We are interested in the molecular and cellular mechanisms of cardiovascular disease and inflammation. A focus is on the role of atypical chemokines, inflammatory signaling pathways, and leukocyte recruitment processes in atherosclerosis, a chronic inflammatory condition of arterial vessels and the main underlying condition of ischemic stroke. We study these mechanisms from basic vascular biology to clinical translation.
We have discovered the cytokine MIF in inflammatory and vascular disease and have characterized it as a protagonistic member of the class of ‘atypical chemokines’. Relying on biochemical and vascular biology methodologies in combination with transgenic mouse models and clinical approaches, we broadly study the MIF protein family (i.e. MIF, MIF-2/D-DT, CXCR2, CXCR4, CXCR7, CD74, sCD74) and related classical chemokines in atherosclerosis, ischemic stroke, and myocardial infarction. This involves deciphering the receptor complexes and pathways driving atherogenic recruitment of leukocyte sub-populations, but we also focus on site- and disease-specific oxidized iso-forms as encountered under ischemic/oxidative stress as well as on chemokine-like alarmins such as HMGB1.
Another focus is on atheroprotective signaling pathways maintained by the COP9 signalosome (CSN) in atherogenic endothelium. The CSN is a multi-functional protein complex that regulates SCF cullin-RING E3-ligase (CRL) NEDDylation status, controlling ubiquitin/26S-proteasome-mediated degradation of cell-regulatory proteins. Based on our discovery of a link between CSN5/JAB1 and inflammation, we currently study atheroprotective effects of CSN5 via NFκB signaling.
We are also interested in cardioprotective mechanisms of some of these mediators and how they compare with corresponding effects in ischemic stroke and cerebral-/(micro)vascular pathogenesis but also other inflammatory diseases. Lastly, capitalizing on various collaborations, we increasingly pursue links between inflammation and neurodegeneration, i.e. inflammasome and amyloid/chaperone-type mechanisms.
Tian Y, Milic J, Monasor LS, Chakraborty R, Wang S, Yuan Y, Asare Y, Behrends C, Tahirovic S, Bernhagen J. The COP9 signalosome reduces neuroinflammation and attenuates ischemic neuronal stress in organotypic brain slice culture model. Cell Mol Life Sci. 2023 Aug 19;80(9):262. doi: 10.1007/s00018-023-04911-8.
Brandhofer M, Hoffmann A, Blanchet X, Siminkovitch E, Rohlfing AK, El Bounkari O, Nestele JA, Bild A, Kontos C, Hille K, Rohde V, Fröhlich A, Golemi J, Gokce O, Krammer C, Scheiermann P, Tsilimparis N, Sachs N, Kempf WE, Maegdefessel L, Otabil MK, Megens RTA, Ippel H, Koenen RR, Luo J, Engelmann B, Mayo KH, Gawaz M, Kapurniotu A, Weber C, von Hundelshausen P, Bernhagen J. Heterocomplexes between the atypical chemokine MIF and the CXC-motif chemokine CXCL4L1 regulate inflammation and thrombus formation. Cell Mol Life Sci. 2022 Sep 12;79(10):512. doi: 10.1007/s00018-022-04539-0.
Mohanta SK, Peng L, Li Y, Lu S, Sun T, Carnevale L, Perrotta M, Ma Z, Förstera B, Stanic K, Zhang C, Zhang X, Szczepaniak P, Bianchini M, Saeed BR, Carnevale R, Hu D, Nosalski R, Pallante F, Beer M, Santovito D, Ertürk A, Mettenleiter TC, Klupp BG, Megens RTA, Steffens S, Pelisek J, Eckstein HH, Kleemann R, Habenicht L, Mallat Z, Michel JB, Bernhagen J, Dichgans M, D'Agostino G, Guzik TJ, Olofsson PS, Yin C, Weber C, Lembo G, Carnevale D, Habenicht AJR. Neuroimmune cardiovascular interfaces control atherosclerosis. Nature. 2022 May;605(7908):152-159. doi: 10.1038/s41586-022-04673-6. Epub 2022 Apr 27.
Tilstam PV, Schulte W, Holowka T, Kim BS, Nouws J, Sauler M, Piecychna M, Pantouris G, Lolis E, Leng L, Bernhagen J, Fingerle-Rowson G, Bucala R. MIF but not MIF-2 recruits inflammatory macrophages in an experimental polymicrobial sepsis model. J Clin Invest. 2021 Dec 1;131(23):e127171. doi: 10.1172/JCI127171.
Dobersch S, Rubio K, Singh I, Günther S, Graumann J, Cordero J, Castillo-Negrete R, Huynh MB, Mehta A, Braubach P, Cabrera-Fuentes H, Bernhagen J, Chao CM, Bellusci S, Günther A, Preissner KT, Kugel S, Dobreva G, Wygrecka M, Braun T, Papy-Garcia D, Barreto G. Positioning of nucleosomes containing γ-H2AX precedes active DNA demethylation and transcription initiation. Nat Commun. 2021 Feb 16;12(1):1072. doi: 10.1038/s41467-021-21227-y.
Schindler L, Zwissler L, Krammer C, Hendgen-Cotta U, Rassaf T, Hampton MB, Dickerhof N, Bernhagen J. Macrophage migration inhibitory factor inhibits neutrophil apoptosis by inducing cytokine release from mononuclear cells. J Leukoc Biol. 2021 Feb 10. doi: 10.1002/JLB.3A0420-242RRR. Epub ahead of print.
Kontos C, El Bounkari O, Krammer C, Sinitski D, Hille K, Zan C, Yan G, Wang S, Gao Y, Brandhofer M, Megens RTA, Hoffmann A, Pauli J, Asare Y, Gerra S, Bourilhon P, Leng L, Eckstein HH, Kempf WE, Pelisek J, Gokce O, Maegdefessel L, Bucala R, Dichgans M, Weber C, Kapurniotu A, Bernhagen J. Designed CXCR4 mimic acts as a soluble chemokine receptor that blocks atherogenic inflammation by agonist-specific targeting. Nat Commun. 2020 Nov 25;11(1):5981.
