Max Planck Institute  for Heart and Lung Research

Max Planck Institute for Heart and Lung Research

Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Heart and Lung Research study the structure and workings of the heart, blood vessels and lungs. Among other things, their findings are intended to contribute to a better understanding of diseases in these organs and in developing of possible treatments. The scientists, for example, examine how cells in the heart, blood vessel or lung tissue communicate with each other, and which signal molecules influence their function. They also look into the question of how function can be restored to damaged tissue. Stem cells – in other words precursor cells that can grow into specialised heart, blood vessel or lung cells – are therefore another important field of research for the Institute. In the future, these stem cells could, for instance, help to minimise tissue damage in heart attack patients or people with lung disease.


Ludwigstr. 43
61231 Bad Nauheim
Phone: +49 6032 705-0
Fax: +49 6032 705-1604

PhD opportunities

This institute has an International Max Planck Research School (IMPRS):
IMPRS for Heart and Lung Research

In addition, there is the possibility of individual doctoral research. Please contact the directors or research group leaders at the Institute.

Pulmonary fibrosis caused by single transcription factor
Reduced FoxO3 activity reprograms connective tissue cells, triggering the disease more
Lung cancer triggers pulmonary hypertension
Nearly half of all advanced-stage lung cancer patients develop arterial pulmonary hypertension more
Cancer diagnosis with a breath test
A new test for the early detection of lung cancer measures tiny changes in the composition of the breath more
Oestrogen receptor causes weight loss in male mice
The receptor increases energy consumption by muscle cells and prompts weight loss more
The PIEZO1 cation channel translates mechanical stimulus into a molecular response to control the diameter of blood vessels more
Loophole for cancer cells
Cancer cells kill blood vessel cells so that they can slip through the vascular wall and form metastases more
No blood vessels without <em>cloche</em>
After 20 years of searching scientists discover the mystic gene controlling vessel and blood cell growth in the embryo more
<p>Absence of transcription factor unleashes blood vessel growth</p>
Max Planck scientists discover new switch for blood vessel formation more
New receptor for controlling blood pressure discovered
P2Y2 receptor in blood vessel cells is a key element in the chain of regulation more
Gene knockout: loss of a gene can be compensated by another gene
Effects of genome interventions depend on the methods used more
Gene controls stem cells during muscle regeneration
Prmt5 gene regulates activity and function of muscle stem cells in injured skeletal muscles more
Renal failure: location signals for cell division

Researchers identify molecules that help cells to pinpoint their position

Gene regulates healing process after myocardial infarction
Reg3beta controls wound-healing process in the myocardium by attracting immune cells to the infarct tissue more
Acetic acid inhibits insulin secretion
Acetate receptor inhibitors could improve diabetes therapy more
New blood stem cells thanks to interferon gamma
Signal molecule gives rise to new blood stem cells in embryos more

A Repairable Heart


Biology & Medicine

Newts possess the almost magical ability to regenerate damaged tissue, making them unique among vertebrates. Thomas Braun of the Max Planck Institute for Heart and Lung Research in Bad Nauheim is studying the amphibians to learn how an organism can regrow entire organs. Perhaps one day it will help enhance the capacity for regeneration in humans.
The advances made by Werner Seeger and his team in the treatment of pulmonary hypertension mean that many patients
at least live longer, with a better quality of life.

From lung development to lung regeneration

2017 Ahlbrecht, Katrin; Morty, Rory E.; Samakovlis, Christos; Seeger, Werner
Developmental Biology Immunobiology Physiology

Impairment of gas exchange due to malformation or disruption of the alveoli represents a key hallmark of structural lung diseases. There is no curative therapy available. The recovery of an intact lung structure represents a desirable option in the development of therapeutic concepts. The current knowledge about the formation of new alveoli during lung development and during compensatory lung growth of the adult lung serves as a basis for the identification of target cells and molecules which are capable to induce the formation of new alveoli in the diseased lung.


