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 In Focus

Nurture - Nature interactions

Published 2000-01-19

In September 2003 an international cooperation has been established between Professor Alicja Wolk, Division of Nutritional Epidemiology, Institute of Environmental Medicine at Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm and Professors Meir J. Stampfer and Walter Willett at Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, USA, Professor Pirjo Pietinen at the National Institute of Public Health in Helsinki, Finland and Professor Pieter van t Veer at Wageningen University in the Netherlands. The collaboration focuses on both research and PhD-student education.

The Importance of Diet and Life Style for our Health Advancing nutritional and molecular epidemiological research is a high priority, both from scientific and from public health point of view. The Harvard researchers have estimated that up to 70% of colon cancer, 80% of cardiovascular diseases and 90% of diabetes type II might be prevented by changes in such lifestyle factors as diet, physical activity and smoking. The increasing complexity of epidemiological studies in the field of nutrition, genetic susceptibility and nurture-nature (nutrient-gene) interactions requires a high level of expertise in many scientific disciplines, both biological/medical science and biostatistics. Therefore to design and perform studies, and analyses of a high quality observational data on over 110,000 women and men in our two prospective cohort data, we implemented the following strategies:

Research cooperation

Through the STINT program we established a Scientific External Advisory Committee for our two cohorts. The Committee includes besides Prof Willett and Prof Stampfer, three other professors and other faculty members from Harvard, all of them with a deep knowledge of cohort studies. At annual meeting we discuss priorities in our research at KI.

Data from our cohort of 60,000 women together with other cohorts are used in so called pooling analyses on diet and different cancer forms, at Harvard Medical School. During annual meeting in which participate the world experts in nutritional epidemiology we discuss analyses and interpretation of pooled results.

We also participate together with our colleagues from the Netherlands and from the Finnish National Institute of Public Health in a joint European project.

PhD education

My PhD students have the best advantage from the STINT program. Three of them have PhD-coadvisors from Harvard (one in Statistical Computing, Prof Pagano, one in Molecular Epidemiology, associate professor De Vivo, one in Nutritional Epidemiology, Prof Giovannucci), another PhD student is involved in the European joint project. We have an extremely positive experience from this collaboration through e-mail on daily basis and sometimes personal visits at Harvard.

Within the STINT program I also invite researchers from the collaborating Universities as opponents during my PhD students’ dissertations (Assoc Professor Liu from Harvard Medical School – May 2004; Professor Pieter van’t Veer from the Wageningen University – January 2005; Professor Cramer from Harvard Medical School – May 2005). This is especially important because we have difficulties to find competent opponents within the nutritional epidemiology field.

I should also mention that our collaborating partners and their students are willingly visiting us at Karolinska. Prof Willett, Prof Giovannucci, Prof Rosner, Prof Stampfer, Prof Spiegelman, Prof Cramer from Harvard have already visited us, or will come during spring 2005. PhD students from Harvard were working in our group during summer 2004 (two-month visits) and will come in 2005. Junior faculty from Harvard Medical School is staying with us normally 1-3 weeks to perform analyses. One postdoc from the Netherlands will stay with us at least one year starting September 2005.

The collaboration with all the three partners (Harvard, Wageningen, Helsinki) seems to be now well established and we plan now to extend this international collaboration to include also Oxford University in the United Kingdom. Our on-going collaboration already resulted in scientific publications in the best medical journals.

Alicja Wolk
Karolinska Institutet

Senast uppdaterad: 05-05-20 11:51

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