22 June 2017

Impressive Prizes for Research into Receptors and Muscles


Wednesday June 21 Mette Marie Rosenkilde and Bente Klarlund Pedersen received KFJ Prizes for their original and groundbreaking results within physiology, pathophysiology and pharmacology. Each prize comes with DKK 1.5 million from the Kirsten and Freddy Johansen Foundation.

Each year the Kirsten and Freddy Johansen Foundation awards prizes and funding for non-profit purposes – for example research activities with medical science. This year two researchers from SUND receive the foundation’s research prizes for their epoch-making research into protein receptors with a view to developing new drugs and for the discovery that the muscles produce hormone-like substances during physical activity, respectively.

Professor Bente Klarlund Pedersen (photo below) is awarded the so-called clinical prize, while Professor Mette Marie Rosenkilde (photo above) receives the preclinical prize. Each prize comes with DKK 1.5 million.

Through their careers both researchers have made ground-breaking discoveries in their areas of research, and over the years they have both become internationally acclaimed researchers.

Blocked HIV

Professor Mette Marie Rosenkilde has researched the important G protein-coupled receptors – the small ‘antennas’ attached to human cells. She has always taken a basic research approach to the receptors. Therefore, a lot of her work has been about mapping their expression as well as their characteristics and mechanisms, focussing especially on how substances attach to the receptors, the effect hereof and whether this can be used to develop new drugs.

Among other things, Mette Marie Rosenkilde has studied receptors that regulate the immune system. Here she has described a method for blocking the entry of HIV into cells. She has also described how other substances’ effect on the receptors can prevent the spread of herpes virus.

Been Lucky

Furthermore, she has shown how it is possible to prevent fat from depositing in the body and to control blood sugar levels by affecting a specific receptor. She is currently testing this with a view to developing medicinal products with an inhibitory effect on fat accumulation.

She was also the first to describe in detail a fat receptor, which is regulated upwards significantly by Epstein-Barr virus, and which appears to be linked to the development of metabolic diseases. She has recently shown that this receptor can play a main role in the development of chronic lymphatic leukaemia. 

’I am very happy to receive this prize – especially because it rewards me for my basic research. Because to some extent I have been lucky that the receptors I have been interested in have turned out to be coupled to some widespread and important diseases’, Mette Marie Rosenkilde says.

Established New Concept in Muscle Research

During her career Professor Bente Klarlund Pedersen has focussed greatly on muscles and exercise. Because she has discovered that muscles are not merely an apparatus, which can be used in exercise. Her research also shows that the muscles produce the important hormones called myokines, which have several positive effects on body and health.

The muscles communicate with other organs via the myokines, which can for example reduce inflammation in connection with chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease and regulate metabolism in muscles and fatty tissue. Today researchers have knowledge of several hundred different myokines, but it was Bente Klarlund Pedersen and her colleagues who discovered the first myokine and thus established a brand new concept in muscle research. Today she continues to work on the same topic, but now focuses on how physical exercise can be used in the treatment of patients suffering from chronic diseases.

Exercise Halves the Size of Tumour

Bente Klarlund Pedersen is head of TrygFonden’s Centre for Physical Activity Research at Rigshospitalet, where she and her colleagues study exercise and the many positive effects of muscle movement. Among other things, they strive to develop stem cells from muscles, and they conduct mechanistic laboratory testing on healthy as well as ill animals and humans. The most effective training methods are then further examined as forms of treatment of patients suffering from diabetes, heart disease, COPD and cancer in municipalities and at hospitals.

Through animal testing, for example, they have shown that physical activity can halve the size of tumours. Their research shows that a myokine is able to guide killer cells through the bloodstream to the cancer tumour and kill the tumour cells. This research is now being pursued on humans.

’Of course, this prize recognises my work and my research, so naturally I am very grateful for it. I also consider it a call to continue my work on researching muscles and exercise’, says Bente Klarlund.

The prizes were awarded in the University of Copenhagen’s Ceremonial Hall on Vor Frue Plads on Wednesday 21 June from 12:00-15:00.