miRNAs control essential functions of the cardiovascular system

2016 Böttger, Thomas
Cell Biology Medicine Physiology
The primary function of miRNAs is the posttranscriptional regulation of gene expression. The functional analysis of miRNA-mediated regulation allows fascinating insights into complex regulatory interactions. A group at the MPI of Heart and Lung Research investigates miRNA-dependent molecular mechanisms in contractile tissues of the cardiovascular system. The work reveals basic principles of miRNA regulation and answers fundamental questions related to development and physiology of the cardiovascular system. more

G-protein-mediated signaling cascades in the cardiovascular and immune system

2015 Wettschureck, Nina
Developmental Biology Evolutionary Biology Genetics Immunobiology Infection Biology Medicine Physiology
Heterotrimeric G-proteins transduce signals from activated G-protein-coupled receptors to intracellular signaling cascades. Scientists at the MPI for Heart and Lung Research have a longstanding interest in the role of the families Gq/G11 and G12/G13, their upstream activators and downstream effectors, in cardiovascular and immunological functions. The long-term goal of their work is to identify new targets for the treatment of chronic cardiovascular and immune disease. more

The ERBB2 receptor: a necessary proto oncogene

2014 Reischauer, Sven
Developmental Biology Genetics Medicine

During development cardiac morphogenesis relies on the concerted activity of several growth factor receptors including the proto oncogene ERBB2. In adults, its cardiotoxicity causes severe side effects in anti-ERBB2 cancer therapies. Therefore we developed a transgenic zebrafish line to elucidate the role of ErbB2 signaling in cardiomyocytes. Using this novel tool combined with state-of-the-art microscopy, we were able to identify ErbB2 as a mediator of remodeling of the contractile machinery, an unexpected mechanism with potentially important implications to human health.


Quantitative mass spectrometric proteome analysis

2013 Krüger, Marcus
Developmental Biology Evolutionary Biology Genetics Immunobiology Infection Biology Medicine Physiology
Living cells contain a variety of complex structures that control the homeostasis and communication. The systematic study of those structures on DNA, transcript and protein level has become one of the standard techniques in medical research. Recently, mass spectrometric techniques helped to explore the enormous complexity of the proteome. To achieve accurate protein quantification, the labeling of proteins with stable isotopes (also known as SILAC, stable isotope labeling of amino acids in cell culture) was recently established. more

Heart and Lung – from Development to Therapy

2012 Barreto, Guillermo; Dobreva, Gergana; Engel, Felix B.; Savai, Rajkumar
Developmental Biology Genetics Medicine Physiology
Heart and lung diseases represent a major disease burden and socioeconomic problem. Ischemic heart disease is the leading single cause of mortality, congenital heart disease the most common type of birth defect and lung cancer the leading cause of cancer mortality worldwide. Current therapeutic efforts to treat those diseases are limited to the symptoms and rarely target the primary cause. Therefore it is important to develop better tools for early diagnosis and novel therapeutic strategies, e.g. through a better understanding of the regulatory mechanisms of heart and lung development. more

Lung oedema: Molecular mechanisms of development

2011 Morty, Rory Edward; Seeger, Werner
Impair fluid balance in the lung is a key characteristic of acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), a life-threatening syndrome frequently encountered in an intensive care setting. The molecular processes underlying impaired fluid clearance are not understood. Recently, the peptide hormone transforming growth factor (TGF)-β has been implicated as a regulator of lung fluid balance, modulating the activity of both components of a two-component Na+ transport mechanism of the alveolar epithelium involving the epithelial sodium channel (ENaC) and the Na+/K+-ATPase, a sodium/potassium ion pump. more
The wall of blood vessels consists of smooth muscle cells and of the endothelium, which lines the inner surface of the vessel. Various mediators, which in most cases act via G-protein-coupled receptors, regulate the contractile state as well as the permeability of the blood vessel wall. Defects in these regulatory processes can cause common diseases like hypertension, shock, or atherosclerosis. Recently, at the MPI for Heart and Lung Research new insights have been gained into the mechanisms underlying the regulation of vascular wall cells by various mediators as well as into the role of these processes in vascular diseases. more

Anti cancer drugs in pulmonary arterial hypertension

2009 Schermuly, Ralph; Seeger, Werner
Pulmonary vascular remodeling of lung arteries plays an important role in the pathogenesis of pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH). This leads to an accumulation of cells in the vessel wall and to a reduced vascular lumen. New therapeutic approaches try to reduce the benign proliferation and attempt to reverse the remodeling of the pulmonary arteries using anti-cancer drugs. In the focus of our interest are inhibitors of tyrosine-kinases, which showed promising effects in preclinical models of pulmonary hypertension and first clinical studies. more

Can Sirtuins combat aging?

