z., Sep 2020, In : Clinical and Experimental Immunology. 201, 3, p. 328-340

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

    Open Access
  • 11 Downloads (Pure)

    Derivation of induced pluripotent stem cells (SDUKIi003-A) from a 20-year-old male patient diagnosed with Asperger syndrome

    Kamand, M., Ilieva, M., Louise Forsberg, S., Thomassen, M., Meyer, M., Fex Svenningsen, Å. & Maria Michel, T., Oct 2020, In : Stem Cell Research. 48, 5 p., 101974.

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

    Open Access
  • 22 Downloads (Pure)

    Generation of autism spectrum disorder patient-derived iPSC line SDUKIi004-A

    Kamand, M., Ilieva, M., Forsberg, S. L., Thomassen, M., Svenningsen, Å. F., Meyer, M. & Michel, T. M., Dec 2020, In : Stem Cell Research. 49, 5 p., 102038.

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

    Open Access
  • Generation of human induced pluripotent stem cells (SDUKIi002-A) from a 22-year-old male diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder

    Kamand, M., Ilieva, M., Forsberg, S. L., Thomassen, M., Fex Svenningsen, Å., Holst, B., Meyer, M. & Michel, T. M., Jul 2020, In : Stem Cell Research. 46, 4 p., 101834.

    Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

    Open Access
  • 23 Downloads (Pure)


    XIV European Meeting on Glial Cells in Health and Disease

    Åsa Fex Svenningsen (Participant)

    10. Jul 201913. Jul 2019

    Activity: Attending an eventConference organisation or participation

    New Biomarkers for MS: Macrophage Migration inhibitory Factor (MIF) and its binding-partner HTRA1

    Åsa Fex Svenningsen (Guest lecturer)

    29. May 2019

    Activity: Talks and presentationsTalks and presentations in private or public companies

    The pathology of Multiple Sclerosis

    Åsa Fex Svenningsen (Guest lecturer)

    28. May 2019

    Activity: Talks and presentationsGuest lectures, external teaching and course activities at other universities

    Press / Media

    En samtale om hjernen og naturen

    Åsa Fex Svenningsen


    1 Media contribution

    Press/Media: Press / Media

    En samtale om hjernen og Naturen

    Åsa Fex Svenningsen


    1 Media contribution

    Press/Media: Press / Media

    Hjalde skal styre Frankenstein og Carsten Rosenlund sækkepiben

    Åsa Fex Svenningsen


    1 Media contribution

    Press/Media: Press / Media

    Hjalde skal styre Frankenstein og Carsten Rosenlund sækkepiben

    Åsa Fex Svenningsen


    1 Media contribution

    Press/Media: Press / Media