Cardiovascular diseases are the most common cause of death worldwide – and high blood pressure is one of the leading risk factors. High blood pressure can cause damage to organs such as the heart and kidneys, which can ultimately lead to death. This organ damage is primarily caused by chronic inflammatory diseases and the associated activation of the immune system – which is, in turn, strongly influenced by the microbiome of our gut.
Targeted dietary recommendations for patients
“Previous therapies for high blood pressure have not given this factor sufficient weight, so new forms of treatment are necessary,” explains Dr. Nicola Wilck, a physician at the Charité’s Medical Department in the Division of Nephrology and Internal Intensive Care Medicine. “The gut microbiome might be a promising place to start, because it has an important influence on the immune system and can be influenced by diet.” The scientist is currently working in the research group of Professor Dominik Müller at the Experimental and Clinical Research Center (ECRC), a joint institution of the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association (MDC) and Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin. Wilck is also participating in the BIH Charité Clinician Scientist Program. With his ERC Starting Grant, the internal medicine specialist now wants to establish his own research group.
In the research project called “HyperBiota,” Wilck and his team will investigate in detail how gut bacteria communicates with the immune system in hypertension, and identify possible new therapies. One focus will be on dietary habits, as it is known that a change in diet can lower blood pressure. “However, patients often do not follow recommendations for a healthier diet if these are too general,” Wilck points out. “That’s why we want to develop personalized and targeted nutritional recommendations that incorporate the microbiome as well as the best possible treatment for high blood pressure. Our goal is to reduce the inflammatory processes and organ damage associated with hypertension.”
ERC Starting Grants
The European Research Council (ERC) awards ERC Starting Grants to outstanding early-career researchers with at least two years’ postdoctoral experience in a competitive selection process. With the €1.5 million grant, the young researchers can set up their own research group over the next five years.
Dr. med. Nicola Wilck
Experimental and Clinical Research Center von Charité und MDC
+49 30 450 540 558