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Stefanie Dimmeler Receives ERC Grant

From heart attacks to cancer: role of non-coding RNAs

20.5.2015 | Professsor Stefanie Dimmeler gets the prestigious "Advanced Investigator Grant" from the European Research Council for her pioneering research on non-coding RNAs. She has already shown how these RNAs play a role in blood vessels regeneration, now she is searching for novel therapies. The grant is worth 2,5 million Euros for five years.
About 70 percent of our genes provide the blueprint for non-coding RNAs - their function is only now being discovered. Instead of being translated into proteins, they seem to perform steering functions. Stefanie Dimmeler was one of the first researchers to prove that the sub-group of micro-RNAs plays a role in regenerating blood vessels. With the help of the ERC grant, she will now be able to study another large group of non-coding RNAs. She believes that this group plays a role in heart attacks, strokes and cancer.

Prof. Stefanie Dimmeler
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Prof. Stefanie Dimmeler
"If you asked me what was special about the evolutionary development of human beings, I would say it's the more than 30,000 non-coding RNAs, most of which we only share with primates," says Prof. Dimmeler. From the standpoint of her research field cardiovascular regeneration, it is striking that vascular illnesses like arteriosclerosis, which can cause heart attacks, only occur in humans. There are many indicators that long, non-coding RNAs, also termed "lncRNAs", control these illnesses. They affect the inside layer of the blood vessels, known as endothelial cells, and help supply the organs and tissues with oxygen and nutrients.

The technologies used to track lncRNAs and their complex function are far more complicated than finding proteins. Dimmeler and her research group identified two candidates, Angiolnc1 and Angiolnc2, that regulate the functions of endothelial cells. Now she wants to study the molecular epigenetic mechanisms that these two lncRNAs use to trigger vascular illnesses. The goal of her research is to identify new treatments for preventing arteriosclerosis, in order to reduce the incidence of heart attacks and strokes.

In the third part of her project, Dimmeler will study whether ring-shaped lncRNAs, which have special protection once they are released into the blood, can be used as biomarkers for identifying illnesses in the vascular system or the heart. To this end, she will work with her group to develop tests that can be used to find these biomolecules in patients' blood during the various stages of cardiovascular illnesses.

Stefanie Dimmeler, born in 1967, studied biology at the University of Constance, where she received her doctorate in 1993. After two years as research assistant at the University of Cologne, she went to Frankfurt University, where she was promoted to professor in 1998 in the Department of Experimental Medicine. In 2001, she accepted a position as a professor in the Molecular Cardiology Department at the same university. She has been the director of the Institute of Cardiovascular Regeneration since 2008. From 2008 to 2012, Prof. Dimmeler was a member of the German Ethics Commission. She has received numerous research prizes, including the renowned Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize from the German Research Foundation DFG and the Ernst Jung Prize for Medicine.
  (© Frankfurt University, AcademiaNet)
Dr. Anke Sauter

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