Cardiopulmonary research

Research for healthy hearts and lungs

The heart and lungs interact in a complex interplay. Both systems are affected by partly similar risk factors and there is an overlap of pathogenic molecular mechanisms such as organ fibrosis. Due to high morbidity and mortality, diseases of the heart and lungs play a major role in terms of health economics.

A synergetic development

Fraunhofer ITEM researchers used magnetic resonance imaging to investigate the effects of the combination drug on patients’ heart function at the CRC Hannover.
© Fraunhofer ITEM

Establishment of a university-affiliated Division of Cardiovascular Research in 2021 has generated new methodological and scientific overlaps at Fraunhofer ITEM. As a result, the long-standing expertise in lung research is experiencing a synergetic further development of high clinical relevance. RNA molecules in particular are being investigated very successfully as diagnostic biomarkers and therapeutic targets for the benefit of patients with cardiac and pulmonary diseases. Computer-assisted translational bioinformatics, used to predict molecular mechanisms based on RNA molecules, is of particular importance in this context. Fraunhofer ITEM researchers are currently exploring the potential of RNAs for toxicology and efficacy testing of drugs. 

Advancing ideas to the proof of concept

© Fraunhofer ITEM
Through their clinical research, Fraunhofer ITEM scientists enable a direct transfer of findings to humans, for example, by using chip cytometry and exhaled breath analysis.

To efficiently translate ideas from bench to bedside, the scientists use appropriate exposure systems, some of which have been developed specifically for this purpose, and innovative model systems that closely mimic the situation in patients. They use the generated data to further develop and refine their modeling approaches, so as to allow in-vitro results or findings to be extrapolated both qualitatively and quantitatively for the prediction of the expected in-vivo effect in humans. Candidate drugs can be tested at the institute for their efficacy and side effects to provide the proof of concept in humans, i.e. the necessary evidence of the drug’s mode of action.

Cardiopulmonary research: recent projects and highlights


Project FibroPaths®

Therapeutic modulation of organ fibrosis in biochip format. 


Pulmonary fibrosis

Discovery of a novel molecular mechanism contributing to the pathogenesis of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis: the human microRNA-506-Quaking axis as a master switch.


Lung pharmacokinetics

Clinical evaluation of the lung pharmacokinetics of inhaled and systemic drugs.

Alternatives to animal models

A new position paper by the European Society of Cardiology presents advances in medicine through human-relevant disease models (main author: Prof. Thomas Thum). 

Development of RNA therapeutics

Innovative RNA therapeutics are being developed in the Fraunhofer Cluster of Excellence Immune-Mediated Diseases CIMD. 


Precision-cut lung slices

Precision-cut lung slices allow early events in the pathogenesis of respiratory diseases to be studied in human lung tissue.


Checking the immune response in the lungs

Using chip cytometry, Fraunhofer ITEM researchers have established a procedure for characterizing immune cells in the lungs. With this technique, valuable samples from patients can be stored for months.




You may also be interested in these topics:

Coronavirus research at Fraunhofer ITEM

As an institute with decades of experience in infection and airway research Fraunhofer ITEM can make an important contribution to scientific progress in the fight against the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.

Clinical studies at Fraunhofer ITEM

We are a highly specialized, academia-affiliated research center for early-phase and proof-of-concept clinical trials.

#WeKnow ClinicalResearch

Get some insights into our clinical airway research in our video series #WeKnowClinicalResearch.