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Ulrika Islander


Department of Internal Medicine and Clinical
Visiting address
Medicinaregatan 1F
413 90 Göteborg
Postal address
Box 424
405 30 Göteborg

About Ulrika Islander

Title: PhD, Associate Professor Position: Research fellow


Ulrika Islander graduated 2002 from the University of Lund with a MSc degree in molecular biology with focus on immunology. In 2007 she received a PhD in Rheumatology at the University of Gothenburg, and in 2015 she became Associate Professor in Immunology at the Sahlgrenska academy. During 2017-2018 she performed a sabbatical research period at the Institute of Immunobiology in St Gallen, Switzerland to learn about research concerning the role of stromal cells in the regulation of immune responses. Her research projects are is funded by several major national and international research funding agencies including the Swedish Research Council, the Novo Nordisk Foundation and ALF.

Research area

The overall aim of Ulrika Islanders research is to identify the immunological mechanisms underlying the sex differences in inflammatory diseases caused by e.g. autoimmunity, allergy or infections.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a chronic autoimmune disease resulting in joint inflammation and development of osteoporosis. Women have increased risk of developing RA compared to men, and the peak incidence coincides with the time of menopause when the levels of estrogen rapidly decrease. Osteoarthritis (OA) is a chronic rheumatic disease where the joint cartilage is destroyed, leading to pain and loss of joint function. OA was long thought to be a disease mainly caused by mechanical stress, but in recent years the importance of inflammation in OA pathogenesis has gained increasing attention. Like RA, OA is a disease that affects more women than men, and the risk of developing the disease is increased in association with menopause.

Sex hormones affect the development and function of the immune system, which can be illustrated by a stronger immune response in females towards e.g. influenza virus infection, and by the increased risk for women to develop asthma. It is well known that estrogen can display either stimulatory and inhibitory effects on different parts of the immune system depending on the settings. However, the specific mechanisms underlying the sex differences in immune responses during autoimmune diseases, asthma and infectious diseases are not clear and needs to be identified in order to contribute to the development of new effective individual-based treatment strategies to inflammatory diseases.

Ongoing projects

Effects of estrogen on the immune system in rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis
The aims of this project are to identify the mechanisms underlying the effects of estrogen on the immune system in RA, and to explore a possible new technique to predict early development of osteoporosis in postmenopausal RA patients.

Intracellular interactions between estrogen- and adenosine-signaling in osteoarthritis
The aims of this project are to determine how estrogen- and adenosine-receptor signaling interacts in immune cells during OA development, and to define how these pathways can be targeted for development of new OA therapies.

Effects of estrogen on immune responses during airway inflammation
The aims of this project are to define the specific mechanisms involved in the effects of estrogen on allergen- and virus-induced airway inflammation, and to determine the importance of stromal cells in primary and secondary lymphoid organs for the estrogen-mediated regulation of immune responses.

Ulrika Islander is research group leader for the research group “Women and Inflammation”

Link to the research group web page

Group members

  • Aidan Barrett, MSc – PhD student
  • Alicia Carpio Del Pons, MSc – research assistant
  • Carmen Corciulo, PhD – postdoctoral fellow
  • Christina Drevinge, PhD – postdoctoral fellow
  • Julia Scheffler, PhD – researcher
  • Piotr Humeniuk, PhD – postdoctoral fellow

Additional information

Some of the funding agencies:

  • Swedish Research Council
  • Novo Nordisk Foundation
  • ALF VG-region (grant from the Swedish state under the agreement between the Swedish government and the county councils)
  • Swedish society of Rheumatism
  • Professor Nanna Swartz foundation
  • IngaBritt och Arne Lundbergs foundation
  • Cornells foundation
  • Gustaf V 80-year foundation

Educational activities

Course administrator for the PhD course ”Immunological and molecular biology laboratory techniques - 5hec (SM00034) at the Institute of medicine.


Ulrika Islander collaborates with several international and national research groups in immunology, endocrinology and bone physiology, and is also associated with the research collaboration center “Centre for Bone and Arthritis Research” ( at the Institute of medicine, University of Gothenburg.

Major grants, awards and nominations

  • 2020: Awarded the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Individual Fellowship (European Commission) for postdoctoral fellow Carmen Corciulo
  • 2019: Awarded a 4-year position as Research Fellow at the Sahlgrenska academy (also including research project funding of 2,500,000 SEK / 4 years)
  • 2019: Nominated by the Vice Chancellor at the University of Gothenburg to Wallenberg Academy Fellow
  • 2018: Received funding from the IngaBritt and Arne Lundberg Foundation for a confocal microscope adapted for live cell imaging (3,000,000 SEK)
  • 2017: Received a project grant from ALF VG-region (1,200,000 SEK / 3 years)
  • 2016: Received a “Starting grant” from the Swedish Research Council (6,000,000 SEK / 4 years)
  • 2016: Awarded an “Excellence project award” for young researchers in Endocrinology from the Novo Nordisk Foundation (6,000,000 SEK / 5 years)
  • 2016: Granted the Hasselblad Foundation award for female scientists in natural sciences (1,000,000 SEK)

Information in media

Key publications

  1. Scheffler JM, Grahnemo L, Engdahl C, Drevinge C, Gustafsson KL, Corciulo C, Lawenius L, Iwakura Y, Sjögren K, Lagerqvist MK, Carlsten H, Ohlsson C, Islander U Interleukin-17A: a Janus-faced regulator of osteoporosis, Sci Rep. 2020 Mar 30;10(1):5692. Results from this study show that IL-17A is an important mediator of cortical but not trabecular bone loss after ovariectomy. Also, IL-17A induces a two-sided effect on bone remodeling in the absence of estrogen, by increasing osteoclastogenesis and decreasing adipogenesis.
  2. Andersson A, Törnqvist A, Moverare-Skrtic S, Bernardi A, Farman HH, Krust A, Chambon P, Engdahl C, Lagerquist M, Windahl SH, Carlsten H, Ohlsson C, Islander U Roles of activating functions 1 and 2 of estrogen receptor a in estrogen receptor-mediated regulation of lymphopoieisis J Endocrinol. 2018 Feb;236(2):99-109 This is the first study to establish in detail that the presence of activating functions 1-2 of estrogen receptor alpha (ERαAF-1 and ERαAF-2) are required for the effects that estradiol and selective estrogen receptor modulators (lasofoxifene and raloxifene) confer on the development of B- and T-lymphocytes in bone marrow and thymus.
  3. Andersson A, Stubelius A, Nurkkala Karlsson M, Engdahl C, Erlandsson MC, Grahnemo L, Lagerquist MK, Islander Estrogen regulates T helper 17 phenotype and localization in experimental autoimmune arthritis Arthritis Res Ther. 2015 Feb 13;17:32. This is the first study to characterize the effects of estradiol on Th17 cells in experimental autoimmune arthritis. We report that while estradiol treatment results in an increase in the numbers of Th17 cells in lymph nodes during the early phase of arthritis development, it also leads to a decrease in the numbers of Th17 cells in joints during established arthritis. Our data suggest that this may be caused by interference with the CCR6-CCL20 migration pathway, which is important for Th17-cell migration.