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The Lundbeck Foundation sends medical students on research secondment to California

Five talented medical students are right now on their way across the Atlantic to San Francisco to participate in the Lundbeck Foundation research programme DARE – Danish American Research Exchange.

Zacharias, Pernille, Jawad, Aleksander and Jasmin are the names of the five students, and they will all be conducting research at either Stanford University or the University of California, San Francisco.

This is the fifth time we are sending a group of medical students on research secondment, and we are collaborating with Innovation Center Denmark to ensure that all of the practical details are in place in advance so that the students do not need to spend any time on paperwork or finding a place to stay – they can devote themselves fully to their research.

There are further details about the fellowship programme at www.darefellowship.com.

Zacharias
When a patient receives a liver transplant, there is often damage to the kidneys during surgery. Body temperature plays a role – but how? Zacharias Duus Holm will be spending the next ten months investigating this at the University of California, San Francisco, funded by the Lundbeck Foundation.

Zacharias is one of the five medical students who have been accepted into this year’s DARE (Danish American Research Exchange) programme, and this is the reason why he is flying over the Atlantic to conduct research with some of the world’s most eminent scientists. He will observe liver transplants as part of his research, and when he arrives in California his project will be based on an extensive database containing details of liver transplant patients.

Only 40-50 liver transplants are performed in Denmark each year, compared to 8,000 in the USA. Kidney damage is a common complication of liver transplants, and we do not yet have a drug to prevent this problem. Mild hypothermia – cooling the body slightly during surgery – may have an effect, and this is what Zacharias will be studying more closely.

Zacharias is normally a medical student at the University of Copenhagen.

Pernille
Diabetes is one of the diseases that have been researched extensively by medical science. However, a great many pieces of the puzzle are still missing. Some of these pieces could perhaps be identified by involving the experiences of the patients themselves. The information they give their treatment provider about their symptoms, quality of life, social background and insulin use is a treasure trove of knowledge.

Improving the ability of treatment providers to include patients’ own experiences would lead to more personalised therapies and better quality of life – and it would also make it easier for patients to adhere to their treatment.

This is the opinion of Pernille Horsted Kjær who is currently preparing to participate in the Lundbeck Foundation DARE (Danish-American Research Exchange) programme. She will be conducting research on patient involvement at the University of California, San Francisco.

Pernille is one of five medical students who were accepted into this year’s DARE programme. This will give her the opportunity to work with some of the most eminent researchers in the field to improve treatment of one of the world’s most common endemic diseases. More than 260,000 Danes suffer from diabetes. Moreover, many thousands probably have type 2 diabetes without actually knowing it.

Together with researchers at Aalborg University Hospital, Pernille has designed a questionnaire to be filled out by patients. At a consultation based on the questionnaire, the doctor or nurse will discuss the development of the disease with the patient and then adjust treatment in collaboration with the patient. Pernille is taking the expertise she has gained in Denmark with her to California where a similar system is in the pipeline. Her aim is both to provide inspiration and to draw inspiration from the US researchers.

Pernille is normally a medical student at the University of Aalborg.

Jawad
Major surgery triggers in our bodies what is referred to as a surgical stress response. Among other things, this means that our metabolism and immune system run at a lower speed, and this could be part of the explanation for relapse in some cancer patients after surgery.

Jawad Zahid will be spending the next ten months investigating what exactly happens to the immune system during cancer surgery. He is one of five medical students who were accepted into this year’s DARE (Danish American Research Exchange) programme, and he will be conducting his research at Stanford University.

Jawad will specifically be studying colorectal cancer, i.e. cancerous tumours in the colon and rectum. Every year, around 5,000 Danes are diagnosed with colorectal cancer, and 80% of cases are operable. However, in one third of these cases patients experience a relapse, and this is presumably linked to the dampening down of the immune system when patients undergo surgery to remove the tumours.

Jawad is taking immune cells from 30 Danish patients with him to California where he and an expert research team will analyse the cells pre- and post-surgery. It is hoped that a better understanding of the surgical stress response and immune system will make it easier to spot the patients who are most susceptible to relapse, and thus to prevent it.

Jawad normally studies medicine at the University of Copenhagen.

Aleksander
Insulin helps regulate our blood sugar levels, to ensure that the cells in our body get the energy they need. However, some people develop insulin resistance, and when the regulation of our blood sugar levels no longer works, we develop diabetes. This increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases and fatty liver disease, in particular. Approximately 150 genes are associated with insulin resistance. However, medical science has not yet identified those which directly cause the problem.

For this reason, Aleksander Lühr Hansen is travelling to California to spend the next ten months on major genetic detective work. Aleksander is one of the five medical students who have been accepted into this year’s DARE (Danish American Research Exchange) programme, and he will be working with some of the world’s most eminent researchers at Stanford University.

Using CRISPR technology, he hopes to identify the ‘guilty’ genes and help us understand why insulin resistance occurs. His dream is to identify a potential basis for design of a new drug.

Aleksander normally studies medicine at the University of Southern.

Jasmin
40% of all Danes have pulled a muscle, and if you have done this once, your risk of pulling a muscle again in the same place is seven times higher than to begin with.

This is presumably linked to our lack of knowledge about the junction between muscle and tendon where a muscle rupture usually occurs, and this is what Jasmin Garoussian will be researching over the next ten months, with Lundbeck Foundation funding.

Jasmin is one of the five medical students who have been accepted into this year’s DARE (Danish American Research Exchange) programme, and she will be working at Stanford University where she will apply a special analytical technique developed by the university to study the connective tissue between tendon and muscle.

The aim is to gain a better understanding of the nature of the tissue and, through this, to learn more about successful rehabilitation after muscle rupture in order to eliminate the risk of repeat injuries.

Jasmin normally studies medicine at the University of Copenhagen.

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