Asare Y, Campbell-James TA, Bokov Y, Yu LL, Prestel M, El Bounkari O, Roth S, Megens RT, Straub T, Thomas K, Yan G, Schneider M, Ziesch N, Tiedt S, Silvestre-Roig C, Braster Q, Huang Y, Schneider M, Malik R, Haffner C, Liesz A, Soehnlein O, Bernhagen J, Dichgans M. Histone Deacetylase 9 Activates IKK to Regulate Atherosclerotic Plaque Vulnerability. Circ Res. 2020 Jun 17. Epub ahead of print.
Krammer C, Kontos C, Dewor M, Hille K, Dalla Volta B, El Bounkari O, Taş K, Sinitski D, Brandhofer M, Megens RTA, Weber C, Schultz JR, Bernhagen J, Kapurniotu A. A MIF-Derived Cyclopeptide that Inhibits MIF Binding and Atherogenic Signaling via the Chemokine Receptor CXCR2. Chembiochem. 2021 Mar 16;22(6):1012-1019. doi: 10.1002/cbic.202000574. Epub 2020 Nov 30.
Sinitski D, Gruner K, Brandhofer M, Kontos C, Winkler P, Reinstädler A, Bourilhon P, Xiao Z, Cool R, Kapurniotu A, Dekker FJ, Panstruga R, Bernhagen J. Cross-kingdom mimicry of the receptor signaling and leukocyte recruitment activity of a human cytokine by its plant orthologs. J Biol Chem. 2020 Jan 17;295(3):850-867.
Schmitz C, Noels H, El Bounkari O, Straussfeld E, Megens RTA, Sternkopf M, Alampour-Rajabi S, Krammer C, Tilstam PV, Gerdes N, Bürger C, Kapurniotu A, Bucala R, Jankowski J, Weber C, Bernhagen J*. Mif-deficiency favors an atheroprotective autoantibody phenotype in atherosclerosis. FASEB J. 2018 Aug;32(8):4428-4443.
Roth S, Singh V, Tiedt S, Schindler L, Huber G, Geerlof A, Antoine DJ, Anfray A, Orset C, Gauberti M, Fournier A, Holdt LM, Harris HE, Engelhardt B, Bianchi ME, Vivien D, Haffner C, Bernhagen J, Dichgans M, Liesz A. Brain-released alarmins and stress response synergize in accelerating atherosclerosis progression after stroke. Sci Transl Med. 2018 Mar 14;10(432).
Stoppe C, Averdunk L, Goetzenich A, Soppert J, Marlier A, Kraemer S, Vieten J, Coburn M, Kowark A, Kim BS, Marx G, Rex S, Ochi A, Leng L, Moeckel G, Linkermann A, El Bounkari O, Zarbock A, Bernhagen J*, Djudjaj S, Bucala R, Boor P. The protective role of macrophage migration inhibitory factor in acute kidney injury after cardiac surgery. Sci Transl Med. 2018 May 16;10(441).
* co-first or co-corresponding
Prof. Dr. Jürgen Bernhagen, Principal Investigator
Read more about the PI on the next tab.
Sabrina Lukanovic, LL.M, Team Assistant
After finishing my Bachelor studies in law, I was awarded a scholarship for Master studies in International Business Law at the Central European University (Hungary). Currently, I am the team assistant to Prof. Bernhagen, Prof. Wahl and Dr. Georgakis. When I am out of the office, I love to spend time with my daughter and son.
Dr. Omar El Bounkari, Senior staff scientist & Technical laboratory head
Following my Biochemistry studies at the University of Hannover, I pursued my PhD degree at the Institute of Biochemistry at the Medical School of Hannover (MHH) under the supervision of Prof. Tamura-Niemann focusing on the interplay between tyrosine kinase signaling and the mRNA export machinery (THO complex). After a brief postdoc fellowship in the same group, I joined the lab of Prof. Bernhagen at RWTH Aachen University in 2010 first as a post-doc and then junior group leader, focusing on the characterization of heteromeric cytokine¬/chemokine receptor complexes MIF proteins, and their function in immune and inflammatory diseases. I followed the lab when it moved to LMU Munich in the end of 2015, where I am now a senior staff scientist, junior group, leader, and technical laboratory head. My research aims at decrypting the role of the MIF protein family and their receptors in immune cells, in particular B lymphocytes, and the related mechanisms that drive inflammatory processes in cardiovascular or autoimmune disease. In my leisure time, I like horse riding and hiking.
Dr. med. Adrian Hoffmann, clinician scientist
I am a Clinician Scientist, working in the Department of Anesthesiology (LMU University Hospital) and doing research with a focus on the diverse effects of alarmins during sterile inflammation. I studied Medicine in Frankfurt and enjoy hiking, running and after-work-Isar-swimming.
Simona Gerra, M.Sc., Technical assistant
I am originally from Italy, where I finished my Master’s studies in Biology at the University of Milano Bicocca. Working as Environmental Educator and Hiking Guide, I had the opportunity to share the basic ecological principles and evolutionary forces that affect wildlife and their associated habitats. I developed activities about topics such as forest, stream ecology and wildlife science. In August 2018, I joined the Bernhagen research group as Laboratory Technical Assistant. I perform bacterial culturing, protein purification, cell culture and immunoassays, as well as maintaining the lab supplies and equipment. In my spare time, I enjoy hiking and reading books.
Maida Avdic, B.Sc., Technical assistant
I am originally from Bosnia and Herzegovina, where I received my Bachelor degree in Genetics and Bioengineering. In October 2021, I moved to Munich and joined the Bernhagen team as Technical Assistant. The position was very appealing to me because of my interest in biochemistry, vascular biology, and the mechanisms of cardiovascular diseases. I am excited to be in a top-class research institute where I can get trained in various technologies and methods. I am looking forward to share my gained knowledge with some other young scientists in the future. In my spare time, I like to spend time with my nieces and go for walks.
Dr. rer. nat. Markus Brandhofer, postdoctoral investigator & m4 team member
Originally from the Munich area, I obtained a Bachelor and Master in Biotechnology from FH Aachen University of Applied Sciences and first joined the Bernhagen Lab – back then located at RWTH Aachen University – for my Master thesis, working on effects of the proinflammatory cytokine MIF and alarmins in liver inflammation. In 2016, I followed the lab to the ISD and returned to Munich. Here, I’m interested in the role of MIF family proteins as atypical chemokines and investigate their crosstalk with classical chemokines. When I’m not busy in the lab, I enjoy visiting friends, trying different kinds of craft beer, going geocaching or just relaxing and reading a nice book.
