DISTINCTION. Gunnar C. Hansson has been awarded H.R.H. The King’s Medal of the 8th size with the ribbon of the Order of the Seraphim “for outstanding contributions within medical research, particularly cystic fibrosis”. Hansson is a senior professor of medical chemistry and cell biology at the University of Gothenburg and an internationally leading researcher on mucin and mucus biology.
“Not many medical researchers receive this medal, and it is naturally both thrilling and an honor to receive it,” says Gunnar C. Hansson, who was surprised when he received the letter about the award some time ago.
Gunnar C. Hansson is receiving the medal for his significant contributions within research on the unusual disease cystic fibrosis. The disease causes the mucus of the body’s mucous membranes to thicken and become stickier than it should be, which affects such things as the lungs and gastrointestinal tract. Cystic fibrosis is caused by mutations in the gene that encodes the large protein CFTR, which is responsible for transporting salts across the cell membrane. In cystic fibrosis, this CFTR channel does not work.
“Our most important finding in the case of cystic fibrosis is the underlying molecular cause of the thick and sticky mucus of this disease. Bicarbonate transported by CFTR is necessary for normal mucus formation and, in the case of a non-functioning ion transporter, the mucus does not develop normally and remains stuck. CFTR turns out to be a main controller of mucus properties in the airways and in the gastrointestinal tract,” says Gunnar C. Hansson.
The thin protective mucus barrier that prevents bacteria from coming into direct contact with the mucous membrane in the body’s airways and gastrointestinal tract is called mucus. For over thirty years, Hansson has studied the biological mechanisms that create and maintain a healthy mucous barrier and what sometimes causes the barrier not to work as it should. Today, research in the area at the Sahlgrenska Academy, which is a world leader in the field, is flourishing. A total of six heads of research now run their own independent research groups, which collaborate with each other in new premises with joint equipment.
“We have exciting and promising findings in the works about our airways, why mucus gets stuck and how it gets stuck. We believe that the structural information about what these molecules look like may be relevant for both asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).”
Few eminent scientists
H.R.H. The King has recently decided to confer various types of medals to 63 recipients. Gunnar C. Hansson is receiving H.R.H. The King’s Medal of the 8th size with the ribbon of the Order of the Seraphim, which has previously been presented only to a handful of prominent medical researchers, including Jan Holmgren and Ann-Mari Svennerholm, both post-retirement professors at the Institute of Biomedicine at the University of Gothenburg. Another professor at the University of Gothenburg, Deliang Chen, will receive the same medal this year for outstanding contributions to Swedish and international climate research.
The ceremony was originally scheduled to take place in February but has been postponed due to the pandemic.
To see the list of all recipients of this year’s Royal Medals (in Swedish):https://www.kungahuset.se/press/press meddelanden/aretspress meddelanden/medaljforlaningar28januari2021.5.11860621768443ee821d7f6.html
TEXT: ELIN LINDSTRÖM