Ulrika Islander


Department of Rheumatology a Inflammation
Visiting address
Guldhedsgatan 10A
413 46 Göteborg
Postal address
Box 480
405 30 Göteborg

About Ulrika Islander

Title: PhD, Associate Professor

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 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 immune responses during inflammatory diseases caused by e.g. autoimmunity, allergy or infections.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and 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. Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disease, which to app. 90% affects women and essentially can affect all organs in the body. The disease often debuts during the reproductive age when the levels of estrogen are high and women with SLE have an increased risk to develop osteoporosis. Estrogen inhibits RA but worsens SLE, while it protects against osteoporosis in both diseases.

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 and SLE, OA is a disease that affects more women than men.

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 in the fertile age 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 autoimmunity and associated osteoporosis

The aims of this project are to identify the mechanisms underlying the opposing effects of estrogen on immune responses in RA and SLE, and to define whether the protective effects of estrogen on osteoporosis development in RA and SLE are mediated by bone marrow stromal cells.

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 group leader for the research group “Women and Inflammation”

Group members:

  • Aidan Barrett, MSc – PhD student
  • Carmen Corciulo, PhD – EU researcher (Marie Sklodowska-Curie Individual Fellow)
  • Christina Drevinge, PhD – researcher
  • Julia Scheffler, PhD – researcher
  • Piotr Humeniuk, PhD – resercher

Additional information

Some of the funding agencies

  • Swedish Research Council
  • Novo Nordisk Foundation
  • ALF (grant from the Swedish state under the agreement between the Swedish government and the county councils)
  • Marie Sklodowska-Curie Action
  • IngaBritt and Arne Lundbergs foundation
  • Gustaf V 80-year foundation
  • Swedish society of Rheumatism
  • Professor Nanna Swartz foundation
  • Emil and Wera Cornells 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, virology, 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 and awards

  • 2021: Project grant from ALF (1,200,000 SEK / 3 years)
  • 2020: Project grant from the Swedish Research Council (4,8000,000 SEK / 4 years)
  • 2020: Received funding from the IngaBritt and Arne Lundberg Foundation for a Fluorescence Activated Cell Sorter (2,500,000 SEK)
  • 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)
  • 2018: Received funding from the IngaBritt and Arne Lundberg Foundation for a confocal microscope (3,000,000 SEK)
  • 2017: Project grant from ALF (1,600,000 SEK / 4 years)
  • 2016: Received a starting grant from the Swedish Research Council (6,000,000 SEK / 4 years)
  • 2016: Awarded the “Excellence project award” for young researchers in Endocrinology from the Novo Nordisk Foundation (5,000,000 DKK / 5 years)
  • 2016: Granted the Hasselblad Foundation award for female scientists in natural sciences (1,000,000 SEK)

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