Ying Gao, MD, PhD student
I am originally from China, where in 2015, I got my Bachelor degree in Medicine from Central South University in Changsha. After that, I chose to continue my studies in the Department of Neurology affiliated to Shanghai Jiao Tong University. With an enquiring mind to explore the sustainable links between basic scientific research and clinical translation and to get scientific training abroad, I applied with the Chinese Scholarship Council (CSC)/LMU PhD program and got awarded a prestigious CSC/LMU fellowship to perform my PhD thesis in the Bernhagen Lab at ISD in Munich. Since October 2018, I am working on my thesis concerned with a novel class of chemokine peptide inhibitors with potential utility in cardiovascular disease and stroke. When not working at lab, I like spending time to do workout or some outdoor activities, such as traveling, climbing.
Bishan Yang, PhD student
Originally from China, I obtained my Master degree from South China University of Technology in physiology. I finished my Master thesis on the topic of cell recruitment mechanisms at the Institute of Biomechanics, and I decided to do further studies related to inflammation. In 2019, I was accepted as a PhD student in the Bernhagen lab funded by an LMU/CSC scholarship for 4 years. Now I study for my PhD thesis in which I explore the relationship between MIF proteins and B lymphocytes in atherosclerosis. In my spare time, I love playing card games with my friends as well as playing badminton.
Lin Zhang, MD, PhD student
Originally from China, I studied Clinical Medicine at Zhengzhou University, where I got my medical Master’s degree. In the fall of 2019, I joined the Bernhagen lab to work on my PhD thesis. My research focuses on the role of MIF family proteins in the resolution of inflammatory processes, e.g. in Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome, a project performed under the supervision of Dr. med. Adrian Hoffmann and in collaboration with the Department of Anesthesiology at LMU University Hospital. In my spare time, I enjoy hiking, traveling, and spending time with friends.
Kobra Moradzadeh Gavbazeh, PhD student
I am originally from Iran, where I received my bachelor’s and master’s degree in biotechnology and medical biotechnology, respectively. During my master’s study I worked in the Regenerative Medicine Research Center in the area of kidney diseases. My thesis project was mainly about the role of CXCL12 in the regeneration of acute kidney injury. It was part of a systems biology study, in which the prediction of a mathematical model on a hypoxia pathway, a common condition in acute kidney injury, was validated experimentally. After graduation, I shortly worked for a pharmaceutical company and then joined the Gene Therapy Research Center, in which I worked as a research assistant. Based on my scientific experience in the field of biomedicine I found myself interested in inflammation, regenerative medicine and systems biology. In 2022, I joined Bernhagen research group and the CRC1123 ‘atherosclerosis’ as a PhD student, to work on discovering the role and mechanisms of new MIF family members in atherosclerosis. My PhD study is supported by a fellowship from the Integrated Research Training Group (IRTG) of CRC1123 at LMU. In my spare time, I like doing yoga, mountain climbing, and reading.
Simon Ebert, PhD student
I am originally from Augsburg, a lovely city near Munich. I first did an apprenticeship as a chemical laboratory assistant at ratiopharm Ulm. Following I obtained my B.Sc. in Chemistry and Biochemistry at LMU Munich, where I was furthermore admitted to the Deutschlandstipendium. Because of my interest in cardiovascular disease and inflammation, I performed my Master's Thesis in the Bernhagen Lab from April-September 2022 on a novel CD74 ligand and have started my PhD thesis on the role of chemokine receptor mimics and their utility in cardiovascular diseases in the end of 2022. During my spare time, I like to play ice hockey, go backcountry snowboarding, and cycling.
Michael Kobina Otabil, PhD student
Originally from Ghana, where I obtained a Bachelor in Biochemistry and Master in Pharmacology. I relocated to Munich, and enrolled in another master in Biochemistry studies at LMU, primarily to upgrade my research knowledge and skills in inflammation, ligand – receptor crosstalk and drug studies. I joined the Bernhagen research group for a practical course and master thesis. I am interested in studying the effect of MIF, an atypical chemokine and finding ways to modulate its receptor interactions helps to understand it chemotactic activity implicated in atherosclerosis and other inflammatory diseases, and also, how it signals through its receptor interaction.
Yue Yuan, PhD student
I am a PhD student originally from China. I obtained my Master degree from Peking Union Medical College (Tsinghua University) and obtained a LMU-CSC scholarship for 4 years. I started working as a PhD student in the Bernhagen lab in Sept 2022. My research focuses on the role of the COP9 signalosome complex in atherosclerosis. To further my PhD training, I recently joined the graduate school of CRC1123 “Atherosclerosis”, IRTG1123. It is a great pleasure to study here in a lab full of joy and excellence.
Noor Ismail, cand. med., MD doctoral student
Growing up in Stuttgart, I started studying medicine at LMU Munich in 2018. For my MD doctoral thesis, I joined the Bernhagen lab in 2022, supported by a FöFoLe fellowship of Munich Medical Research School (MMRS). During my time here, I will work on 2 subtypes of so-called new MIFs, aiming to characterize their role and mechanisms in atherosclerosis, applying in vitro cell models and tissue specimens from carotid plaques. Outside the lab, I like reading, enjoying time in nature, and traveling.
Andi Abdyli, cand. med., MD doctoral student
Originally from Albania, I moved to Munich in 2017 and started studying medicine at the LMU Munich in 2018. I joined the Bernhagen Lab in my fifth year of studies for my MD thesis. During the time here, I will focus on the atypical chemokine MIF and its role in inflammatory processes, such as the Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS), a project under the supervision of Dr. med. Adrian Hoffmann and in collaboration with the Department of Anesthesiology at LMU University Hospital. During my spare time, I like to play basketball or go grab a coffee with my friends.
Lea Piel, cand. med., MD doctoral student
Originally from Stuttgart, I moved to Munich in 2019 to study human medicine at LMU. Always having been interested in immunology and inflammation processes, I decided to join the Bernhagen Lab in 2023 following my goal to achieve a MD doctor‘s degree. To this end, I am investigating the role of a novelemerging member of the MIF family in cardiac physiology and pathology applying in vitro studies in human cardiomyocytes. When not working, I enjoy doing sports, drawing and travelling.
