Arbeids- og kompetanseområde



I am involved in numerous research projects, but I am currently focusing on two projects; the Sjögren’s syndrome project and the tonsil project. There is a strong thematic overlap of these two projects, that is inflammation, mucosal sites and upper respiratory tract, local and systemic immune activation, strong lymphocyte involvement, antibodies and antigens. My intention is to continue working with these projects for many years, building on previous novel findings.



Chronic Autoimmune Rheumatic Disease and Sjögren's syndrome project.



Primary Sjögrens syndrome (pSS) is a chronic rheumatic disease affecting the exocrine glands, reducing the secretion to mucosal surfaces, and causing symptoms like dry mouth and eyes. The overall objective of this project is to disseminate the cellular changes in peripheral blood and immunopathological changes in salivary glands in Sjögren’s syndrome. Our hypothesis is that salivary gland tissue is the target site where initial events in the disease pathogenesis take place and progress with focal mononuclear cell infiltration and germinal center formation. To reach our goals, we will use state-of-the-art technology using imaging and flow cytometry platforms. We have over the last decade contributed significantly to the understanding of pathogenesis in Sjögren’s syndrome, and represent a strong academic and scientific environment with a track-record in autoimmune disease research. The current research project has several health benefits; establishing new diagnostic and prognostic markers, and preparation for personalized therapy. There is also an innovative potential in the development of targeted biologics.


  • Identify cells and small molecules with important role or indicators of pSS.
  • Identify factors with relevance the duration of disease (early and late events) and disease activity.
  • Examine novel migratory activity of cells involved in pSS.
  • Stratify and analyse pSS patients 
  • Search for new biomarkers to be used in diagnostics, or for personalized therapy.



In many auto-immune rheumatic diseases, there is a strong involvement of the adaptive immune system, manifesting as autoreactive lymphocytes and autoantibodies. Most cells in the immune system do not operate separately but interact with surrounding cells and tissues. The focus of the research project is to uncover the some of the details of lymphocyte populations, locally and systemically, their interaction and contribution to disease development. Using an established and well-characterised cohort of primary Sjögren’s syndrome patients have been central in these studies. 


 Picture 1

Figure 1. Disease development in Sjögrens syndrome and related diseases. The disease can start many years before the symptoms appear, and it can take years to establish a diagnosis. We don't know how these diseases develop, but multiple factors are involved, and we have no effective cure other than symptomatic relief/treatment.


Examining minor salivary glands by immunohistochemistry (IHC) has been a common procedure when diagnosing pSS due to the presence of lymphocyte infiltrates (foci). Research on the morphological changes of the salivary glands (SG) has most extensively been carried out in connection with diagnosis and disease activity. A less explored aspect is linking SG morphology to immunological and pathological processes. Together with one of my main collaborator for many years; professor Kathrine Skarstein at Oral Path. Lab K1, we have an ongoing research project exploring these aspects. With other established collaborators (Prof. JG Brun, AC Halse and others) from the department of Rheumatology (HUS), we seek out explore the systemic pattern of lymphocytes and small molecules.


Picture 2

Figure 2. Germinal centre. Ectopic germinal centre formations are observed in minor salivary glands (exocrine glands) from patients with Sjögren's syndrome. Important immunological processes are performed in germinal centres and for Sjögren's syndrome patients may be an area where the disease is triggered and progressing.



The Tonsil Project. 



Influenza virus a respiratory pathogen, causing serious infections with high levels of morbidity and in risk groups high mortality. The yearly socioeconomic impact caused by absence from work and pressure on the health system is significantly. The objective of the tonsil project is to characterize cellular and morphological changes in the tonsils in response to infection and vaccination, and we can further differentiate patterns based on demographics like age and gender. The tonsils are important lymphoid organs serving the upper respiratory tract, and can rapidly respond to potential threats. Our hypothesis is that, by studying the tonsils, mucosa and secretions in the respiratory tract will provide good indicators of vulnerability and protection against influenza and other infections. To reach our goals, we will use state-of-the-art technology using imaging and flow cytometry platforms. The influenza centre in Bergen has establish itself as one of the leading research centres on influenza with collaboration with other top institutions. The project has both economic and health benefits, providing better tools for health professionals. The innovative potentialis large in this project; e.g. developing better correlates of protection will help developing better vaccines, justify dose sparing when needed, testing and developing of adjuvants. 



  • Characterize cellular and morphological changes in the tonsils.
  • Reveal immune processes in the tonsils and mucosa
  • Identify protection markers in mucosa and secretions.
  • Correlate local and systemic immune reactions


Picture 3 

Figure 3. Vaccination with live attenuated influenza virus (LAIV) vaccine. The LAIV vaccine gives local and systemic immune response, with high acceptance, well tolerated and few severe adverse effects.



Many important cell interactions and immune processes are initiated locally and in lymphoid tissue. When evaluating the efficacy of e.g. Vaccines, the testing is often performed systemically, while the protection is a local process. Over several years, we have conducted influenza vaccine studies. This has given us a unique opportunity to observe the immune response both systemically and locally, in children and adults after vaccination. Vaccination with live attenuated influenza virus resembles a natural infection, revealing information that can be transferred to many other infectious diseases. Together with the Influenza centre led by prof. Rebeca J. Cox, we have built up a large collection of biopsies from tonsil and oral mucosa, serum and saliva. 


Picture 4

Figure 4. The anatomy of the palatine tonsils. The tonsils are a collection of lymphoid tissue, serving as an immunological surveillance and inductor site for the upper respiratory tract, a place where the first contact with potential pathogens are most likely to occur. 








Underviser i

  • BIO200 - Bioinformatikk og Informasjonsteknologi
  • BIO204 - Medisinsk Mikrobiologi
  • BIO207 - Ekstern Praksis 1
  • BIO306 - Ekstern Praksis 2
  • BIO350 - Bacheloroppgave - Bioingeniør

Forskar på

  • Infeksjon - Inflammasjon - Immunsvar
  • Influensa - immunitet og vaksiner
  • COVID-19 - immunologi