22 May 2023

Modern intensive care technology means that more and more prematurely born babies are surviving. Less attention has been given to what happens to them afterwards. Ulrika Ådén wants to change this situation through new research. She is now being inaugurated as professor of paediatric medicine, a newly established professorship at Linköping University.

Charlotte Perhammar

Ulrika Adén calls them “paediatric medicine’s new survivors” – children who would previously have died as newborns, but can now be saved.

"These are children who were born extremely prematurely or have had surgery for heart disease as newborns. There’s an entire generation of children who have survived over the last decades, but we are only now beginning to understand that we also need to follow up on their development, to make sure all goes well for them,” she says.

The downside of the advancements made is that these children are at greater risk of suffering from neurological disorders, such as autism, ADHD and learning disabilities. The goal of the research, led by Ulrika Ådén, is to find out how children develop after birth, in particular with a focus on the brain, and what special assistance they need to have a good life.

A chance to build new research

Ulrika Ådén has already worked as a professor at Linköping for a year, but is now to be officially inaugurated in a formal ceremony. Previously, she was a professor of paediatric medicine at Karolinska Institutet, but the offer from Östergötland was irresistible. It was a chance to build up a completely new area of research.

The professorship in paediatric medicine, established in 2022, was created with support from the Joanna Cocozza Foundation for Children’s Medical Research. The purpose of the foundation is to support a wide range of children’s medical research at Linköping University and is aimed at employees at LiU or in the healthcare sector in the South-East Healthcare Region.

“Such a large donation is unusual in children’s research.

I don’t think it’s happened in Sweden before. It was therefore a unique opportunity for me to be able to do the research I want to do,” says Ulrika.

Limiting brain damage

Her interest in the area was sparked by a study trip to Poland as a young medical student. There she witnessed habilitation training for children who had suffered oxygen Photo credit Charlotte Perhammar deprivation at birth. On returning home, she was encouraged by her supervisor to continue researching models to limit brain damage in newborns, and she has not looked back since.
In 2022, Ulrika Ådén recruited a group of research students and researchers to the work. It has been a challenge finding premises adjacent to the clinic, but she is very pleased with how she has been received in Linköping. There is great demand for the research among parent and patient associations, she says.

Violin and choir

Naturally, work takes up a lot of her time. She devotes her free time to her family and her three children. But also to music.
“I play chamber music in a string quartet and a piano trio. And the family is involved in a lot of choral activities. Music means relaxation, it requires a lot of focus on something completely different that also gives you an emotional involvement.

The Joanna Cocozza foundation

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