Prestigious award in pediatric endocrinology
Kerstin Albertsson Wikland, senior professor in pediatric growth research at the University of Gothenburg, has been given the Andrea Prader award as a “recognition of her prominent leadership and lifelong career in education and research, and major efforts in the field of pediatric endocrinology”.
The Andrea Prader award is given annually by the European organization for pediatric endocrinology, ESPE, and is its most prestigious award in the field.
“It’s a huge honor and unbelievably pleasing to receive the highest recognition in our field,” says Kerstin Albertsson Wikland, who belongs to the Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology at Sahlgrenska Academy.
“It’s a fantastic recognition not just for me, but also for the hundreds of colleagues and collaborators I’ve worked with, and for everything we’ve achieved together over the years. I feel very proud, and hope that everyone I’ve worked with will now also take some of the recognition, and share the joy!”
Over almost 50 years as researcher at the University of Gothenburg, Kerstin Albertsson Wikland has focused on regulation of growth in children; from pre-clinical trials of growth hormones to national clinical studies and individual treatments.
She is perhaps best known for the growth curves, with worldwide unique decision support, that are now used in Swedish healthcare. Since the turn of the millennium, parents in contact with the Children’s Health Center (BVC) and the school have been able to follow their child’s growth using these curves, as a ‘road marker’ for the child’s health.
Began in physiology
Kerstin Albertsson Wikland received her PhD in 1979 in physiology/endocrinology at the Institute of Physiology, and subsequently built up GP-GRC, the Gothenburg Pediatric Growth Research Center at the Institute of Pediatrics, where she took on a professorship in 1994. She became Senior Professor for the Department of Physiology/Endocrinology in 2014.
“It’s a physiological mindset, that came to me during my years as a physiologist, that has run through the entirety of my research,” she says, and continues:
“Hormone levels should be balanced - not too high or too low - but it is also important to know exactly how the levels in the blood vary over the course of a day, as both the peaks and troughs are different biological signals that will work in synchrony with variations in receptor sensitivity and tissue responsiveness.”
Tailored to the individual
Kerstin Albertsson Wikland and her research colleagues have mapped the secretion of a number of hormones in normal children over the course of 24 hours, particularly at night according to the circadian rhythms. This mapping has formed the knowledge basis for knowing which children have low hormone levels, and also to be able to give these children a treatment that imitates normal conditions. The treatment should be able to imitate a day’s pattern, such as the levels of growth hormones and sex steroids.
These new treatment regimes have been studied in national clinical trials, started when the biosynthetic recombinant growth hormone became available in mid 80s, and thereafter have run for over 20 years, and have led to many new indicators for growth hormone treatments being approved world wide. The latest treatment regimens are tailored to each individual child with a dose selected for the individual responsiveness to achieve normalized growth, metabolism and quality of life.
Since the 1980s, the results from Kerstin Albertsson Wikland’s research group have resulted in constantly improved diagnostic methods and treatment regimens for hormone treatment. They have gradually spread throughout the world and are already since the 80s been used globally.
About the award: Andrea Prader Prize (ESPE)
TEXT AND PHOTO: JOSEFIN BERGENHOLTZ