Teresa Frisan, PhD, is Professor in Cell and Molecular Biology at Umeå University, actively involved in research and in teaching within the frame of undergraduate programs.
Chasing unusual bacterial toxins
Toxins are powerful bacterial effectors. They can target all the key functions within eukaryotic cells, but until recently the cellular DNA was spared from the bacterial attack. This view has changed with the discovery of bacterial genotoxins: effectors that cause DNA damage.
My research group has contributed to characterize the effects of these toxins on mammalian cells. Intoxicated cells stop dividing and eventually die, if the DNA is not properly repaired. Occasionally, intoxicated cells survive and acquire carcinogenic features, highlighting the toxins' tumorigenic potential.
The main interest is to understand why bacteria have acquired these unusual effectors, which do not cause an immediate cell death. Why intestinal commensal bacteria also produce these toxins? Do colonization with genotoxin-producing bacteria affect differently healthy individuals and patients susceptible to intestinal pathologies?
Our research merges the fields of infection and cancer biology, and it can help to identify potentially carcinogenic bacteria and develop personalized therapeutic interventions for disease prevention.
Teresa Frisan obtained the bachelor degree in Biology in 1991 in Italy. In 1993, she joined the group of Prof. Maria Masucci at Karolinska Institutet (KI), Sweden, and received the PhD degree in Cell and Tumor Biology in 1999. After a post-doctoral period at KI and Laval University, Quebec, T. Frisan started her own research group at KI and became docent in Infection Biology in 2007. In 2017, she was appointed Professor of Cell and Molecular Biology at the Department of Molecular Biology, Umeå University.
Beside science, she is passionately engaged in undergraduate and doctoral education, for which she was granted several pedagogic prizes.