Genta Bushati, cand. med., MD doctoral student
Originally from Albania, I moved to Munich in 2019 to pursue my studies in medicine at the LMU. In April 2023, I joined the Bernhagen Lab for my MD thesis. Building on previous work in this research group, my research focus is studying MIF family proteins and their interactions with classical chemokines in the context of inflammation. Outside the lab, I like spending time with family and friends, reading books and traveling the world.
Philipp Leopoldseder, Masteral Student
Originally from the Munich area, I finished my Bachelor in Biochemistry at the University of Bayreuth. After that I continued my studies with the Biochemistry Master’s program at LMU in Munich focusing on Biomedicine and Immunology. Recently, I joined the Bernhagen Lab to work on my Master’s thesis under the supervision of Dr. Omar El Bounkari. My research focuses on the involvement of macrophage migration inhibitory factor -2 (MIF-2) in lipogenesis in the context of atherosclerosis. In my free time I enjoy meeting with friends, hiking and bouldering.
Carl-Christian Schäfer, cand. med., MD doctoral student (lab time concluded)
Elena Siminkovitch, cand. med., MD doctoral student (lab time concluded)
Iris Woltering, cand. med., MD doctoral student (lab time concluded)
Lukas Spiller, cand. med., MD doctoral student (lab time concluded)
Dario Ponto, cand. med., MD doctoral student (lab time concluded)
Eva Preuner, cand. med., MD doctoral student (lab time concluded)
Mathias Holzner, cand. med., MD doctoral student (lab time concluded)
Leon Zwißler, cand. med., MD doctoral student (lab time concluded)
Marlies Tursch, vet. med., doctoral student (maternal leave)
Assistenzärztin, Universitätsspital Zürich (Klinik für Radio-Onkologie)
Bernhagen Lab 2017-2022
Master Student, Universität Kopenhagen (Biotech Research & Innovation Centre in Kopenhagen)
Bernhagen Lab 2021-2022
Yuan Tian, PhD
Bernhagen Lab 2017-2023
Team-Assistant, Institute for Stroke and Dementia Research (ISD, AG Dichgans, AG Jäkl and AG Tied), LMU Munich
Bernhagen Lab 2022-2023
Bernhagen Lab 2022
Jelena Milic, PhD
Laboratory Manager MAxL
Bavarian Biotech Cluster BioM
Bernhagen Lab 2020-2022
Chunfang Zan, MD, PhD
Collaborative Innovation Center for Molecular Imaging of Precision Medicine, First Hospital of Shanxi Medical University, Taiyuan, China
Elina Bugar, MSc
Bernhagen Lab 2022
Ruben Ellesworth Galindo
Bernhagen Lab 2021
Dr. Christine Krammer
Scientist / QC Manager, Eurofins Biopharma Product Testing Munich GmbH
Bernhagen Lab 2016 - 2021
R&D Project Leader, Alytix, Santa Fe, Argentina
Bernhagen Lab 2016 - 2021
Dr. med. Wang Sijia, MD
Resident in Neurology at Shenzhen People's Hospital, China
Bernhagen Lab (2017-2021)
Dr. med. Jonas Wagner
Junior Attending Physician and Clinician Scientist, University Medical Center Hamburg- Eppendorf (UKE),
Bernhagen Lab 2015-2020
Dr. Lisa Schindler
Postdoc, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Cell Biology (IBMZ), University Medical Center Hamburg- Eppendorf (UKE)
Bernhagen Lab 2013-2020 (Aachen and Munich)
Dr. Dzmitry Sinitski
Scientist, Institute of Microbiology and Laboratory Medicine/WHO – Supranational Reference Laboratory of Tuberculosis
Bernhagen Lab 2016-2020
Dr. med. Valerie Exler
Junior Attending Physician, Chirurgie Spital Thun, Schweiz
Bernhagen Lab 2014-2018
Prof. Dr. Christian Stoppe, FAHA
Department of Anesthesiology, Intensive Care Medicine and Pain Therapy, University Hospital Würzburg, German
Bernhagen Lab 2010-2014
Dr. Corinna Schmitz
Postdoc, Institute for Molecular Cardiovascular Research (IMCAR), RWTH Aachen University
Bernhagen Lab 2012-2017
Dr. Christoph Emontzpohl
Postdoc, The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, McGovern Medical School
Bernhagen Lab2013-2018 (partial, shared with StoppeLab)
Dr. Josefine Soppert
Postdoc, Institute for Molecular Cardiovascular Research (IMCAR), RWTH Aachen University
Bernhagen Lab 2013-2018 (partial, shared with StoppeLab)
Dr. med. Luisa Averdunk
Junior Attending Physician, Institute for Genetics, Düsseldorf University
Bernhagen Lab 2013-2018 (partial, shared with StoppeLab)
Michael Lacy, Assistant Professor, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, Virginia,
Dr. med. Wibke Schulte
Junior Attending Physician, Charite Hospital, Berlin
Bernhagen Lab 2010-2016 (partial)
Dr. Pathricia Tilstam
Postdoc, Yale University
Bernhagen Lab 2010-2014 (partial, shared with NoelsLab)
Dr. Sandra Jumpertz
Postdoc, Department of Visceral Surgery, RWTH Aachen University
Bernhagen Lab 2011-2015
Dr. Thomas Hennes
Clinical Data Coordinator, CROMSOURCE
Bernhagen Lab 2011-2015
Priv.-Doz. Dr. med. Bong-Sung Kim
Senior Attending Physician, UniversitätsSpital Zürich
Bernhagen Lab 2009-2014 (partial)
Dr. Christina Klasen
Sales Manager Life Science EMEA, SYSMEX Deutschland GmbH
Bernhagen Lab 2010-2014
Dr. Setareh Alampour-Rajabi
Postdoc, Institute for Molecular Cardiovascular Research (IMCAR), RWTH Aachen University
Dr. Yaw Asare
Postdoc, Institute for Stroke and Dementia Research (ISD, DichgansLab), LMU Munich
Dr. med. Hongqi Lue
Senior Scientist, RWTH Aachen University
Bernhagen Lab 2000-2015
Priv.-Doz. Dr. med. Gerrit Grieb
Director, Clinic for Plastic and Hand Surgery, Havelhöhe Hospital Berlin
Bernhagen Lab2007-2013 (partial)
Dr. Daniel Heinrichs
Projektträger Jülich (PTJ), BMBF
Consulting Molecular Life Sciences
Bernhagen Lab2009-2015 (associated 2016-2020)
Jürgen was appointed Professor and Chair of Vascular Biology at LMU and Principal Investigator at ISD in 2015. Grown up east of Cologne, Germany, he is a biochemist and immunologist by training, who obtained his Diploma (Master) degree and PhD from the University of Tübingen, Germany, and the Picower Institute for Medical Research, Manhasset, NY, USA.
