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ERC Advanced Grant

Atherosclerosis: Understanding the crucial signaling pathways

München, 04/26/2016

For this project, Professor Christian Weber, Director of the Institute for Prophylaxis and Epidemiology of Cardiovascular Disease at the LMU Medical Center, has been awarded his second ERC Advanced Grant.

Proessor WeberProfessor Dr. med. Christian Weber is Chair of Vascular Medicine and Director of the Institute for Prophylaxis and Epidemiology of Cardiovascular Disease at the LMU Medical Center. This ERC Grant is an exceptional distinction for Weber, who is one of the few researchers to receive the honor of a second award in the course of his career to date. Atherosclerosis is a major cause of morbidity and premature death in modern societies, and the principal goal of all of Christian Weber’s research is to contribute to our understanding of this condition and to identify new drug targets opening up new routes more effective and personalized treatment.

Weber analyzes the molecular mechanisms involved in the pathogenesis and progression of the disorder. Commonly known as hardening of the arteries, atherosclerosis is primarily characterized by the development of fatty deposits on the inner surfaces of major blood vessels, which provoke chronic inflammation that leads to obstruction of blood flow. In his first ERC project, entitled “Atheroprotect”, he studied the role of pro-inflammatory signal proteins which control the immune response that initiates the inflammation process and hampers its timely resolution. The title of his new ERC project is PROVASC, which will be devoted to elucidating the mechanisms responsible for “cell-specific vascular protection by CXCL12/CXCR4”. CXCL12 is a signal protein which binds to the receptor CXCR4, which in turn activates a particular homeostatic signal pathway. Moreover, studies of genetic variation in human populations have indicated that this pathway can protect the vasculature against atherosclerosis. Weber plans to characterize the downstream signal relay and elucidate the basis for its ability to reduce the risk of developing atherosclerosis. To this end, he will investigate the effects of defined genetic risk variants on the activity of the CXCL12/CXCR4 pathway, and explore ways of modulating its action in a targeted fashion. Interestingly, so-called microRNAs – short RNA fragments that are involved in regulating the synthesis of specific proteins – have been implicated in the pathway and offer possible targets for new therapies.

Christian Weber was born in 1967. He served as Professor of Cardiovascular Molecular Biology at the RWTH Aachen, and has held a professorship in the Cardiovascular Research Institute at Maastricht University in the Netherlands since 2006. In 2010 he was appointed to his present position at LMU. He received his first Advanced Investigator Grant from the European Research Council in 2009. Weber is also Spokesman for the Munich Heart Alliance at the German Center for Cardiovascular Research, and since 2014 Coordinator of the Collaborative Research Center on “Atherosclerosis – Mechanisms and New Networks of Therapeutic Target Structures”, which is funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft.

For more information on Christian Weber’s research, see: