Herzkranzgefäße einer embryonalen Maus

Systems Medicine and Cardiovascular Diseases

The MDC based research program

We study the biological foundations of human beings in order to understand diseases even better and to prevent illnesses.

Anyone who suffers acute kidney failure or a stroke is treated by specialists in nephrology or neurology. However, the cause of the respective disease may be one and the same: A malfunction in the lining of the blood vessels, in the endothelium. The situation is similar in chronic heart failure and vascular dementia. The traditional focus of medicine on a single organ or organ system thus often falls short. Vascular biology is one example of many, just think of inflammation, fibrosis, immune and metabolic processes.

Our scientists want to understand what controls or disturbs the natural balance in individual cells, in an organ or in the whole body. They analyze the human system; the biological basis of life from its most elementary building blocks to cross-organ mechanisms. This knowledge offers the opportunity to effectively prevent diseases, to diagnose them on the basis of the first cell changes, and to stop the progression of diseases with tailored therapies before they can cause major damage to the body. This is what we want to achieve in the research program "Systems Medicine and Cardiovascular Diseases".

To supply the entire heart, the coronary vessels form a highly branched network very early during development. The coronary vessels of an embryonic mouse are shown in green.

Innovative technologies make it possible to look at all these levels with unimagined precision. Among other things, the scientists are analyzing on a large scale which genes a cell is currently reading from the genome or switching off and how this regulation influences the cell structure and functions in each case. They investigate the structure and linkage of proteins in healthy and diseased cells, and they process the data obtained with the aid of bioinformatics and modeling. They integrate complex and large amounts of data from experiments in the laboratory and from studies with healthy subjects and patients and map them in disease models on the computer. In this way, they hope, among other things, to find completely new starting points for active substances or cellular therapies, or even to predict the course of a disease.

The program is based at the Max Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine in the Helmholtz Association (MDC). The MDC develops and uses state-of-the-art methods for research such as data science, single-cell technology, or mathematical simulations and works closely with renowned partners, in particular with Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin: At the Experimental and Clinical Research Center (ECRC), a facility of Charité and MDC, and at the Berlin Institute of Health (BIH) at Charité, among others, with the joint focus areas "Single-Cell Approaches for Personalized Medicine" and the "Berlin Center for Translational Vascular Biomedicine".  

All these collaborations contribute to the rapid transfer of findings from basic research to clinical application for patients.

In a nutshell

  • Many diseases, not least cardiovascular diseases and other common diseases, affect more than one organ.
  • For the research program "Systems Medicine and Cardiovascular Diseases", the focus is therefore on the human system; the biological basis of life from its most elementary building blocks to cross-organ mechanisms.
  • The analysis includes the most diverse levels: from the networks of macromolecules to cells, tissues, organs and finally the entire body.
  • The scientists want to identify and effectively treat diseases even before the onset of symptoms.
  • The program is led by the MDC Berlin, which works closely with the Charité and BIH, among others.

Research topics


Scientific Manager

Dr. Kathrin Saar

Helmholtz Association

Juliane Kampe
Chief Research Manager Health