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Published: 24 Mar, 2020

Chasing unusual bacterial toxins

PROFILE Teresa Frisan is researching how so-called genotoxins affect mammalian cells. She has found that if a cell does not repair its DNA properly, it loses its ability to divide and the cell dies.

Toxins are powerful bacterial effectors. They can target all the key functions within eukaryotic cells. For a long time until recently the cellular DNA has been thought to be spared from the bacterial attack. This view has changed radically with the discovery of bacterial genotoxins, that cause DNA damage.

Teresa Frisan is researching how this type of toxins affects mammalian cells. She has found that if a cell does not repair its DNA properly, it loses its ability to divide and the cell dies. On the other hand, if the genetic material is repaired - though incorrectly - the cell can survive, but will have cancer-causing properties.

Teresa Frisan wants to understand why bacteria have developed these unusual toxins, which unlike other toxins do not cause immediate cell death. Why do some of our normally harmless gut bacteria also produce this kind of toxins? Are healthy individuals affected by these bacteria in a different way compared to individuals with various bowel diseases? The results from Teresa Frisan's research can help identify bacteria that can cause cancer and the development of new types of individualized and preventive treatments.

In 2019, Teresa Frisan was installed as Professor in Cell and Molecular Biology at Umeå University.

 

Biography

Teresa Frisan was born 1967 in Aviano, Italy. She obtained a bachelor degree in Biology in 1991 at Trieste University, and started her PhD education in 1993 in Cell and Tumor Biology at Karolinska Institutet (KI), where she attained her doctoral degree in 1999.

After a post-doctoral period at KI and Laval University, Canada, Teresa Frisan established her own research group at KI and became docent in Infection Biology in 2007. Beside science, she is passionately engaged in undergraduate and doctoral education, for which she was granted several pedagogic prizes.