He previously held positions in basic and applied biomedical research as a Postdoc and Senior Scientist at the Picower Institute for Medical Research, where he worked with Professors Richard Bucala and Anthony Cerami, and as a Group Leader and Department Head at the University of Stuttgart and the Fraunhofer Institute in Stuttgart. Before moving to Munich, he was a Professor of Biochemistry at RWTH Aachen University, where he headed the Institute of Biochemistry and Molecular Cell Biology.
His research centers around the molecular and cellular mechanisms driving inflammation and cardiovascular disease with a focus on cytokines, chemokines, their receptors, and cellular signaling platforms. He (re)-discovered MIF proteins, showing that they are central players in inflammatory pathologies, and identified the MIF/chemokine receptor axis as a driving force of atherosclerotic disease. The larger MIF family of proteins and their receptors as well as the COP9 signalosome continue to be a major focus in the lab due to their unique molecular properties and key position in cell physiology and disease processes including atherosclerosis and ischemic stroke.
Jürgen published >235 papers in this area, and his work has been cited >17000 times and is flanked by numerous patents. The research has been funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG), several Foundations, the SyNergy Excellence Cluster, the BMBF and Fraunhofer, the m4 Award, the Munich Heart Alliance, and industry.
Jürgen Bernhagen, PhD
Professor, Ludwig-Maximilians-University (LMU), Munich
Chair of Vascular Biology, Institute for Stroke and Dementia Research
Principal Investigator, Institute for Stroke and Dementia Research
2015 – Chair of Vascular Biology (W3), Institute for Stroke and Dementia Research (ISD), Klinikum der Universität München, Ludwig-Maximilians-University (LMU), Munich, Germany
2015 – Professor of Vascular Biology, Ludwig-Maximilians-University (LMU), Munich, Germany
2010 – 2015 Director (W3) of the Institute of Biochemistry and Molecular Cell Biology, RWTH Aachen University, Aachen, Germany
2009 – 2015 Chair of Biochemistry and Molecular Cell Biology, RWTH Aachen University, Aachen, Germany
2002 – 2009 Professor of Biochemistry (C3), Head of Division of Biochemistry and Molecular Cell Biology, Institute of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, RWTH Aachen University, Aachen, Germany
2000 – 2005 Head of Department of Molecular Biotechnology at the Fraunhofer Institute of Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology, Stuttgart (part time appointment), Stuttgart, Germany
2000 – 2001 Assistant Professor and Head of Laboratory of Biochemistry, IGVT, University of Stuttgart, Germany
2000 Habilitation in Biochemistry, University of Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany
1995 – 1999 Senior scientist/group leader, Laboratory of Biochemistry, IGVT, University of Stuttgart, Germany
1994 – 1995 Postdoctoral Investigator and Senior Scientist at the Picower Institute for Medical Research, Manhasset, NY, USA, with A. Cerami & R. Bucala
1992 – 1994 PhD thesis in Biochemistry (Dr. rer. nat.), Picower Institute for Medical Research, Manhasset, NY, USA, and Biochemical Institute of the University of Tübingen, Germany
1988 – 1989 Visiting Research Fellow in molecular arthritis research Queen Mary & Westfield College, University of London, England
1985 – 1991 Study of Biochemistry (Diplom/Master), University of Tübingen, Germany
Coordinating Functions, Editorial Roles, Honors, and Awards
2022 – 2026 Member and Vice-Spokesperson SFB1123 „Novel Targets in Atherosclerosis
2021 – () BioM m4 Award
2021 – () Associate Editor: The FASEB Journal
2021 – () Organizer Virtual MIF Lecture series
2017 – 2020 Member SFB-TRR57 “Organ Fibrosis”
2019 – () Editorial Board: Atherosclerosis; Scientific Reports; Associate Editor: The Quarterly Journal of Medicine (Oxford University Press); Conditioning Medicine
2015 – () Member Munich Cluster of Systems Neurology (SyNergy)
2015 – () Member, Munich Heart Alliance (MHA) within German Center for Cardiovascular Research (DZHK)
2014 – 2022 Member SFB1123 „Novel Targets in Atherosclerosis“
2014 – 2015 Vice-Spokesman, IZKF Aachen, Cardiovascular Cluster
2014 – () Editorial board Frontiers in Cardiovascular Medicine, Guest editor Frontiers in Immunology (2014-2016)
2013 – () Permanent Member of the Referee Panel of the Studienstiftung des Deutschen Volkes for PhD fellowships
2010 – 2014 Spokesman of the International DFG Graduate School GRK1508/EuCAR “Arterial Remodeling”
2009 W3 Professorship offers for Chairs in Biochemistry at Ruhr-University, Bochum and Heinrich-Heine-University Düsseldorf (declined)
2009 – 2016 Member SFB-TRR57 “Organ Fibrosis”
2009 – 2015 IZKF Aachen, Vice-Spokesman Cardiovascular Cluster (2014-2015), Member of Executive Board (2009-2015)
2008 Paul-Martini-Award for Clinical Pharmacology and Achievements in Drug Discovery
2007 – () Founding Member and Member of Board, International MIF Consortium
2007 – 2014 Deputy Spokesman of the DFG Collaborative Research Center FOR809
2007 Member Fellowship Selection Board (‘Hochschulauswahl’) of the German National Academic Foundation (‘Studienstiftung des Deutschen Volkes’)
2004 – 2005 Guest Editor, Antioxid. Redox Signal
2002 – 2011 Member SFB 542 „Molecular Mechanisms of Inflammation“
2000 – 2005 Member of the Institutional Steering Committee of the Fraunhofer Institute IGB
1994 Fellowship (“Promotionsstipendium“) Award of the Studienstiftung des Deutschen Volkes
1988 – 1991 Study Scholarship of the Friedrich-Ebert-Foundation
Fields of Interest
Cytokines, chemokines, atypical chemokines, atherosclerosis, ischemic stroke, myocardial infarction and remote ischemic preconditioning, inflammation and inflammatory diseases, receptor mechanisms, signal transduction, and the COP9 signalosome
For information on Currently Funded Projects see ISD Research Support
Influence by Imitation
