PEOPLE. With his research in molecular epidemiology, Gustav Smith hopes to contribute to a better understanding of the mechanisms behind heart disease and to more effective treatments. He has previously worked at Lund University and at the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT in Boston. He would like to continue collaboration with these institutions as part of his position as a new professor of cardiology at the Institute of Medicine.
With his research in molecular epidemiology, Gustav Smith hopes to contribute to a better understanding of the mechanisms behind heart disease and to more effective treatments. He has previously worked at Lund University and at the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT in Boston. He would like to continue collaboration with these institutions as part of his position as a new professor of cardiology at the Institute of Medicine.
What appealed to you about working at the Institute of Medicine?
“As a cardiologist with a focus on heart failure, my picture of the institute and of Sahlgrenska Academy has above all been colored by how incredibly internationally influential they have been in this field. I am impressed by their broad range, with their important contributions in both clinical trials, basic pathophysiology, and epidemiology of heart failure. It feels like a fantastic opportunity to become a part of this tradition.
I have previously collaborated with very sharp researchers at the University of Gothenburg. Since I arrived in January, I have begun getting to know more researchers in adjacent fields to see what opportunities there are for new and exciting collaborations and projects. In the context of cardiology, over the years I have met clinical colleagues who I perceived as extremely sensible and pleasant.”
Gustav Smith’s positive attitude towards Gothenburg isn’t limited to career and work.
“Both my wife and I come from Gothenburg. I have my roots in Bohuslän and Kinnekulle and have many good friends here. I have a slightly nostalgic bent, and it feels natural to let my own children grow up among rocks and seaweed and near the salty sea.”
Your interest in cardiology goes way back. How has the focus of your research developed over the years?
“Even as a student, I saw that heart disease was a leading cause of suffering. It’s rare for patients with heart failure to be completely cured, but different forms of treatment can be very beneficial. Developments in the field are happening fast and furiously.
Academically, I’ve been active at Lund University and at the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT in Boston. In Lund, I defended my dissertation in 2012 and led my own research group for eight years. I studied in Boston in 2007, and since then have been an affiliated visiting researcher and have spent various periods there for a total of about three years. Clinically, I have done both research residential training and research specialist training in Lund. I have worked as a cardiologist with a focus on heart failure and cardiomyopathy at the heart clinic at Skåne University Hospital in Lund.
Initially, I mostly focused on genomics, but the focus of my research has gradually expanded. Today, my main research field is called molecular epidemiology and is based on the application of various molecular biological and bioinformatic methods to blood and tissue samples from large population cohorts and patient material to understand the mechanisms behind heart disease.”
What do you hope to contribute to the institute?
“Among other things, to stimulate collaboration in various ways. I am used to interdisciplinary and collaborative work, often within international consortia, and I hope that we can contribute know-how about systematic molecular studies (omics) and how to manage big data analyses.
I also hope to be involved in and establish closer collaborations among different clinical specialties, epidemiologists, bioinformaticians, statisticians, and experimentalists. Collaborations between Skåne and Västergötland, in particular, can enable more conclusive clinical studies with larger clinical datasets. I hope that I can more closely link my broad international network, especially in molecular epidemiology, to Gothenburg, especially cooperation with Skåne and Boston.
The goal of my research is for it to allow a better understanding of mechanisms behind the development of heart disease, effective targeted therapies, and increased focus on individualized treatment and precision medicine.”
What are you working with at the moment?
“Right now, the research group is compiling our molecular analyses of heart disease based on large-scale molecular mapping of different cohorts, including cohorts with invasive characterization of central hemodynamics. Based on that, we will launch follow-up prospective clinical studies. Among other things, we are in the starting blocks with a pilot study of precision medicine for chronic heart failure and a multicenter study of acute heart failure.
In the experimental lab, we are working intensively with omics analyses of human heart tissue at the individual cell level. We focus primarily on a myocardial inflammatory-fibrotic mediator linked to high pulmonary pressure. I think this can be really interesting as a therapeutic goal in certain forms of heart muscle disease.”
ABOUT GUSTAV SMITH
Lives in: Kullavik
Family: Married to Maya, also a doctor at Sahlgrenska. Children Carl and Charlotte, four- and two-years-old.
Outside of work: Right now, I mostly do whatever the kids want; it’s such a joy to be with them. The whole family likes being in nature, so we have lots of outings. I really enjoy reading both fiction and non-fiction, even though right now I only have time for one or two books a year. I am also very interested in music and cinema.
Unexpected talent: Well, during the summer, my children were very impressed with my ability to cause large splashes when I jumped into the water (the bomb), and I understand that there are championships in this.
If I was not a researcher: Then I would probably either be a full-time doctor or work with something in mathematics and computer science.
TEXT AND PHOTO: ANNA VÖRÖS
The article was first published by the Institute of Medicine, https://www.gu.se/medicin