2008 Bober, Eva
Sirtuins are highly conserved histon/protein deacetylases, which confer stress resistance and longevity. In mammals sirtuins are represented by a gene family that consists of seven genes, Sirt1 -Sirt7. In our project we investigate the molecular basis of sirtuin functions in mammals. The understanding of sirtuin function can contribute to developing new therapeutic strategies to combat and/or treat age-related diseases. more

Plasticity of newt Cardiomyocytes

2007 Borchardt, Thilo; Kostin, Sawa
Cell Biology
The mammalian heart is not able to regenerate lost cardiac tissue after substantial injuries, instead the heart is repaired by scar formation. Newts and Zebrafish however are able to fully regenerate their hearts without scarring. On of the current projects at the Max Planck Institute for Heart and Lung Research is to understand, how cardiac regeneration takes place in non-mammalian vertebrates. This could provide new approaches that stimulate regenerative pathways in the human heart. more

The role of stem cells in regeneration and repair of organs

2006 Belema Bedada, Fikru; Heil, Matthias
Cell Biology Developmental Biology Medicine
The Max-Planck-Institute for Heart and Lung Research in Bad Nauheim focusses on research on the processes being responsible for regeneration and repair of organs such as the heart. Previous studies had shown that stem cells might play an important role. In one of their projects scientists therefore investigated the potential of adult and embryonal stem cells to differentiate into completely developed tissue cells such as skeletal muscle or heart muscle cells. Data show that the use of specific differention factors indeed induces cell programmes which lead to the expression of typical muscle-cell specific factors. However, stem cells could not completely be transfered into muscle cells. In contrast, researchers observed in vitro experiments the fusion of stem cells and differentiated muscle cells, which could point towards a potential repair mechanism: Muscle repair may not be mediated by transdifferentiation of stem cells into muscle cells, but rather by fusion of stem and muscle cell. Doing so, vitality of the “sick” cell might be improved. In a second study, Max-Planck researchers investigated whether stem cells might contribute to the repair of heart tissue after myocardial infarction. They showed that after injection of stem cells isolated from skeletal muscles or of heart muscle cells which had be risen from embryonic stem cells, that at least in an animal model heart function can be improved. The positive effect most likely is based on a mechanism, in which growth stimulating substances are released into the damaged heart tissue by the injected cells. more

Cell differentiation and proliferation during development and regeneration

2005 Braun, Thomas
Cell Biology Developmental Biology Medicine
The general research concept of the department of cardiac development and remodelling is characterized by two strategies: (i) a better understanding of processes that lead to proliferation of organ typical precursor cells and their coordinated differentiation during organ development and regeneration; (ii) development of pre-clinical models in which knowledge gained in approach (i) can be used to enable, improve and accelerate tissue regeneration in particular of the heart. Individual research projects are part of this concept and contained in either of these themes. Yet, it is clear that both themes overlap and that such a separation is rather artificial. Nevertheless it might help to distinguish between mostly basic and more applied scientific approaches, which hold a direct medical impact. more

Arteriogenesis - A New Concept for Adaptive Vessel Growth After Vascular Occlusions

2004 Heil, Matthias; Schaper, Wolfgang
Developmental Biology Medicine
After birth, blood vessel growth is limited to two major processes. The growth of new capillaries by sprouting or intussusception after the emergence of ischemia is called angiogenesis. In contrast, arteriogenesis describes the formation of collateral arteries from a pre-existing arteriolar network after the occlusion of a major artery. It is the only physiologically effective form of vascular growth in the adult organism to compensate for blood flow deficits after arterial occlusions. Physical forces, particularly fluid shear stress, induced by the increased blood velocity due to low distal pressure, and monocytes are triggers of arteriogenesis. more
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