November 2023 – A study led by the BernhagenLab together with collaborators from RWTH Aachen University and Yale University shows that certain plant proteins resemble human signaling proteins of the immune system and can bind to their receptors. (https://www.lmu.de/en/newsroom/news-overview/news/plant-proteins-influence-by-imitation.html). While on one hand representing basic cross-discipline research, the study may also have potential translational implications in the future, as the receptors and their human cytokine agonist have been shown to be important drivers of atherosclerotic cardiovascular diseases and inflammation. The team also involved cooperation partners from the Max-Planck-Institute for Biochemistry, the SyNergy Cluster, and the Department of Anesthesiology. The study was published in the renowned journal Science Signaling>>
Protective Role of the COP9 Signalosome in Neuroinflammation Uncovered
August 2023 – The COP9 signalosome is a multi-functional protein complex, mainly regulating ubiquitin/proteasome-mediated protein degradation processes. The COP9 and its subunit CSN5 had previously been found to have a protective activity in atherosclerosis by attenuating inflammatory macrophage and endothelial cell responses. The new paper by the BernhagenLab, spear-headed by PhD student Yuan Tian, now shows that the protective role of the COP9 extends to microglial inflammation entailing protection from neuroinflammatory responses. The study was a great collaborative effort together with the Tahirovic Lab at DZNE and the Behrends Lab at SyNergy/LMU. The work was recently published in the journal Cell Mol Life Sci (Tian Y, Milic J, Monasor LS, Chakraborty R, Wang S, Yuan Y, Asare Y, Behrends C, Tahirovic S, Bernhagen J. The COP9 signalosome reduces neuroinflammation and attenuates ischemic neuronal stress in organotypic brain slice culture model. Cell Mol Life Sci. 2023 Aug 19;80(9):262. doi: 10.1007/s00018-023-04911-8.).
Ying Gao successfully defended her doctoral thesis
Oct 2023 – Congratulations to Ying for successfully completing their doctoral thesis entitled “First and Second Generation CXCR4 Peptide Mimics to Block MIF Pathways in Atherosclerosis”, respectively. Ying was a holder of a LMU-CSC fellowship between 2018 and 2022. Her thesis work added important contributions to our CRC1123 and m4 projects. Congratulations also to your 2nd place young investigator award at the 2023 San Servolo cardiovascular research conference. All the best for your next career steps in the US and China.
LMU CAS Fellow at the ISD
April 2023 – Thierry Calandra, Professor of Medicine (University of Lausanne), a renowned infectious disease and MIF expert, was appointed 2023 Visiting Fellow at the LMU Center for Advanced Studies (CAS). During his time in Munich, he will give lectures and pursue an immunology research line with a focus on dendritic cells and MIF hosted by the BernhagenLab at the ISD.
Two-photon microscopy of platelets
New Protein Complex Epitomizes the Atypical Chemokine Interactome
October 2022 – Chemokines are important drivers of the atherosclerotic inflammatory process. They are well known to form homodimers, but have more recently also been found to hetero-dimerize (“the chemokine interactome”). Work by the BernhagenLab performed in the framework of the collaborative research cluster CRC1123 Atherosclerosis together with collaborators from the Institute of Cardiovascular Prevention (IPEK) at LMU (P. von Hundelhausen and team), the Kapurniotu Lab and Mägdefessel Lab at TUM, and cooperation partners from the University of Maastricht, the Department of Vascular Surgery at LMU, the University of Tübingen, and the University of Minnesota, now demonstrates that the atypical chemokine MIF can form a complex with the classical platelet chemokine CXCL4L1. Complex formation attenuates the pro-inflammatory and pro-thrombotic activities of MIF, suggesting that such atypical chemokine complexes can serve to fine-tune chemokine functions. Their study will help to better understand regulation networks in inflammatory and atherogenic conditions and potentially to identify new opportunities for intervention. Led by PhD student Markus Brandhofer and clinician scientist Adrian Hoffmann, the work was published in the journal Cell Mol Life Sci (Brandhofer M, Hoffmann A, Blanchet X, Siminkovitch E, Rohlfing AK, El Bounkari O, Nestele JA, Bild A, Kontos C, Hille K, Rohde V, Fröhlich A, Golemi J, Gokce O, Krammer C, Scheiermann P, Tsilimparis N, Sachs N, Kempf WE, Maegdefessel L, Otabil MK, Megens RTA, Ippel H, Koenen RR, Luo J, Engelmann B, Mayo KH, Gawaz M, Kapurniotu A, Weber C, von Hundelshausen P, Bernhagen J. Heterocomplexes between the atypical chemokine MIF and the CXC-motif chemokine CXCL4L1 regulate inflammation and thrombus formation. Cell Mol Life Sci. 2022 Sep 12;79(10):512. doi: 10.1007/s00018-022-04539-0.)
Congratulations to Jelena Milic for a successful defense of her PhD thesis and her new position at BioM
Oct 2022 – Congratulations to Jelena Milic for completing a comprehensive PhD project and for successfully defending her thesis entitled “Role of the COP9 Signalosome in Atherogenic Inflammation”. Jelena did a great job in advancing our COP9 signalosome / atherosclerosis research line and in handling a highly challenging project and numerous collaborations within the CSD and CRC1123. Thank you also for your great efforts as student spokesperson of IRTG1123 and as our lab representative on the Green Initiative of the CSD. At last, congratulations on your new job at BioM. We wish you best of success for your new position as Laboratory Manager MAxL at BioM.
Yuan Tian and Markus Brandhofer successfully defended their doctoral theses
Sept-Oct 2022 – Congratulations to Yuan Tian and Markus Brandhofer, who successfully completed their doctoral theses entitled “Modulation of neuroinflammation and stroke outcome by the COP9 signalosome” and “Interactions between MIF-family proteins and the classical chemokine ligand/receptor network”, respectively. Yuan and Markus have been instrumental members of our team for several years and have made important contributions to several of our research lines and publications. Yuan wrote a full-size PhD script (“monography”), while Markus pursued the prestigious Dr. rer. nat. thesis line and concluded with a cumulative thesis based on three first/co-first authorship publications, accompanied by several flanking co-authorships. Congratulations again to both of you on your degree! We are happy that Markus will stay with us as part of our BioM m4 team SELECKREM, while Yuan has successful acquired a position abroad and is embarking on a postdoctoral scientist track in the UK as a next step in her career. We wish both of them a great start into their new positions.
CRC1123 “Atherosclerosis” approved for another 4 years
Jun 2022 – CRC1123 “Atherosclerosis” approved for another 4 years: The Collaborative Research Center CRC1123 “Atherosclerosis - Mechanisms and Networks of Novel Therapeutic Targets” (Speaker: Christian Weber, IPEK, LMU) was awarded a third funding period from the DFG for the years 2022-2026. The cluster encompasses 16 projects, 3 central projects, and a graduate school with a total funding volume of 14.5 mio. €. The ISD scientists Yaw Asare, Jürgen Bernhagen, Martin Dichgans, and Arthur Liesz contribute to 4 projects within the center: A2 (von Hundelshausen/Bernhagen), A3 (Bernhagen/Kapurniotu), B3 (Asare, Dichgans), B11 (Liesz/Sager). J. Bernhagen also is the Vice-Spokesperson of CRC1123. It is the aim of the multidisciplinary basic and clinical research projects in CRC1123 to elucidate the mechanisms and molecular networks driving atherosclerosis and to further the identification of potential therapeutic target candidates. The projects A2 and A3, in which the BernhagenLab is involved, address the roles of chemokines and their receptors in atherosclerosis and seek to identify novel therapeutic target candidates. In project A2, the BernhagenLab supports Philipp von Hundelshausen (IPEK, LMU) in efforts to study “Interactions of chemokines with heterologous effectors in atherosclerosis”. In A3, the BernhagenLab teams up with the peptide biochemistry lab of Aphrodite Kapurniotu at the TUM School of Life Sciences to explore “Differential mechanisms of MIF proteins in atherosclerosis and selective peptide-based strategies for intervention”.
We had a great time at the Oktoberfest 2023 in Munich!
Lots of great science and socializing at ISD Research Retreat 2023
Happy to participate at the ISD Research Retreat 2022 after two years break
Congratulations to Chungfang Zan for a successful Phd defense! Well done!
First group lunch after a long corona break.
Ramadan Bayram at AG Bernhagen and AG Gökce
Exciting science, great location and fun at 2019 ISD Retreat in Herrsching/Ammersee
Jürgen Bernhagen and Yuan Tian attended the X-ZOMES Conference held at Akko, Israel from Feb 4-7, 2019. The biannual ZOMES conference series was initiated in 1999 as a grassroots initiative of scientists studying 3 related protein complexes, the 19S proteasome, the COP9 signalosome (CSN), and the translation initiation factor eIF3 (aka PCI complexes, the “ZOMES”). Leading international scientists from all Zomes areas met for 3-day in-depth discussions on the biochemistry, structure, function, and disease relevance of these complexes. Jürgen’s talk was on the role of the COP9 signalosome in cardiovascular diseases; Yuan’s poster on the CSN and microglial inflammation was selected for speed poster and she did a great job in delivering it in the 4 min speed format.
25 February 2018 – Lisa Schindler obtained a prestigious 12-month DAAD fellowship to perform part of her PhD thesis at Mark Hampton’s lab in Christchurch, NZ.
CSC-LMU fellowship awardees Chunfang Zan, Ying Gao, and Hao Ji start their PhD theses
On 1 Oct 2018, Chunfang Zan and Ying Gao joined the Bernhagen Lab. Chunfang holds a master degree in Clinical Medicine from Jilin University, Changchun, China, and Ying holds a master in Neurology from Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China. Both received a prestigious Chinese Scholarship Council (CSC)-LMU fellowship following competitive selection among hundreds of applicants. The fellowship allows them to pursue a 3-4 year PhD project at LMU. Together with Ji Hao, another successful CSC scholar and PhD candidate in the neighboring Gokce Lab, they just successfully passed the exam concluding the LMU-CSC introductory training in September 2018.
The photos were taken at the opening ceremony of the 2018 CSC-LMU program, which took place on 10 Oct at LMU Biomedical Center (BMC) and was led by LMU Vice President Professor van Ess, the Chinese General Consulate, LMU Vice President Prof. Conrad, and Drs. Lauterbach and Zhang from the LMU International Office. The PhD candidates were awarded their training certificates and notably, Hao delivered one of the welcome addresses.
ISD Retreat 2018
10 July 2018 – The whole group participated at this year’s ISD retreat at Lake Ammersee in Herrsching. Great science, great fun
Internships / practical courses in BernhagenLab in September 2023
This September, the BernhagenLab has welcomed again several students in its laboratory, performing 3-4 week-practical courses and internships. Our senior lab scientist Dr. Omar El Bounkari taught the Practical Course Innate Immunity for one week (Master course Innate Immunity & Inflammation within the Biochemistry Master Program of LMU) .
Furthermore, Victoria from the Medical School of the University of Ioannina, Greece, and Marina from Tanta University, Faculty of Medicine, Egypt, stayed with us all of September in the framework of a research exchange for medical students within the IFMSA/BVMD programs co-organized by LMU, to get training in biomedical lab work. Practical course work was further completed by Philipp, an intern within the LMU Biology Master Class, and Daniel, pursuing his study on inhibitors against cell invasion processes in atherosclerosis and cancer in our lab.
It was a pleasure to host and train excellent students from various backgrounds and cultures! We also got the chance to visit the 2023 Oktoberfest to spent some time outside the lab.
September is “Educational Peak Time”: Numerous internships / practical courses in BernhagenLab
During the months of September, the BernhagenLab hosts several students in its laboratory, performing 3-4 weeks practical courses and internships. Teaching activities encompass the Practical Course in Innate Immunity (Master course Innate Immunity & Inflammation within the Biochemistry Master Program of LMU), BVMD internships (research exchange for medical students within the IFMSA/BVMD programs), and internships within the LMU Biology Master Classes.
Teaching modules offered by the Chair of Vascular Biology of LMU
- Training of medical students as part of the ‘FöFoLe’ graduate program
- Training of medical students as part of the ‘BVMD Mobility’ program of LMU
- MD and PhD theses within the MMRS graduate program
- Training of medical students during their MD thesis and within ‘MeCuM Module 6’
- Contribution to lectures, within the LMU master course ‘Innate Immunity & Inflammation’ of the ‘Master of Biochemistry’ program
- Contribution to seminars within the LMU master course ‘Innate Immunity & Inflammation’ of the ‘Master of Biochemistry’ program
- Practical course within the LMU ‘Biochemistry Master’ program
- Training of PhD graduate students within the ‘Integrated Research Training Group’ (IRTG) ‘Atherosclerosis – Mechanisms and Networks of Novel Therapeutic Targets’ within CRC1123
- Bachelor and master theses in Biochemistry, Chemistry, Biotechnology, Biology, and related disciplines
Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Jürgen Bernhagen
Secretary: Sabrina Lukanovic
Video microscopy and live imaging of single cell migration tracks
As a lab focusing on chemokines and atypical chemokines, immune cell migration studies are in the center of our interest to understand their roles in cardiovascular and inflammatory diseases. The lab is equipped with the premium class high power inverse fluorescence microscope, the Leica DMi8 that is equipped with a fully motorized video microscopy modality, a micro-incubator for mid- to -longterm tracking experiments and various high power, high resolution objectives to track leukocyte migration movements in real-time.Features DMI8 life cell imaging microscope:
- Fluorescence detection at broad wavelength range due to variety of filters and RFIP fluorescence revolver
- Numerous colors/filters (excitation/emission: 350/460, 436/480, 480/535, 500/527, 546/585, 545/605)
- Fully motorized
- High-speed live tracking (XGA 1024x768 mit 30 fps)
- sCMOS camera (Hamamatsu Orca Flash 4.0)
- Various objectives including HC PL APO 63x/1.400.60 - OIL
- LAS X Premium software and Huygens deconvolution software
- Anti-vibration table
- Incubator (heat, temperature, and CO2-O2 control)
Multi-Photon microscopy with 1300 nm pulsed IR laser an FLIM-FRET
We have one of the first new-generation Leica multiphoton microscopes, i.e. the Leica TCS SP8 DIVE with FLIM-FRET modality, in Germany and Europe. The instrument is primarily used for atherosclerosis and stroke research, but also is an important tool for various other cardiovascular, neuroscience, neurophysiology, and cell biology questions.
The advanced Leica TCS SP8 DIVE multiphoton microscope is equipped with spectrally tunable detection over the whole visible spectrum (380 – 800 nm) and a highly sophisticated Vario Beam Expander (VBE) combining maximum depth, high resolution and full color correction. Our system consists of both confocal and multiphoton units and is thereby perfectly suited for all standard applications including in vivo live imaging, ex vivo leukocyte adhesion, in vivo cell recruitment and homing, calcium imaging, dye separation and live time determination using Fluorescence Lifetime Imaging (FLIM), detection and imaging of both molecular interactions and molecular distance in vitro and in vivo using FLIM-FRET. The femto-second high power 1300 nm laser in combination with the three-photon excitation option allows imaging at high penetration depth of up to 800 µm.
- Confocal lasers: 488 nm, 552 nm, and 638 nm (Vis. CW)
- Confocal detectors: 2 internal detectors (1 HyD, 1 standard PMT)
- Multiphoton lasers: extended IR spectrum tunable multiphoton laser (New InSight® X3™, Spectra-Physics) tunable in the range of 680-1300 nm (laser class 4) and 1045 nm fixed IR laser (pulsed)
- Multiphoton detectors: 3 external Reflected Light Hybrid Detectors ((RLHyD)
- Vario Beam Expander (VBE)
- Ultra high-speed resonant scanner 8kHz (Maximal Frame Resolution: 1024x1024 pixel; scan-zoom: 1.3 - 48x)
- Leica LAS X Navigator for the acquisition and review of large data sets
- Long-working distance immersion objectives that can be used according to the experimental model and imaging needs are available, including cleared tissues
- High-end fully motorized XY-stage
- SP8 FALCON (FAstLifetime CONtrast) for Fluorescence Lifetime Imaging (FLIM)
- LIGHTNING and Huygens Deconvolution Algorithms
- PicoQuant FLIM-FRET module
- 3D visualization mode
Access to the imaging system, as well as design of experimental procedures including image data acquisition and analysis are possible. If you are interested in using our system, please don´t hesitate to contact the responsible person:
Dr. Omar El Bounkari
Tel.: +49 (0)89 4400 - 46152
Single cell sorting and sequencing unit
The SH800 is a microfluidic chip-based sorter ideally suited for various single cell sorting and scRNAseq applications. It is run by the Bernhagen and Gokce labs at ISD and supports cell sorting experiments of the Bernhagen and Gokce labs, of other ISD investigators, users of the SyNergy excellence cluster, as well users from the DZNE, the DZHK, and the LMU/KUM campus. The SH800 sorter is associated with the SyNergy Transcriptomics technology hub.
The area of single cell analysis and single cell RNAseq/transcriptomics currently is exploding and revolutionizes biomedical research. Understanding the genetic, functional, and compository heterogeneity of healthy and pathogenic tissue specimens has become a major challenge in our efforts to decipher human diseases.
The Bernhagen and Gokce labs together with SyNergy recently acquired an SH800S Cell Sorter from Sony Instruments. The sorter is a key component of our pipeline to isolate and study cell populations from various tissues and animal models of cardiovascular and neurodegenerative diseases including atherosclerosis, ischemic stroke, and Alzheimer disease. With this sorter we can sort a wide range of cells, from B and T lymphocytes to microglial cells, pericytes, and neurons.
Sorting uses the 70μm, 100μm, and 130μm microfluidic sorting chips. We are able to perform bulk as well as single cell sorting into tubes and 96- and 384-well plates for high-throughput analyses. The SH800S sorter is equipped with four lasers (488 nm, 405nm, 561nm and 638nm) and eight fluorescence filters. Apart from that, the user-friendly design and software and the high level of automation allows for easy handling, even with beginners.
If you wish to use the SH800 sorter, please contact Prof. Jürgen Bernhagen or Dr. Ozgun Gokce to register, learn about user conditions, and get training. Registered and trained users please visit the booking site here: https://www.gokcelab.com/sony.
Hypoxia chamber to mimic ischemic stress in cardiomyocytes, neuronal brain cultures, or endothelial cells